Monday, March 20, 2017

Using Data, Technology & USPS to Rev Mail Response

Recent research provides compelling reasons to include direct mail in marketing plans--and also highlights opportunities to further pump response and ROI. Direct mail response rates actually jumped in 2016 per the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) 2017 "Response Rate Report," hitting 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, the highest levels the DMA has tracked since 2003. Also consider last year's InfoTrends' direct mail statistics: 66% of direct mail is opened; 62% of consumers who responded to direct mail made a purchase within three months; and 56% of consumers who responded to direct mail went online or visited the physical store. But direct mail is expensive, and response is no slam dunk, so marketers must plan carefully to leverage positive trends. Luckily, 2017 offers data and print technology options, and U.S Postal Service support, to aid in direct mail success. We suggest committing to six key steps: First, start with data quality. That requires updating, cleaning and aggregating the customer database. Look for data gaps and append important targeting factors, such as contact info, demographics or firm-ographics. Second, analyze the data to identify and profile your best customers and their attributes, preferences and transactional history so that you can find and target lookalikes in acquisition, as well as tailor more profitable retention. Third, use your data to create effective targeting and personalization with tactics such as segmentation, variable data printing and timely triggered mail. Segment the audience into target mail groups, based on factors ranging from age and gender to purchase history. Use variable data printing technology for hyper-targeted messaging with multiple variable-content fields. You also can automate digital-activity mail triggers so that, for example, a relevant postcard is sent within 48 hours of an online purchase. Fourth, use print technology's PURLs or QR codes to leverage multi-channel investment, boost response ease, and create a seamless brand experience by linking physical mail to website, mobile and social. Fifth, test innovative creative that will stand out in the mailbox. Summer Gould, president of Eye/Comm, recently offered some suggestions in Forbes magazine, including Augmented Reality, dimensional mail, "endless folds" pieces, and video mailers. Finally, take advantage of the U.S. Postal Service's postage discounts and incentives! In 2017, programs include Earned Value; Color Transpromo; Emerging & Advanced Technology; Tactile, Sensory & Interactive Engagement; Direct Mail Starter; and Mobile Shopping. For details:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Are Self-Mailers Effective for Your Target Market?

Looking to tighten budgets in 2017, some direct mail clients are taking another look at self-mailers. Is it the right move for your market? Drawing on the experience of mailing experts, Target Marketing magazine has a great article with four key questions you'll need to answer before spending on self-mailer testing. First, consider your industry. Is it an industry with self-mailer success? Retail marketers have long used self-mailers and continue to do so, plus educational, auto dealer, catalog, telecommunications, travel and event marketers have used the format successfully, say direct mail pros, with some seeing new converts in business-to-business marketing and publishing. Why the interest in self-mailers in those markets? A simplified piece generally allows for reduced production and postage costs without a postcard's content limits or sacrifice of response vehicles (a self-mailer can include phone, website, QR, PURL, plus tear-off BRC/reply card). Targeted personalization also remains a response driver thanks to variable printing. So what markets don't fit self-mailer promotion? If you need a lot of space to explain and persuade, such as high-dollar B2B technology or machinery, self-mailers aren't likely to perform as well. Magalogs and tabloids also remain more popular formats for financial newsletters, business opportunity or nutritional supplements. And where letter packages still rule, such as fundraising, experienced direct marketers say they aren't seeing inroads by self-mailers; in fact, Who's Mailing What! reports the self-mailer format is at its lowest percent of mail by nonprofits of the last five years. Last question: If your market is a match for a self-mailer effort, how can you maximize results? Take a lesson from the pros in retail and keep the message and offer simple and timely ("act before this date for a special offer"), say experts. And put extra effort into design, starting with an arresting mail panel, a cover that drives opens, a clear offer, a strong call to action and easy response. To download the article with self-mailer examples:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ready to Ride 2017 Marketing Trends to Success?

As businesses and nonprofits begin to maneuver through 2017 with their marketing roadmaps, it's a good idea to make sure those plans account for any landscape-altering trends ahead. A recent article by Forbes magazine's CMO Network contributor Daniel Newman, a principal analyst of Futurum Research and CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, outlined the top 10 trends that he sees driving marketing efforts this year. Here are six of his trend predictions that we can see applying to our direct and database marketing clients: 1) a drive for more effective measurement that ties results, including in social media, back to basic business objectives such as profit and customer retention; 2) a greater reliance on marketing technologies and data scientists to support data-driven marketing and integrate strategies, content and customer data across channels, whether that requires an internal chief marketing technologist or outsourcing; 3) prioritized personalization, from ensuring touch points are targeted and individualized to more streamlined, responsive purchasing processes; 4) a surge in the amount and quality of video content, as video, visuals and augmented reality become basic to digital promotion; 5) not only greater use of social media marketing but a shift from generic content messaging to personalized, front-line marketing of sales and services; and 6) a new focus on "right-time marketing instead of real-time marketing," going beyond contact opportunities to using data to isolate the right moment to connect with consumers on the right channel. For all of Newman's 2017 trend insights, read his article at

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Make Holiday Marketing a Gift That Keeps Giving

The holidays are not only a key time for boosting immediate sales, they are also one of the most important periods for gathering data and customers that will generate profit in the year ahead. A new infographic from the Marketo blog provides some good tips on how to optimize your holiday marketing investment for future ROI. First, look at the "ghost of holidays past" and note that both online sales per shopper climbed between 2014 and 2015 and offline purchases (in-store and mail order, for example) also went up. In fact, industries such as apparel saw 11.1% offline sales growth, technology rose 6.5%, and health and beauty climbed 5.1% in offline sales. A strong multichannel data gathering and marketing investment is required if you want to maximize sales moving forward. Meanwhile, in digital marketing, there is no denying the growing importance of social media, with 55% of respondents saying a brand’s social presence has at least some influence on their decision-making during the holiday season. So your strategy should not only boost social efforts during the holidays but keep them strong all year to capitalize on customer relationships. What if you succeed in driving more online traffic but don't reap the conversions desired over the holidays? Don't accept marketing defeat; capture customer information and retarget! This is especially true for industries with "considered purchases," those that are high-cost, high-involvement and life-cycle oriented, the Marketo researchers point out. Just using a Facebook retargeting campaign, marketers report an average 92% increase in impressions, 33% lower cost per action and 26% lower cost per click, for example. And a key goal should be to turn as many new customers captured with those holiday sales into repeat customers. That means a well-thought-out, multichannel retention strategy. The payoff: The average repeat customer spends 67% more 2.5 to 3 years into a shopping relationship than in the first 6 months. For more tips, see the article and infographic:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In Busier Holiday Mail Season, Get Creative to Stand Out

With the mailbox distractions of the election finally past, retail mailers can now focus on the challenge of grabbing recipient attention in a holiday direct mail season that is projected to be even busier than last year's. The U.S. Postal Service just announced that it expects to deliver roughly 15.5 billion cards, letters, flats and packages for the holiday period, with around 600 million packages delivered just between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, representing a 10.5% annual increase. The more successful mail efforts are likely to be those that stand out in the flood of promotions, so if you haven't already come up with something more creative for this year, take some inspiration from Target Marketing magazine's Summer Gould. Her recent article offered four ideas for spiking your creative's holiday punch. First, use direct mail's unique tactile advantages for more interactivity, she suggests, citing endless folds, scratch-and-sniff or coatings as fun options. While it's standard now to urge combining mobile with mail, Gould urges going beyond the standard QR code inclusion this year to augmented reality, a la Pok√©mon Go. She also pushes the envelope, so to speak, by advising consideration of a video direct mailer. This less-used idea is certainly a way to stand out--as long as you can figure out how to make the video both entertaining and promotionally effective. Finally, she supports holiday-inspired die cuts, a proven boon to postcard response but also a way to create more interactive, complex dimensional mailers. "We have even seen mail take on a whole new shape with each unfolded panel as you open it. This is fun for recipients and draws them into the mailer," she notes. To read her article, go to

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Data Strategy Can Help Best Amazon With Holiday Buyers

Retailers complain that Amazon e-commerce gobbles up more holiday dollars each year. In fact, Amazon is now the primary gift destination of 42% of U.S. shoppers, per recent research by Signal, a marketing tech and data platform company. Is there any way to compete with the Amazon Goliath? Yes--if retailers know how to weaponize their customer data, argues Signal's CEO Mike Sands in a recent article for Marketing Land. Sands suggests three data-driven strategies for competing with Amazon this holiday season. Sands points out that while Signal's research shows Amazon is a primary buying source for a chunk of consumers, Amazon is NOT the primary gift destination for another big group (40%). Retailers can use customer data to successfully woo those customers, Sands argues. Compared with Amazon, retailers have access to more first-party data across channels and devices via sales, customer service, loyalty programs, marketing and promotion channels, and interactions with store associates. That extensive customer data from multiple channels can by used to deliver relevant, targeted promotions that outdo Amazon's touted recommendations, which often miss the mark due to minimal customer knowledge. Using data-driven marketing, retailers also can leverage the omnichannel strength of multiple touch points to create a seamless, personalized shopping experience. "Gone are the days when holiday shoppers had to choose between the convenience of buying online from home versus the assurance of handling the product in a store. Now they can do it all — and they leave a rich trail of data every step along the way," Sands notes. He points to statistics showing that while consumers say they browse for holiday purchases most frequently on desktops/laptops (36%), they most frequently purchase gifts in stores (33 percent). Finally, since offer relevancy remains basic to wooing customers, retailers can use data-driven marketing to gain an edge over Amazon even in the digital arena. Some 43% of consumers surveyed still say digital advertising on websites or mobile apps influences holiday gift-buying. Retailers now can use addressable media for personalized, timely digital ad targeting by seeing customers as people not just impressions, notes Sands. Bottom line, retailers who make the effort to aggregate, clean, segment, profile and personalize omnichannel customer data can still enjoy happy holiday sales in the Amazon era. For Sands' full article, go to

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mail Boosts Home Services Contractors--If Done Well

Changing seasons signal a burst of direct mail from clients in home services contracting, especially HVAC promotions. And we've seen some great and some not-so-great examples. So we'd like to pass along a timely article from Contracting Business by Matt Michel, CEO of The Service Roundtable, who draws on his experience to create a helpful list of common direct mail pitfalls for contractors. To whet your appetite, we'll pass along just five of the first points in his series of 21 tips on direct mail mistakes. Michel's focus is HVAC contractors, but we think his tips have wider application to a range of consumer mailings. The No. 1 mistake on his list is leaving out a main headline. Yes, some mailers still forget that that they have only seconds to grab consumer attention in the pile of junk mail. But just any headline won't do the job. Marketers need to work hard to summarize appeal in compelling, clear, attention-grabbing text. And that doesn't mean trying to hedge bets with multiple competing headlines; a confused message is the same as no message. Second, remember to play to emotion in the copy and the images; emotion, not logic, moves people to buy, and research has found leading emotional motivators include greed, fear, guilt, exclusivity and need for approval, with convenience and pleasure as icing on the cake. If the images and words in your piece don't touch a nerve, it will get tossed. Third, choose images with people, not product arrays, Michel advises; a parade of boxes, which is all consumers see in pictures of condensing units and furnaces, has little marketing power. Plus, the people pictured should fit the target audience and evoke motivating emotions along with the copy. Fourth, consider the gender of the target decision-maker. Since many HVAC contractors are male, they often make the mistake of marketing to a male audience, but research shows that women make the service and replacement decisions in most households. In that case, images should feature women, and copy should recognize the different emotional triggers of female buyers. And fifth, whether the target audience is male or female, speak directly to the consumer in a conversational and engaging tone. A dry recitation of facts and figures is more likely to bore than persuade. For the rest of Michel's tips, read