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Basic Steps Help Maximize Direct Mail ROI

Industry data shows that direct mail is still relevant and effective in this digital era, which is why clients continue to come to AccuList for its expertise in targeted direct mailing lists and data services. While postal mail wins a higher response rate than other direct marketing channels, its higher costs also intimidate those wary of ROI stumbles, so as marketers begin to prepare 2020 budgets, we’ll pass along some key tips for making “the most of the post” from Chief Marketer.

Keep It Clear and Simple—With a Wow Factor

Anxious to pack in maximum value for the cost of postage, direct mailers can create counterproductive pieces. Long-winded content and pieces crammed to the gills with words, images and multiple messages actually can create confusion that drives recipients away rather than calling them to action, the Chief Marketer article warns. Instead, use white space judiciously to highlight key content, keep messaging direct and simple, and make the offer and call to action clear and easy to follow. If you have multiple messages, consider multiple mailings. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to think big and out-of-the-box. Look for a wow factor that will stand out amid mailbox clutter. Oversize or dimensional mail pieces, promotions ranging from a personalized item to a free report, or an overnight envelope that sparks open-me urgency are examples that have proven effective in boosting response.

Focus on Quality Lists and Targeted, Personalized Content

Direct mail success starts with clean, up-to-date list data and selective targeting of prospects or customers. Just choosing the right targets is not enough, however. They must receive the right message. Marketers should use demographic, geographic and psychographic parameters to segment lists and then variable data printing to craft personalized content to send the right message to the right audience. Chief Marketer cites the marketing strategy of healthcare insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which works with PFL marketing/printing and Salesforce Marketing Cloud to score its membership based on various criteria and then sends a tailored direct mail piece likely to drive engagement to each member. 

Test and Track to Maximize ROI

Trying to reduce mail costs by skimping on testing—whether of list, creative or offer—is sure to backfire in terms of ROI, warn the experts, especially when introducing a new brand, product or creative. Always test to optimize response before risking the cost of rollout. Also, failing to track mail response across channels, especially in today’s multichannel world, will compound ROI risks. Before you mail, consider how you will measure ROI, such as visits to a unique URL, calls to a dedicated 800 number, mailed reply card, or other response device, advises the article.


Plan How Mail Fits With Multi-channel Branding

Direct mail today rarely exists in a vacuum. Marketers simultaneously support promotions via websites, e-mail, social media and even TV. Before launching a direct mail campaign, decide how postal mail fits and interacts with other channels and branding initiatives. Make sure direct mail messaging is consistent with cross-channel efforts and brand identity. For more, see the full post of Chief Marketer tips.

Despite Doubters, 2018 Direct Mail Ups Response, ROI, Usage

AccuList USA’s direct mail marketing clients received lots of encouraging news in the 2018 “ANA-DMA Response Rate Report.”  Direct mail improved its usage ranking to tie with social media as the second most-used medium (57%), for example, and continued to deliver the best response rates of any medium. In fact, “snail mail” even improved on its response success by doubling median response rates over last year to 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists in 2018. Mail’s Return on Investment (ROI) also leaped by 12 percentage points to beat out online display this year.

While Marketers Forecast Mail Decline, Usage Tells a Different Story

The only negative in the report is that those surveyed continue to doubt the future of direct mail, with 19% saying they plan to decrease usage in the coming 12 months. But if the report participants follow their behavior after previous surveys, which similarly predicted mail declines, direct mail usage will remain buoyant, which allowed it to rise in 2018 despite planned cuts. One drag on direct mail continues to be its Cost Per Action/Acquisition, which is the highest CPA of any medium and puts budget pressure on mail volume, which did decline for both house and prospect lists compared with the 2017 study.

Direct Mail Usage Dominates Most Industry Segments

However, high response rates, competitive ROI, online tracking and print-tech advances are keeping marketers loyal to “traditional” mail in a digital world. In fact, direct mail usage for marketing campaigns equals or exceeds 50% for most of the 11 industry segments cited in the study. In usage, direct mail leaders were travel or hospitality (80%), nonprofits (75%), publishing or media (71%), and financial services/banks/credit (67%). Only Technology (44%), Retail (44%), and B2B Services (34%) came in below the 50% usage mark. 

B2B, B2C Split on Formats As Response Tracking Goes Digital

When it comes to direct mail creative format, postcards tend to produce the best overall response in combined B2B and B2C data, with a 13% median response rate for house files and 10% for prospecting files. Letter-size envelope formats turned in rates of 10% for house lists and 4% for prospecting, and oversize envelope mail garnered 11% for both house and prospect lists. Format results are different for B2B versus B2C, however. Looking only at B2B, limited data indicates the letter-size envelope format outperforms with a combined median response for house and prospect lists of 15%-40%, compared with postcards’ 14%-16%. For B2C, responses show oversize envelopes actually turning in the best 9%-12% median response for house and prospect lists combined, compared with postcards at 9% and letter envelopes at 4%. In tracking those response rates, marketers have definitely gone digital, with over half of surveyed marketers (53%) saying they use online tracking capabilities, such as PURLs, followed in popularity by the use of codes or coupons (45%) and call center or telephone inquiries (41%).