How Are Your Direct Mail Response Rates?

There are so many marketing channel options now it can be hard to decide where you should invest to get the most bang for your buck. According to the DMA’s 2017 “Response Rate Report,” direct mail continues to provide the best response rate. The cost per acquisition rate is higher than other channels, but it is worth it.

direct mail
Creative Commons license. | Credit: Pixabay by Alexas_Fotos

There are so many marketing channel options now it can be hard to decide where you should invest to get the most bang for your buck. According to the DMA’s 2017 “Response Rate Report,” direct mail continues to provide the best response rate. The cost per acquisition rate is higher than other channels, but it is worth it.

Keep in mind that the best marketing is done through multiple channels, so make sure you are able to track each channel’s results. Use the ones that work best for you.

Almost all business types currently use direct mail and benefit from it. So, let’s get into the details the DMA found in its report of what they are doing that is working.

  • Postcards — A house file had a 5.7 percent response rate with an ROI of 29 percent and prospect file had a 3.4 percent response rate with an ROI of 23 percent.
  • Letter Sized Envelopes — A house file had a 4.37 percent response rate with an ROI of 29 percent and prospect file had a 2.5 percent response rate with an ROI of 23 percent.
  • Flat Sized Envelopes — A house file had a 6.6 percent response rate with an ROI of 37 percent and prospect file had a 4.9 percent response rate with an ROI of 30 percent.

They do not track rates for self-mailers or booklets, I am not sure why. The two most common uses for direct mail are direct sale and lead generation, and no matter the use, a flat size envelope wins. So how are companies tracking their direct mail results?

  1. Online 61 percent of companies are tracking online with the use of PURLs, landing pages and more.
  2. Phone  53 percent of companies track phone calls to either a call center or designated location.
  3. Code or Coupon  42 percent of companies use coupons or codes to track.

They also use, at much smaller rates, matchback, linked sales transactions, list coding and others. There is no right or wrong way to track, do what works best for you. The most important thing is that you are tracking your results.

Now, are you curious about volumes of mail? Based on monthly volume, companies are doing the following:

  • 50,000 or less = 39 percent for a house list and 36 percent for a prospect list
  • 50,001- 150,000 = 21 percent for a house list and 15 percent for a prospect list
  • 150,001 – 250,000 = 16 percent for a house list and 12 percent for a prospect list

Finally, let’s look at cost per format:

  • Letter: $22.55 for a house list and $39.75 for a prospect list
  • Postcard: $14.60 for a house list and $29.70 for a prospect list
  • Flat: $29.30 for a house list and $31.90 for a prospect list

As you can see from these numbers, direct mail can really be a benefit to your marketing. If you have done direct mail before but not recently or if you have not used direct mail before, you need to make sure that your final designs meet postal regulations. There is no reason to pay extra postage when you don’t have to. Your mail service provider can help you navigate the regulations and facilitate your direct mail campaigns. Are you ready to get started? Your prospects and customers are waiting to hear from you.

Using Content to Bridge the Sales-Marketing Divide

Too often in content marketing circles — and marketing circles in general — we see a separation between the work marketers do and what their counterparts in the sales department do. That’s not healthy.

Too often in content marketing circles — and marketing circles in general — we see a separation between the work marketers do and what their counterparts in the sales department do. That’s not healthy.

Combating that issue can be a tough nut to crack — really tough if the culture in your organization is wrong. But there is something you can do to route around at least some of the problems this rift creates, even if you can’t get the Hatfields and McCoys to lay their muskets down on anything else.

Content to the Rescue

The key to getting anyone’s attention is helping them solve a problem. Reaching out to offer your sales team content can help them solve problems that they undoubtedly experience every day.

Before you start, though, you may want to assess just how relations are between sales and marketing. If the atmosphere is particularly chilly, you might try this outside official channels. That is, approach a friendlier member of the sales team and treat this as a pilot program.

Getting to Go

Your initial pitch shouldn’t be a pitch at all, but a question: When you’re able to get a prospect’s ear, what’s the one question they want to answer most urgently? If you have a piece of content that already answers that question, offer it up and suggest how the sales person might present it to a prospect based on what kind of contact, if any, has already occurred. (Being careful not to overstep your marketing bounds into sales territory, of course.)

If you have the technical capabilities, you might even customize a landing page with the content to include the prospect’s name and company logo, and tailor the offer or lead magnet to their needs specifically.

Obviously, this only works for bigger ticket sales, but the same idea can be applied to smaller, more commoditized sales if you segment your list by industry or the prospect’s role and create content or landing pages for each. (A payroll clerk is going to have different concerns about your accounting software package than a CFO will, for example.)

Drip, Drip, Drip

Once you’ve established a relationship, you’ll need to nurture that relationship — folks who are excellent prospects may not be ready to buy right when you initially connect with them.

Content comes to the rescue again as you work to stay on the prospect’s radar until he or she is ready to act. Sending content that is relevant to the prospect’s pain point is a much better way to stay in touch than the dreaded, ignored, and unproductive “just checking in” email or call. The content should also be relevant to your solutions, but this is absolutely not the place to be selling. Not even a soft sell. Focus on being useful and providing actionable information.

Track and Expand

If you undertake this behind the scenes, be sure to stay in close contact with your sales department champion. You should both be tracking what content is being used and how it is being received. With solid data in your pocket, you can expand the program and begin looking at expanding your collaboration from guiding use of content you’re already creating to creating custom content expressly for the needs of a particular part of the sales team or a particular sales effort. (Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-way street. You’ll be providing great value to your sales department and at the same time, getting great data back from them that should guide your broader content marketing efforts.)

Bridging the sales/marketing gap should improve your organization’s bottom line and increase demonstrable ROI for your marketing team.

Crossing the Line Creates Cross Customers

It’s no new news that brands track our purchases and then send us coupons, promotions, special offers and “news” that fit our shopping patterns. That’s cool. Bring it on as, in most cases, we win with worthwhile discounts, loyalty rewards, and such that pay off in one way or another.

retargeting
“ad,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Eugene Peretz

It’s no new news that brands track our purchases and then send us coupons, promotions, special offers and “news” that fit our shopping patterns. That’s cool. Bring it on as, in most cases, we win with worthwhile discounts, loyalty rewards, and such that pay off in one way or another.

We expect this kind of personalized communications for simple products bought at Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon and so on. In most cases, we all know its happening, and its okay because its data that is not threatening. Who cares if Walmart knows I buy Newman’s spaghetti sauce, or that I have a fetish for glitter green nail polish? Right?

But, with all of the new technology available to track, monitor and influence consumers’ purchasing behavior in real-time, the game is changing.

We now are being listened to on our social sites so Facebook and others can serve us up ads for products we just browsed and might have left in our shopping cart, upping its profits if the social network can get us to go back and buy.

And we are being watched by big data users when we go to the store physically — not just online.

And for most — myself, included — this doesn’t feel so good.

Consider this: When out of town, shopping at a store where I don’t usually shop, I bought mouse traps as I unwittingly let one of these unpleasant creatures in my house. That night, while opening up the Solitaire app on my iPhone to help me find sleep, an ad for that very brand and type of mousetrap appeared on my phone. Odd, but I noted that someone was possibly tracking my purchases via my credit card and then appending that to my phone. Okay. Not what I signed up for, but I understood it — at least for this one purchase.

Then consider this: My husband went to the store and used his credit card to buy a little-known brand of gluten free bread — two uncommon variables, right there. Within the hour, an ad for that very brand and product showed up on MY phone, not his, but MY phone. Suddenly “watching” my purchases and those of my family is not okay with me any more, and it conjured up a lot of “what ifs.”

What if:

  • My husband had just bought me a 2-carat sapphire ring and wanted to keep it a surprise?
  • What if my husband had just bought medication for an illness he had not told me about yet?
  • And what if I were advertising my house on VRBO for holiday rentals and somehow my phone number on the listing was associated with that mousetrap purchase and all potential renters saw an ad in their side bar about mouse traps? That could conjure up a lot of yucky feelings, unconsciously, which could be unintentionally associated with my listing.

The list goes on … and so do:

The Questions All of Us Marketers Must Ask Ourselves

At what point does data tracking, customer profiling and targeted, automated marketing cross the line from “personalized customer service and care” to “creepy, stalkerish behavior” that makes consumers feel exposed, vulnerable and just downright uncomfortable?

How you answer this question and adapt your automated marketing messages and campaigns is critical. You might argue that our devices are anonymized and that brands really don’t know who goes with what IP address or device codes. But is this really accurate in terms of the possibility to pinpoint specifics about individuals? Consider the following example from an article posted on DeZyre.com.

An office supply store sent a customer a promotional letter and set up the personalization process to reference a personal detail or transaction on the envelope. In this case, that personalized envelope “teaser” was “Daughter killed in car crash.” That was not information he had opted to share with this office supply store, and clearly not information that was related to anything the store needed to know to offer him more laser pointers or copy paper at a discount. It is information that clearly was gleaned from other sources about his personal life and potentially legal or government records; which, clearly, he did not volunteer to a store for customer service purposes.

Be Honest — With Yourselves

Again, managers and servers of big data maintain that their promotional messages are sent to devices that are anonymized, so no secrets are revealed and consumers are not exposed. But at the end of the day, is it really? Any database that has customer transactions that also contains devices, IP addresses and names can be tracked back to an individual. Just ask the FBI, CIA, Mueller and any other investigative unit.

And is it really anonymized when social listening takes place? Track your conversations online and see what ads pop up shortly thereafter.

Beyond asking yourselves where you should cross the line, ask consumers how they feel about ads that “creep” up outside of personalized coupons you send via an opt-in program. I did just that on my Facebook page and here’s what came back from consumers:

  • “Scary and happening more frequently. Not okay.”
  • “It bothers me to no end. Once I started noticing it, I have become increasingly aware of it and it scares the $%^( out of me.”
  • “If I don’t sign up for it, it bothers me.”
  • “I always find it creepy when I’ve been looking/shopping for something and all of a sudden I get an ad for it.”
  • “Time to live off the grid and pay cash.”
  • “This is very scary.”
  • “No way!”

If consumers are scared of what you know about them, its time to rethink that proverbial line. Don’t cross it just because you can or because you’ve invested in the technology that automatically delivers those ads, so you have to use it fully to get your promised ROI. Think about how you can use this amazing data and technology for real-time marketing across devices and channels in ways that actually please customers vs. scare them, like inviting them to opt in like we have for so many other channels.

It’s not just a courtesy to involve customers in the decision to watch them in order to serve them really relevant timely ads, it’s critical to our future as an industry. How? Because if we don’t do it, we will likely increase more of those opt-outs and even legal regulations that will force us to stop communicating despite honest and good intentions we might have.

Consequences for Marketers

Think about it. Consumers have spoken up about getting harassed on the phone by opting into the “do not call” list. Consumers have shut down unwanted emails by advocating against spam and assuring they have a choice to opt out. Brands that spam are blacklisted and shut down by email servers as a result.

Just these two examples of consumer backlash have impacted the way we communicate with consumers and laws have been passed that we can’t get around. If we continue to serve “anonymized” ads to personal devices on apps that are personal, like my Solitaire game, are we setting ourselves up for more regulation — in addition to increased opt-outs for “permission” marketing from more angry, frustrated consumers who leave our brand to patronize one that doesn’t follow their every move?

As marketers, we have a big responsibility not to just do our jobs and fuel sales and lifetime value, but to consumers and our customers to preserve what matters most to them: anonymity, privacy and security.

Curious about your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Please post your thoughts, suggestions and ideas for how we can continue to use the power of personalization, big data and automated marketing for the greater good? (The greater good for us and our happy, lifelong customers.)