Optichannel Marketing Campaigns Get an Additional Boost With Direct Mail

Not every brand has a big brand’s marketing resources. Here’s are two case studies in how optichannel marketing is being used at a more reasonable level of investment by real, medium-sized businesses to increase campaign effectiveness and bottom-line results.

Not too long ago, we looked at how some of the biggest companies in the world — including Disney and Neiman Marcus — use optichannel customer experience strategies to deliver great marketing ROI. Even among big brands, though, the customer experience magic of Disney may be out of reach. So let’s take a look at how optichannel marketing is being used at a more reasonable level of investment by real, medium-sized businesses to significantly increase campaign effectiveness and bottom-line results.

Response-Lift Modeling Finds New Campers and New Revenue for Summer Learning Initiative

The hard part of operating any business focused on school-age children is the built-in rate of attrition. Students grow up, graduate, and otherwise age out of your programs every year. It’s likely that at least 25% of your customers won’t be back the following year due to matriculation alone.

To refill those seats without breaking the bank, these institutions must focus marketing on lead generation and new customer acquisition — two of the most expensive goals in marketing. It’s challenging to do that and still find a way to market profitably.

One such program is Galileo Learning, which operates 75 children’s summer camps across parts of California and Chicago, Ill. Age limits on the program mean that large portions of the customer base graduate out every year.

Finding a way to replace those students quickly becomes prohibitive. Summer Erickson, head of marketing for Galileo Learning, saw that many direct mail strategies were becoming too expensive for the ROI. The answer she found was to combine a very effective mail piece with tight customer models built on the data of current customers.

“The customer modeling tool was a game-changer for us,” says Erickson. By using response-lift modeling to identify prospects on external lists who were highly likely to respond, Galileo was able to market much more efficiently. They used the savings to create better mail pieces that would also drive better-than-normal response, and the mailers were localized to each of their nine markets where Galileo operated camps.

The results, Erickson says, surpassed her most optimistic expectations. The campaign brought in 155 new campers and $66,000 in new revenue. And she expects even better success from a wider program launched later in the year.

Holiday Direct Mail Adds Optichannel Targeting, Gets 6X More Impressions, $200k-Plus in Donations

Sometimes you need to break out beyond a single channel to get the best results. Meals on Wheels (MOW) in the Diablo Region of California spurred $230,000 in new donations by doing exactly that with its holiday donor appeal campaign.

The campaign broke with MOW’s traditional strategy in two main ways:

  • They built three audience segments defined by demographics and customer look-a-like modeling.
  • MOW added targeted digital advertising to amplify its direct mail, which made sure the target audience saw 6X more campaign impressions that they would have in a mail-only strategy.

First, much like Galileo, MOW and its agency starting working from the donor database, using existing data from real donors to identify three list segments who would be most responsive to this campaign: current donors, lapsed donors and prospective donors. Although the names sound straightforward, the segments were developed by examining the demographic and engagement data of known donors across dozens of factors.

Each person on the list received a personalized donor appeal letter with infographics highlighting the benefits of donating to MOW and a coupon CTA to make a donation.

Overall, the campaign blanketed the audience with 75,000 pieces of direct mail alone. But that was just the beginning of the campaign.

In addition to those 75,000 mailpieces, MOW built email, social media, and online display advertising to amplify the direct mail message. Together, this added 467,542 additional marketing impressions for the campaign — more than a 600% increase in overall brand exposure, compared to a mail-only control group.

The results were impressive for MOW, even for a holiday appeal: $230,000 in donations, 43% new donors, and donors from the optichannel campaign averaged 169% more than donors in the control group who only received direct mail.

Direct Mail Planning for Your 2020 Marketing Goals

As we start the new year, direct mail planning is essential. The strategies we used in 2019 need updates to be more effective in 2020. According to the DMA, direct mail had an average response rate of 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists. How do your response rates compare?

As we start the new year, direct mail planning is essential. The strategies we used in 2019 need updates to be more effective in 2020. According to the DMA, direct mail had an average response rate of 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists. How do your response rates compare?

Looking at more than just response rates, how did your other metrics do this year? Starting with the worst performing ones, devise a different strategy to increase performance in 2020.

About 66% of mail is opened and reviewed. Direct mail not only cuts through the daily marketing clutter, but has been proven to drive digital activity and influence online purchasing decisions. Are your direct mail campaigns as effective as they can be? In the digital marketing arena email fatigue, ad blindness, and the increase in ad blocking, have combined to result in stagnating and sometimes declining performance. Direct mail should be combined with these types of channels in order to boost overall performance. Are you taking a multichannel approach for 2020?

Direct Mail-to-Multichannel Marketing

We live in an interconnected world, your customers expect you to communicate with them through the various channels they use. The companies that do this effectively see the best results. When you use campaigns that include both digital and direct mail, you, on average, receive 39% more attention than a digital-only campaign. Research shows messages delivered via direct mail can be powerfully motivating, with 92% of people driven to digital activity and 87% influenced to make an online purchase. Are you planning how to be more effective at this for 2020?

Personalization

Are you using the true power of direct mail? Personalization through variable printing is powerful. You can alter copy, offers, and even images, based on each person in your list. There are even ways to utilize more information, such as demographics, geographies, psychographics, and behavioristic data to go beyond a regular piece to a truly specialized one. When you are able to do this, you drive response much higher than before. What are you going to try in 2020?

Retargeting

Want to try something new for 2020? What about retargeted direct mail? What do we mean by that? You can retarget online activity by reaching out with direct mail. Some of the most common ways retargeting works are: for abandoned shopping carts; people who visited your website, but did not purchase; contacting lapsed customers; or creating new customers. So how do you get the mail addresses for online contacts? You can take a list of email addresses and append mail ones, or you can take a list of IP addresses that have visited your site and append mail addresses to it, or you can use mobile devise owner information to append mail addresses.

Mail Formats

For 2020, we need to think outside of the box and try new things. If all you have sent are letters or postcards, try a new format to gain more attention. Consider sending larger pieces, because they get higher response rates. If you are selling a high-priced item, consider using dimensional mail in order to drive more sales. These are more costly to send, but the ROI is much better.

Get creative and have some fun planning out your 2020 direct mail strategy! Are you ready to get started?

Inductive Direct Mail Strategy Leads to a Better Creative Space

Sometimes marketers get stuck in a direct mail strategy rut. They find a direct mail format that works and just stick to it. Over time, the ROI shrinks, but not enough to spend time making changes.

Sometimes marketers get stuck in a direct mail strategy rut. They find a direct mail format that works and just stick to it. Over time, the ROI shrinks, but not enough to spend time making changes.

This is easy, but not the right thing to do. When you get to this point, you need to get outside your comfortable box and create a new direct mail approach. This goes beyond thinking outside of the box, but to creating a whole new type of box. What do I mean?

It is time to use inductive thinking to get to a better creative space. What is inductive thinking? It is when you observe something and you use that information to create something new. Why use it? Because this type of thinking causes you to ask questions, challenge rules and take risks you would not normally take. This leads to new and better ideas.

So how can we apply this to your next direct mail marketing strategy?

  1. Doubt Everything — Question what you think you know about your direct mail. This includes all your beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions. Only after you do this are you open to new creative thinking. This is the hardest part of creating a new direct mail approach, but it is worth the effort. This step gets you thinking differently.
  2. Probe the Possible — You start this with the questions or issues you discovered in Step 1 to see which areas of focus will be most important. Beyond that, you will want to dig into customer insights, which are extremely important. You need to go into the minds of your customers to discover why, where, when, and how they choose to buy from you, as well as why others don’t buy from you. You are searching to refine any questions or problems you see with your direct mail campaigns.
  3. Diverge — In this step, you will take what you learned from Steps 1 and 2 to focus on the one true problem you wish to address. In many cases, this will be: “How can I increase my direct mail response rate?” You will then come up with as many ideas as you can, no matter how crazy they are. Get creative here. Consider “anything is possible” and “how can it fix my problem?” This step is for creativity and brainstorming.
  4. Converge — Now you are ready to move on to analyzing what you came up with to find the solution that will work best. You will need to use logic and practicality here. This is where you translate your ideas into reality.
  5. Reevaluate — Here you will evaluate how your new direct mail campaign worked. What are the areas of improvement? What else can be tried? You can and should be doing A/B testing to see which designs, offers, lists, and so on perform best. Constant vigilance and tracking are required to create and maintain powerful direct mail.

This process can lead to direct mail that is new and effective when you are able to get the right people in the room for effective communication and you allow enough time for each step to really dig deep. The more time you spend with each step, the better your results are going to be, keeping in mind that this process never really ends. After each campaign, you will evaluate what you did and then start the process to make it even better next time. Are you ready to get started?

How to Integrate Direct Mail With Social Media

With social media an integral part of people’s daily lives, integrating it together with your direct mail can really help drive response. Have you considered adding social media?

With social media an integral part of people’s daily lives, integrating it together with your direct mail can really help drive response. Have you considered adding social media? This will take considerable time and effort to plan correctly, so be ready to work hard. Is it worth it? Check out the case studies below and then decide.

Before you start, think about why you are considering integration. What are your goals? This gives you a guide post on what you need and how to create the campaign.

Let’s look at a couple of awesome examples of campaigns to give you some good ideas:

1. Chick-fil-A (Full Case study click here): They had two objectives — get a customer database and increase store traffic. The direct mail campaign gained unprecedented exposure with viral sharing. Five thousand plastic postcards were sent out, and due to the integration of social sharing, the campaign gained a total response of 14,124, a 279.8 percent response on their direct mail campaign.

2. Stein Mart (Full Case study click here): The objective was to increase store redemption through a referral program. This direct mail campaign gained national exposure with viral sharing. Twenty thousand postcards were sent out, and due to the integration of social sharing, the campaign gained a total response of 30,068, a 150.58 percent response on the direct mail campaign.

As you can see, social sharing can really give your direct mail momentum. Take the time to learn from the great ones before you start your journey. When you have a plan and strategy in place you will start off in a better position to generate great results. So how can you get started?

  • Objectives: Carefully define your objectives. The only way to get what you want is to plan for it.
  • Market: Who is your best target market? Identify and target them carefully.
  • Design: You will need to do your normal direct mail design, but then also design for the landing page and social media.
  • Offer: Your offer should be the same for both direct mail and social media. (Remember to incentivize sharing with specials for those who do)
  • Capture: What information are you going to capture in order for people to get the offer? (Remember that in order to reward those who share your offer you need to know their social media accounts)
  • Tasks: You will need to assign who is in charge of what. This will take social media monitoring software too so be aware of that.

Instead of creating the whole wheel again, use the case studies as a guide. You know it works, just tailor the plan to your needs. Your focus always needs to be on what will drive response from your target market. Will you have coupons, free giveaways or something else? Your offer is extremely important. In order to get traction not only for direct mail but also for social media you need to grab attention with and irresistible offer.

Formula for success: Take your current direct mail that is working well, create landing pages for people to visit, ask them to provide information that you want on the pages and to share it with others to get your offer. That is basically it, although there are a lot of details to fill in along the way. Do you think that these results can only be achieved by food and clothing stores? That is just not true. This formula can work for all types of businesses including nonprofits. Are you ready to get started?

How to Execute a Direct Mail Campaign

Many marketers are great at generating direct mail ideas and building creative and strategy, but when it comes to execution, it fails. Why is that? For the most part it is because there are no educational opportunities for execution, only for strategy. So how can you combat that to execute an excellent direct mail campaign?

Many marketers are great at generating direct mail ideas and building creative and strategy, but when it comes to execution, it fails. Why is that? For the most part it is because there are no educational opportunities for execution, only for strategy. So how can you combat that to execute an excellent direct mail campaign?

Steps to great direct mail execution:

  1. Focus: You and your team need to have true focus on all the details of the creation, through the execution. Who are you mailing to? What is your message? What images will you use? What is your call to action? How can people respond? When do you plan to mail? How will it mail? Can you do it in house or do you need to outsource? How long do people have to respond? Are you doing any follow up? There are a ton of questions to answer before you even get to put the piece in the mail.
  2. Measurement: It is extremely important to know what is working and what is not. How can you measure direct mail? One way is by response, how many people called, emailed or went to your link. Another way is by sales, how much money was generated based on the mail piece. There are many metrics that may be important to you, so plan ahead on ways to track them before you mail. Providing a coupon code or special phone number/landing page is a great way to know who is responding to your campaign.
  3. Reports: Create reports that show your metrics so that your team knows what is working and can build off of your success. They should be posted for all to see and kept current. If you are getting more of a response from one offer than another your team needs to know it. You also need to know who responds in what ways by phone, email, website or even in store.
  4. Accountability: Everyone on the team needs to know who is in charge of what so that nothing falls through the cracks. Create a calendar of your schedule so that everyone one knows when things are due and you meet all your deadlines. Designate a point person for each section of the campaign.

Direct mail is a great driver of response as long as you send to the right people with the right offer at the right time. You will learn all of this information from prior mailings. Over time, you will build a rich data base, which will allow you to select very targeted people who are most interested on your offer. Many times we spend so much time on creative and copy that the way it gets in the mail is overlooked. You need to build into your timeline the printing and mailing of the pieces. Timing of the mail can really matter especially if you are having a limited time sale.

Mail service providers can help you plan out your timeline and keep you on track. They can also help determine when you should mail based on your in-home dates. You should consider the type of postage you will be using too. Do you want the look of stamps, meter or indicia? There are a lot of details that go into direct mail execution, do not be afraid to ask for help from the experts, that is what they are there for. Are you ready to plan and execute a great direct mail campaign?

How to Generate Response With Your Direct Mail

A lot of marketers go for flashy design with their direct mail. This can grab attention, but what if you could do something more? Can your direct mail make people think and react without even realizing it? Of course it can. So how can you design your mailings with that in mind?

Seebe Hydroelectric Dam near Exshaw at NightA lot of marketers go for flashy design with their direct mail. This can grab attention, but what if you could do something more? Can your direct mail make people think and react without even realizing it? Of course it can. So how can you design your mailings with that in mind?

Before we get into the how, we need to know more about this phenomenon. This is commonly referred to as neuromarketing — marketing that focuses on the brain and how it responds. People are not aware of where their first impressions come from, nor do we always understand what they mean; they just are. This means we can use that to our advantage as marketers and incorporate messaging and design to illicit a snap response once pulled from the mail box. This is thought to happen in the lower, old parts of our brain. Now, let’s see how we can do this:

  1. “Either or Scenario”: Create only two options to choose from in your direct mail. The good choice is your product or service and the bad choice is the other option. This is a great space for snap judgments, so make sure your distinction is very clear.
  2. Story: Use a real world story that shows your product or service and how it has helped other real people. This should be a short story that is clear and to the point. Testimonials are great!
  3. Messaging: Keep it short and simple. There is no need to get technical or to list a bunch of features — no one cares. Benefits sell for you so find the biggest one and use that in your message.
  4. Solve Problems: Your product or service solves problems for people show them how in your direct mail. Short and right to the point, you have this problem, our widget will solve it. One big benefit is your focus.
  5. Images: Invoke emotions and convey your message through powerful images and without a lot of copy.

On average, you have about 5 to 6 seconds for your message to be understood before the prospect or customer moves on. So in order to be most effective, you need to be using all five suggestions above while keeping your focus on your one overarching theme. Remember that the most important thing is to only be selling one thing at a time with your direct mail. The KISS method is your friend.

Your mail should never focus on reason or logic; that’s not what gets people to buy right away. It makes them think harder and slows down the whole buying process. Additionally, it is an instant turn-off for mail pieces. Do not end up in the trash! You highlight a big benefit when you solve their problem, just focus on that.

Take a look at your current mail pieces based on the five suggestions above: What could you change before you send out your next piece? Are you already doing some of them? Great, now just add the ones that are missing. Another thing to consider is to look at mail pieces you have received, which ones worked well on you? What did they have in common? This can help you build a better response with your direct mail campaigns. Do you have a great mail piece that worked really well for you? I would love to hear about it!

5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail

Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

what not to do in direct mailFor the last 26 years, we have worked with customers to send really good direct mail. Of course during that time there have been some flops for many different reasons. We have learned much more from the flops than the greats. Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

5 Things to Not Do in Direct Mail

1. Font: The most important thing in your direct mail is the ability for your audience to read it. If they can’t read it, they throw it away. When considering what font to use, make sure that it is easily read. Do not pick what you consider a fun and whimsical font; it makes your copy hard to read. Let your design and images do the eye-catching work. Your copy’s job is to sell your product or service, not look decorative. Your font size matters, too, so make it larger.

2. Lie: Your direct mail should never lie to people or as some people put it, stretch the truth. Always be open and honest about your product or service. You may get a sale under false pretenses, but you will lose your reputation and business in the long run. Your customers and prospects expect better from you. There are plenty of ways to create direct mail that works without being shady.

3. Old List: Old data is bad data. People and businesses move all the time. If you have a list that is three years or older without having ever been cleaned, don’t use it. Beyond the fact that addresses change, people and their circumstances change, too. Sending to people who are not there or no longer interested is a waste of money. There are ways you can clean it up, or you can purchase a new list of similar people. Keeping your data fresh means that you can correctly target the people most interested in your product or service.

4. No or Unclear Call-to-Action: The whole point of sending direct mail is to get people to respond. If you do not include a call-to-action where you tell them what you want them to do, they will not do it. Vague language and innuendo do not work either. A clear concise call-to-action is a must to drive response.

5. Features: Do not focus your direct mail on features — no one cares. People buy based on benefits, not features. All the latest gadgets mean nothing if they are of no benefit. Structure your copy so that you highlight all the benefits your customers and prospects are going to get when they buy your product or service. If you are having a hard time moving away from features, try listing the features on a paper and next to each one list at least one benefit. For instance, if you are selling a vacuum cleaner, a feature is the motor power. A benefit of a stronger motor is the amount of debris that can be picked up in a shorter amount of time. When you find the benefits and use them in your direct mail, you sell more.

This list could really keep on going, but we have hit in the five major areas. Have you made any of these mistakes or others? What else would you include in this list? We all make mistakes from time to time. The most important thing is to learn from them, to make your direct mail better. It’s time to make some great direct mail!

Does Your Direct Mail Have Grit?

Direct mail is not an easy marketing channel to do right the first time. It takes persistence and perseverance to get the results you want.

white flower growing on crack street, soft focus, blank textDirect mail is not an easy marketing channel to do right the first time. It takes persistence and perseverance to get the results you want. Angela Duckworth has written a book called “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” This book has many great takeaways for how we can improve our lives, but it is also very applicable to direct mail marketing. Grit means committing to make things better, not waiting to see if it gets better. Grit takes control of a situation and makes things happen. So how can we apply this to direct mail?

  • When you consistently look for ways to change your direct mail for the better, you are more likely to find them and make them work.
  • When faced with a direct mail failure, identify the problem, fix it, and try harder next time.
  • Continue to innovate and change your direct mail formats.
  • Be open to all possibilities and the good parts of change.

How can you accomplish these ideas? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What can I do differently this time?
  • Is this the right color, right message, right offer?
  • What ways can people respond, do I need to change them or add more?
  • How is my list doing? Do I need to refresh it?
  • Who can help me? Someone on my team, an expert I can reach out to?

Direct mail strategy meetings can be a great way to generate ideas from your team. Ask them to come to the meeting with some sample mailers that they have received in the mail. Keep in mind that you have to try hard things — they push you to do better than you thought you could. They help you grow and create better direct mail. The more you try them the better you will get. As you make changes and try new things, you should test them on only a segment of your list at a time. This A/B test will allow you to see if the changes you have made gave you a better result. After all, the results are what matter. A bad result is not a failure, but an opportunity to change what you are doing and make it better next time. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” Along the way, you also find what does work — do not get discouraged; have grit.

Remember to strive against conforming to direct mail norms. Stand out proudly as something special. Of course, you do need to keep postal regulations in mind so that you are not spending extra on postage. Even with the regulations, you can create fun direct mail that stands out. The more determined and persistent you are in your direct mail marketing, the better your results are going to be. You don’t just will it to happen, you make it happen through relentless testing and change. That is having grit in your direct mail marketing. That is how you have success.