Posts tagged data cleansing

Shifting Demographics and Incorrect Assumptions Can Lead to Bad Mailings

change 250x376 Shifting Demographics and Incorrect Assumptions Can Lead to Bad MailingsThe demographic profile of America is vastly different today than it was in 1980 and certainly 1960. So much so that the shifting demographics of our nation, and many of the traditional assumptions, we often make as marketers lead to off target mailings and results.  I don’t know of a time when this reality was ever more evident than in the results of the 2012 Presidential election.

As of 2010 the state of California had minority populations that exceeded 57% and Texas, Hawaii, New Mexico and District of Columbia had minority populations of 50%.

What does this mean to you and your product marketing? It means you need to have a true understanding of who is using your product vs. who has used it in the past. Marketers looking to restart or enhance their prospecting efforts will find changes in customer behavior that make traditional methods for identifying audiences less effective.

SOURCE: Deliver Magazine Case Study Statistical Modeling and U.S. Census Bureau, Pew Research Center


Facts That Can Skew Your Prospect Mailings

  1. Diversity is Booming. Minorities now make up about 35% of the U.S. population and well over 50% in certain regions.
  2. Married Couples Aren’t the Ones Having Children. A record 41% of births were to unmarried women in 2008, up from 28% in 1900.
  3. Head of Households are Changing. Only 21% of households were headed by a married couple who had children under 18 living at home in 2010. Now 27% of households had just one resident, a rise of 13% from 1960.
  4. Retirement Isn’t a Given. About 15% of people over 65 or older are still working. This number is projected to rise to 19.7% in 2014.
  5. The Person Receiving the Product Isn’t the One Actually Paying the Bill (i.e., healthcare and public education). Sometimes this requires removing the middleman and sometimes it requires inserting a new middleman.
  6. Women Are the New Brains. Of young adults 25-29, women represent 58% of those who hold an advanced degree.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Pew Research Center

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics

SOURCE:, A New Business Model for a New Generation of Consumers

How to Refine Your Data Search

Many marketers are using new criteria and more robust data to redefine their existing customers and build a more accurate and statistically sound customer model. Among data and tools being used to flesh out existing models:

  • Purchasing Behavior. More than age and income, actual purchasing behavior is more predictive.
  • Social Media Engagement. Knowing about the number of friends a person has on a social networking platform is a very predictive variable to take into account for certain businesses.

SOURCE: Brad Rukstales, president and founder of CAC Group, analytic consulting

  • Data Appending. Data appending services range from simple postal, phone and/or email appends to sophisticated services like appending geographic, demographic, psychographic, lifestyle, interest, behavioral and syncographic data from a combination of on-line and off line resources. One credit union achieved a 10% lift on auto loans after appending its “in-the-market” data.

SOURCE: Deliver Magazine Case Study Statistical Modeling

  • Marketing Maps. Turn to demographic marketing maps or companies who can provide map overlays to show you the races, ethnicities, and languages of customers in your area so you can communicate directly with them in the languages they speak and according to the cultural backgrounds that influences them.
  • Purchase More Data. You already know a lot about your customers, but you can strengthen a customer profile by adding other lifestyle or demographic information into the mix.
  • Employ ZIP+4. The first five digits of the ZIP code indicate the geographic area, but the last four help you pinpoint prospects within that specific location. It can also help you identify who lives in an apartment and who lives in a house.  Many data models allow you to analyze to “block groups” for more accurate targeting.
  • Study Your Customer Database. Analyze every interaction and you’ll likely learn new opportunities such as who really responds to buy-one-get-one-free offers.  Or perhaps those who shop infrequently but spend huge amounts on your products might respond to a different offer.
  • Personalize Your Mailer. Go beyond printing your prospect’s or customer’s first name on the marketing piece. Show them that you understand their needs, interests, and position in the buying process. Variable data printing lets you do this by greeting them by name and creating offers you know they’ll respond to because they have in the past and including messages and images that address their specific needs.

6 Tips to Make Sure Your Variable Marketing Project Doesn’t Crash and Burn

148132648 250x166 6 Tips to Make Sure Your Variable Marketing Project Doesn’t Crash and BurnIf your business wasn’t part of the early adopters of variable data printing, this blog post is for you. This piece will keep you far from the technical grenades that can burn you if you don’t prepare your database or file correctly for hand off to your variable partner for execution.

Data First, Creative Second

Start with the data, which seems counter intuitive to agency people and small businesses. According to Kristen Miller, of Mail Print’s Client Implementation Team, successful VDP projects begin with data and then move into the creative process.

Ideally you’ll start with an accurate customer or prospect database/mail list. Ideally the dataset has more than name and address, like age, income, presence of children in the home, purchase history, or frequency of purchases.  Next you can decide what you want to communicate and pick which data fields you’re going to drop into your communication to personalize the marketing piece.

Dear {Name}, We hope this note finds you well.  Since you recently bought {Gift #1}, we thought you would be interested in {Gift #2}.

Prospecting vs. Retaining

Often times mailing lists purchased from list providers can be a great solution when you are prospecting for new clients beyond wanting to personalize a piece simply with someone’s first name. If your marketing strategy is to get St. Louis based, women, 40 years old and older, with household incomes of at least $100,000 to come to a plastic surgery seminar, purchasing a list may make sense.

If you are a plastic surgeon who wants to get existing patients to consider a second procedure or new aesthetic service, using your customer data makes sense. Choose your segment and write your marketing copy and select your graphics to truly speak to that particular group of people.

Maximize the Power of Variable

It can be very profitable to build a marketing piece that uses different images, colors, and messages to match the targeted segment.  The true value of variable data printing comes in being able to tailor a piece to engage a particular segment of your target audience.  Simply playing the “name game” is somewhat passé.  Your goal is to create a highly relevant mail piece so the prospect can envision using your product or service in a particular way.

Beware of Capital Letter Land Mines

If you had a single person input your CRM data, you are probably in good shape consistency wise. However, if multiple people in multiple states have added to the database, you may be plagued with names that should be spelled DeAnna, but may appear as Deanna (first letter capped only) or DEANNA, which often happens off purchased mailing lists.

Fixes for Common Field Land Mines

Miller says she sees several other common “field” related problems with the two dozen large variable projects she produces for clients each month. “Some clients will want to address the prospect by the first name, but their data field is set up as a full name field. There is no clean way to segment out Mr. Glenn Smith vs. Glenn Smith versus F. Glenn Smith.”

Rosanne Kirn, who works on Miller’s team, says another common problem occurs with the company field name. If a data entry person has put Sudsy Soap LLC in the company name but the client wants the marketing piece to mail to Sudsy Soap, you have an immediate problem.

The solution is to build an extra field and name it “Pretty Company Name” or “Variable Company Name” and key in the name of the company without all the window dressing of LLC, Inc, etc.

Don’t Send Unneeded Fields in Your File

Variable data projects can quickly come to a screeching halt if too much data is sent – enough to crash a system.

Miller and Kirn once dealt with more than one million data records from a local retailer. This isn’t a huge number of records until you multiply that by the number of fields, (over 1,000 in this case) attached to that record. Then things can get ugly quick.

Miller recommends reviewing your file and only sending the data fields that are needed to produce the marketing piece. This will keep the tab delimited, .CSV, or .TXT file size manageable and prevent unnecessary delays in your project.

Everything You Wished You Knew Before You Built Your CRM Database

crm, architect, building, customer relationship management, database, dataBusiness databases have moved beyond name, address, city, state and zip. Today’s savvy customer relationship management gurus capture purchase history, lifestyle, lifecycle, and lifespan info that enables them to engage, re-engage, and even dis-engage (that’s a fancy word for fire) customers when necessary.

Customer information that goes deep and reveals the lifetime value of that customer is imperative to long term business growth.  To capture and record this data, a good software package is needed, but selecting the appropriate tool can sometimes be confusing. There are a ton of SaaS (software as a service) solutions that may make sense.  Look into, Sugar CRM, or Microsoft Dynamics.  Plus, don’t forget to study industry specific packages.  Be wary however of forcing the sales process to fit the CRM system.  A good CRM solution should be flexible enough to fit your processes.


Who Should Manage Your Database?

It depends. If you’re a small business with a seasoned marketing person on staff, you probably can manage it in-house. The bigger your customer base the bigger the task.

The job of the database manager is to (1) build or buy a database that can capture and contain the needed data fields you wish to monitor (2) modify the database to add new areas of interest or products as your business grows (3) backup the system regularly (4) update customer info, purge customer info or initiate re-engagement campaigns as customers go dormant.

The best B2B relationship management (CRM) databases will allow you sophisticated functionality like multi-level SLA support, customer satisfaction surveys, timer-based escalation rules that are driven by complex criteria and automated issue re-assignments.

Your CRM system should also allow you to integrate with other software tools like your ERP or software, business management solution, website software, email tool, and even your accounting package.


What is the Most Important Data You Must Know or Might Forget to Collect?

A good customer database includes these four basic areas:

  1. Financial: Revenue generated from the customer’s transactions.
  2. Demographic: Describing customers in terms of their personal characteristics, such as age, sex, professional activity, etc.
  3. Geographic: Describing customers in terms of their physical location.
  4. Psychographic or Behavioral: Describing customers in terms of their preferred activities and actions.

A great CRM database plan allows you to collect and monitor competitor price, market share, and product features. It also allows you to collect data on the number of customer transactions, stores visits, and why they leave.

As you can see, you must plan well to collect the metrics that will guide your business. Businesses that don’t have a good database system or customer relationship management system are at a disadvantage in today’s world. Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, once said that “Datarati are companies that have the edge in consumer data insight. There has been and will continue to be an increased focus on data analysis as companies continue to invest in measuring social media, understanding customer value and modeling customer behavior.


What Should You Do With the Data?

Put it to work! The information you have gathered can be used to a great advantage. Look at what Amazon does with the data it collects as you shop their store.  Each time you search for items Amazon tracks and knows what is of interest.  Then, when you return, you are presented with items most likely to interest you.  That level of data capture is huge in working to drive a business.

Other organizations use that data to personalize their direct mail with Variable Data Printing (VDP) a method of printing personalized promotional material using your database. The effect of customers seeing their names and preferences in promotions can give you a higher response and purchase rate. This response rate has been estimated to be as high as five times greater than with traditional static advertising.


Building or Buying a CRM System

There are so many great systems available, it’s really not necessary to reinvent the wheel. However, shopping for the right one for your business can be daunting. So much like going to Consumer Report for research, you can go to CRM Vendor Comparison and download the 2011 CRM Vendor Comparison Chart that shows 40 hours of research and a comparison of 30 CRM systems that range in web application prices from $40 to $100 per month for usage rights.

Once you pick and install one, staying in sync with your customers’ buying habits through their lifecycle and creating alerts to build that relationship can steady your company in poor times and send it through the roof in peak times. It is important to be aware of clients who are increasing their spending, as well as those who are coming back less and less. In such cases, the database can create an alert to cue marketing to develop a bounce-back campaign.

Knowledge is power. Storing it in a pliable database gives you power and strength. Why? To compete, you will need to know more about your customers and use the information to talk, engage and interact with their customers more often and more meaningfully in new and innovative ways (including dynamic content, blogs to social media networks).

If you don’t talk to your customers in an engaging, intelligent way, your competitor will.


20 Pivotal Questions to Ask to Build Your Ideal Customer Profile

tailor, building, profileIf your boss asked you to build a thorough customer profile, would it take you an hour, a day, or a week? More importantly how would you go about building this profile? Below is a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.

It sounds simple, but do you REALLY know who your ideal customers are?  You should have a customer profile for each one of your products and services because it gives you a clear picture of who you’re selling to and allows you to develop strategies to communicate more effectively.

This is a vital exercise for all businesses.

20 Questions: Who Is Your Key Customer?

  1. What would a customer buy from you?
  2. What advantages do you want to sell them specifically? (Ex: If you sell air conditioning units, you are really selling comfort, cost savings, air purification, humidity control, no sweat stains, comfortable sleeping)
  3. Describe your typical customer.
  4. What is their age?
  5. Are they male or female?
  6. Where do your ideal customers live geographically?
  7. How do they earn a living?
  8. Describe your ideal customers’ likes and dislikes.
  9. Why would this person be interested in your product, company or service?
  10. Why would they buy from you as opposed to someone else?
  11. What does a customer want from your product or service?
  12. What makes your product or service more suitable to them than your competitors’ products or services?
  13. What are the most common specifications or types of orders your customers request?
  14. What factors are your customers likely to consider before making a purchase?
  15. What do they tell you they value about your deliverables?
  16. How will your ideal customer find out about your product or service?  What sites do they visit, what stores do they shop in, where do they get their coffee?
  17. What have your most recent ideal customers said about your product or service?
  18. How does the cost of your product/service influence your customer’s decision to buy?
  19. List all the ways you currently contact your potential ideal customers.  What is their preferred method of being contacted?
  20. What does your ideal customer tell you they value in your product or service?

Now you have a clearer view of your ideal customer (both hard and soft characteristics). Don’t go outside this target market.


Build Your Customer Profile Electronically in 5 Steps

Once you have answers to your customer profile questionnaire, it’s time to get your data into working order. If you don’t have an IT manager in-house, find a reputable vendor with strong service and tech background to assist.

  1. Hold a Scope of Work Meeting. Layout your core needs, including understanding your customer(s) and aligning your budget and goals. Discuss challenges like not having enough buyers or taking in orders far beneath set quotas.
  2. Hand off Your Customer Information. Give your IT manager or mail list processing partner all your customer information for the past 18 to 24 months. Provide everything, including name, title, phone numbers, email, mailing addresses and purchase history if available.
  3. Get a Snapshot Report or X-ray Report created of Your Ideal Customers. Partner with an outside mail list processing partner, and compare your file against a national database of businesses or consumers.  They will identify key characteristics of your current customer list. There are a lot of vendors out there, so if you need help picking a partner, call us, and we can help with the process. There are a lot of nuances in the variety of reports.  Be sure you understand why one type of report is better than another before selecting.
  4. Identify Key Data Elements in Your File. Pinpoint the common characteristics of your current customers, and use that information when you search for leads.  Now that you have a better understanding of who your ideal customers are, it should be easy to purchase a list of leads that match your customer profile.
  5. Reap the Rewards of Your Work. The end result is a perfectly clear image of your ideal customer profile from the database your customers were matched against. This becomes your target prospect pool, which is by far more rich and apt to bear fruit than any list you would buy based on simple selections of income/sales revenue or any of the various al a carte demographic characteristics available from a list broker.

Defining your ideal customer profile is Direct Marketing 101, and it will save you lots of time and money in the long run.

Source:  Reach Marketing


How to Make Your Marketing Database Sparkle Like a Diamond

diamond, direct mail, databaseBeing a leading provider of variable data printing, we find that some of our clients are lagging behind when it comes to having their customer relationship management (CRM) system or database spit-shined and cleaned. Some clients we know have been mailing to the same customers for decades without touching base with them to learn if they still have interest in their products or services.

For example one real estate agent continued to mail to a client he sold a home to 20 years prior without a phone call in 19 years. His client never intended to move and fell into the group of people who don’t provide referrals. By mailing to hundreds of clients who no longer had interest in his services and who also didn’t provide referrals, this Realtor was wasting printing and mailing costs that could have been shifted to other tactics.

Similarly we see other companies and catalogers continue to send direct mail to customers for years and decades despite the fact that some customers haven’t made a purchase in the last 24 months. These mailers have chosen to NOT segement their database and just blast their pieces out to the masses – regardless of the recipient’s interest or likelihood of making a purchase.  The great things about data segmentation when married to variable data printing is that you can change the message to each segment and even to each individual so that you mail the right message to the right person at the right time.

Quit Wasting Money

Don’t waste money marketing to people who aren’t listening to your message – clean up your database to stretch your marketing dollars. Are you mailing to or calling people who are no longer interested in what you have to offer? Don’t assume anything, ask and remove them if you learn their needs have changed.

Take Advantage of Mailing Discounts

You need an up-to-date address that meets postal standards and qualifies you for discounts on postage. Visit the USPS website and read their itemized list of what you need to do to be compliant. Work with a supplier who can make sure that your database has been cleansed against the National Change of Address (NCOA) database and is CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) compliant. The cost savings justifies the effort.  (BTW Mail Print can help you with this aspect of your marketing effort.  Just ask.)

Ask Questions at Every Touchpoint

Make a point to ask your client if there’s been any change in their contact information every time you call, mail, email, or reach out to them. Every call should include the chance to ‘verify’ the contact’s address or key information in your database.

Go Beyond the Minimum

To take your business to the next level, you must collect more than name, address, phone number, and email address. You need to collect the core information tied to your product or industry that will help you make that next sale. How old is their home? When was their last propane fill? Last oil change? Last vacation? What are the names of the children?

If pertinent, all these bits of information can be placed in variable fields on your next printed pieces, catalogs or in your emails. Remember anything that you can customize in an email can be customized, personalized in print through variable data printing.

With the affordable technology available today and the lift that is earned by executing variable strategies, it still surprises me how few businesses are incorporating variable strategies into their marketing. Why wouldn’t you use the technology to take your direct mail campaign into the 30 to 40 percent response rate rather than the standard two to seven percent?

Use Your Data Regularly

The best way to keep your mailing list clean and up-to-date is to schedule and execute regular multi-channel campaigns. Every time you mail, email or call, you have the chance to ask more about your customer and correct inaccuracies. Every mailer should ask the recipient to let you know what they think or what they need, even if their address has changed or will be changing.

Work these practices into your cross-media marketing and direct mail campaigns and you’ll see higher returns. The continual collecting and updating of customer information is like mining for diamonds.

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.

How One Print Error Can Cost a Company or Country Billions (or more)

Reducing Print Mistakes through Print AutomationTo err is human. For the Federal Reserve to err when printing 1.1 billion in redesigned $100 bills led to $110 billion in unusable dollars, which is the equivalent to a tenth of the worldwide U.S. currency.

Of course these botch bills can be destroyed over the course of many years, but they still cost the government 12 cents a piece to print, which means the Federal Reserve spent about $120 million printing bills with errors that must be pitched.

Cutting Printing Mistakes Can Save a Business Thousands

Once the ink hits the paper, there’s no turning back. Printers site that they lose one to 20 percent of annual sales because of spoilage (projects that get tossed because of typos, misplaced decimal points, and errors that slip into print).  InfoTrends reports that businesses generally toss 31% of all printed material due to errors and obsolescence.

By putting stringent pre-press and proofing processes in place, a company can reduce waste. For example, if a company purchases $2 million in paper each year, saving one copy out of every 100 will yield an annual paper savings of $20,000. Remakes and waste can be measured using the same method.

Switching to print automation drastically reduces errors by removing the human interim step and going straight from database to digital press without the manual need to hand off files (potentially the wrong file).

Slowing down and putting a couple extra proofing passes into your process can mean the difference in tossing millions of brochures instead of gaining millions in new business.

One online business entrepreneur calculated that a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half for Internet based businesses. Not only do sales drop, so does a company’s credibility.

Errors Are a Costly Signs of the Times

We live in a rushed, multi-tasking society. Unless we slow down and concentrate on the moment, we’re very likely to let errors slip through showing up in our print and digital communications.

Finding and correcting errors in public signage across the country turned Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson into national heroes as well as well-known authors. In their book. The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time, Deck and Herson unearthed 400 spelling and grammar errors in storefront signage. Mistakes include cappuccino spelled, cappachino and capucino, and shipping spelled with one “p” or dining room spelled with two “n’s.”

The traveling proofreading friends also flagged menus with “crap-stuffed sole” instead of “crab-stuffed sole.”

History Making Typos

While some typos create a stir and fade from memory in short order, some have endured the test of time and even changed history.


The iron content of spinach became misrepresented because a decimal was placed to far to the right in an 1870 German study. The typo that endured 140 years in print showed spinach having 10 times the iron content of what was actually in the vegetable.


NASA’s ill-fated launch of America’s first inner-planetary problem, Mariner 1, was caused by someone who neglected to put a dot over an “R” in the space formula. Because of the error the $80 million space shuttle had to be detonated when it came flying back to earth.

Mizuho Securities

In 1995 Mizuho Securities tried to recruit J-Com Co.  employees to work for them by offering 610,000 yen per share ($5,041). A typo made the offer appear to be significantly below that at one yen per share. It also had offered 41 times the number of J-Com Co. shares actually in existence – the equivalent of trying to sell more then 40 times something you don’t have and being forced to back it up to any dissatisfied customers.

The error resulted in a $225 million loss for Mizuho Securities.

Life Plus Parole

In the 80s a man named Bruce Wayne Morris was convicted of robbing and killing a man. At sentencing the jury had to decide between execution or being imprisoned without parole, which was worded, “Bruce Wayne would not have the possibility of making parole.”

The typo occurred when the “not” was left out of the sentence. Therefore the jury mistakenly thought they had to pick between death and letting Wayne out to roam the streets so they picked death.

It took 10 years of federal appeals to reverse the decision and cost the state of California millions of dollars.

The magnitude of a misplaced decimal, dash, symbol, or word can cost a company dearly. Here are three specific examples where a typo cost companies millions:

  • A missing comma and zeros in a lender’s lien changed $93 million to $93,000, causing U.S. insurance company Prudential to lose the difference in 1978.
  • A misprinted date caused New York real estate developers to lose tens of millions in revenue.
  • A misprinted phone number in an L.L. Bean catalog caused the retailer to pay a six-figure sum to purchase the erroneous phone number — the exact amount was not disclosed — in an effort to avoid losing customers.

Typos in Numbers

While a misspelled world can be embarrassing and reputation damaging, a misplaced number or decimal point can cost you millions and your career. This is why printed pieces disclosing corporate numbers are highly scrutinized and under the supervision of CPAs, attorneys, and security exchange personnel.

Accuracy counts in financials. Can you imagine a management team releasing their annual report with this disclaimer:

“Some of the figures might be wrong, there’s a few decimal points in the wrong place and some of the calculations are off but you’ll get the general idea.”

Beyond annual reports, the printing of coupons, particularly in the gaming industry, is ripe for errors. Some casinos print millions of dollar worth of gaming coupons per month. One misplaced decimal point could shake the foundation of the house. Here are some ways to make sure your corporation’s printed pieces are error free with its words and numbers.

Staffing & Selecting Outside Vendors

Both your internal staff as well as your print and marketing partners must understand your numbers and financials. They must be in the know to spot something in a headline, graph or coupon that doesn’t make sense. The gaming industry, and in most industries, is not a place for amateurs. Screen and stringently test the grammar and spelling among all your employees not just those in your communication area, and never pick a vendor just because of price. Select based on a quality track record.

Security and Quality Assurance

Make sure data security and confidentiality are on your list of requirements for staff and vendors touching your data. Ensure system security measures are in place before transferring, storing, or printing your data.

Make sure your marketing partner has a model of campaign design with built-in quality checks, from conception to execution. If your vendor doesn’t have a plan, or looks to you for a plan, you may need to choose another vendor.


3 Email Marketing Tips for 3 Levels of Experience

email marketingAs 2012 begins, it’s important to review your marketing tactics to get a clearer picture of what worked and what didn’t. Technology is constantly evolving, and it’s wise to keep up with new trends.

That said, if email marketing is a part of your marketing plan, are you utilizing it the best way possible to ensure the best results?

What are we talking about, in particular? Well, let’s start with the basics:

  • You don’t necessarily want to just add anyone to your mailing list. What you send them should be relevant and you should have a real relationship with the individual.  If possible get permission.
  • Don’t be spam … or look like it. Show clear intent in the subject line and write the email to match. Identify yourself in the from line and provide a physical address. Make sure you have a prominent opt-out feature and stagger your sends in smaller batches to avoid looking like a spammer.
  • Try personalizing your message. Put their name at the top. Let them know you know who they are and this isn’t a random message. You think you know what they want and have the means to give it to them.

Next steps are a little more intermediate. But we’re sure you can keep up! (And if not, you know who to call!)

  • Always test your email before it goes out! See how it looks in different email clients … with pictures and with pictures blocked … in text and in HTML. You’d be surprised the massive effects these things can have on your message.  Think about it like this – you would never send a direct mail piece without doing a LOT of proof reading.  Be sure to do the same with your email.
  • Track, track and track some more. Watch your click-through rate, conversion rate and delivery rate. Make sure people are getting your message, wanting to open your email, and clicking through.
  • Try different options based upon your tracking rates. Send your email with a different subject line or offer. Send it on a different day and/or a different time of day. Find what works.

And for those a little more advanced (or who are savvy enough to find folks who can help!), these tips are for you:

  • Separate your list into different segments based upon demographics and/or shopping habits and history. Tailor your message and/or offer to match that audience and get even better results!
  • Keep your mailing list clean. Remove hard bounces (those addresses that don’t work), NEVER send to those who have opted out, and trim those contacts who never view your message or click on anything.
  • Watch your feedback loop. If someone clicks “this is spam,” you have to stop sending emails to that address. Make sure you subscribe to ISP feedback loops and monitor it on a regular basis.

Email marketing doesn’t have to be intimidating, but it can be time consuming. Do it poorly, and you’re not only missing out on key customers but your time isn’t being well spent. Do it properly, and gain a great reputation, expand your brand awareness, and boost those sales and conversions!

Six Ways to Decode Your Customers’ Digital Body Language

combinationlock 250x250 Six Ways to Decode Your Customers’ Digital Body Language

Decode Your Prospects' Digital Signals and Improve Your Sales Cycle

In traditional sales, good salespeople watch body language and monitor if the prospect is warming to the product or drawing away. In the digital world, that same salesperson has the same opportunity to watch for hot or cold signs that the prospect is sending through their digital body language. Here’s a 101 course on how to read the digital body language of your customers in six simple steps.


Watch for Digital Signs of Interest

As your prospects communicate back to you on a variety of marketing channels, you can gauge their interest level.

Emails with a link to more information allow you to monitor the prospect’s interest level through his or her Web activity (or lack of activity). Layering a personal URL (PURL) with your direct mail campaign lets you identify an individual’s Web activity and area of interest. As you observe the digital body language of your prospects, you can give them personalized information to move them through your sales pipeline.


Map out the Buying Process to See Where They Are

To understand where prospects are in the buying process, map out how buyers buy through your company. Although each buyer is different, the phases of the buying process are usually the same like the four-phase map below—research, consider, trial, and buy. Mapping helps you tailor your messages to prospects in each stage. It then empowers you to drop the right marketing message to them through the right marketing channel.

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Determine How Interested They Are Before Assigning a Salesperson

Somewhere in our sloppy sales pasts, many businesses used to assign a salesperson to a prospect at the first hint of interest. But by closely observing digital body language we can gauge “how interested they are,” then decide if they need more info sent or a salesperson to step in. Not all leads merit being assigned to the sales department, as lead scoring will help you determine.


Build a contact washing machine

As customer data comes in to you through Web forms, uploads, lists, tradeshows, or your customer relationship management (CRM) system—always have it flow through a “contact washing machine” that cleanses, normalizes, and standardizes your data. For example, what is your company’s standard use of “Vice Pres,” “V.P.,” “VP,” or “Vice President” as a title?


Try Potato Chip Marketing

As you interact with your prospects, you provide them valuable information, like laying a potato chip out one at a time to lure them into taking the final chip from your hand. Doing so gradually allows you to build trust from them for small amounts of information in return for their small steps forward toward you. Use a modular profile, and ask only two or three questions at a time, and you can progressively profile your audience and develop the equivalent of a 20- or 30-field form.


Give Your Sales Team the Same Visibility You Have

Offering marketing metrics to your sales team can have a profound effect. As team members understand more about Marketing’s ability to influence key pipeline deals, and how digital body language helps them understand and guide their deals, and lead scoring, you’ll be able to forge a deeper, better, and more productive relationship with your sales team.


Match Direct Mail Frequency to Purchase Frequency

direct marketing frequency, email marketing triggers and timing

Don't waste your marketing efforts with poorly timed offers. Know your customers and increase your ROI.

Why waste precious marketing dollars sending direct mail or email marketing to your customers weekly when they purchase from you monthly? Not matching your mailing frequency with your customers’ buying frequency makes your messages go from ripe to waste. Companies that hammer customers with repetitive offers may make them feel stalked, not catered to.

If your company truly knows its customers, you also know their shopping cycles. This information allows you to match your mailing frequency with their buying cycles. It’s counterproductive to promote to them above and beyond those buying cycles regardless of your CEO’s sales goals. If two mailings equate to $500 dollars, four mailings doesn’t necessarily equate to $1000. Unfortunately the math doesn’t work that way because of an element called free will.

Costco mirrors its customer buying cycles beautifully. Each month it mails its customers an information-rich lifestyle magazine called Costco Connection and an envelope of coupons good for the last half of the month. Why?  Because Costco knows that its members spend $94 every 2.5 weeks. So to assist its members with their quest for value, Costco mails its specials through the mail twice a month. Brilliant.

Timing is just as important as frequency though it is often called marketing’s stepchild. When you target the right people with the right message at precisely the right time, you position your direct mail campaign for much higher response rates, particularly when you calculate frequency with recency and monetary value (revenue received), otherwise known as RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary).

Because frequency can be a misleading time metric, it’s best combined with recency and monetary value (revenue received) to optimize the timing of marketing campaigns. RFM turns out to be the most popular segmentation method used today, primarily because it helps hone buying-cycle matching and is easy to calculate. RFM helps you identify the very best and the very worst customers (the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent).

Let’s look at three RFM masters and see how they tie their mail drops to what’s going on in their customers’ lives:

  • Proctor & Gamble mails promotions about “pull-up” diapers to parents when their child is about to start walking. P&G knows because of collecting customer histories.
  • AARP sends its membership offer to folks who are about to turn 60 and enter into retirement.
  • Farmers Insurance, among others, sends personalized birthday cards to each customer from his or her own agent. Collecting birth dates is easy and a great way to increase loyalty. Sending this message in a variable data format would be even better and more effective.

Birthday mailings can be one of six touch-points. It is recommended that small businesses reach out to the customers at least six times a year with relevant messages and offers.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, the best months for direct mail are February through May, and September. “OK” months are January, August, and October. The absolute worst months for direct mail are June and July.

Local mailings should get mailed out on Fridays, this generally gives enough time for the mail to be sorted and delivered on the best days of the week, which are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Lowe’s coupons arrive in customers’ mailboxes just when they need them thanks to its Realtor cross-promotion.  Rather than pummeling people with coupons, Lowe’s clairvoyantly mails to couples who have just purchased a home.

Lowe’s also ramps up marketing during the summer season, when it brings in $15 billion in sales and allocates marketing dollars tied to calendar events like Cinco de Mayo as it pursues the Hispanic market, according to its 2010 Media Plan.

Companies and customers win when aligning the frequency of mailings with buying habits. If your company finds itself omitting some poorly timed and irrelevant mailings, dollars saved can be shifted to another marketing campaign, or better yet, boost the voltage of your less-is-more mailings with multi-channel marketing.

Don’t forget to make sure you’re mailing to people who are still doing business with you and clearing out the people who aren’t spending money with you. It’s amazing how many small and large businesses don’t data cleanse and continue to mail promotions to people who haven’t bought from them in decades. If you haven’t received a recent order, it’s the perfect chance to call and re-engage that customer or remove them from the database.

Mail Print can help with all the above complexities, laws, and steps necessary to execute a well-timed, frequency-correct direct mail program. Once in place, the rewards and increased ROI will make you our customer for life.