Archive for March, 2010

Email: Direct Mail’s New BFF

Cookies and milk

Just like milk and cookies, direct mail and email are better together.

Email is, by far, the best thing to ever hit direct marketing.

One of the newest ways we are helping our clients manage their direct communications is by helping them develop automated systems to use direct mail strategically in conjunction with email campaigns.  Let me share some of the innovative ways our clients are approaching the mail/email equation:

1) Hard Bounces

We recently developed an automated system that generates a postcard the day after a hard bounced email.  This allows our client to have their customers easily update their email addresses as soon as the old email address is no longer valid.  The real beauty of this is that it is fully automated.  No one has to pull a list from the Email Service Provider and send it to us.  It just happens.

2) Unsubscribes

If a long-term customer opts-out of your email communications, what does that mean?

  • They no longer want email?
  • They have an unaddressed complaint with your company?
  • They no longer need your product or service?

Our client just asks by mailing a survey after someone opts-out, allowing them to address unforeseen issues and quickly win back the appropriate customers.

3) Driving PURL Responses

Several of our clients are having success by using both email and mail in conjunction with PURLs (personalized URL), as both a way to invite their audience members to visit their personalized web sites, and to follow up with respondents to thank them for visiting and drive their next action.

4) One Tactic, Two Mediums

This may seem simple, but one of our client’s retention marketing efforts simply consists of mailing or emailing the same information, but if they have opted in to email, they get email.  If they don’t have a valid email address or if they haven’t opted in to email, they get the information mailed to them.  Simple, but it works.

Repairing The Email Vs. Direct Mail Breach

One of our associates recently attended Marketing Sherpa’s Email Marketing Summit in Miami.  Many of the attendees wondered why a company like Mail Print would attend such an event. They thought a company named “Mail Print” would perceive email as “the enemy.”  Far from it.  We were probably more successful at this event than the email companies… because we get it.  Our clients need more than one successful marketing tactic to drive the revenue they need to propel their companies through this recession.  And, oh boy, the magic we can make by strategically planning to use the right medium for our audiences.

Mail has not died.  It just has a new BFF… email.

Is Your Direct Marketing Positively Impacting Your Customer Life Cycle?

PART ONE: Defining your customer lifecycle

Academically speaking, the customer life cycle begins with a prospect: an interested party who may potentially need your product or service. Adept companies qualify their prospects to pinpoint their sales efforts on leads that are ready to buy, while using automated marketing tactics such as email campaigns and direct mail programs to continue to develop leads at the beginning of the buying process. Following a first purchase, a period of customer assimilation or on-boarding takes place. This is a prime time to start building loyalty and influencing ongoing purchases. Particularly adroit companies employ retention programs to continue to provide value and to educate their customers to improve cross-selling opportunities. The final frontier recognizes when a customer’s attention has waned, and alerts sales and marketing to deploy a winback strategy.

So what does your customer lifecycle look like? Consider:

  • How much of your marketing resources are devoted to lead generation?
  • Are you able to nurture leads to conversion quickly, or is this a long, resource-intensive process?
  • Once converted, how long and resource-intensive are their assimilation and growth stages.
  • What’s the overall average lifetime of your customers (in days, weeks or years)?

PART TWO: Aligning your direct marketing efforts to maximize revenue

While everyone knows that it costs 6-10 times more to acquire a new customer than to maintain a loyal customer, most direct marketing is heavily weighted toward lead generation and lead nurturing. Responsibility for improving the customer experience is largely a reactive tactic left to the sales and customer service departments, which usually means trying to appease a customer after they have become dissatisfied and have a complaint.

So what’s a smart marketer to do?  Take a moment to evaluate your customer life cycle in comparison to your direct marketing efforts. Where can your marketing dollars most impact revenue?  Creating a chart like the one below can be helpful in identifying where spending and effort need to shift.  And why not consider using some of those marketing automation techniques to trigger communications to current and lapsed customers?

Customer Life Cycle Graph

Example customer lifecycle with poorly-aligned direct marketing resources.

A Creative’s Guide to Personalized Database Marketing

Neon Brain

Successful personalized marketing mixes right brain logic and left brain creative.

Highly-personalized marketing with relevant messaging, images and offers dramatically increases response rates… everyone agrees on this now, right? I mean, we’ve all read the case studies and white papers that prove it.

So why isn’t everyone doing it? For one, creating a highly-personalized marketing piece requires a creative staff brave enough to reach into the cold, sterile world of databases, segmentation and matrices, and then blend the two together. This is a serious feat of right brain/left brain, inspiration/intel, balance that can be difficult to achieve. But, as the research shows, double-digit response rates are attainable….

So I cornered several of our clients that create and produce highly-personalized marketing campaigns, and asked them for the top things they’d tell creatives about creating relevant, database-driven communications.

Here are their top five suggestions, ready for you to share with your design and marketing creatives:

1) Intimately know the data fields, segmentation and models available to you.

Get a sample of your marketing database, and review all the options available to you. A good database could include information about their purchase history, preferences, and demographics; all info you can use to make your piece more relevant. Even simple databases can be segmented to create versioned messages and images; try region, number of employees and industry.

2) Make sure your design works for both “Matt” and “Madeleine”

When adding variable fields to your designs, it’s important to know just how long – or short – the text may be that pulls in for each field. Ask your database team for a report of the longest and shortest entries for each variable field, and then proof your designs with these extremes included.

3) Go beyond the name game

Splashing your recipient’s name across your creative can definitely capture their attention, and can be done very creatively and effectively. But some of the most effective personalized communications include hundreds or thousands of variables. If you have a strong database, some internal expertise, and a good partner, it’s time to test an intensely-variable piece.

4) Know your workflow

Sooner, rather than later, call the Variable Data Printer, email service provider or direct mail marketer of your choice : ), and grill them on the process your creative will go through to be produced. Chances are, there are choices you’ll make that could negatively or positively affect the resulting pieces. Special Note: Make sure to ask them the best file formats for their workflow!

5) Start simple.

As you can tell, there’s a reason personalized marketing isn’t used by all of your competitors: it’s hard. But, it’s a lot easier once you’ve done it a few times. So start by working a couple of variables into piece before advancing to that dynamic, 1,000-variable piece you’ve been dreaming of. Starting simple will also ensure your process and hardware is correct and will prevent a server meltdown (ask me about that story sometime).

Haven’t read one of those reports about personalized marketing improving response rates? Let me recommend this case study or this white paper. Want to know more or add something to the list? Use the handy comment tool below.

Photo credits: / CC BY 2.0

Award-Winning Direct Marketing Lessons

Direct Marketing Award Winners

And the winners are... the direct marketers whose 2010 marketing tactics reflect the lessons learned during 2009.

We recently received an email from the KCDMA (the local chapter of the Direct Marketing Association) notifying us that our three entries in their 2010 AMBIT competition are all winners. The awards ceremony is still more than a month away, so we’ll have to wait to find out the exact trophies we’ll be bringing home (we’re going for the gold!)

The notification email made me think back to last year’s big winners, and the direct marketing lessons each one represented. Unlike many competitions, which focus more on the aesthetic value of entries, the DMA competition is heavily-weighted towards actual results, such as response rates, ROI and revenue generation. So, the top awards of 2009 recognized direct marketing campaigns that really made a financial impact for businesses. Here are two lessons learned from 2009’s winners:

1) Bulky direct mail gets past gatekeepers

As Sprint’s Best In Show winner illustrated, direct mail marketing with substance (read “size”) can help you get your message past gatekeepers and make an impression on the decision makers. Like other bulky mail successes, Sprint’s “PB&J Wireless Integration” campaign made up for a high cost-per-piece with incredible response rates. The key to making a bulky piece like this worth it’s weight? Make sure your marketing database is clean and targeted and your piece is eye-catching and memorable.

2) Personalization and targeting increase purchase rate

Mail Print’s Most Innovative Solution award winner was one several entries that highlighted how personalized marketing can increase response rates. However, I think it was singled out for the Most Innovative Solution award because of the 5% purchase rate it achieved. The awarded campaign for the new Gladstone Community Center used personalized direct mail and PURLs (see our Portfolio for samples) to generate leads from a highly-targeted list. The key? Create a profile of the most likely purchaser of your product and service, and use demographic and geographic list selection to build a marketing database of people who match this profile. Then, market to them with highly-relevant messaging.

I’m looking forward to watching this year’s ceremony to see how many companies parlayed the lessons learned at last year’s competition into their past year’s initiatives. What direct marketing lessons did you learn during 2009, and how are you implementing them during 2010?