Archive for July, 2012

AARP is Conducting a Larger Score with Direct Mail

conduction, maestro, direct mail, direct marketingIf you know any one turning 50, you’ve probably heard about the relentless pursuit of their induction into AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). The cost of membership is a mere $16 a year, so it’s hard to fathom the cost effectiveness of sending someone up to three direct mail pieces a month, both six months prior and six months after the prospect’s 50th birthday.

Postage and printing alone, even with bulk rates, could make each multi-component piece cost more than 20 cents –  half the cost of membership if 36 direct mail pieces are sent to a prospect.

If you factor the additional expense of offering a free gift and the delivery cost once a person joins, how is AARP making enough money to run its 1,300 person nonprofit organization? Read on and learn they’re making billions, and it’s not from membership fees.

AARP’s Mailing List is Gold

With a membership base of more than 30 million people, AARP is the second largest membership group in the nation next to the Roman Catholic Church with 53 million members.  AARP’s army of members make up nearly one in five voters – hugely powerful and is even being called a “political war chest” this election year.

The list AARP has ingeniously built since 1947 enables the organization to throw $3 billion in lobbying weight around in Washington each year. Perhaps more importantly the AARP lends its name to eight businesses, including health insurance for seniors, that generates more than $10 billion a year and more than $35 million in advertising in its printed publications.

AARP’s low dues bring prospects through the door and then their internal maestros of direct mail printing start working their sales magic  alongside its advocacy efforts. AARP knows the names and addresses of more Americans than any other comparable organization in the U.S. and accounts for as much a 1.5% of the nonprofit third-class mail delivered every year.

How to Build or Buy a Golden Mailing List

In direct mail and multi-channel marketing, the quality and accuracy of the list is at least 60% of your campaign’s success. With numbers like that you need to spend more time on the list that many clients often allow.

Consumer Direct Mailing Lists

For consumer sales leads, the characteristics used to refine direct mailing lists might be a combination of the following:

  • Geographic (county, radius around a store or a neighborhood)
  • Demographic (income, gender, presence of children)
  • Behavioral (lifestyle activities,golf, photography, gardening, boating or shopping)
  • Methods/interests (online purchases or mail-order buyer for gardening, clothing or jewelry)
  • Life stage events (new parents, new homeowners, new movers or retirees)

Business Direct Mailing Lists

For business mailing lists, the characteristics used to segment a mailing list might be a combination of the following:

  • Geographic (county, radius around a store or a neighborhood)
  • Business type (Standard Industrial Classification or North American Industry Classification System)
  • Firmographic (company sales, annual sales amount, years in business)

Regardless if you build or buy your list, be sure you give it the attention it deserves.  Keep in mind that all lists are not created equal.  It is your list consultant that makes the difference.  Call Mail Print for help with your next list acquisition.

Marketing Management & Execution Solutions: So What Do You Call Them?

Reading a dictionary

Searching for the right words to describe the marketing automation, management, or exection systems you're looking for? Maybe we can help.

**This is a re-post from Mail Print’s early days of blogging.  Our readership has grown quite a bit since then, so I wanted to resurrect an early post.  Enjoy!

Marketing Asset Management. Print Automation. Marketing Automation. Communications Portals. Distributed Marketing. Web-To-Print. Confused yet?

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything fit in a nice, neat package that is easy to understand and explain?  In the world of marketing communications management, many people would think the above terms all mean the same thing.  I actually think they don’t.  I think there are so many terms because each means something a little different:

Marketing Asset Management:

Focuses on creating an online library of digital marketing assets such as logos, templates, stock photography, videos and radio ads  for use by centralized marketing staff or a network of remote users.

Distributed Marketing:

A term coined to define organizations that have many local markets that are marketed to differently, whether marketing strategy and execution is controlled by a central marketing department or the local stores and locations.


The ability to order printed materials through an online printing management system. Typically, this reduces a company’s inventory waste and improves the customization available on the printed pieces.

Communications Portal:

A central repository for ordering and downloading all types of marketing communications and assets, including email, logos, direct mail, radio commercials, fliers, buck slips, etc.  Marketing Communications Portalsare very useful for distributed marketing organizations.

Print Automation:

Eliminates human intervention in creating printed pieces.    This could be obtained via a web-to-print application or communications portal that also employs print automation, or could be a standalone system that creates printed pieces automatically based upon data streams and live data feeds.

Marketing Automation:

The process of triggering marketing communications to a specific individual or audience segment without human intervention.  This differs from print automation in that the automated marketing campaigns could include email, direct mail and other channels, by themselves or combined.

I’m sure there are many more terms and buzz words that I haven’t noted here. Just like any rapidly advancing technology solution, new terms are created every day.  The most important thing to understand is what you really need in a solution, regardless of what it is called.

Applebee’s Uses QR Code to Increase Lunch Traffic 10%

applebees, qr codes, marketingMany restaurants across America are asking diners to leave their phones on during their meals. These restaurants are using multi-channel campaigns to entertain you and even talk to you while you wait for your meal to be prepared.

Applebee’s with its QR Code® enabled campaign is one of those restaurants. While there are many organizations using QR Codes in their cross-channel marketing, few are leading diners to a landing page that is buzz-worthy like Applebee’s.  Printed material at the table utilizes a two-dimensional code that delivers a page with a Persian cat that tells jokes for two minutes.

Applebee’s campaign and the landing page don’t disappoint unlike so many QR Codes® that lead you to a page that makes you wonder why you bothered. Too many campaigns lead to a page asking you to opt-in to a list but offering no reward or incentive?

Applebee’s multi-channel campaign was developed to increase lunch sales among that targeted audience that wanted food fast and good – think about the quick stop at Chipolte or Panera because you don’t want to be late returning to work. Staff members told the diners about the promotion as they were seated and shown a three-sided tabletop tent featuring a 2D code where the cat’s mouth should be. Those who scanned the QR Code® were immediately taken to an animated video of the lower half of the cat’s face.

qr code, qr review, 2d barcode, qr, quick response codeBy holding up their phone to the table tent, they watched and listened to a cat entertain them for two minutes – all part of filling the precious gap of time while their drinks are being retrieved and meal prepared in less than 14-minutes.

Table Cat QR portion of the campaign has seen a very high level of activation — 30,000 in the first months, and 65,000 to date — indicating its popularity with the public. The agency that came up with both the lunch guarantee and QR campaign reports that their client saw a 10% increase in lunch traffic and nearly a 5% rise in total lunch sales during the campaign.

To avoid frustrating rather than entertaining diners, the agency put the You Tube URL just beneath the QR Code so patrons could access the video even if the scan failed to render the video properly.

Applebee’s also included the Table Cat video on its Facebook page where it received 6,000 likes.


Other Ways Restaurants Can Engage Customers with QR Codes

These little 2D barcodes are helping to reshape the way restaurants communicate with customers. Beyond Applebee’s successful lunch campaign, here are eight other ways restaurants are educating and engaging customers.

  1. History: Be it a national chain or local mom and pop diner, customers love to know the history. QR Codes are a great way to connect customers to that information.
  2. Nutritional Facts: Patrons appreciate being able to make well-informed meal selections. Because nutrition facts can take up a lot of inventory, use QR Codes to take them to the ingredient lists and nutritional facts.
  3. Recipes: If you’re not guarding the recipes, share them with a QR Code that takes patrons to a video showing the preparation of the meal or the complete recipe.
  4. Coupons/Specials: Consider creating a QR coupon that can be scanned to reveal special discounts or offers. The patron can show their smartphone displaying the ad to the cashier or server to get the deal.
  5. Customer Surveys: Add a QR Code to the customer’s receipt that leads him/her to a survey to complete along with a reward for doing so. This is an invaluable way to learn more about their experience so you can make improvements.
  6. Location: QR Codes can link to Internet sites, which include Google Maps. Consider creating a webpage that has your contact information and a Google Map to direct patrons to your eatery.
  7. Events: Lead your patrons to a web page that displays your upcoming calendar of events. The QR Codes can allow easy access to events and allow consumers to download the calendars to their phones, ensuring they have the info they need to attend the event at the time of the event.
  8. Education: If you own a restaurant that does something special and sets it apart you can share these attributes or any distinguishing techniques in a promotional video that makes for efficient, ongoing marketing.

So the next time you eat out, don’t leave your smartphone in the car. You may need it for a coupon, entertainment, a free download or entry into a drawing. Prepare to scan, drink and be merry.

QR Code® is a registered trademark of Denso Wave

Think Like a Great Architect to Design that Historic Campaign

marketing plan, business plan, marketing, multichannel marketing, marketing strategyMarketers wear many hats to design campaigns that earn loyalty, likes, sales, or donations. To start your next project with a zero-based obstacle point of view, think like a great architect. How would Le Corbusier design the rollout? How would Karl Rove remove the competition from the campaign, and how would Julia Morgan (first woman licensed to practice architecture in California) approach the challenge to design a resort complex that would become a movie star destination and national landmark?

For nearly 28 years, Julie Morgan was given all the money, creative leeway, and support she needed to design William Randolph Hearst’s Casa Grande in San Simeon, CA. The finished product is 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways.

Consider the similarities of the planning complexity to some of the multi-channel marketing campaigns you must architect.

Imagine the multi-channel marketing campaign you could create if you had all the time, all the money, and all the creative reign you wanted to make your mark in the world. What would you build and what would its impact be on your company, your career, the world?  Would you go down in marketing history with the same notoriety of Steve Jobs, David Ogilvy, Sir Richard Branson, Seth Godin, or Jack Trout?

“Marketing is not a battle of products, but of perceptions,” says Jack Trout

As a master architect of great buildings, Morgan can teach us much about pulling off the seemingly impossible and delivering on a large scale.


Plan Everything In Advance

When designing a great campaign or castle, plan everything in advance. Don’t put a stake in the ground or purchase a URL until you’ve designed the whole project. This will help you see potential glitches, move pieces around before you become committed to a direction, channel, theme, headline, call to action, or timeline.

Planning everything in advance will insulate and protect your budget from unforeseen blunders. The Hearst Castle cost $4 million dollars to build in the early 1900s. Too many buildings (and marketing projects) go way over budget because of poor planning or poor communications or both.


Optimize Every Square Foot

Though Morgan had hundreds of acres to work with, she designed the estate down to the trim on the baseboards. In the marketing realm, use everything at your disposal by working every channel into the marketing mix. When you time your direct mail to land between correlating emails it can yield double the response rate of email alone and have the best conversion.  And when you time your sales representatives to make contact following a drop, they’ll be much better received.


Make it Personal

Ms. Morgan created intimacy among the grounds, guests, and guest houses by weaving in Hearst’s art collection. You can create intimacy by weaving in personalization, most importantly looking in your database for data points that allow you to create highly customized and personalized messages.


Leave a Legacy with Your Artistry

Ms. Morgan designed a Mediterranean Revival style castle that is reflected in the main house and three guest houses. The towers of the main house, or Casa Grande, take their design from a Spanish cathedral. The estate is now a national park for the State of California with thousands of visitors each year. Are you thinking like an architect when you design your campaigns?

Will your campaign be deleted, acted upon, or game changing in your industry? It’s easy to churn out standard email copy, typical landing pages, and to-be-expected self mailers, but how are you stretching your skills as an architect to design something unforgettable, undeniable, viral, fruitful, and your legacy?


Build it So It Captivates

Building your campaign with a strong foundation, it sets the groundwork for your next multi-channel masterpiece. The rebar you need to strengthen your foundation, is multiple methods to capture any and all activity such as surveys, contact forms, landing pages, 800 numbers, social share buttons and comment boxes.

Be sure whatever response mechanism you use is monitored and responded to by a team that can act quickly. Also make sure each channel has its own landing page so tracking is pinpoint accurate.


Finally, don’t forget to make your campaign speak directly to your prospects with intelligence, integrity, and interesting copy so they’ll be more apt to open your campaigns when they arrive. It’s easy to get focused on the technical aspects of the digital campaign that the human aspect suffers.

I hope these best practices resonate with you and give you a baseline of where to focus your efforts on your next multichannel campaign. If you’d like more ideas for building a campaign, review the 10 Greatest Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns of All Time. Between this list and the designing of the Hearst Castle, you should have dozens of fresh ideas to leave your thumbprint on your next campaign.

Postcards Evolve from a Means to Send a Note to a Means to Build a Business

postcards, direct mail, mailbox, mail, direct marketing, marketing, postal service, mail marketing, print, direct print,Postcards came into existence in 1840 when people were looking for an easier way to send quick notes.  It wasn’t until 1869 that they actually escaped being enclosed in an envelope and advanced to stand alone, stamped postal pieces. Flash forward a couple hundred plus years and postcards have become the little direct mail engine that could.

Postcards enable businesses to get a message or offer quickly out the door for immediate leads and sales. Postcards drive a 1-7% response, depending on a variety of variables and industry (warm or cold list, size of card, personalization, and most importantly, the offer). Postcards make the phone or cash register ring and drive customers online to make a purchase.

Postcards have transformed from an eloquent note form to a sales generating powerhouse. However, as powerful as postcards are they often get forgotten by marketers because of flashier alternatives, which include flash drives, iPads, iPhones, QR readers, and YouTube videos.

So if you’ve forgotten how far a simple postcard can take your business in a compressed period of time, use this blog post as a 10-minute refresher course that can inspire you to generate an instant return on investment this month.

A Trust Earner

Postcards are great at building a customer relationship over time. Plan a monthly postcard campaign for your service business or an informational 8 x 8 campaign (8 touches in just 8 weeks). As a result, you’ll have a hot customer to call who is familiar with you or your business rather than someone who doesn’t know you from Adam.

If your postcard is designed to make the phone ring, never underestimate the power of a human being on the other end of the line to further build trust. In other words, make sure you have the staff, receptionist, customer service reps or salespeople ready to be at a phone when the new business generating postcards hit the mailbox. You will convert more leads to sales or warm prospects by having someone to take those calls vs. an interested person going to voicemail or to an answering service.

The quick turn, high-trust building, low-cost factors that postcards deliver make them the medium of choice for:

  • Retailers that use them as bounce back promotions aimed at getting customers to return to the stores to make another purchase.
  • Doctors, dentists, and veterinarians who don’t want you to forget to schedule that appointment when it is time for flu shots, teeth cleanings, or vaccinations.
  • Seasonal businesses that want to be first on your call list to engage a lawn care service, pest control company, pool service, or golf club membership.
  • Realtors who incorporate them into their monthly customer touch points so their face is always in front of a buyer or seller at least 13 months before they are ready to buy or sell.

Good Alone, Better Together

Has your pendulum swung too far to the digital side? Have you shaved your print budget to the bone to shift dollars to social media and watched your leads or sales dip as a result?

The marketing gospel says when something is working, don’t mess with it. Postcards with the right image, list, offer, and execution work. Unfortunately, some businesses try to save a buck by shifting 100% of their efforts to email. Just because there are now more marketing channels available, it doesn’t mean any should be completely replaced. Marketing dollars should be assigned to channels based on results and based on which channels pull the best results in tandem.

With all the hype about email marketing, social media and GroupOn type promotions, some companies have tried to omit print materials altogether (postcards, brochures, leave behinds, annual reports) only to learn the hard way that print is vital to any marketing mix like flour in bread.  In fact, when postcards are supplemented with digital media (landing pages, Quick Response Codes, and digital giveaways like reports and whitepapers) your response rates can jump 20-30%.

Print is not something you can or should delete from your marketing mix.  Direct mail or postcard campaigns are just becoming more targeted and accountable than before because metrics have improved. To compete in this area, you need both print and digital in your marketing mix.

Postcard, Inforgraphic, Catalogue, Direct Mail, Direct Marketing, Mail, Newsletter, Mailbox,

Credit: Jude Buffman of Visually (

Trackable and Oh So 21st Century

In the 1800s, one would have to wait a month of more to hear that their note had been received. Today’s technology brings postcards out of the dark ages and into the 21st Century with trackability through QR codes or directing recipients to your company website, a general offer specific landing page or better yet a personalized URL (PURL).

Directing your prospects to PURLs is the equivalent of sending every prospect a warm and personal letter written just for them. They like it and respond accordingly.

A bank’s customers’ certainly did. It increased enrollment in electronic banking more than 625% when it switched from standard direct mail to variable data printing combined with a PURL. And the U.S. Postal Service has noted that response rates increase as customization does. This simple tool offers an exceptional ROI – an added benefit when marketing budgets are under tighter constraints and scrutiny (and when aren’t they).

Professionally Printed, Professionally Presented

Thanks to the short-run capabilities of digital printing, postcards are affordable and beautiful. Though using your office printer may appear to help you save in short term, it can never give you the same quality that a professional printer will provide. Send your postcard project to a high-quality printer that gives you impressive quality at very affordable prices.

Postcards Are a Stand Out, Hands-Down Winner

Check out the infographic above and you’ll see that postcards only make up 7.1% of the U.S. mail stream, they stand out against the combined 35% of flyers, circulars, catalogs and magazines. Use postcards as your secret weapon in bringing in new business.


Study Shows Direct Mail Triggers 3-to-1 Donations Compared to Email

Donations, mail, direct mail, giving, charity, nonprofit, donor receiptsDonors are more than three times as likely to give an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal than an “e-ppeal,” according to a national study conducted by research firm Campbell Rinker for the non-profit advising firm Dunham+Company.

The study revealed that 17% of donors who gave on a charity website in 2011 said they were motivated to give by a direct mail letter as opposed to the 5% who said they gave because of an email. In other words, direct mail outperformed email in persuading a person to donate by nearly 3-to-1.

“Finding that direct mail has actually grown as a driver to online donations and the online efforts were not really moving the needle was a bit of a shock,” says Rick Dunham, President/CEO of Dunham+Company who conducted the study because it wanted to see if direct mail was diminishing as a source for online donations.

According to results from Campbell Rinker’s DonorPulse™ International study conducted in October and November 2011, direct mail is still the champ of generating donations: 43% of donors to International causes say they have given in the past 12 months because of a letter they received. Email comes in second at 28%, and fundraising events are third at 23%.


Additional Findings from the Study

  1. Donors are receptive to direct mail appeals – 50% of donors surveyed in 2012 said they prefer to give online when they receive a letter in the mail from a charity.
  2. Key donor age groups are giving more when triggered by direct mail. Donors ages 40-59 who said they gave an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal rose to 38% from 35% two years prior.
  3. Among donors age 60 or older, online giving prompted by a direct mail appeal rose to 30% from 18% in the past two years.
  4. Wealthy women respond well to direct mail. Nearly 53% of donors in households with incomes of $75,000 or more preferred to respond with an online gift when they received a direct-mail appeal.
  5. Websites lost ground in driving giving. Only 11% of donors say seeing a charity’s website motivates a gift.
  6. Email-stimulated giving is down. Only 5% of study respondents say they gave an online gift because of receiving an email.

Other study findings were social media is an important component to any nonprofit fundraising effort. Social media influences donors under the age of 40 with 30% of respondents saying they gave online because of information posted on social media. The social media influence increased 6% from two years ago during the last donor study in 2010.

Visit Campbell Rinker for more information on the DonorPulse Study and to participate in the new study that begins March 2013. For more donor campaign ideas, check out how Harvesters Food Bank pulled in more than $600,000 with its donor receipt program.