How to Perform Generational Targeting in Direct Mail Marketing

Generational targeting in direct mail can be instrumental in increasing your response rates. As brains age they change, and the way we need to target people also changes. Because the majority of the buying public falls into three generations now, we will focus on Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.

Generational targeting in direct mail
Credit: Getty Images by Jasper Cole

Generational targeting in direct mail can be instrumental in increasing your response rates. As brains age they change, and the way we need to target people also changes. Because the majority of the buying public falls into three generations now, we will focus on Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.

Generational Targeting in Direct Mail

Boomers — As we age, it becomes hard to filter out distractions. This means that your direct mail should have a clear message in a big font. Do not clutter the mail piece with tons of copy and a bunch of images. Include white space around your copy and images to allow time for absorption without distraction. Because older brains filter out negative messages, you should accentuate the positive benefits of your product or service. They have time and, therefore, value more information before making a decision — unlike Gen Xers and Millennials. Make sure to respect their intelligence and include details about your product or service that are relevant to them. The more they are exposed to a message, company and brand, the more it becomes true for them. So make sure that your messaging on your mail piece matches your message on other channels.

Gen X — The first thing we need to note about Gen Xers is that they are very busy people; you will need to grab their attention quickly. Coupons are a great way to reach Gen X. They love a good deal. They love companies that do “good for society.” So when they make a purchase, they can also help out others. They like loyalty programs that help keep them on track through busy weeks and months. Keep in mind that this generation loves direct mail. Of course you need to send them mail pieces that are relevant, but you should expect good response rates from them. Because lack of time is an issue, make sure that you go with less copy and get right to the point of how your product or service can help them.

Millennials — The most important thing to know about Millennials is that they value social issues over economics. So you need to make sure that your messaging taps into that need. Another factor is innovation. This generation is always looking for the next best thing. How can your product or service fix their problems in a new way? Millennials love reviews, so make sure you provide real testimonials from customers on your direct mail pieces. They, like Gen X, are big on loyalty programs; so make sure you have a robust program.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that each generation is comprised of unique people; not everyone will respond the same way. Don’t replace your other demographic targeting and segmentation strategies. These notations should help you shape your direct mail concepts, but by no means should they become the “be-all, end-all” strategy. Are you ready to get started?

How to Create Influential Variable Data Direct Mail

The real power in direct mail is sending the right offer to the right person. In order to do this effectively, you need to be using variable data direct mail for offers and images, not just names.

The real power in direct mail is sending the right offer to the right person. In order to do this effectively, you need to be using variable data direct mail for offers and images, not just names.

“Dear Summer” does not grab me. What draws me in are offers that I want. So if you send me direct mail, send me offers for fishing, camping, reading and, of course, the normal household requirements. Yet, every day I get mail that is not appropriate for me, such as offers for baby gear (my kids are adults now).

When direct mail is sent to someone who is not interested in it, it’s basically junk mail and is thrown in the trash. So how can you prevent that from happening with your mail? Use your list wisely.

  • Step 1: Your Data — You need to make sure that your data files are correct. This means not only checking to see if addresses are correct, but that you have all of the purchase history and any other relevant information up to date. You can’t use bad data.
  • Step 2: Your Offers — Now you will need to decide what your offers are going to be. You can have as many offers as you want, just be sure you send one offer per person.
  • Step 3: Your Copy/Messaging — You will need to create your copy/messaging to highlight your offer and raise interest. Compelling and relevant copy drives response. Take the time to write yours. Remember to stay away from acronyms and keep your word choice simple and concise.
  • Step 4: Your List — Now you are ready to target people in your list based on your offers. Select people into groups for which offer best matches them. You can code them and use that offer code for them to respond. This will with analyzing your results later.
  • Step 5: Your Images — Now that you have your offers and your data segmented you are ready to select the variable images to match each offer. The image should help convey your message without words. It should also grab attention. You will want at least one image per offer and depending on your design you may need more than one.
  • Step 6: Your Design — You will need to decide what your design will be no matter whether it is a postcard, self-mailer or booklet you will want to create a layout that has static elements across all versions and areas where your variable copy, offers and images will drop in.
  • Step 7: Your QC — Variable data requires extensive quality control. You should sample each version with multiple people to make sure that everything is working correctly. We have also found that once everything is good then create batch pdf merged files rather than printing direct to the printer. This helps maintain your quality through the run and prevents any hiccups in large file transmission across a network.
  • Step 8: Your Results — Since you coded your offers you will know who responded and what they responded to. This allows you to plan future mail campaigns based on what worked and what did not.

Obviously variable data is not the be all and end all of direct mail marketing, but it can really help you to save money by only sending pieces to people who are interested in it. You will also see a response increase when you send the right offer to the right person. Another benefit is that people look forward to getting mail that they like. So when you have a track record of sending offers they want, they will take the time to read your next mailer to see what great offer they can get now. Are you ready to get started?

Self-Mailers Make Great Direct Mail

Why do I love self-mailers? They are really versatile and allow you plenty of room for creativity to grab attention quickly. You can fold them in fun ways, too. Best of all, they are cost-effective. Color images are really important for self-mailers. Colors make your piece unique and help convey your message.

Why do I love self-mailers? They are really versatile and allow you plenty of room for creativity to grab attention quickly. You can fold them in fun ways, too. Best of all, they are cost-effective. Color images are really important for self-mailers. Colors make your piece unique and help convey your message.

When do self-mailers work best?

  1. Sending to Consumers — Consumers like to get mailers. On the other hand, businesses tend to sift through mail before it gets to the designated person so many times, mailers are tossed before they are ever seen.
  2. You Have Great Images — Images drive attention and response, so if you don’t have good ones to use, skip doing a self-mailer.
  3. Tear-offs — When you have a tear-off section, like coupons, for your prospects or customers to keep or use, self-mailers make it easy.
  4. Sharing — A creative self-mailer will get shared with family and friends; this allows your message to spread farther.

There is no one best format. As a matter of fact, the more unique the format, the more engaged your prospects and customers will be. Think beyond the standard layouts. As with any type of direct mail, there are some pitfalls you need to keep an eye out for such as:

  • Size — The maximum letter size is 6 x 10.5. This still gives you tons of room; especially when you have three panels to use.
  • Paper Stock — You will need to use at least 80# text weight stock to meet mailing requirements. But in many cases, you want to use something thicker in order to prevent tearing during processing.
  • Aspect Ratio — When selecting your final size, you need the length divided by the height to be between 1.3 and 2.5. Anything less or more will be a problem.
  • Folds — Make sure that you design the folds in the correct places. Your final fold needs to be either below the mail panel or to the right of the mail panel.
  • Tabs — You will need to make sure that you are placing the correct size tabs and placement. If you don’t like tabs, you can also use fugitive glue.

There are so many creative things to do with self-mailers that just don’t work for envelopes and postcards. Test out some new ideas and see what your prospects and customers think. Consider folding in a different way. Don’t just take an 8.5 x 11 sheet and tri-fold it. Be unique. You could try a four-panel fold in from an 18 x 27 sheet; this would cut out so that the top panel folding down would be 6 x 9 then the left panel would be the same size, so would the right and bottom. Once folded, the final fold would be below the mail panel. This makes for a memorable experience for your prospects and customers. They do not get a self-mailer like that every day. Of course, there are tons more folds you can create that are different. Check out some ideas at: FoldFactory.com.

Consider ideas beyond folds, too. You can have die cuts on the inside panels, you can use foil stamping or embossing to have areas really stand out. There are fun ways to grab attention on a self-mailer that people do not see every day. Not all of them will fall in your budget. But if you take time to research options, you will find something that you can afford and helps increase your ROI. Are you ready to get creative?

What Does ‘Why’ Mean to Your Direct Mail?

“Why?” For so many reasons, it’s the best question in marketing. “Why?” gets right down to the main point.

5Ws
Credit: Pixabay

“Why?” For so many reasons, it’s the best question in marketing. “Why?” gets right down to the main point.

If you have children, at some point you have been confronted with the inevitable “why” questions children have such as, “Why is the sky blue?” That curiosity is natural for all of us; but many times when we are busy, we do not take the time to ask many of the whys we should be asking.

Are you asking enough why questions about your direct mail program? Why, you ask? Well, without a clearly defined “why,” there are many things that can go wrong with your mail piece. Let’s look at how “why” can help you create a great mail piece, with fabulous results.

Start planning your mail with seven whys:

  1. Why Do You Want to Send a Mail Piece? There are many marketing channels to choose from, so why mail? A clear and concise plan will make your mail campaign smoother. Does your target audience have more than one way to be reached? Can you combine your mail with other channels to increase your response rates?
  2. Why Have You Selected Your Chosen Format? There are so many to choose from: postcards, letters, self-mailers, flats and parcels. Why did you pick yours? Do the people you plan to target like this type of mailer better? Is it easier to get people to open it? Did you choose a format based on cost? The main point is to make sure you are using the best format for your audience.
  3. Why Have You Selected Your Chosen Images? Will they draw in your audience? Do they help to convey your message? Are they bold or unique enough to make people curious?
  4. Why Have You Chosen Your Messaging? Is it interesting? Does it provide a concise description of your product or service along with the benefits of purchase? Remember, you must convey what is in it for them in order to get them to purchase. Do not list features in your message, stick with benefits.
  5. Why Should People Buy From You and Not Your Competition? Here is your chance to stand out. Tell people the benefits they get by working with you. Make sure to phrase it in a way that talks about them, not you. They don’t care about you; they are in it for themselves.
  6. Why Have You Chosen Your Mail Date? Mail dates are important, so why did you select yours? Does it tie into other marketing channels? Is there a “respond by” date based on the in-home dates? Did you pick a day based on past history?
  7. Why Have You Chosen Your ‘Respond by’ Date? Have you allowed enough time for people to receive them and respond? Have you set the date too far out, so there is no sense of urgency in responding? Be careful to select a date that allows people time to review your offer and look up relevant information to make a decision. The bigger the purchase, the longer the time needed to decide.

All of these questions whittle down to the core of your objectives. Starting with a clearly defined core and building your direct mail campaign from there allows you to create better, more responsive direct mail pieces. Each step in your plan needs to be thoroughly vetted with the “why” process. When you are able to answer all the “whys,” your targeted audience receives a powerfully persuasive mailer that they can’t ignore. There is a great book that goes in-depth on how to find your “why.” Check it out here.. Are you ready to get started?

Creative Direct Mail for 2018

Direct mail has been around for a very long time. If you continue to do the same old pieces you have been mailing in 2017 you will see a drop in your response rates. You must create new, fresh and engaging direct mail pieces to get the results you need. Why should you continue to mail with all of the other channel options?

Bring Direct Mail to Life with Interactive ElementsDirect mail has been around for a very long time. If you continue to do the same old pieces you have been mailing in 2017, you will see a drop in your response rates. You must create new, fresh and engaging direct mail pieces to get the results you need. Why should you continue to mail with all of the other channel options? Here are two stats from the DMA 2017 Fact Book: Direct mail customer response rates increased year-over-year by 43 percent and prospect response rates increased year-over-year by 190 percent.

How can you best leverage these response rates for your 2018 mail campaigns? Know what your audience wants so you send that to them and use the tips below:

Engaging

There are so many creative ideas to get people to engage with your mail pieces. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. So we have a few ideas that have worked really well for others. They do not have to be expensive:

  1. Paper — Look at the paper you are using, consider adding texture with either different stock or adding a coating to it. Using the sense of touch is a great way to draw people in and it can’t be done with digital marketing.
  2. Folds — Have you considered using creative folds? Folding requires interaction; your audience must open the folds. You can have short panels, multiple folds within a mailer and even endless folds, where you just keep unfolding panels with different messaging on each one.
  3. Technology — There are so many different technologies available now to enhance your direct mail pieces. Mobile devices are with us all of the time now, incorporate ways for people to use them with your mail pieces, such as augmented reality or near field communication. You can also add video screens to your mail pieces so they would not need a mobile device to launch your video message.

Eye-catching

Through the use of images, color and creativity, you can grab attention.

  1. Images — Don’t use boring stock images. Find fun images that stick with your brand and messaging, but are out of the ordinary. You want to make people curious and draw them into the copy.
  2. Color — There are so many color options you can really find ones that stand out in the mail box. This is not a time to be boring; grab attention right away.
  3. Creativity — Unique designs work best. Think of mail pieces you have done in the past and spice them up with new creative changes. You can use die cuts, metallic ink and so much more.

Response

For 2018, you need to offer many ways to respond. When you make it easy for people to respond, in the way they prefer, you get more responses.

  1. Phone — Provide a phone number for people to call. If you are able, use a special number to track your responses, if not, give them a response code that they will need to provide when they call in.
  2. Web — Create a special landing page just for this campaign. You can track who has looked at it, as well as who actually filled out the form.
  3. Email — Provide an email address that they can respond to.
  4. Text — Allow people to text to respond by providing a text short code.
  5. Come In — If you have a location, give people the option to come in and see you; provide an address for them to do just that.

Your 2018 direct mail should really pop if you use these tips. Of course this does not address your list and any information you may have on your customers and prospects. You of course need to send the right offers to the right people to get the response rates you want. Taking the time to set goals, get creative and track responses will help you create the best direct mail for 2018. Are you ready to get started? Have you had good success with a fun mail piece? Tell us about it.

Add More Traffic With Universal and Extended Search Optimization

If your organic search optimization plan does not include optimization for pertinent elements of both universal and extended search, you may be missing out on a surprising amount of traffic.

SEOIf your organic search optimization plan does not include optimization for pertinent elements of both universal and extended search, you may be missing out on a surprising amount of traffic.

In the beginning, organic search optimization was focused on the pursuit of top placements for your site’s pages. Search has evolved and so, too, must your optimization plan.

Today, instead of 10 blue links on a page, most contain 8.5. An array of universal and extended search elements enhance and complement the Google search results pages. The inclusion of maps, images, video results, the Knowledge Box and Twitter results enhance the user experience and speed searchers to their desired information.

A recent white paper from Searchmetrics looked at the results from approximately 500,000 general, frequently searched terms. Because Google increasingly is applying different algorithms for mobile vs. desktop searches, the results from both were analyzed. This study clearly shows that any optimization plan is incomplete, unless it includes the elements of both universal and extended search.

Universal Search — Vertical Search Integrated Into the Results Page

Universal search, launched in 2007, was Google’s integration directly into the search results of vertical search elements that had previously been developed as separate search engines. These included: shopping, news, videos, images and maps. Although showing up integrated into the search results page, these vertical silos of information can still be accessed from tabs on the Google results page.

The type of elements displayed vary depending on the keyword search. For example, a search for a “Zen frog fountain” yields a results page rich in images and shopping details. There is even a video. A search for your local hospital will yield a results page with a map and directions.

Each element in universal search has its own optimization requirements, and many organic SEO plans employ them. The SEO can clearly guide the optimization of images so that relevant product images will be included in the array of images shown for keyword searches.

For e-commerce merchants, it is quite important to optimize all of your images, because they can drive substantial amounts of traffic. Similarly, video content can be readily optimized using available guidelines.

Google’s emphasis on quality of the information and the authority of the source has driven the evolution of news optimization from press releases to publishers. Today, the news integration includes just the freshest and most authoritative sources. Because the news elements evolved from vertical search, there are a set of guidelines for optimization of news.

Not all elements are equally important for every business, but traffic can be gained by optimizing all the germane elements.

Extended Search — More Boxes and Features

Extended search is the term applied to the additions to the search results that are not based on vertical search engines. These results are algorithmically developed from a variety of internal and external sources available to Google. Extended search includes: The Knowledge Graph, the image carousel, the Twitter Cards, the direct answer/fact boxes, the related questions that are delivered along with the direct answers, and the app packs found in mobile searches.

Because the results pull information from a number of sources, they are much more difficult to optimize for. They are best viewed as the result of a broad footprint of information that will satisfy the demands of these elements.

For example, the Knowledge Graph relies on Google My Business and Wikipedia information. If your company has a complete profile on these two key sources, you will be feeding the information needed to drive the Knowledge Graph. Similarly, sites with recipes, events and reviews can use structured data to enhance the likelihood of appearing in the direct answers boxes.

As we move into the fourth quarter and plan for the next year, do be sure to review the universal search and expanded search elements that have the most traffic-driving potential for your business and strategize for how to include them in your optimization planning.

Challenge Emails: ‘Go Away. We Don’t Want You.’

“Stay in touch?” That was the headline on an email I got today from the folks at Pitney Bowes. What was notable, however, was the first line of copy: “We notice it’s been a while since you opened an email from us …” I honestly can’t decide if this is a strategic insight gone awry, or a little creepy.

“Stay in touch?” That was the headline on a challenge email I got today from the folks at Pitney Bowes. What was notable, however, was the first line of copy: “We notice it’s been a while since you opened an email from us …” I honestly can’t decide if this is a strategic insight gone awry, or a little creepy.

Email open rates are a misunderstood analytics tool; take a minute and follow my logic:

  • According to Campaign Monitor, the most popular email client is Outlook. And, according to MarketingSherpa, over 50 percent of consumers use a preview feature to view emails.
  • Nearly 40 percent of email clients block images by default.
  • Conclusion: If you read your email via preview pane (or not), and don’t download the images, your “open” is not being recorded as an “open” and in this instances, that seems to make Momma a very bad girl.

Bottom line is this: Pitney Bowes really doesn’t know whether I am reading their emails or not. They’ve assumed I am NOT since I am not downloading the images contained in their emails. And, it seems, they believe I am not reading their “valuable information about supplies, offers, discounts, new products and thought leadership pieces.”

If I wasn’t opening/reading them before, they’ve certainly given me a good reason to unsubscribe now. Like many companies, Pitney Bowes needs to stop thinking their marketing messages need to be about THEM, and start thinking about what might be deemed interesting (and therefore valuable) to ME.

Funnily enough, the last email I got from Pitney Bowes two weeks earlier, was another little smack across the hand for my apparent bad behavior. The subject line “Don’t miss out” didn’t compel me to even open that email, but the message was even worse! They noted that it had been a while since they had heard from me—Really? It’s not like we were corresponding or anything—and they wanted to know if I was still interested in getting emails from them. I had to confirm my interest by July 15 in order to “continue receiving the latest from PB.”

Needless to say I didn’t open nor respond; but that didn’t stop them from sending this weeks’ email to me.

In a world where businesses spend an inordinate amount of time (and money!) trying to collect email addresses for ongoing engagement with their customers, PB seems to want to sever the ties with me. And all because I’m (apparently) not opening their email messages.

I think the good folks in PB marketing need this little wake up call: While I appreciate that you think I’m not reading your emails and therefore may no longer be interested in your products/services/thought leadership pieces, you might want to wait for me to unsubscribe. Or better yet, try sending me emails with content that is actually of value to me and my organization. Oh, and here’s a hint: Don’t make that content about YOUR products/services.

Easy Fixes for Your Website Mistakes

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Since the topic turned out to be very popular — more than 500 attendees listened in and stayed for the duration of the 60-minute presentation — I thought I’d present the mistakes discussed. Here, I’ll discuss the first five mistakes, which were all presented by Amy. The last five mistakes, which were presented by Amy and Matt, will follow next week. (To tune in to a replay of the presentation, register here.)

Mistake 1: Believing people read what you write. Users don’t read; they scan, Schade said. As a result, when writing copy for the web, simple and straightforward are best.

Mistake 2: Reflecting your priorities, not your users’. Balance your goals and your users’ goals, Schade said. While you may want to promote your latest offer, sell off inventory, promote your brand or collect leads, your users probably want to get the answers to specific questions or get in and out of your site quickly.

Mistake 3: Ignoring standards. Some design elements on web pages already work and are de facto standards, Schade said. The search box, for example, is usually located in the upper right-hand corner of a web page. When a search box is moved to another spot on a page, this may give users the impression that a site is trying to hide the search box or that the search isn’t very good.

You don’t want to convey that information just because you changed the design location of where something appears on the page, Schade said. There’s room for creativity in web design, but make sure any new designs you try are usable.

Mistake 4: Using the wrong images. While pictures can go a long way on a website in terms of conveying information and getting users interested in your site, products or services, you don’t want to use the wrong ones, Schade said.

Examples of the wrong images include the following:
• generic or stock art;
• boring graphics;
• images that are not related to content; and
• graphics that look like ads.

The right images, on the other hand, include the following:
• images that are related to content;
• images that are clear and the right size; and
• pictures of approachable, real people.

Mistake 5: Not speaking your customers’ language
. It’s so easy getting caught up in the lingo and language used internally at your company when writing web copy; you forget about your users’ perspectives, Schade said. Big mistake. Instead, always think about how users may define or categorize your merchandise. Good places for inspiration on this front are your product reviews. Since they’re provided by users, they speak your users’ language.