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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.

The Right E-mail Tactics Can Make Holidays Merry for Retailers

The holiday buying season is around the corner, and e-mail is more important than ever in the retail marketing mix for both existing customer lists and prospecting e-mail lists. Marketers planning for fourth quarter success may want to check plans against the “Ultimate Guide to Holiday E-mail Marketing” post offered by Campaign Monitor for some basic strategies and examples.

Leverage Online Buying, Mobile and Personalization Trends

Targeted e-mail marketing is positioned to capitalize on three big retail marketing trends: online buying, mobile commerce, and personalization. Four out of five Americans are now online shoppers, per Pew Research, so marketers will want to join the 41% of retailers that use “Buy Now” buttons in their e-mail marketing to link shoppers directly and quickly to online purchase pages. Mobile-optimized e-mails (linked to mobile-optimized landing pages) will also deliver more dollars because half of those online buyers make purchases using a mobile device. Sales on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2018 surpassed $2 billion, breaking the previous record set in 2017, and, according to Movable Ink, 76% of Black Friday e-mails and 63% of Cyber Monday e-mails are opened on a mobile device.  Finally, now that personalization is demanded by consumers across channels, quality e-mail list data and segmentation can create the personalized e-mail messaging that delivers six times higher e-mail transaction rates, that converts 202% better than default e-mail calls to action (per HubSpot), and that generates a median e-mail ROI of 122% (per Instapage research). And don’t forget that personalized e-mail subject lines generate an average of 50% higher open rates (per Oberlo data)!

Start by Crafting Subject Lines that Get Opens

Indeed, the subject line is the first step in getting an e-mail noticed and opened. And on the subject of subject lines, Campaign Monitor has distilled some key tips. As noted above, personalize the subject line to boost open rates, using list data such as first name, for example, as well as relevant messaging based on purchase history, geography, gender, site actions/browsing, etc. Keep the subject line short but pack in “power words” that tap emotions and drive action, including sales-driven words (deal, promotion, discount, savings, free shipping); time-urgency words (order now, limited time, today only, last minute, exclusive); holiday references (12 Deals of Christmas, Season’s Greetings); and gratitude expressions (Thank you, appreciation, your support). Try engaging with a question (Need gift ideas?) or an eye-catching emoji. Brands using an emoji in their subject lines report a 45% increase in unique open rates, per Experian. Including an enticing offer in the subject line can help grab opens, too. For example, a mention of free shipping gains the interest of 74% of consumers, per UPS.

Use Holiday Messaging That Drives Action

Research shows e-mail creative earns more click-throughs and conversions by making the call-to-action prominent via an eye-catching button with short text (Buy Now, Save 40%). Make sure the button has a trackable link to a landing page where the recipient can buy the specific offer in the e-mail rather than a home page or generic purchase page where prospects must search for the offer. Overall, messaging can use holiday shopping fever to heat up response with tactics such as offering a gift buying guide, pumping a Cyber Monday or Black Friday sale, offering a special gift for referring a friend, incorporating a traditional or pop-culture holiday theme, or catering to panicked last-minute shoppers (In 2015, the average shopper had only completed a little over half their shopping list two weeks before Christmas). For inspiration from real e-mail examples, go to the Campaign Monitor article.


B2B Gifting Survey Finds Personal & Memorable Score ROI

Acculist USA supports many clients marketing in the corporate gifting space, with a focus on food and wine gift baskets and catalogs. We recently ran across some interesting data from a study by Knack, a Seattle gifting company, that should help gift suppliers to craft the most appealing packages and business gift buyers to maximize gift effectiveness.

The C-suite Believes in Gifting ROI

The good news from the Knack “Business Gift Satisfaction Survey” is that corporate gifting works well when it is done well: 57% of respondents said that “gifts can impact their opinion of a business partner both positively and negatively.” In fact, over 80% of C-suite executives surveyed said they believe that business gifts generate measurable positive ROI in addition to intangible benefits. Since there’s a huge investment involved annually, with the market for non-cash business gifts estimated at $125 billion, getting the most positives and fewest negatives is clearly vital.

Well-Packaged, Personal & Memorable Score Best

Return-on-investment for a business gift to high-value targets, such as C-suite executives, is highest if the gift tells a story and facilitates a deeper personal connection, per the survey. Quality is more important than the quantity spent to achieve that personal connection; the survey finds that the right amount to spend per gift is between $50 to $150. What defines quality? The best impression comes from good presentation/packaging and the kind of personalization that logo items and gift cards lack, per gift recipients. A memorable gift will seem selected just for the recipient; will include a personal message and will have “value attributes,” such as a handmade/artisan item or a gift supporting an appropriate cause, such as ecological sustainability or made-in-U.S.A.

A Fail-Safe Business Gifting Checklist

Based on 1,000 business gift recipients’ responses, here is the survey’s checklist for fail-safe business gifting:

  • Give a useful item, something practical and that everyone can use.
  • Surround the useful item with shareable items, such as gourmet food in line with the gift theme. Stress quality over quantity.
  • Aim for a “value attribute,” such as made-in-the-U.S. items. Specific causes might be polarizing but “Made in USA” is universally favored as a top value attribute.
  • Spend between $50-$150. Spend for junior-level business partners in the $50-$65 range and for most clients and manager/director-level associates in the $75-$100 range. Spend up to $140-$160 for C-suite execs, VPs and most valued clients.
  • Always include a personally addressed note with the gift! 

Get more details from the Knack study on corporate gifting.

Weaponize B2B Data for 2019 With These Tactics

Targeted, clean data is a key deliverable of AccuList USA’s data services and list brokerage efforts for business-to-business marketing clients. And as those clients prepare their 2019 plans, we urge them to take basic steps to ready their data-driven marketing for maximum performance. A Martech Today post by Scott Vaughn sets the stage by recommending five essential data-oriented strategies for B2B.

Precisely Defined Audience Targets Using Clean Data

Good response and conversion depend on identifying and engaging the right audiences, meaning the right companies and the right decision-makers within those companies, Vaughn reminds. To target that right audience requires processes for capturing critical data about prospects, customers and their purchase journey with precision, he asserts, and recommends a strategy of starting with a smaller universe of accounts and roles to more precisely define best targets–and then testing and using advanced strategies, such as predictive marketing and intent-data modeling, to expand to more accounts and buyers. But that kind of data targeting only works if marketers are looking at quality data, so data hygiene is another necessity. When a recent DemandGen survey finds that more than 35% of the data in existing databases is unmarketable on average, avoiding wasted dollars means instituting a “get clean, stay clean” data-hygiene effort for 2019, Vaughn urges. The hygiene regimen should include regularly auditing of data-capture processes and sources, using filters before data can enter the database, and maintaining a cleansing process to eliminate records that are invalid, non-standardized, duplicate or non-compliant.

Permission-Based Trust and Speedy Follow-up

Because today’s buyers are leery of companies and brands that don’t treat their information with care and because stringent data-privacy laws are being deployed around the globe, B2B marketers must have a proactive permission-based marketing plan for their data, warns Vaughn That includes asking for opt-in everywhere and having very visible, clear explanations of how behavioral data, such as website cookies, is used. Meanwhile, prospects and customers have not only come to expect data privacy, they have become used to the rapid, real-time response of the digital market. Yet for many B2B campaigns, it takes two or three days to follow up on a lead or inquiry, or even seven or eight days just to get leads loaded into marketing automation or CRM software! Vaughn proposes a concerted effort to speed data handling by identifying areas where data can be routed faster and reaction time reduced and then initiating sales and marketing training on speedier handling at each stage of the customer journey. That’s why many executive teams now prioritize a measure of “pipeline velocity,” meaning the time from when an opportunity is created to when the deal is closed, to improve revenues.

Agreeing on Measurements That Matter

Accurate, targeted, speedy data processes don’t automatically result in ROI improvement, however–not if data analysis ends up focused on the wrong metrics. Vaughn reports that high-performing marketing teams use insights with these key ingredients: agreed-upon key performance indicators (KPIs); tools that can measure performance; and easy-to-use dashboards that can help all stakeholders (marketing, sales, execs, etc.) make smarter decisions. For his complete article, see https://martechtoday.com/5-essential-strategies-b2b-marketers-must-master-in-2019-228066

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%).

 

Shoppers Demand Seamless Omnichannel Retail Strategies

Omnichannel marketing is the rule for today’s retailing. While print catalogs continue as a vital merchant tool, with 42% of households reading catalogs per the U.S. Postal Service, integration of multiple channels–including online, mobile and social with direct mail–is now essential to our catalog and e-commerce clients’ success. Unfortunately, while the majority of consumers expect to shop seamlessly across all those channels, only 7% of retailers provide the unified “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere” experience that customers want, per the recent “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey” by BRP Consulting, a retail management consulting firm.

Omnichannel, Cross-Device Shopping Is Now the Norm

Marketers just can’t afford to ignore that the majority of shoppers now interact with promotions, educational content and purchase services via multiple channels and devices. According to the same BRP study, three in five (62%) consumers surveyed said they check online reviews/ratings before visiting a store, yet just 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research! Shoppers now rely on mobile to continue the digitally supported buying process in-store, with nearly 60% of shoppers looking up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores, per Retail Dive’s 2017 Consumer Survey. Also per BRP, nearly three out of four (73%) of consumers want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction, going beyond an estimated delivery date to include when the order is being prepared, date shipped from the warehouse, etc. Plus customers expect an automated return process, with 68% of consumers surveyed telling BRP they are more likely to choose a retailer offering an automated returns process.

Analytics Need Complex Channel/Device Attribution

Merchants can leverage customers’ cross-device penchant to optimize acquisition and conversion, argues a Direct Marketing News article by Pierre DeBois. But they must keep in mind that, while the opportunity to boost ad frequency and content persuasion across channels is huge, smart management is required to avoid turning targeted promotion into a bludgeon. As Bill Kee, Google’s group product manager for attribution, highlighted at the 2017 Google Marketing Next conference, “If I am on three devices, and if I see your ad five times, it means you’ve reached me 15 times…believe me I get it.” The first place to start is good omnichannel analytics to understand the contribution of each channel to ROI and its place in the customer journey. Only then can merchants cost-effectively tailor targeting and investment to maximize sales. One useful analytics tool is Google’s Unique Reach report, which displays digital ad frequency metrics across devices, campaigns, and formats to measure how many times a person views a given ad, and combines attribution influences from AdWords, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics, suggests DeBois.

Using Images and Chat to Direct the Customer Journey

Good omnichannel analytics also can improve use of image and video content to maximize the proven effectiveness of image/video in digital engagement, to answer the customer demand for education, and to direct prospects through the sales funnel. However, quantities of images bombarding customers across multiple channels can overwhelm and confuse, so both media curation and a content mapping strategy aligned to the customer journey are needed. One example of a targeted image strategy is use of an “image story” feature on a social media platform to orchestrate images and/or a short video, notes DeBois. Pinterest Lens, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Moments are all image story features. Because the majority of consumers research products and services online now, marketers also can gain an edge over competitors by offering customer-facing elements such as chatbots. In contrast to apps, which may be used only for a few discrete tasks and then ignored, a chatbot’s programmable assistance can provide both engagement and continuing response performance improvement.

For more, see the Direct Marketing News article.

Smart List, Mail Design Choices Help Save on Postage

Direct mail has higher average response rates than digital choices, but maximizing mail ROI requires cost efficiency, especially in the postage realm. Good list selection and hygiene are key to avoiding mailing waste, and this is one area where AccuList USA’s expertise in targeted mailing lists selection and data services can certainly aid clients. Another important factor in controlling postage costs is mail package design. An article by Target Marketing magazine’s Summer Gould offers a great summary of how smart choices in lists and design can add up to savings.

Targeted, Clean Lists Cut Postage Waste

If you are sending mailings to the wrong people, people unlikely to be interested in your offer, lower response rate and cost inefficiency will be reflected in poor ROI. Using tools from predictive modeling to customer profiling to segmentation can improve list choices and targeting parameters. Plus, AccuList USA’s proprietary list research can help clients find the top-performing lists for their specific vertical market. But no matter how data is targeted, dirty data with duplicates, errors, invalid addresses, and old demographic or purchase history information will create costly delivery failures and misdirected waste. That’s why AccuList USA goes beyond list brokerage to provide expert merge-purge services that combine and standardize data in order to eliminate duplicates, identify and correct old or undeliverable addresses, verify zip codes, and maximize postal discounts. In fact, by comparing names and addresses to real-time information on multiple public and private databases, AccuList USA offers an advanced hygiene regimen that is able to identify and correct twice as many addresses as standard USPS FASTforward and NCOALink use, which only represent a portion of U.S. movers and undeliverables.

Careful Design Wins Postage Discounts

USPS offers postage discounts to mail pieces that are not only addressed correctly but also designed for processing on automated equipment. For mail to qualify for the lowest postage rates, the mail piece needs to be at a letter size, which is a minimum of 3 ½” high by 5″ long and a maximum of 6″ high by 10½” long. Larger mail pieces fall into the flat category, which can cost more than twice as much per piece as a letter. Plus, to take advantage of automation, the piece must by rectangular, with an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 to 2.5. Mail pieces outside those ratios could cost twice as much in postage. Then the addressing and barcode block on letter size mail must fit into the USPS OCR read area to avoid additional postage. For tri-folded self-mailers, the address must be on the center panel to qualify for discounted automation postage. Naturally, weight matters.  Keep the weight of a folded self-mailer under 1 ounce; if the piece weighs over 3 ounces, it must go in an envelope. Thickness counts, too  If a mail piece is less than 0.009″ thick, it costs more in postage. On the other hand, the  maximum thickness for letter size mail is ¼” and for flat size is ¾”. The best advice is to consult with your mailing service provider about any new design in advance. For more, see https://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/save-money-postage/

 

Format Drives Differences in Direct Mail Results

In planning direct mail campaigns, marketers often turn to standard industry benchmarks courtesy of the annual “Response Rate Report” from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), soon to be a division of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). However, while general direct mail response rates for house lists (5.1%) and for prospect lists (2.9%) far outpace those of digital media, the mailing piece format selected can make a key difference in expected results.

Mailer Format Shifts Response Metrics

For example, an oversized flat envelope package tends to deliver the highest response rate: 6.6 % for a house file and 4.9% for a prospect list. Next most effective in terms of response are postcards, with a house file response rate of 5.7% and and a prospect names’ response of 3.4%. At the tail end, but still far above digital efforts, comes the standard letter format, with a 4.37% response rate for house names and a 2.5% response for prospecting.

Balancing CPM & ROI in Format Selection

Some marketers hesitate over the more expensive oversized flats, which have the highest cost per thousand (CPM) among formats at $481 for house files and $467 for prospect files. Which is why postcards continue to win fans among B2C and B2B marketers, with the lowest CPM among direct mail formats benchmarked. However, despite their higher CPMs, the solid response rates of flats mean they can deliver the highest ROI (37% and 30% for house and prospect names, respectively). Postcards and letter packages, meanwhile, are tied in terms of ROI, with house mailings garnering a 29% ROI and prospecting turning in 23% ROI.

Purchase the whole report or see a free summary article for more data.