Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Prepping for 2016: Mail and E-mail Copy Starters

If one of your New Year's marketing resolutions is to boost the response power of your mail or e-mail copy, take a look at these 61 proven ideas for letter and e-mail opening lines, courtesy of a Target Marketing magazine article by Pat Friesen, direct response copywriter and author. Back in 2012, Pat offered 48 copy starters, and her article and resulting webinars proved so popular that she's returned with even more ways to start a promotional conversation. Some copy starters are more appropriate to digital and some to print, but all share the goal of focusing on you-the-reader and using engaging language to tap response-driving emotions and plant the WIIFM (what's in it for me) hook that will get the recipient to read on.  For example, the list starts with the exclusivity appeal of "You are on a short list of people who..." and moves to the fear/guilt-inducing "Help!" (as with the "Help My 9 Lives Be Healthy" headline next to a healthy cat picture in a PetMeds mailer). There are starters that stroke reader need for approval, such as "You're appreciated...," and others that target greed/pleasure, such as this "Congratulations! You just received a FREE..." header used in a Carter's children's wear mailer. Friesen's list ends with some copy starters that may be a bit too quirky for your audience, such as "Duh!" and "Hey!" Yet those types of openers seem to be winning for some top politicians. To see all of Friesen's 61 ideas, go to

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Don't Let Data Glitches Stymie B2B Lead Efforts

Business-to-business marketers dedicate chunks of budget and time to gathering qualified leads. Unfortunately, we've seen basic data problems undermine the effectiveness of hard-won B2B prospect and customer databases. So we'd like to pass along a recent MarketingProfs article alerting marketers to six of the most common data pitfalls. No. 1 on the list posted by Rob Manser, acting director of marketing at contact validation firm Service Objects, is relying on a single contact method in lead data. Focusing solely on e-mail outreach, for example, increases failure from address errors or poor channel response. By gathering or appending multichannel contact options--phone, e-mail and mailing address--the chances of connection climb. As Manser points out: "An e-mail or a phone call might never be returned, but a clever direct mail piece may catch a prospect's eye." Problem No. 2 arises from incorrect data gathering--incomplete, typo-riddled, misformatted or just plain bogus contact information. It doesn't mean all bad-data contacts must be tossed; many can be cost-effectively salvaged today via data verification, validation and appending software. Pitfall No. 3 is out-of-date information. Valuable contacts change companies, move to other locations in the same company, change titles and departments, etc. Frequent and thorough contact-data updating is required. That said, even when info is technically correct, Pitfall No. 4 occurs because data is not contact-specific enough; using a headquarters phone and address instead of the contact's division location will miss response in a geo-targeted campaign, for example. No. 5 on Manser's list of prospecting mistakes: Lead data that doesn't include a company's key targeting criteria--such as title or company size--which creates costly sales and marketing misfires. The final error compounds all others: allowing a contact database to become a pool of wasted opportunities by failing to fix data problems. Manser argues that there is no excuse now that marketers can turn to database services for quick, automated data-appending, data-verification and data-validation programs for clean-up--and we agree!  For more: 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Direct Mail for 2016: Personalized, Mobilized, Analyzed

The holidays are whizzing by, and those 2016 direct mail plans are on the launch pad. Are you sure you're using the right fuel to reach direct mail heights? We like the way a recent blog post by IWCO Direct's Senior Customer Engagement Manager Krista Black boiled down that question into the three top trends to include in any plan for mail success: targeted personalization, mobile phone impact and multichannel analysis. When it comes to personalized mail, simplistic first-name fills aren't enough to generate customer response anymore. Effective personalization, Black points out, is about targeting with the right offer, right audience and right timing--to segment audience by demographics, geography, purchase history and psychographics for best response; to tailor a compelling offer to audience needs and likely objections; and to time mailings to fit recipient buying cycles. Next, mailers must accept that mobile has become the "first screen" of the majority of the target audience, Black advises. Recipients are likely to go first to their mobile phone after reading a mailer to search for a product, service or retail location. Leverage that trend in printed mail by including QR codes, PURLs, and keywords integrated with SEO/SEM. Finally, today's marketing is multichannel, and that presents a challenge in response and conversion analysis and attribution, Black warns. Marketing analysis needs to account for both direct and "halo" effects across channels--such as direct mail sending respondents via mobile to web pages. We would add a key fourth element for 2016 direct mail success: quality data. Marketers will need accurate, complete, up-to-date, verified, integrated multichannel data to achieve all three of Black's goals in direct mail plans next year--and we can help with that! For the complete post:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Try These Mailer Creative Tweaks to Rev Response

In direct marketing creative, the devil that drags down response can lurk in the details. A recent Target Marketing magazine article by creative strategists Pat Friesen and Patrick Fultz suggests 19 little creative tweaks proven to pack response punch for e-mail and direct mail campaigns. Because DBM Designs provides data, print and mailing services for direct mailers, Friesen's and Fultz's "snail mail" creative tips struck a special chord, including the following 12 suggestions: 1) stand out from the standard postage look by creating your own indicia (within USPS rules); 2) push reader decisions with highly visible deadlines for action; 3) draw attention with copy "violator" design elements (and don't limit yourself to old-fashioned starbursts!); 4) check copy for active, engaging verbs in headlines, bullets and sentences; 5) use a signature sign-off on a personal letter because people respond to people not company robots; 6) embrace the standard P.S. because over 30% of readers scan the P.S. first; 7) have designer and copywriter work together for easy-to-read paragraphs of no more than five or six lines; 8) create copy "eye magnets" via highlighting, underlining, circling or "handwritten" notes; 9) keep marketing momentum by dropping pause-causing periods from headlines and subheads; 10) use data to take personalization beyond name fills to offers and copy relevant to recipient interests; 11) make sure wafer seals, fugitive glue or other adhesives don't create a mailer so hard to open that recipients toss it; 12) avoid iffy response by using "when" instead of "if." The immediate action implied by "when you call" will outperform the weaker, provisional "if you call." For more direct marketing creative tips and examples:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Survey Cites Obstacles to Data-Driven Marketing Success

Despite technology advances and the bounty of "big data," data quality remains the biggest challenge for data-driven direct marketing. Consider MarketingProfs' report on a new Ascend2 global survey of marketing, sales and business professionals. In terms of the most important goals of data-driven marketing strategy, personalizing the customer experience led the field (60%), followed by measuring data-driven ROI (51%) and targeting individual market segments (50%). Then when it came to the biggest obstacles to success, companies put front-end data issues ahead of back-end analytics by a wide margin. Improving data quality was ranked as the No. 1 challenge to data-driven success (59%), followed by integrating data across platforms (51%), raising the level of data analytical skills (38%) and measuring data-driven marketing ROI (37%). In fact, only 16% of respondents rated the quality of their marketing data as "very good," compared with the 27% who rated data quality as "somewhat poor" to "very poor." The majority (57%) called their data "somewhat good," which is just not good enough for the most cost-effective marketing results! For more from the survey, read

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hunting Holiday Sales? Survey Tracks 2015 Shoppers

Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes for a profitable start to the holiday season. spending is expected to jump ahead of last year, with a recent consumer survey by SAS reporting that 80% of consumers in the U.S., Canada and U.K. plan to spend as much as, or more than, they did last year (29% in the U.S. specifically said they plan to spend more). Where will they be shopping? According to the SAS survey report by MarketingProfs, some 68% will favor the discount retailers, 59% will choose e-tailers, and 53% will crowd department stores. Gift cards are the top gift choice of consumers, followed by toys/games and apparel. Note that 28% of surveyed shoppers say they will buy a gift for the family pet, a lot more than those who feel like giving to humans outside the family, such as co-workers (only 17%) or neighbors (13%). To boost sales, target a younger crowd in those holiday promotions. Shoppers aged 18 to 29 are more likely to hit the Black Friday week sales per the survey, with 42% saying they will shop the whole week, 41% on Black Friday, and 35% on Cyber Monday. And those millennial shoppers also are more likely to increase spending over last year, while most older consumers stick to their 2014 budgets. And here's more good news: The holiday spending spree will extend past Christmas, with 63% of all consumers saying they plan to shop the after-holiday sales. For more details and a great infographic, go to the MarketProfs article at

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Just the Facts: Why Direct Mail Is Alive--and Thriving

DBM Designs' experience as a partner with successful direct mail programs has helped us ignore the perennial claims of direct mail's demise. But for marketers who still doubt snail mail's continued marketing power, we're happy to share this year's facts from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) 2015 Statistical Fact Book and its latest Response Rate Report. For one thing, company spending on direct mail continues to grow, not shrink, with $46 billion spent on direct mail in 2014—up from $44.8 billion in 2013. Organizations also are expected to spend $9.3 billion on data for direct mail in 2015, an increase over the previous two years. One reason for direct mail's staying power with marketers is that it continues to lead in response. Average response rates for direct mail are 3.7% for house lists and 1% for prospect names, which are both higher rates than for mobile, paid search, social media. Internet display ads and e-mail. For example, e-mail scores an average 0.1% response for customers and prospects. Only telemarketing beats direct mail in response power at 9%-10%, per DMA data. At $19 average cost per acquisition for house lists, direct mail acquisition also costs less than paid search ($21-$30) and Internet display ads ($41-$50) and is close to the $16-$18 CPA of mobile and social. Direct mail does lose out to e-mail ($11-$15) on CPA for house lists. But DMA's most important metric--median ROI--shows why direct mail in still in the game and not on the bench. Although e-mail and telemarketing lead in median ROI (21%-23% and 19%-20%, respectively) compared with direct mail's 15%-17%, direct mail ROI is still on par with social media and way ahead of mobile, paid search and Internet display. For more direct marketing industry benchmarks and response details by direct mail package type and customer target (business or consumer), see

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Without Response Tracking, Your Mailing Isn't Marketing

Quantifiable response data is the soul of direct mail. How else do marketers judge effectiveness, read testing, improve results or budget by channel? Yet we sometimes see direct mail pieces that are long on creative appeal and short on response tracking strategy, a recipe for current and future marketing waste. For a primer on direct mail tracking methods, check out a 2015 Target Marketing magazine article by Summer Gould. Here are her seven suggested tracking devices: QR codes with a landing page for each campaign; PURLs with a unique landing page for each campaign; coupons with a code to track response on redemption; reply cards with a code for each campaign imprinted to track returns; a response phone number, either specific to each campaign or connected to a call center that asks for a code from the piece on intake; text messaging, either providing a special number for each campaign or requiring a code entry from the mail piece on the text response; a mail piece redemption that requires the recipient to bring the mailer with them to get a discount or some other special offer at a sales or event site. Mailers don't have to limit themselves to just one of these methods, of course; offering more than one way to get in touch can capture more responses by recipient preferences. For more detail, read

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fundraising Success Relies on Good Data Measurement

In providing data services for many nonprofit fundraising efforts, either directly or via their list brokers and agencies, we can vouch for the critical importance of good data measurement and analytics. A recent post by William Comcowich, CMO of CyberAlert media measurement service, addressed that key nonprofit challenge. He began by citing six tips for improved nonprofit data measurement courtesy of Katie Paine, measurement expert and CEO of Paine Publishing LLC: Clarifying the mission and the role each activity plays in support; measuring results from all stakeholders (volunteers, sponsors, employees, and the people served as well as donors); selecting at least three specific, quantifiable and time-limited metrics for analyzing communications channels, including direct mail, e-mail and social media; gaining across-the-board leadership support of measurement; taking advantage of existing data and data gathering across departments; and analysis of measured results to improve and repeat good performance. Comcowich also stressed the need to focus on donor preference data. Based on measurable donor preferences, fundraisers can improve response with tactics such as targeting appeals and communications by age to leverage generational differences; adjusting communications frequency; and segmenting for channel and content preference to boost engagement. For the complete article, read

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mining Merge-Purge Report Can Yield Valuable Nuggets

Merge-Purge reports can be revelatory--and not just for data processing geeks. Savvy direct mail marketers can mine the report to improve mail quantity as well as quality. Thanks to Gina Valentino, president of Hemisphere Marketing as well as dean of marketing for, which shares catalog marketing lessons from industry experts, for a recent blog post pointing out the value of digging deeper into Merge-Purge results. She notes three sometimes-overlooked opportunities to boost the bottom line of mailings. First, she advises marketers to pay close attention to Intradupes in the same key code (list). If the Intradupe rate is high, above 1%, you have reason to negotiate better pricing from a rental list (or drop it). Next, she advises looking closely at the Invalid Drops in the best-performing keycodes (such as Hotlines). Business rules that drop recent high-value customers for seasonal addresses, deliverable AFO/FPO or U.S. territory addresses, or DMA Pander matches, for example, need to be evaluated. Third, she urges paying close attention to gross-in and gross-out numbers for house data. If the net-out rate is low (under 99%), then customer/prospect data may not be entered or aggregated properly. Get a sample to see what is going wrong. But here's the advice that we, as data service partners, like best: "If you’re not sure what is useful with the Merge/Purge reports, spend 15 minutes with your data service provider defining and reviewing each column title of the report. Ask questions. Determine where it makes sense to change the business rules for data processing." For more detail on her tips, read

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Want to Up Mail Response? Don't Neglect the Order Form

We're surprised to see some direct mailers neglecting a key response device: the order form. Although a growing percentage of customers are being driven online to complete response, the old-fashioned printed order form is still important. Cutting corners, all the way to form elimination, to reduce print and postage costs can backfire in terms of revenue and ROI. Statistics show that 10%-12% of mail response can be attributed to the order form, for example. In fact, after the envelope, the order form is often the first piece of a direct mail package that the recipient reviews because it is a quick way to assess offer and pricing. That's why a good order form will repeat the sales pitch simply and powerfully--with a killer headline, briefly restated offer and visual impact. Visually, symbols/icons are especially effective with today's audiences because people are so accustomed to shorthand graphics online and in digital calls to action. It's a given that personalization is vital to direct mail response today, and that power extends to the order form, with pre-filled name and address information for example. (Here's another reason to make sure your mailing list data is clean and accurate!) A good form not only makes it clear how to order and makes it easy to order, it also adds a sense of urgency to close the deal. An order form set aside "for later" may be a response lost forever. For some great examples from real-life mailers, check out order form improvement tips from DirectMarketingIQ, which draws on the mail monitoring resources of Who's Mailing What!:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Common Design and Data Missteps Can Sink Mail ROI

Even if a direct mailer gets everything right when it comes to list selection, offer and copy, certain common design and data mistakes can boost postal costs, reduce deliverability and cut ROI. Our thanks to Printing Industries of America for a handy summary of avoidable mailing mistakes. The PIA list includes design and mail preparation faux pas, such as creating a flat mailer that could have mailed as a letter for reduced postage; creating an unusually shaped mail piece without calculating the higher postage ramifications; failing to check weight and final thickness and so incurring higher postage; and failing to meet USPS requirements for the address block, either as printed on the outer envelope or viewed via a window envelope. Another group of common errors involves data processing. Mailing list data problems that PIA notes--and that DBM Designs regularly addresses with CASS-certified software, NCOA database matching and merge-purge--include lack of standard USPS abbreviations, punctuation (except the hyphen in ZIP+4), no secondary addresses, no pre- or post-street directionals (N, S, etc.), duplicate names and addresses, and failure to meet USPS Move Update requirements. However, by the time a mail campaign goes to press, it's too late for most direct mailers to cost-effectively avoid mail missteps, even if working with the minority of printers offer mailing services.  Based on DBM Designs' successful direct-mail partnerships, early application of postal and data processing disciplines is the best cure for these common direct mail bugs. See details of all top-10 mailing mistakes:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

With Bad Data Costing Average Direct Mailers So Much, Going Beyond the Average Solutions Pays Off

The average U.S. company wastes $180,000 a year on direct mail that does not reach intended recipients because of inaccurate data, per a handy report on the impact of bad data. That's not so surprising when a recent Experian survey shows marketers rate a third of their databases as inaccurate, particularly when it comes to addressing. The annual cost of wasted mail is also no surprise if you consider the cost per thousand (CPM) by mail type in the Direct Marketing Association's 2015 "Response Rate Report" survey: CPMs range from about $585/M for postcard and letter packages to $1,000/M for oversized envelopes and $1,200 for dimensional mail. A company mailing out oversized pieces to 100,000 a month with 15% bad addresses/undeliverables will end up with over $180,000 in yearly waste in no time! The biggest source of undeliverable mail (76%) per the U.S. Postal Service is consumer and business change of address from the 17% of Americans who move/change addresses each year. Too many mailers assume that when they qualify for First Class and Standard mail commercial pricing by matching against the Postal Services' National Change of Address (NCOA) database, they've cleaned up the problem. Unfortunately, the NCOA database itself has issues because of lags in recording, look-back time limits (18 months and 48 months), and, most important, the up to 40% of consumer and business movers who do not report their change of address. So in addition to NCOA, mailers should match their data against the several additional Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA) databases that draw on private sources, such as magazine subscribers and financial information, to catch the big chunk of address changes and "dead/undeliverable" addresses that fall through the cracks. The savings is easy to calculate: Using several private data sources to find undeliverable and move data not recorded in the standard NCOA database costs between 15 cents and 25 cents per corrected record. These records will otherwise waste anywhere from 60 cents to $1.20 each in direct mail costs. There's also the lost response from prospects/customers who will not receive the intended mail piece, or any other offers. Even at 25 cents per fix, the savings is huge with mail rates as high as they are. Plus, the improved address correction allows for more effective merge-purge deduping and more savings. For a broader calculation of bad data's business impact, see the Lemonly infographic:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Are You Missing Out on Personalization's Big ROI?

Personalization via variable data printing is a proven way to increase direct mail response and ROI. Any mailer would want a result like this: Melissa Data has reported it found personalized color direct mail typically generated a 6.5% response rate, three times higher than the average 2% response rate resulting from non-personalized direct mail. Yet some direct mailers hesitate to go beyond a "Dear Jon" first-name greeting. It may be because they lack a robust house database and need a long-term data collection process and profiling. Appending and modeling are options to help jumpstart that process. When it comes to personalized prospecting, there are well-sourced, up-to-date rented mailing lists that offer a wealth of targeting data for personalization. Common response factors for B2C include gender, past purchase or donation history, expiration/renewal dates and geographic location (personalized mapping is a proven retailing tool), for example. A remaining personalization hurdle is data quality--inaccurate data, duplicate data, improperly formatted data, or no data at all in key fields. Bad data makes personalization backfire with the wrong name, the wrong address or the wrong offer. Luckily, given the payoff in terms of response and ROI, the low-cost investment in mailing list data hygiene is a no-brainer. Once data is cleaned up, careful mailing list segmentation by target audience preps for variable data printing (VDP) of personalized versions. While working with VDP, consider adding a Personalized URL that sends each contact to a personally customized landing page; research by the Direct Marketing Association and others shows PURLs can further lift overall response (even double it). By the way, if you are in fundraising or in finance and insurance marketing, and you haven't embraced personalization, you are lagging the pack. See the most recent list of top direct mail categories using personalization, courtesy of Who's Mailing What:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Research Comes Together to Champion Direct Mail

Database marketing and direct mail are the focus of our business at DBM Designs, but we still encounter marketers who are dubious about fully embracing "junk mail." Our thanks to industry colleague UnitedMail for a handy infographic, just published in Target Marketing magazine, which uses research to make the case for direct mail in terms of its response, ROI and value in a multichannel strategy. Among the highlights: 70%-80% of consumers say they open almost all of their mail, including "junk mail," and 79% of consumers say they act on direct mail immediately (compared with 45% for e-mail). In terms of response rates, direct mail campaigns to customers average over 3% (e-mail campaigns get just 0.1%). Plus, combining mail with other channels significantly boosts marketing results; for example, research shows consumers who receive both direct mail and e-mail spend 25% more money. The infographic also offers insights on mail creative and print-to-online technology. See

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Why Digital Marketers Should Embrace 'Snail Mail'

As a champion of direct mail, it's great to find support from the digital marketing world where "snail mail" is sometimes dismissed as a "remnant of the past." So I'm happy to pass along this recent article from ClickZ arguing the core value of postal mail to digital marketing fans. In "Seven Reasons to Make Direct Mail Part of Your Digital Marketing Plan," Kevin Lee, a search engine marketing expert, highlights seven reasons to embrace physical mailings: Direct mail can garner true e-mail opt-ins via devices such as PURLs and QR codes; direct mail has a better chance to win notice and response as mail volume declines and digital inboxes crowd; direct mail has gained price advantages for digital marketers with U.S. Postal Service discount programs for use of mobile and emerging print-to-digital technologies; direct mail wins younger response, too, based on research showing millennials and younger age groups respond well to physical mailers; postal mail can be highly localized via the USPS "Every Door Direct Mail" local market saturation; unlike e-mail subject lines, a physical envelope has certain delivery of personalized creative; and, finally, postal mailing lists can be appended to digital contact points for an orchestrated multi-channel response strategy. And, of course, direct mail doesn't have to worry about viewability or bots. Read more at

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Study Shows Bad Data Undermining Marketers

If you worry that customer data problems are hurting your marketing results, join the crowd. Poor data quality continues to drag down ROI for the majority of U.S. businesses. In fact, the average U.S. organization believes that one-third of its data is inaccurate, and a whopping 91% of companies believe revenue is being negatively affected by inaccurate data in terms of wasted resources, lost productivity, or wasted marketing and communications spending, according to the Experian Data Quality study released this year. One of the most common culprits cited was poor address data quality. The study definitely reflects the kind of data quality challenges that direct mailers (and their list brokers, printers and agencies) bring to DBM Designs' database marketing services. What are the tasks that usually need to be tackled? Data processing prior to mailing provides address format standardization for proper mail sorting, postal discounts, avoidance of invalid addresses, and removal of wasteful duplicate records from all sources. And with 17% of Americans moving each year, a mailing list check against the National Change of Address (NCOA) database is essential to avoid costly wrong addresses and duplicates. Thorough data processing also helps to detect other data problems, such as missing, incomplete or miscoded customer information, and to create a single-customer view across channels for better segmentation, targeting by channel, and response tracking. For more on the results of the Experian Data Quality study, go to