Archive for October, 2010

Halloween Special: Using Direct Mail to Destroy the Environment

Earlier this week I posted an article about being an environmentally friendly mailer.  Unfortunately, I have witnessed companies who don’t have a clue about how to use direct mail in an environmentally-friendly way.  In the spirit of ghost, goblins and Halloween, I fabricated a list of how to use direct mail in evil ways. Here’s the list of all the wrong things to do:

A Sinister Plot for Using Direct Mail to Destroy the EnvironmentSpooky list, right?  When done correctly, direct mail can have a significant ROI, while not harming the environment.  The responsibility lies with the companies and agencies that practice direct marketing.  Is it time to take a hard look at your direct marketing practices?

Happy Halloween from Mail Print.

Direct Mail: Destroying the Environment or Improving the Economy?

Ecco-friendly direct mail hitting target

Mail less by targeting more. You’ll be green environmentally and financially.

I work in the ultimate green environment: the world’s largest underground business complex.  Yes, Mail Print’s building is located in one of Kansas City’s nine underground commercial real estate parks.  It’s always a comfy 68 degrees. We don’t even have to heat the building, although we do use air conditioning to remove humidity (a necessity for getting ink to properly adhere to paper).  Our offices and production facility have been underground for 15 years, resulting in significant savings for our business and the environment alike.

At Mail Print, we like to think we were green before the term was even coined, but it must seem ironic to some, since a portion of our business results in putting ink on paper, and therefore we must be killing massive amounts of trees.  However, there are studies that show the paper industry has actually increased conservation of forests.  (More on this later.)

I believe that direct mail has a place in our world, economy and culture.  I take environmental responsibility very seriously, as do the majority of my peers in the direct marketing industry.  I have created results for businesses that could not be attained through other communication channels alone.  That drives new businesses, consistent growth and ultimately new jobs.

Direct Mail Impacts Business Growth and therefore the Economic Outlook

Before a multitude of environmentalists start hunting me down, here are some facts. (Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to put so much specific information about where I am located.)

There are countless ways to make sure your printing and mailing practices support the environment, rather than destroy it; here are a few we recommend:

  • Promote recycling
  • Use recycled paper or paper produced through responsible forestry
  • Apply vegetable or soy-based inks instead of petroleum-based inks
  • Use electronic mediums (email, text, web pages) whenever it makes sense,
  • Use good list hygiene, and by all means improve targeting to avoid mailing to people who won’t respond any way.

The irony of this… a savvy direct marketer does this anyway because it produces the best results.  What a bonus that they are also supportive of environmental stewardship.

Related Download: Finding Eco-friendly Print and Direct Mail Providers

Click here to access a free white paper from Mail Print: Insist That Your Printer is as Green as You Are.

World’s Best Personalized Calendar Returns

Personalized Calendar SampleI will admit to bragging.  Every two years my company, Mail Print, produces what I believe to be the coolest personalized calendar I’ve ever seen.  I am biased.  My staff works diligently for months to come up with neat and clever ways to demonstrate variable data marketing using this calendar.  The result is a functional, personalized 2-year calendar that demonstrates the power of VDP (Variable Data Printing) and helps us stay connected with our customers, prospects and partners for years (literally).

Our faithful blog readers, if you would like to have your very own calendar, email me at rhondab@mailprint.com.  I’ll send the first five responders a Personalized URL link where you can add your very own special dates and select your favorite images to customize the World’s Coolest Calendar. (Again, no bias intended).

ACEP: An Intimate Approach to Membership Marketing

Physician

How do you speak personally and relevantly to more than 28,000 members nationwide? The American College of Emergency Physicians relies on innovative thinking and advanced variable data printing.

In the great health care debate, it is easy to think that all emergency physicians are concerned about the same issues:  ER overcrowding and health care reform legislation, in addition to their ultimate concern, the best way to care for their patients.  But like many associations, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has varying expectations from members who have divergent needs.  In comparison to established physicians, new members have different education and information needs, and keeping current members engaged is a different type of challenge than obtaining new members.  Combine that with the complexity of supporting strong local chapters under one umbrella and you have one heck of a member communications challenge.

Adding Value on an Individual Basis

Providing value at all stages of an emergency physicians’ career is an area where ACEP shines. In addition to having great resources available to their membership, they are exceptional at timely, relevant communications that are matched to the needs of the individual.  When you analyze the ACEP marketing department it is obvious that they spend a significant amount of time on the best strategy to communicate the value that ACEP provides to their members.

Individual Communications for 28,000 Members

We recently had the opportunity to help ACEP automate and improve the quality of a complex variable data membership booklet that is personalized to each physician according to their interests and local chapter.  It also contains a highly personalized membership card.  No doubt, we did the easy part.

ACEP’s complex communication tactics speak to each of their 28,000 members so that they feel they are an intimate part of the association. Here are some examples of how ACEP speaks relevantly to their membership:

1) The cover begins by highlighting that the information is personalized, and by branding the cover with the physicians name and credentials. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Personalized Booklet Sample2) Inside, the pages are personalized to the member’s interests and specialty.  This is an excellent example of several text versions with variables within the text versions. (CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Variable Data BookletPersonalized CatalogDownload ACEP Case StudyTo see more and read about the results of ACEP’s personalized membership program with Mail Print, you can download the ACEP Case Study here.

Nine Ways to Decrease Direct Mail Spending While Improving Results

Number nine

Looking to decrease your direct mail investment and improve revenue at the same time? Here are nine ways to reach your ROI goals.

ROI (Return on Investment) is a function of cost and revenue generated. Any change in either one impacts your ROI.  It is possible to utilize direct mail to its fullest potential, and decrease the amount you are investing in the medium, while increasing response and purchase rates.

Here are nine ways to improve both sides of the ROI equation with your direct mail campaigns:

  1. Determine what deems someone non-responsive, and stop mailing when it is clear they are not going to respond.
  2. Segment and target audiences on macro and micro levels.  You don’t have to mail to everyone to be highly impactful.
  3. Speak to specific audiences on a micro level. The more relevant your communications, the sooner you’ll see results or be able to deem recipients non-responsive.
  4. Test, test, test.  Test the effectiveness of your message, offer and list on a smaller audience before deploying on a large scale.
  5. Conduct thorough data-cleansing.  You’ll mail less, more accurately, and improve your ROI.
  6. Do something with returned mail.  I know this seems simplistic, but the tendency is to ignore returned mail and not update the database.  Create a process so this is always done.
  7. Incorporate non-paper-based mediums such as email, text messaging, and links to online resources.
  8. Utilize direct mail to keep email as a main communication method by mailing only to bounces, unsubscribes and consistent non-openers with the goal of determining why they are not engaged via email. Check out this article: Email: Direct Mail’s New BFF.
  9. Eliminate people from your list who do not wish to receive mail by utilizing the DMA’s Mail Preference Service.  Go to https://www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action

In my experience, the biggest challenge to achieving the nine points above is not having a plan.  Without a plan, marketers shoot from the hip and hope they get it right.  And while that works occasionally, if you want something that controls cost and works consistently, start with a plan.  Your CMO, CFO and the entire company will thank you.

News Flash or Not: The USPS Has Problems

Return to sender notice.

DENIED: The Postal Regulatory Commision rejected a proposed postage rate increase yesterday, putting the blame for USPS' financial shortfalls on "long-term structural problems" and not the flagging ecconomy.

In the last 24 hours, I have been inundated with requests for a blog post regarding yesterday’s decision by postal regulators to deny the request of the US Postal Service to raise postal rates beyond the rate of inflation.  I struggled with the concept of a blog about this for a couple of reasons:

  1. Political commentary takes away from the mission of the Mail Print Insights Blog to educate on the latest and greatest innovations in direct marketing.
  2. We try to be a good partner with the USPS, although they make that highly difficult at times.  Their attempt to raise postal rates is one of those difficult times.

So I’ll leave it at this… the economy and business structure we had as a country three years ago isn’t coming back.  Entities, both public and private, that are still trying to figure out how to “go back” are failing and will continue to fail.  Today, most printing companies are down 40% in revenue.  Mail Print is growing strong, but that’s not because we recently changed our business model.  It has evolved consistently over time to match the needs of businesses and consumers.  We didn’t wait for the economy to slide.

For stable, strong, growing businesses “change” is constant and sometimes forced.  The USPS had a “change” problem many years ago that was masked by a great economy.  Can they now successfully navigate and the lead the change that is necessary?  Time will tell, but they have a lot of catching up to do.

For more information on the recent ruling, here’s a good article from the Washington Post: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/09/request_to_raise_postage_rates.html?hpid=news-col-blog

Can’t get enough postage rate drama? Here’s the Postal Regulatory Commission’s denial report (with a good executive summary): http://prc.gov/prc-docs/home/whatsnew/Order%20No%20547_1392.pdf