Archive for April, 2011

Print Procurement: The Lesser Known Facet of Marketing Automation

Professionals using microscope

Marketers are taking another look at direct marketing, and focusing on print automation and cost reduction as key drivers of profitability.

As the economy shows signs of shifting in a more positive direction, many companies are revisiting direct marketing programs that were profitable years ago, but were cut during the height of the recession to reduce marketing budgets.  Contrary to the boom years, most marketers are cost cautious these days when setting up programs.  We are willing to try new things, or revisit the old, but not in the same way as the past.

As marketing practitioners, our fresh focus on marketing operations, marketing procurement and the marketing supply chain, have made us better business people and I contend, more successful marketers from an ROI perspective.

Print Automation is Less Sexy Than Email Automation, But Far Richer in Opportunity for Cost Reduction

Print automation is a fairly new term in the industry and a clear success story for early adopters.  Some would label print automation simply as traditional print and direct mail, but with cost saving enhancements related to how print can be procured and deployed.  Marketing automation, a much more widely used and accepted term, is related, but most often focuses only on email automation and never sees the full deployment and integration of print into the marketing automation mix.  Although this article focuses solely on educating business leaders on print automation, full marketing automation that incorporates all channels, is the ultimate aspiration.

Watch Print Automation Videoprint automation video thumbnail Print Procurement: The Lesser Known Facet of Marketing Automation

Want to learn what the print automation buzz is about?  Watch this video to see how you can implement a print automation strategy in your company.  It includes three real-life stories to help you determine if your print and direct mail is poised for a move to automation:

The Remarkable Collision of Social Media and Direct Marketing

children watching movie

The integration of social and direct marketing is creating larger-than-life results for marketers.

I recently came across a great illustration of how businesses are using direct marketing and social media together to achieve immediate results and ongoing “viral” benefits. I’d like to share this story in narrative form…

The Setup: New Marketer Seeking Reliable Results

The owner of a local franchised restaurant decides to increase business by spending some money on advertising, and a friend suggests she should use an e-mail blast to promote her restaurant. She considers this—she is an avid Internet user and has had a Facebook account for awhile. But she knows how much she hates getting intrusive e-mails and how few of these she ever actually reads. Everyone else probably feels as bombarded with electronic media as she does. So she goes into her franchisors’ marketing storefront to research direct mail postcards.

She anticipates a ho-hum corporate marketing postcard that gives her no ability to tailor the postcard to her needs. Instead, she is delighted that the system provides multiple options and best practices.  She is also surprised to see information on using multiple channels, including options for utilizing social networking along with direct mail postcards to not only increase restaurant traffic, but also establish a customer data base for future use.

The Drama: Testing Traditional Tactics, With a Social Flair

After careful consideration, she selects a customizable campaign that allows her to create a targeted mailing list, postcard and personalized URL (PURL).  Attractive postcards that direct users to a PURL are mailed to area families with a coupon offering a complimentary children’s dinner with the purchase of an adult dinner. List selection is easy with the demographic and psychographic targeting tools provided by the franchisor and it happens intuitively with a few of clicks of her mouse.

At the PURL users validate their information, answer a few questions, and are given the capability to effortlessly share the offer on Facebook. As an incentive, all recipients who share the offer with friends are automatically entered into a sweepstakes to win 10 free family dinners. After completing the process, users are able to print the coupon and bring it into the restaurant for redemption.

The Resolution: Direct Mail + Social = Perfect Match

Results for multi-channel marketing campaignIn this example, using PURLs to encourage social media sharing pushed response rates above the mail quantity (see sidebar at right).  That is impressive and formerly unheard of in the direct marketing world.

What’s Next? Using Direct Marketing Know-How to Create Social Media Engagement

Watch out for new features that combine direct mail, email, PURLs, QR Codes and social media to engage consumers with personalized images that can be initiated and created on-the-fly within Facebook and Twitter.  Fostering the social media engagement with a personalized experience will create a profound change in the marketing industry. What a grand time to be affiliated with direct and interactive marketing!

Print 2.0: Smart Print that Works Harder

Multi-channel campaign recipient

“By mixing the message across different media you increase the likelihood that the recipient will see the message.” – Dr. John Leininger, Professor of Graphic Communications, Clemson University

This is a guest post by Lorrie Bryan, a writer and public relations professional based in Atlanta.

Today, smart companies understand how to leverage the inherent value of traditional print with Internet technology. The old adage says, “Work smarter, not harder.” Today’s print (we’re calling it Print 2.0) melds the virtues and value of traditional print with the intelligence and efficiency derived from digital technology to create smarter integrated marketing. Here are the critical success factors to put marketing Print 2.0 to work for you:

1. Know your customer.

Successful marketing with old-fashioned print ads or high-tech QR codes begins with a thorough understanding of the person you are trying to engage. “Know how they behave, know them inside and out,” says Jonathan Turitz, creative director at VSA Partners, a premier graphic design and brand strategy consultancy. “All media is being tested in today’s world. Because we are so inundated with information, everyone is working harder to be heard. The key is to be smarter.”

2. Make your message as relevant as possible.

Since there is a proven correlation between the relevance of the message and the response rate, more and more direct mail pieces are utilizing variable data printing (VDP) technology for personalization, versioning and customization. “The per-piece cost for VDP is higher,” notes Cooper. “But the higher response rates are causing marketers to think about the cost of printing differently. They stop thinking about the cost per piece and start thinking about the cost per response. Variable data printing costs more per piece but each piece can be significantly more relevant. Increased relevance means greater response and ultimately that leads to a greater return on investment.”

>> Want to learn more about how you can use variable data?  Watch this video on advanced variable data marketing, which includes three case studies.

3. Use print in tandem with other marketing channels.

Although Internet ads strive to be relevant, they are frequently perceived as intrusive, and many Web users tend to ignore them. Many unsolicited e-mails are sent straight to the spam file. A multi-channel approach to marketing has the best chance of being successful.

Dr. John Leininger, professor of Graphic Communications at Clemson University, says he tells his graphic communications students they should reach out to their clients in a variety of ways utilizing print as an integral element of a multi-channel campaign along with PURLs, QR Codes and e-mail. “By mixing the message across different media you increase the likelihood that the recipient will see the message. Many studies have shown that direct mail combined with cross-media in a multichannel campaign produces higher response rates.”

4. Utilize digital tracking technology to optimize content.

Not only are multi-touch campaigns more effective, they have the potential to increase efficiency and significantly reduce marketing spending by tracking responses and refining databases. Referred to as “print with intelligence built in,” PURLS and QR codes help segment prospects appropriately so that marketing strategy can be more specifically tailored and communication can be further personalized.

>> For more information, check out Creating Trackable QR Codes.

5. Reduce cost by utilizing interactive marketing storefronts and print automation.

“It can all be automated,” Leininger says. Unlike mass mailings and generic blasts, automation programs offer tailored efficiency. All types of direct marketing touches: postcards, e-mails, PURLs, and text messages can be personalized and sent at designated time intervals based on predetermined parameters. Online ordering systems streamline this process for small marketing departments, as well as for large companies with distributed locations and sales forces.

The integration of marketing strategies and the evolution of print technology have led to the evolution of print, the emergence of Print 2.0.

>> How is your company taking advantage of Print 2.0? Please share your insights by commenting on this post.

STALKER ALERT! How to Personalize your Marketing Without Being a Creeper

Woman being stalkedMy wife recently had a scary run in with a stalker: the website of a local pharmacy.

It started innocently enough. She was in the process of creating a first-time account on the site when she was prompted to provide some additional information. Pretty standard procedure, except that the site pre-populated the form fields with data that, while dated, was eerily accurate.

Wait a second, why would a site she’d never used before know her childhood phone number, her address from college, and the name of one of her past roommates?

How did they get all that information, and why were they using it?

With the proliferation of social media use, dozens of companies like RapLeaf and Spokeo are busy compiling an amazing amount of data about each of us. They do this by tying public record data (such as your name and address) to information pulled from online profiles (such as your photo, age, email address, interests, lifestyle, relationship status, friends, children, education, and occupation).

This aggregated information can be a treasure trove for marketers, as it allows them to identify people with specific interests and characteristics, and target them with personalized messaging.

However, with great power comes great responsibility.

It is the marketers’ duty to make sure information is used responsibly.  Lose the trust of the audience and you’ll find a slippery slope of lower response rates, increased customer defection, and lower sales.

As a variable data production partner for some very sophisticated database marketers, we’ve had the opportunity to monitor the results of highly-personalized campaigns to see what works and what doesn’t. Here are some tips for improving the relevancy of your marketing, without crossing ethical lines or scaring your audience.

Four Guidelines for Stalker-Free Personalized Marketing

1) Don’t brag about your depth of knowledge.

It’s alright if you know a lot about your prospects or customers, however there’s no need to blatantly proclaim. For example, avoid messaging like: “Jill, because you’re a mother of three with an average household income of $65,000, we know you’ll love our economic minivans with low monthly payments!”

Instead, use your database information to quietly sculpt your messaging and offers. The recipient should be amazed by the relevance and timing of your messaging, not irritated by it.

2) Gather additional data, but don’t ask irrelevant questions.

It’s important to continually garner vital information from your customers and prospects through surveys, online forms and personal communications. However, don’t ask questions that:

  • The user won’t understand why you’re asking
  • You won’t actually use
  • Are too personal, intrusive or unrelated to your product or service

With lead generation forms and surveys, remember that each additional question you request reduces the chance that the user will fill it out.

3) Be careful with personalization when prospecting!

People understand when a business or service they use knows their name, interests and preferences; in fact, they appreciate it. What they don’t like is when a marketing piece or an unknown sales rep talks to them like an old friend. It’s confusing, can immediately put the recipient on the defensive, and can destroy your response rate and ROI.

Be sure to test personalization tactics (such as using a Personalized URL or including the recipient’s name in an email subject line) in your lead generation marketing.

4) Your audience’s attention is a privilege, not a right.

If you’re tempted to try a possibly invasive marketing tactic to get a momentary boost in response or revenue, remember the power your audience wields. With a couple clicks, they can:

  • Unsubscribe to your emails
  • Add their name to a Do Not Mail list such as
  • Disable personalized online ads, or block them altogether
  • Or, ultimately, cancel their account or service with your company (ouch!)

As a purveyor of personalized marketing, I know how it can benefit both organizations and their customers. Just remember that simple lesson most of us learned during childhood: if you’re interested in someone, be friendly and helpful, but don’t be a stalker.

I love a good story. Have you ever been creeped out by an overly-personalized marketing piece or online experience? Please share it in the comments section.