How to Improve Your Direct Mail

We are in challenging marketing times. Every dollar spent matters, and in direct mail there are a lot of dollars spent. They are worth it when you are getting good results, but many times that is not the case. The problem is not with the direct mail channel, but rather with your mail campaign.

sales emailWe are in challenging marketing times. Every dollar spent matters, and in direct mail there are a lot of dollars spent. They are worth it when you are getting good results, but many times that is not the case. The problem is not with the direct mail channel, but rather with your mail campaign. So what really matters in 2018 to make your direct mail campaigns a success? Let’s take a look.

What matters? These seven elements:

  1. Time — The time you spend to create your mail pieces; audience and message make all the difference. Many times timelines are cut short so steps are rushed through and not carefully thought out. This can cause a bunch of problems that can either cost you more money or responses, either way you lose out. Purposely block out time dedicated to making the best mail campaigns possible.
  2. Myopia — Many times the problem with a mail campaign is the wrong focus. Your messaging list and design all need to work together to drive response. When your team cannot see the forest through the trees they are creating messaging that is not going to appeal to your audience. This will cost you responses. Focus on the benefits to your audience, this means you need to know them well, not just assume that you do.
  3. Innovation — Today’s direct mail needs to stand out. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. Have you tried to innovate your mail pieces to stand out? There are many tools you can use from technology to folds or special coatings. You want to integrate with your messaging, so you need to carefully consider what will enhance your message and drive response.
  4. Inspiration — Many times inspiration is lacking in mail campaigns. From lackluster design to poorly worded copy. You cannot inspire response without a great mail piece. Sending the mail piece to all the right contacts does not matter if your message does not resonate and your design does not generate interest. Your piece just became trash. Consider testing your design and copy with a couple of key customers who are willing to give you feedback. What they say may surprise you.
  5. Adaptability — As your customers change you change your products and services, but are you changing your mail campaigns? You need to adapt to what your prospects and customers want and need. Very targeted messaging can help you generate a better response rate. Beyond messaging though, you need to adapt your design, too. Change is a good thing and can lead to more responses.
  6. Brand — Many times a mail piece does not perform well because of a conflict between your messaging and your brand. Who your company is and what it stands for needs to mesh with your design and messaging on your direct mail pieces. When there is a conflict in the mind of your prospect or customer, they are not going to buy from you.
  7. Degeneration — Overtime a direct mail campaign can degenerate if it’s continually done the same way. Constant vigilance to changes in your audience, your product and the culture in general need to drive changes in your direct mail. The world is changing at a faster and faster pace, you need to change, too. Declining response is a big indicator that your campaign is degenerating. Start your process all over again to refresh creative design, copy and your list segmentation.

Your direct mail results can and should be better. Each of these seven elements can directly affect your results. Take a good look at what you have been doing along with your team to see if there are changes you can make to improve your results. Sometimes the smallest change can make all the difference in how your audience perceives your offer. Remember to track your results as you make changes to see what is working and where you can improve. In 2018, you can have the best direct mail results you have ever had if you make a real effort to do so. Are you ready to get started?

Measuring Customer Engagement: It’s Not Easy and It Takes Time

Here’s what’s easy: Measuring the effect of individual engagements like Web page views, email opens, paid and organic search clicks, call center interactions, Facebook likes, Twitter follows, tweets, retweets, referrals, etc. Here’s what’s hard: Understanding the combined effect of your promotions across all those channels. Many marketers turn to online attribution methods to assign credit for all or part of an individual order across multiple online channels. es as the independent variables.

Here’s what’s easy: Measuring the effect of individual engagements like Web page views, email opens, paid and organic search clicks, call center interactions, Facebook likes, Twitter follows, tweets, retweets, referrals, etc.

Here’s what’s hard: Understanding the combined effect of your promotions across all those channels.

Many marketers turn to online attribution methods to assign credit for all or part of an individual order across multiple online channels. Digital marketing guru Avinash Kaushik points out the strengths of weaknesses of various methods in his blog, Occam’s Razor in “Multichannel Attribution: Definitions, Models and a Reality Check” and concludes that none are perfect and many are far from it.

But online attribution models look to give credit to an individual tactic rather than measuring the combined effects of your entire promotion mix. Here’s a different approach to getting a holistic view of your entire promotion mix. It’s similar to the methodology I discussed in the post “Use Market Research to Tie Brand Awareness and Purchase Intent to Sales,” and like that methodology, it’s not something you’re going to be able to do overnight. It’s an iterative process that will take some time.

Start by assigning a point value to every consumer touch and every consumer action to create an engagement score for each customer. This process will be different for every marketer and will vary according to your customer base and your promotion mix. For illustration’s sake, consider the arbitrary assignments in the table in the media player, at right.

Next, perform this preliminary analysis:

  1. Rank your customers on sales volume for different time periods
    —previous month, quarter, year, etc.
  2. Rank your customers on their engagement score for the same periods
  3. Examine the correlation between sales and engagement
    —How much is each point of engagement worth in sales $$$?

After you’ve done this preliminary scoring, do your best to isolate customers who were not exposed to specific elements of the promotion mix into control groups, i.e., they didn’t engage on Facebook or they didn’t receive email. Compare their revenue against the rest of the file to see how well you’ve weighted that particular element. With several iterations of this process over time, you will be able to place a dollar value on each point of engagement and plan your promotion mix accordingly.

How you assign your point values may seem arbitrary at first, but you will need to work through this iteratively, looking at control cells wherever you can isolate them. For a more scientific approach, run a regression analysis on the customer file with revenue as the dependent variable and the number and types of touches as the independent variables. The more complete your customer contact data is, the lower your p value and the more descriptive the regression will be in identifying the contribution of each element.

As with any methodology, this one is only as good as the data you’re able to put into it, but don’t be discouraged if your data is not perfect or complete. Even in an imperfect world, this exercise will get you closer to a holistic view of customer engagement.

Building a Mobile Presence

Mobile is a revolution. The power of the personal mobile device has created the potential for businesses to build stronger and more mutually valuable relationships with their customers. Nothing gets a marketer closer to their customer than mobile. Many marketers realize this, at least instinctively. They know that a mobile relationship has to be invited, built upon and cultivated. However, either due to lack of experience or training many marketers don’t know how to do this.

Mobile is a revolution. The power of the personal mobile device has created the potential for businesses to build stronger and more mutually valuable relationships with their customers. Nothing gets a marketer closer to their customer than mobile.

Many marketers realize this, at least instinctively. They know that a mobile relationship has to be invited, built upon and cultivated. However, either due to lack of experience or training, many marketers don’t know how to do this.

Today’s brand imperative is to include mobile in the marketing mix. A key element is to establish a mobile presence. Marketers leveraging mobile may use any number of the elements at their disposal to engage, entertain, enrich and delight consumers. These include:

  • mobile websites;
  • mobile applications;
  • SMS, MMS and email messaging;
  • voice;
  • mobile enrichments, elements and experiences;
  • mobile search;
  • location-aware plug-ins;
  • mobile social media;
  • mobile advertising (from text to banner to rich media);
  • mobile commerce;
  • response codes;
  • personalization and privacy management tools;
  • optimized mobile content (e.g., text, images, video);
  • mobile access points;
  • feature phones;
  • smartphones;
  • tablet computers and other connected devices;
  • use of traditional media; and
  • market verticals.

The versatility and capability of the channel means that building out mobile campaigns could employ any combination of the above. However, conducting a campaign that simply leverages one or more mobile elements for a finite period of time is simply a mobile tactic, not a mobile presence. It shouldn’t be considered core to the marketer’s strategy.

To develop a strategy, consider mobile from every side and dimension. In developing a strategic marketing plan, brands can no longer just rely on linear models. Marketing today is a multidimensional problem set requiring nonlinear solutions and thinking.

Without a strategy to hold these elements together, your mobile engagement could suffer. One key to a mobile strategy is where you’ll establish your mobile presence. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to building a mobile presence. Just as mobile is a personal choice for the consumer, the right combination of the mobile elements outlined above will vary based on particular marketing objectives, firm resources and customer needs.

You may not need mobile apps or mobile advertising may not be the first thing you start with. You must figure out the mix and sequence that will meet the needs of your brand. One of the first steps in building a mobile presence is ensuring that you have a mobile website that functions well on mobile devices in terms of form, function and content. These aspects of a mobile website should complement a marketer’s objectives and industry.

For example, a retail site may focus on providing consumers with product information, discounts, loyalty-building programs, store locations and maybe even direct commerce options. Whichever combination of these services a marketer employs, they need to get it right by making the features accessible and easy to use. A recent Limelight Networks’ study found that 20 percent of consumers may complete their research efforts but vow to never return to the site. An additional 18 percent will stop immediately and move on to another site. By not creating an effective mobile presence, marketers are clearly losing business.

Repurposing your site for mobile may feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, being able to envision how your site reads or works as a mobile site has become much easier. There are several tools available that can help you build out your mobile web presence. One such tool was launched last month when Google released GoMo. By entering your website’s URL into HowToGoMo.com, you can see what the site looks like on a mobile device. GoMo goes a step further, making suggestions and showing alternatives that will help you make adjustments to ensure your site is mobile optimized.

GoMo also gives examples of effective and engaging mobile websites to show what’s possible. It also offers a selection of leading mobile site developers. GoMo is an extraordinary resource to help you see what your customers see when accessing your site on their mobile devices, including the challenges you face in making your site as accessible and useful as possible.

Yet however critical it is, having an effective mobile website is just one of many mobile tactics. You must consider all the mobile touchpoints listed above. See how they integrate with your objectives at every stage of the consumer consideration funnel, then adjust your execution based on your needs and those of your customers.

In the end, creating a mobile presence is about providing a better user experience across all channels to help consumers engage with your brand at any state of the consideration funnel from any device or location. In the mobile marketplace, mobile presence is essentially the front door of a business. Making it accessible, useful and easy to approach isn’t just an added service or a smart business tactic that’s essential to effective customer engagement, it’s a business imperative in today’s mobile world.