Stand Out With Texture

How can you get your direct mail to stand out in the mailbox? Have you considered using texture? Coatings do more than just protect the print from scratching damage in the mail. They can capture interest for your direct mail piece. With all the different types of coating available, you can now choose one that really emphasizes touch. By creating a unique textured feel, your response rate will increase. Think of all the different ways you can add texture to your piece to grab attention to it.

How can you get your direct mail to stand out in the mailbox? Have you considered using texture? Coatings do more than just protect the print from scratching damage in the mail. They can capture interest for your direct mail piece. With all the different types of coating available, you can now choose one that really emphasizes touch. By creating a unique textured feel, your response rate will increase. Think of all the different ways you can add texture to your piece to grab attention to it.

Some fun coatings for you to consider:

  • MiraFoil: Create metallic effects in a precise fashion.
  • Raised: Gives the embossed look without actual embossing.
  • Pearlescent: Gives an elegant shimmer look.
  • Sandpaper: Gives a rough sand paper like feel.
  • Soft touch: Creates a velvet texture for a nice soft feel.
  • Glitter: A large glitter flake that is available in a variety of colors.
  • Metal Flake: Fine metal flakes similar to car paint.
  • Thermochronic: Temperature activated, changes color when heated.
  • Photochromic: This coating is activated by sunlight to change color.
  • Glow in the dark: This is a high gloss coating that will glow in the dark.
  • Scratch off: Available in gold or silver provides a non-see thru coat

Now that you have selected your coating, imagine how creative you can get with your design. You want to have the feel of bricks? No problem. 3D raised steps? No problem. It’s like the old “Pat the Bunny” books: You can have so many textures at your fingertips to choose from. It is not advised to go crazy and put several on one mailer, but you can mix a couple to really get a pop. Show your recipients how your product or service feels; grab that sensory emotion to increase response.

The standard coatings are:

  • Varnish: This is basically like a colorless ink and can be applied in gloss, dull or satin forms as the piece is printed. This is not environmentally friendly.
  • Aqueous: A water based coating applied as the piece is printed. It protects better than varnish and is more environmentally friendly.
  • UV: This provides superior protection and comes in glossy or dull.
  • Laminates: This is best for protection from water as it seals in the paper. This is not usually needed for direct mail pieces.

With any of the above coatings, it is a good idea to check with your mail service provider to make sure they can inkjet over the coating. You do have a couple of choices if the coating is not inkjet compatible. You can knockout the mail panel when coating to leave it unfinished for inkjet. Or you can use and envelope/poly bag as a cover. Just one more thing to consider is that a paper envelope can be inkjeted, but a poly bag will require labels. Make sure to consider all your options and costs before proceeding.

Direct mail is about engagement, pulling the recipient into your marketing by creating interest in your mailer. The more interesting it is, the better response you are going to get. You will also find that when you create a direct mailer that people really enjoy, they show it to others. The more people who see your mailer, talk about it and share it, the better your response will be. Sensory input leaves a lasting impression on the recipient. If you want to add another layer of input, check out our blog post on adding scent to mailers. A good combination of texture and scent can knock your ROI out of the park!

Writing Effective InMail and Sales Emails: Don’t Ask for the Appointment

Here’s my best tip on writing effective sales emails or LinkedIn InMail messages: Don’t ask for the appointment. Instead, earn permission for a discussion. Then, execute it (via email) in a way that creates an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment. Sound crazy? Sound too difficult? It’s not. I’ll even give you a template.

Here’s my best tip on writing effective sales emails or LinkedIn InMail messages: Don’t ask for the appointment. Instead, earn permission for a discussion. Then, execute it (via email) in a way that creates an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment.

Sound crazy? Sound too difficult? It’s not. I’ll even give you a template.

Asking for Appointments Destroys Response Rates
“Any time you begin your sale with an attempt to get an appointment, you are being rejected by approximately 90 percent to 97 percent of perfectly good prospects,” said Sharon Drew Morgen, inventor of the Buying Facilitation method.

That’s because most buyers don’t know exactly what they need. Or they do have a need but aren’t ready to buy yet. Other buyers have not yet assembled the decision-making team.

Setting an appointment with a seller will happen—but not with you.

Because you asked for it (too early).

The Goal of Your Email or InMail Is Permission
The goal of your “first touch” message is to earn the right to have a discussion. Nothing else. It’s exactly like an effective cold call.

It’s a LinkedIn InMail best practice most sales reps don’t know about. It also works with standard email and is surprisingly simple.

Start writing in a way that gets buyers

  1. affirming (“yes, I will be acting on this”) and eventually
  2. inquiring (“can you tell me more about that?”)

The goal of your email or InMail is to earn the right to step up to the plate—not swing for the wall.

Slow Down Your ‘First Touch’
I recently diagnosed and treated an ineffective InMail message example on recent DMIQ Brunch & Learn webinar, “How to Write Effective Email and LinkedIn Messages that Boost Response.”

In the message, the sales rep is going for the kill. Big mistake. He sent me an InMail message asking me to:

  • Validate the idea of a discussion about his solution
  • Invest time in learning about his service
  • Understand his competitive advantage
  • Refer him to the best decision-maker
  • Consider a “free analysis” (a proposal for his services)
  • Invest time on the phone with him

This is a common (yet ineffective) approach to writing LinkedIn InMail messages.

A Better Approach
The goal of an effective InMail message is NOT to get a meeting or any of the above bullets. If you try to force these you’ll fail. This is what kills your LinkedIn InMail response rate.

Instead, use an InMail message to provoke a “Can you tell me more?” response from a potential buyer. Use the chance to push on a pain—or surface an unknown fact—that the entire decision-making team will applaud you for.

Get on the radar of all decision-makers by asking for permission to facilitate, not discuss need.

Remember, the idea is to present information (content) that helps groups of decision-makers set aside differences, identifies common ground and prioritizes next steps (in the decision-making process).

An Effective InMail Template Example
Here is an effective InMail template for you to try. Let me know how it works for you? Seriously, let me know. Get in touch in comments or email me.

Hi, Sam.

How are you adding new capability to your ______________ [insert area of business your product/services addresses] at any time soon or in future? I work with organizations like ____ [prospect’s business] to make sure ________ [goal].

Would you like to quickly explore, via email, if a larger conversation makes sense? Please let me know what you decide, Sam?

Thanks for considering,
Jeff

Remember, be creative. You don’t need to stick with this template verbatim. Make the tone sound like you. Adjust it. Please get in touch in comments or email me with the results this approach produces for you!

The Complexities of Simplification

Remember when you were a kid and you learned how to fold a single sheet of paper into a little device that would allow you to tell fortunes? I was reminded of that device recently when my controller walked in carrying the latest direct mail package she received from FedEx. Being a good voyeur of marketing content, she brought it to my attention because she had inadvertently ripped one of the contents inside—and flung it down on my desk declaring it was “stupid”

Remember when you were a kid and you learned how to fold a single sheet of paper into a little device that would allow you to tell fortunes?

It seems it’s called an Origami Fortune Teller and over 1.3 million people have watched the instructional video on YouTube (side note: wish I’d thought to create that video when I didn’t have anything else to do).

I was reminded of that device recently when my controller walked in carrying the latest direct mail package she received from FedEx. The 6″ x 9″ envelope carried a simple teaser line: “My FedEx REWARDS.”

Being a good voyeur of marketing content, she brought it to my attention because she had inadvertently ripped one of the contents inside—and flung it down on my desk declaring it was “stupid.”

It turns out the envelope contained two items: a single-sided “card” and a multi-fold, multi-glued insert that was … well … stupid. This particular insert added no value to the communication other than it was one more item in the envelope.

Whoever designed it probably needed to watch the Origami Fortune Teller video to get some better ideas on how to design something like this because, with its multi-fold/unfold option, it simply wasn’t intuitive—thus the ripped piece that was now lying on my desk.

The insert didn’t add one additional piece of information—not one nugget of “surprise!”—and, in fact, the message inside (that it was easy to earn more great rewards and experiences) was counterintuitive to the experience we were having with the insert.

I think this is a great example of creative gone awry. I’m fairly sure the marketing strategy behind this direct mail package was to inform customers that there was a new FedEx Rewards program. And, the support messaging was:

  • To acknowledge that our company had reached a certain status level.
  • To inform us that we would earn five points on every $1 spent.
  • To excite us that we could redeem points from a robust rewards catalog.

All of that information was on the single-sided “card” that was easily scannable—so why the addition of the extra piece? Why spend the money creating, designing, printing, scoring, cutting, gluing, assembling a device that added no value?

Shall we blame it on the bored production manager who wanted to produce something more exciting than a card in an envelope? Or perhaps the art director who wanted to include a new format in the portfolio? Or the marketing manager who had a bigger budget to spend and it was “use it or lose it” time at the end of the quarter?

Is anyone in marketing at FedEx measuring the effectiveness of this package? Is it being tested against a package that doesn’t contain the insert? Or against a postcard? Or a simple letter in an envelope? If I was making a bet, I’d bet that the response rate AND the cost-per-responder on the package with the insert will be the biggest loser.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for innovative, fun, intelligently designed interactive marketing materials that achieve the desired the marketing objective. But when you have a simple message to communicate, keep the communication simple. Oh, and think about giving the mock up to a couple of people not related to the project to see if they can open it/interact with it without tearing it to shreds.

Marketing ROI in B-to-B: Why Is It So Hard, and What Can We Do About It?

The other day, I had the pleasure of discussing the challenges of marketing ROI with Jim Obermayer, CEO and executive director of the Sales Lead Management Association, on his Internet radio show. Our conversation got me thinking: Why is the Holy Grail of marketing ROI so tough to achieve in business markets? And what can we do about it?

The other day, I had the pleasure of discussing the challenges of marketing ROI with Jim Obermayer, CEO and executive director of the Sales Lead Management Association, on his Internet radio show. Our conversation got me thinking: Why is the Holy Grail of marketing ROI so tough to achieve in business markets? And what can we do about it?

The “why” part is pretty clear: Business buying cycles tend to be long, and involve multiple parties at either end. Marketers produce campaigns to generate an inquiry, and then qualify that interest with a series of outbound communications, and finally pass the qualified lead to a sales rep for follow up. From that point, it can take more than a year to close, and involve a slew of people on the customer side, from purchasing agents, to technical specifiers, to decision-makers.

The sales process is also complex, involving not only the face-to-face account rep, but sales engineers, inside sales people, and others who help get all the buyers’ questions answered, negotiate the terms, deliver, install and trouble-shoot the product, and whatever else needs to be done to satisfy the customer’s needs.

So, consider the difficulty of establishing the numbers that go into an ROI calculation in this kind of situation. Just to put a definition behind the concept: ROI, meaning return on investment, subtracts the marketing expense from the revenue generated, and then divides by the expense, resulting in a percentage that shows how much net return was produced by the investment.

But in this lengthy, multi-party, multi-touch selling situation, the “investment” part can be pretty tough to get at. Frankly, it’s a bit of a cost accounting nightmare, assigning an expense number to each sales and marketing touch that resulted in a particular closed deal. This brings up issues of variable versus fixed costs, marketing touch attribution—the list goes on and on.

Worse, the “return” part presents its own challenges. First problem is connecting a particular lead to a particular piece of revenue, which means carefully tracking a lead over its multi-month process toward closure.

Further, if a third-party distributor or agent is working the lead, it’s very likely that revenue results reporting is not part of the deal. With good reason: The distributor considers the relationship with the end-customer as his, and none of the manufacturer’s business. So the marketer who generated the lead often has no visibility into the associated revenue. Even if the deal was closed by a house rep, you’re looking at the endless squabble between sales and marketing about who gets the credit.

You can’t blame B-to-B marketers for throwing up their hands and relying on interim metrics like response rate and cost per lead. Especially when marketing staffers come and go, and may not even be in the job when the lead generated a while ago finally converts to a sale.

This is why I was so pleased at the arrival of the new book by Debbie Qaqish, The Rise of the Revenue Marketer, where she urges marketers to raise consciousness of their role in driving revenue results. “The revenue marketer uses the language of business,” she says. Examples of the metrics she recommends for revenue marketers include funnel velocity, sales conversion rates, pipeline revenue and campaign ROI.

My conclusions from this investigation:

  • Begin with a deep conversation with your finance counterparts to get at the best way for marketing to serve your company’s financial interests, like:
    • The right approach to assigning sales and marketing expense.
    • Whether to calculate returns based on net sales or on gross margin.
    • Decide which expenses are fixed and which are variable.
    • How to attribute the contribution of sales and marketing touches across the sales cycle.
    • Setting the ROI “hurdle rate” needed to support your company’s profitability goals.
  • Figure out where to get the revenue and expense data—not everything will be in your CRM system. Your finance counterparts should be help you source the data you need.
    • If a distribution channel party is a roadblock to revenue visibility, conduct a “did you buy” survey into accounts to which qualified leads were passed.
    • If the account-based revenue is captured internally, try supplementing your CRM system with data match-back to connect campaigns to sales, circumventing the arduous process of following a lead along its complex conversion process.
  • Set clear objectives for each marketing expenditure, so you know how to declare ROI success when you see it.
  • Get inspiration from The Rise of the Revenue Marketer, Debbie Qaqish’s innovative thinking on the role of marketing in B-to-B.
  • Get an education from Jim Lenskold’s 2003 classic, Marketing ROI: The Path to Campaign, Customer and Corporate Profitability.
  • If to many obstacles are in the way, fall back and rely on “activity-based” metrics like cost per inquiry and cost per qualified lead, which tend to be pretty easy to calculate, being mostly within the purview of marketing.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Are Your Emails Helping Your Company Grow or Maintaining the Status Quo?

It is 2013. Do you know where your emails are? Or, more importantly, do you know what they are doing? Take this mini quiz. If you don’t have the right answers, then you need to revise your email marketing program

It is 2013. Do you know where your emails are? Or, more importantly, do you know what they are doing? Take this mini quiz:

Our emails …
A. … motivate our customers to visit our store and/or site.
B. … provide timely information that our customers look forward to reading.
C. … desensitize our customers to our messages.
D. … create conversations on social networks.
E. … may or may not be doing the thing listed above. I just don’t know.

If your answer isn’t “A” and “B”, then you need to revise your email marketing program.

Companies Don’t Move Forward By Maintaining the Status Quo
Eighteen emails from multichannel companies arrived in my inbox before 9:30 this morning. Thirteen are from companies that I buy from on a regular basis. Five are from companies that I rarely shop. They all look strikingly similar.

Every one of the emails consists of a promotional offer with discounts ranging from 15 percent to 50 percent. Some include free shipping as an added bonus. If I were identifiable as a discount shopper, I would expect all of my emails to be sale driven. But, I’m not. I am a category seasonal shopper. My purchases are from specific categories for every company that sent me an email this morning.

So, why don’t they send me emails based on my buying patterns? It requires a new model and more work. I’m not suggesting that the marketing teams are lazy. Most of them work very hard. The problem is that they are working so hard, doing what they have always done, that there isn’t time to find better ways to market to their customers.

What Difference Does It Make?
Historically, a successful campaign delivered a 2 percent to 5 percent response rate. Today, these numbers are declining for most companies. Getting a 0.5 percent response is considered successful by some marketers. Technically, they are right. Email marketing is so economical that an extremely low response rate still generates a profit.

Diminishing rates continue their downward trend until something makes them change direction. External forces are working to accelerate the decline. Email volume for second quarter 2013 is up 17.9 percent over the same period in 2012. (Source: Experian Marketing Services “Q2 2013 Email Marketing Bechmark Study,” opens as a pdf.) The increase is projected to continue.

And then there is that pesky email fatigue issue. When people are bombarded with the same message from so many sources, they become desensitized to the offers. They don’t even bother to open the emails most of the time.

The only way to reverse the downhill slide is to change the email marketing model. It needs to shift from generic promotional messages to customized personal ones designed to appeal to specific individuals. The tools and tactics used by direct marketers to target catalog buyers are effective with a little tweaking. Get started by:

  • Re-evaluating the effectiveness of your email marketing program. Running on auto-pilot works for a while, but regular maintenance and updates are needed for improvements.
  • Identifying email subscribers by type. Are their purchases seasonal, category, discount or a combination of all three?
  • Creating and testing targeted emails. Be careful that you don’t overshare what you know about customers. Too much information is creepy.
  • Adding “how to” emails in to the marketing mix. A reputation for providing helpful information encourages people to open your emails.
  • Optimizing emails for individuals and search. Changes are happening in the search arena that make optimization necessary on all digital content.

Content Marketing and Copywriting in Tandem

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But, is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of monetizing the marketing effort? As direct marketers, most of us would agree that getting the reader to buy should be the ultimate objective of any kind of marketing. But each of these skills—content marketing and direct response sales copywriting—can lead from one to the other.

Today we share five recommendations to strengthen both. Before we do that, let’s define each:

  • Direct response copywriting is all about leading the reader to action. It might be a sale on the spot, but it could also be lead generation, or perhaps an action as simple as getting someone to opt-in to a series of emails. Likely media used: direct mail, email, landing pages, video sales letters, print ads and direct response broadcast.
  • Content marketing, on the other hand, is about writing and freely delivering content of value to the reader. It builds trust, confidence and leads into selling from a softer angle. It may not get a sale on the spot, but it should have the reader predisposed to buy when the opportunity is presented. Likely media used: blogs, articles, online press releases, social media, white papers and video.

Content marketing should inform, build trust and credibility with the prospective buyer, so that when harder-hitting, persuasive direct response sales copy with a call-to-action is presented, the response rate is higher. In other words, when both approaches are used in tandem, the sum can be greater than the parts.

Copywriter Chris Marlow suggests, “the term ‘content’ should be reserved for writing that does not have the express purpose of getting a lead or sale.” But she adds that, “sometimes you need ‘content’ to get the lead or make the sale.”

Whether you’re using content marketing or direct response copywriting, here are five recommendations to make both approaches stronger and logically flow from one to the other. Inspiration for this list comes from American Writers and Artists (where I teach a copywriting course), copywriting clients and personal experience:

  1. It all starts with the headline and lead. Use proven direct mail formulas like the four-Legged Stool (Big Idea, Promise, Credibility, Proven Track Record), or the four U’s (Useful, Unique, Urgency, Ultra-Specific), or any one of many other direct response copywriting formulas. The headline formula often works better when you fit your main idea within eight words or fewer. Using a proven direct response letter writing formula can make all the difference in your success.
  2. What’s the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)? Get the attention of the reader and quickly demonstrate you understand their pain. Most everyone has on their minds fear, uncertainty, and doubt in their personal lives, relationships, finances, career, retirement or health.
  3. Is the message confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward? Review the copy with a small inner circle of people. Reading copy aloud with someone listening and evaluating it is a must. If it’s confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward, you’ll hear it when voiced. I was again reminded of the importance of this step after logging several hours by phone when reading a long-form letter aloud with a client so we could both hear it. The extra investment of time strengthened the story, benefits, false close and call-to-action items for the right flow to build the sales message.
  4. Gather a small group to review copy and the lead. Ask each person to assign a numerical ranking (1-10 scale) on whether they’d keep reading or not. If less than 80 percent of the responders wouldn’t read beyond the headline and lead, then the writer needs to fix the headline and lead, or start over.
  5. Is it clear? When your customer or prospect reads your copy (whether using content marketing writing style or direct response copywriting), has the issue been laid out clearly? Was a complex message simplified? Did the message build rapport and trust? Does the copy naturally flow so that the prospect concludes that your product solves the issue? And check the call-to-action. Is there one? Keep in mind that if you’re using introductory content writing, the CTA may be only to opt-in, subscribe or click a link to request or read more in a series.

Bottom line: what are you asking the prospect to do? Is it advancing the prospect along in a planned spaced-repetition contact strategy that leads to your ultimate desired action: a sale?

Whether your copy style is content marketing that is conditioning the reader to make a future purchase, or direct response selling asking for an action on the spot, what you write ultimately needs to justify its existence with a strategy that leads to monetization.

7 Steps to a Better B-to-B Landing Page

Despite years of practice with digital campaigns, B-to-B marketers still have trouble getting their landing pages to work as hard as they could. I am not sure why, since there’s nothing more important to capturing the responses from outbound messages and kicking off a relationship with prospects. You could say the landing page is where your campaign pays off. But I am still seeing obvious errors

Despite years of practice with digital campaigns, B-to-B marketers still have trouble getting their landing pages to work as hard as they could. I am not sure why, since there’s nothing more important to capturing the responses from outbound messages and kicking off a relationship with prospects. You could say the landing page is where your campaign pays off. But I am still seeing obvious errors. So herewith I offer a seven-point checklist of landing page best practices. And I invite readers to add some of their own recommendations.

1. Connect the landing page directly to the outbound message. When respondents click through to the landing page, they should experience a seamless flow from one to the other. The outbound message—whether a SEM ad, an email, a direct mail piece or even a print ad—should act like the teaser, to motivate the recipient to click or type in the landing page URL. The role of the landing page is to close on the deal, the same way a salesperson asks for the order. So the two formats should act as one, working together to move the prospect along. If they are disjointed—whether through design or copy inconsistency—the momentum is lost.

2. Create a fresh landing page for each variable in your campaign. OK, I know this means work. But the effort that goes into the outbound message should be equaled or exceeded when crafting the response vehicle. If you are doing an A/B test on your creative or your offer, you need two landing pages. Plan for it.

3. Mobile-enable your landing page. No excuses. The dramatic rise in tablet and smartphone use cannot be ignored. As any direct marketer will tell you: Don’t get in the way. If you put up any obstacles, your response rate will inevitably be lower. A landing page that is engineered for ease of use on mobile devices is no longer a nice to have; it’s a must.

4. Prepopulate the form where possible. If your outbound message includes digital information about the respondents, don’t make them retype their data.

5. Ask for the minimal amount of information you need to take the next step in the relationship. The more elements you require, the lower your response rate. So ask yourself, “How will asking for this piece of information change the way I deal with the inquiry?” If the answer is, “It won’t,” then hold that query for a later stage in the relationship.

6. Develop a culture of constant testing. Any responsive vehicle benefits from continuous improvement. Your landing page is the perfect place to test copy, offer, layout and other variables like the number of data elements you ask for. Do it, don’t duck it.

7. Follow landing page design best practices. Hubspot offers some excellent tips in this area. Remember that the purpose of a landing page is to drive an action. So everything you do-the copy, the offer, the layout, the graphics-must focus on that end.

I welcome your ideas on how to improve landing page results.

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Direct Mail Benchmarks From DMA

In my years following the direct marketing field, one of the resources I’ve most appreciated is the Direct Marketing Association’s annual roundup of direct and interactive marketing statistics, the DMA Statistical Fact Book. Each year, this compilation of research studies—this year, 40 prominent sources—offers benchmarks and other metrics related to nearly a dozen categories. Examining direct mail-related data, here are a few stats from this year’s edition that jump out at me. Did you know

In my years following the direct marketing field, one of the resources I’ve most appreciated is the Direct Marketing Association’s annual roundup of direct and interactive marketing statistics, the DMA Statistical Fact Book. Each year, this compilation of research studies—this year, 40 prominent sources—offers benchmarks and other metrics related to nearly a dozen categories: Internet, mobile marketing, social media, catalog, consumer demographics, direct mail, direct marketing overview, email, nonprofit and USPS information.

Examining direct mail-related data, here are a few stats from this year’s edition that jump out at me. Did you know:

  1. The mean cost per order or lead for a letter-sized direct mail piece sent to a house file is $19.35, and the same sent to a prospect or total file is $51.30. —”DMA Response Rate Report,” 2012.
  2. More than 12.5 million consumers purchased prescription drugs via a mail or phone order. —Experian Simmons “National Consumer Study,” 2012.
  3. In the food category, 16.8 percent of coupons redeemed originated from the Internet, home-printed; another 6.6 percent originated from direct mail. —Valassis/NCH Marketing Services, “Coupon Facts Reports,” 2013.
  4. The salary range of marketing analytics directors with 7+ years’ experience was $119,300 to $131,500. —Crandall Associates, 2012.
  5. 54.5 percent of U.S. Households read, looked at, or set aside for later reading, their letter-sized enveloped direct mail pieces in 2011. For larger than letter-size envelope mail, 67.2 percent did the same. —USPS “Household Diary Study,” 2012.
  6. Mail order companies have the highest percentage of pieces addressed to specific household members—97.1 percent of their direct mail, while Restaurants have the least—16.2 percent. —USPS “Household Diary Study,” 2012.
  7. The response rate for credit card mailings in 2012 was 0.6 percent—down from 2.2 percent in 1993, but up from 0.3 percent in 2005. —Ipsos/Synovate Mail Monitor, 2012.
  8. In 2012, 54.2 percent of total value of U.S. Mail is attributable to direct mail advertising across all classes. —DMA/USPS “Revenue, Pieces and Weight by Class of Mail and Special Services,” 1990-2012.
  9. In the U.S., direct mail marketing spend held steady at $45.2 billion between 2011 and 2012. It stood at $43.8 billion in 2009. —Winterberry Group, 2013.
  10. After peaking at 19.6 billion catalogs mailed (in the U.S.) in 2007, only 11.8 billion catalogs were mailed in 2012. —DMA/USPS “Revenue, Pieces and Weight by Class of Mail and Special Services,” 2012.
  11. Of 11,743 catalogs in the U.S., 94.1 percent of catalogs have an online version—MediaFinder.com, “National Directory of Catalogs,” 2012.

No wonder the 200-page DMA Statistical Fact Book is—year to year—among DMA’s best sellers in its bookstore. It’s available for purchase via DMA’s online bookstore. The cost is $249 for DMA members and $499 for non-members: https://imis.the-dma.org/bookstore/ProductSingle.cfm?p=0D45047B|4DA56D9737FF45DF90CA1DA713E16B80

Happy reading!

Dealing With This Season’s Burned Out Subscribers

In September, all email marketers have good intentions. They meticulously map out segmentations; plan a logical calendar to support strategic initiatives; and commit to holding firm on protecting margins, avoiding the trap of ever increasing sweeteners as we near the end of December.

In September, all email marketers have good intentions. They meticulously map out segmentations; plan a logical calendar to support strategic initiatives; and commit to holding firm on protecting margins, avoiding the trap of ever increasing sweeteners as we near the end of December.

Then reality sets in. Although this year has been significantly better than last year in terms of business buying and consumer spending, most email marketers are quickly caught up in the email marketing return on investment trap. When times are tough, the pressure goes up to send just one more email campaign in order to boost revenues and response.

That strategy can work in the short term, but come January, the reckoning takes hold. This is when email marketers must rebuild relationships sullied by overmailing and lack of targeting. Hopefully, your business can pause and take a deep breath in order to both slow down the frequency as well as improve customization and relevancy. If you still see low response rates and list fatigue, then it’s time for a strategy to win back your audience.

Strategies for winning back subscribers
A win-back strategy can be anything from a friendly reminder to visit the preference center to a full-on bribe, like offering a steep discount or free service if the subscriber clicks now. Test a few of these ideas on subscribers who didn’t open or click on your emails in December and January. After a few attempts to win them back, if you still don’t see any activity, it may be time to clear the dead wood from your file.

While suppressing data is an anathema to direct marketers’ hearts, clearing nonresponsive subscribers from your email marketing file can help with everything from reducing churn to lowering costs to improving the new engagement metrics used for inbox placement and deliverability. Logically, it makes sense. More active subscribers are more likely to respond.

Surprisingly, however, clearing nonactive addresses from your file also improves response. That boost in response isn’t just on the rate off of a smaller base, but is also on absolute response and revenue per subscriber. Why does this happen? By focusing on the needs of active subscribers, marketers improve relevancy and lower frequency. They start to segment their files with tighter subscriber profiles. Be sure to note that this is the opposite of what you’re able to do in the rush of end of year.

Even permission files end up with anywhere from 25 percent to 65 percent of inactive subscribers. These subscribers, despite giving permission at some point, haven’t opened, clicked or converted from email in the past year or more. Unfortunately, the fourth quarter is when most subscribers burn out. The overflowing inbox at a busy time of year just becomes too much. They tune out your messages if you’re not offering value. Pretty soon, ignoring your emails becomes a habit.

For a long time, it was widely believed to be reasonable to keep all those dead addresses on your file, as it didn’t cost much to mail them and having a larger denominator made complaint rates and other deliverability metrics seem lower. Plus, marketers are ever hopeful. Even if a subscriber hasn’t responded to their emails in a long time, they still believe that today’s message will be the one that rouses them to profitable response. Of course, very few of these sleepers ever wake up.

However, internet service providers and mailbox providers like Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail have long been suspicious of marketers who keep such nonresponsive data on their files, believing that they’re trying to game the system and escape penalties of higher complaint rates. In the past six months, all three global providers have introduced new metrics as well as new inbox management tools to help them see subscriber-level activity. MSN/Hotmail was the first to announce the use of activity measures to block senders from a particular subscriber’s inbox (I wrote about this in early September).

I’ve seen some success in win-back campaigns that respect subscribers, are honest about the offer in the subject line, and keep the message and tone in line with the brand. Test a few alternatives and segment as much as possible to improve relevancy as well. For example:

  • A publisher tested several approaches and found that “We hate spam, too. Change your email settings now” in the subject line was the best way to encourage 90-day nonactive readers to adjust frequency and title choices. Typically, I find that clarity trumps cleverness in a subject line. Just say clearly what the subscriber is being asked to do.
  • A retailer sent an email campaign to six-month inactive subscribers inviting them to vote for the brand’s next catalog cover. The engaging campaign consistently earned 25 percent clickthrough rates. By focusing on the click (the action needed to prove that the subscriber isn’t truly dead), the campaign earned a very high response rate. As a bonus, while many subscribers were on the company’s website they took advantage of specials offered on the landing page.
  • A retailer tested the effect of a win-back campaign versus lowering frequency to six-month inactive accounts. Lowering frequency is a commonly used tactic to respect nonresponding subscribers level of interest, but, of course, does nothing to actually engage them. The win-back strategy was the clear winner, earning a 10 percent response rate and $900K in revenue versus a 2 percent response rate and $150K in revenue from the segment that received lower frequency.

Let us know how you’ve successfully re-engaged subscribers by posting a comment below.