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    Direct Marketing Best Practices Revisited – Part 2

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    The great thing about the rule is that it has withstood the test of time. The rule however is facing its greatest challenge since being created by Mayer in the 1960’s. The emergence of the social economy has changed the way we receive and process information. We are literally assaulted with tens of thousands of messages daily. Without powerful creative, will your message have a chance of being noticed, regardless of your data? And if your message isn't noticed, how will your offer being received?

    I asked two industry veterans for their response to the question “do you think the rule of 40-40-20 still applies today or has creative grown in importance?” Their answers were interesting:

    Brian Courtney, Freelance Copywriter:
    “I think that creative has grown in importance because attention spans are shorter and there are more messages competing for that reduced attention time. We no longer have the luxury of a "gestational period" where the recipient will read the direct mail, then mull the concept until they have that light bulb "ah ha!" moment of understanding. If the creative is too abstract or obtuse, it will be immediately passed over. Today's concepts must yield instant recognition and message delivery – and yet still be creative. That's hard to do and it's the reason why so many otherwise good offers fail.”

    Allan Espiritu, Designer:
    “30-30-40 is more like it! As consumers, we are bombarded with a constant flow of information and media. The aesthetic design and execution, speaks loudly in a sea of flashing visuals and messages. More than ever, design plays an important role in getting your message to your audience. But only good design does that. You need creative work that thinks outside the box—design the re-contextualizes and reimages how to use traditional and foundational design elements. Consumers are smarter and are always constant motion, so only visuals that impress, challenge, or even slow them down will get their attention.”

    From my viewpoint as a marketer, while the platforms available to target customers have grown dramatically over the last decade, these advancements have simply changed the way we target, the way we make offers and the way we design our creative. We still must go after a clearly defined target with a compelling offer that is presented in a precise, accurate and timely manner. I know some of my peers would disagree and argue that the 40/40/20 rule was created when direct marketing was a primary means of reaching customers and there was not all this other “noise” competing for consumer’s attention. While this is true, I would challenge them that even with today’s integrated campaigns, data (list) can make or break a campaign and messaging (offer) must be compelling. The creative component is the piece that takes on more weight in order to cut through the clutter. But it’s not a question of either/or. The percentages may vary from the original intent of the rule but all three all important to be successful.

    The topic will continue to be debated as technologies and platforms continue to evolve and emerge. What is your perspective?  Email me at srowe@perfectprinting.com.
     

    A Creative and Noble Use of QR Codes

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    According to the report, it seems that someone has been stamping the Chinese currency, the Yuan, with a QR code. The bills then become scattered throughout Chinese society. For those that scan the code, it takes them to files that are stored on the cloud through Amazon services. By accessing the link users are able to access parts of the internet that are blocked by the Chinese government-built firewall. Because the link is through Amazon’s cloud, the only way that Chinese authorities would be able to block access to the sites would be by shutting down access to Amazons’ website. This would have significant political repercussions both domestically and internationally. Chinese users that have accessed the link have commented how they can now see the whole word through sites like You Tube.

    Centuries ago the Chinese built a great wall to keep invaders out of their country. This wall has stood the test of time. Today, the great firewall they have built in order to prevent an “information invasion” is being breached by a creative integration of print and electronic media.
     

    Photo credit: http://www.businesskorea.co.kr

    USPS Postage Increase Effective 1/26/14

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    Summary of the 2014 USPS postage rate increase:

    • First Class Letters (1 oz.) will increase by three cents to $0.49 from $0.46. Each additional ounce will cost an extra $0.21 (up one cent from 2013).
    • NEW! The USPS has introduced a new First Class letter rate for the "Metered Mail" category, which includes online postage providers and postage meters. This new rate would be $0.48, one cent below the retail rate of $0.49 for First Class Letters.
    • First Class Flats (1 oz.) will increase by six cents to $0.98 from $0.92. Each additional ounce will cost an extra $0.21 (up one cent from 2013).
    • Postcard rates will increase by one cent to $0.34 from $0.33.
    • Presorted Standard letters will increase to $0.30 from $0.28.
    • Non-profits letters will increase from to $0.18 from $0.17 with non-profit flats increasing to $0.40 from $0.36.

     

    For questions, please contact Joe Monchek, Perfect Printing Mailing Operations Manager at jmonchek@perfectprinting.com.

     

    Photo credit: http://cephuscorner.jadedragononline.com/

    Top 10 Direct Marketing Best Practices Revisited (Part 1)

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    1) List: For direct marketing, your list is not just a way to reach your market, it is your market. The list is possibly the single most important element to an effective direct mail effort. So it’s important to ensure your list is as accurate as possible. How was the list obtained? Is it a house list, compiled list or a direct response list (people who purchased or gave to a cause previously)? What do you know about the people on the list (demographics or buying behavior for example)? For business to business lists, it may be worth the resources to review each record against LinkedIn to check current position, title, etc. for accuracy. Also, consider running the list through an Address Verification System, such as CASS Certification, for further cleansing.

    2) Offer: The offer is also a critical element to a successful direct mail effort. An offer is what gets the reader to respond to your communication. Are you selling the offer? Is it relevant, specific and time sensitive. According to marketing guru Ed Mayer, the 40/40/20 rule of direct marketing is that 40 percent of your direct marketing success is dependent on your list, another 40 percent is dependent on your offer, and the last 20 percent is reserved for everything else, including how the material is presented.

    3) Format: (headline, opening and offer preview): The format of the direct mail piece can also impact response. Which works better – a letter mailer or a self mailer? The answer is it depends. Each format has certain advantages therefore different formats should really be tested.

    4) Call to action: Most direct mail pieces are not purely informational. Recipients are being asked to take action. Evaluate if there is a strong “ask”. In most fundraising letters, the “ask” should be positioned in the introductory paragraph.

    5) PS: Is the call to action and key benefit repeated in the post script? After the headline and first sentence, this is the most important part of the letter. According to wired.com, when people receive personal letters they read the salutation first and the P.S. next. Therefore, your P.S. should include your most attractive benefit, your invitation to action, or anything that inspires a feeling of urgency.

    6) Response Vehicle: Along with a strong call to action a response mechanism is needed. Is a written response joomla_4ice included? Are there other options to be considered such as a call bank ,URL, SMS, Twitter or other digital channel? For example, 2% of charitable giving was through a social media networking site (blackbaudnews.com).

    7) Envelope: The advantage of a closed-face envelope is that it looks like real personal or business mail. The advantage of the window envelope is that the recipient’s name and address can be imprinted or affixed to the reply element, which is positioned so that they show through the window – eliminating the need for the customer to write in his own name and address. According to directmarketingiq.com, results can vary. The only sure way to know which will work better for your business is to test. Consideration should also be given to ROI; does the increase in response outweigh the additional cost?

    8) Postage: While adding a first stamp postage stamp is not possible for ever budget, the cost benefit should be evaluated. Research confirms that mail with a stamp has a higher open rate than mail with a permit or meter imprint (blackbaud.com).

    9) Personalization: Is data being used to personalize the creative and copy? It’s been proven time and time again that personalized pieces have higher response rates than static direct marketing. The degree of personalization is a variable that can be tested.

    10) Test/Test/Test: Lastly, what variables are being testing against your control piece? How are they being measured? Never assume you know what will work.

    In Part 2 of this series, I will address whether the 40/40/20 rule as it relates to the impact of creative has withstood the test of time. In the meantime, we are interested in your findings. Please feel free to share them with me at srowe@perfectprinting.com.
     

    What’s Your Sign?

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    However, when designing effective signage, particularly for a retail environment, the following must be considered:

    Understand the audience: As with most communication vehicles, identifying the target market, their needs and your unique ability to address those needs is the first step is designing visuals and messages. The challenge with signage is the limited space to communicate your message. So messaging on signage must really hit the mark when speaking to the needs of the customer.

    Think about shoppers in a retail environment. There are many distractions in the store including their cell phone, children, etc. Retail signage must cut through clutter and make the information needed easily accessible.

    Keep it visible and legible: Less really is more. By keeping your message short, your sign is easier to see and read at a glance. Visibility is the most important part of your signage. The use of color (type, background and foreground), fonts and images should also be selected to improve visibility. Red is an effective color in signage.

    Keep it simple: Successful signage communicates a message concisely. The message should be conveyed in as few words as possible to your target audience.

    Placement is critical: Understanding traffic patterns of your target audience needs to be researched. The most effective sign is of no use if your target doesn’t see it.

    Do you have any additional tips on how to create effective signage? Let us know at marketing@perfectprinting.com.

    Learn more about our Wide Format and Specialty Imaging Capabilities for environmental and retail signage at www.perfectprinting.com/capabilities#wide-format

    The Wonderful World of Data

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    However, in today's rapidly changing environment, business owners, communicators and marketers representing companies and brands can no longer count on tradtional marketing techniques to reach intended audiences. Marketer's must now reach potential consumers and other members of their ‘community’ via targeted, personalized and meaningful messages. But the question remains, how?

    Enter the wonderful and often perplexing world of data. The very first step in formulating effective messaging begins with a basic understanding of modern data. Now we’re not talking about mega-data or crunching big sets of numbers over long periods of time to identify purchasing patterns and other outcomes; we’re talking about understanding basic data to gain insight into who is interested in your product or service and how to reach them.

    At Perfect we are often asked to analyze data sets on behalf of our clients to help them determine the best way to reach their clients via printed material. However, we recently looked inward to gain a better understanding of our own customers in an effort to communicate with them in a more targeted specific manner and this is what we discovered.

    – The average age of our contact and decision maker is 36 and predominantly female.
    – Our top thirty customers fall into one of four vertical markets including: Finance, Academia, Non-profit (both philanthropic and associations / professional societies), or Healthcare.
    – Additional and emerging clients can be found in the Retail, Apparel and Entertainment space.
    – The overwhelming majority of our top customers have both creative and in-house marketing teams.
    – Turnaround time, consistency across platforms, variable data and strategic insight are considered to be the main benefits in working with Perfect.
    – The majority of our customers are located within 45 miles of our facility (although we support global efforts for several clients)
    – The majority of our clients are either employed by, or have an understanding, of design, communications and marketing concepts and methodologies.

    These and other findings have helped shaped our communications to our client base in fun and interesting ways. For example, each and every year we print a deliver a Perfect calendar for our customers. This year we hired a local designer for the layout and an illustrator from Philadelphia to design the artwork for our gift (Click here to see illustrations). His renderings included illustrations of Ben Franklin riding on a Vespa, scenes from the Jersey Shore and a reference to the Pocono’s, all regional hallmarks that our audience could identify with.

    We are also in the process of joomla_4eloping an additional campaign that speaks to our customer’s professions but that hasn’t launched yet so you’ll have to wait to learn more about that program.

    In the end, it doesn’t take a scientist to cull through your data and identify opportunities for messaging. In most cases, the real work is obtaining the information in a way that makes sense (we simply identified buckets of information including addresses, industry, staff, purchasing history, etc.) in an effort to create what we call connection categories.

    Once the gathering of the data is complete a few identifiable trends should rise to the top and help you gain a better understanding of what your audience may want to see in your communication to them.

    For an article on understanding the intersection of consumer behavior and big data

     

    Photo credit: http://www.pronq.com/
     

    Governmental Data and Direct Mail

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    Certain industries and campaigns may find value in data that the government makes available at no charge. In December of 2009, the Federal government issued a directive to agencies within the government to post more information online. In addition, the Feds have encouraged municipal governments to do the same. A visit to www.data.gov provides a significant amount of data of public information that can be obtained at no charge. Datasets can be searched among communities like healthcare, education and manufacturing. Some municipalities have begun to post residential building permit applications. If you sell kitchen appliances, what better way to find out who is redoing their kitchen and may have a need for your product?

    While not all of the data can be targeted to an individual or household, the amount of data becoming publicly available will only continue to grow. A treasure trove of public data is available for those that can figure out creative ways in which to use it.
     

    Can QR Codes Be Revived?

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    Whenever something new comes out in the world of communications, marketers are scrambling to figure out ways to incorporate them into their various channels. Sometimes it works, but often I see a shoehorn approach, where the sleek, new shiny object is forced clumsily into an existing idea. Months later, the technology is deemed ineffective and many times the technology is abandoned. So it is with QR codes. In case you don't know, the QR code is the ugly little box that often appears on signage, brochures and anywhere else a blank space might appear on an otherwise less cluttered marketing message. The promise: Scan here with your mobile joomla_4ice and be rewarded with something wonderful! The payoff: Too often eager scanners were greeted by corporate websites-many not even optimized for the mobile joomla_4ice being used to scan the code. It's to the point where most people I know no longer even consider scanning a code. And why should they, when marketers haven't taken the time to give their audiences a proper reward for taking the time to interact with them?

    Well, just about when I was ready to declare the QR Code dead, I'm starting to see them used in very powerful and compelling ways. One example that got my attention lately was the Bowflex Upper Cut. The product, which is designed to teach people how to do a myriad of pushups, comes with a poster that shows each style of pushup and also has a QR code which leads the scanner to an instructional video to use the Upper Cut effectively. As a marketer, imagine the power of capturing scan information for future campaigns. As a user of the Upper Cut, imagine the impact of rewarding content and the satisfaction in a product whose value goes beyond the item in the box you received on your front porch.

    QR codes, like all new communication methods, are only as good as the planning and creativity that go into them. By taking the time to consider your audience and caring enough about their time and circumstances to reward them for interacting with your brand, you can build a solid community of brand advocates. Waste their time, and they will simply stop paying attention to you.

     

    Photo credit: http://www.columbian.com/

     

    Marketing and the New Healthcare Laws

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    For medical specialists, one of the best ways to gain new patients is through the referrals of other doctors. Recent studies have shown that 60% of patients trust to current doctor to provide good referrals. Having a program in place that builds a community with other physicians and makes them aware of specific services that can be offered is one way to increase the amount of referrals.

    A recent campaign from a cosmetic dentist that I came across illustrated the positive aspects of adding new patients. This dentist wanted to build referrals from other general dentists in his area that did not do the type of procedures that he offered to patients. To grow his practice he initiated a campaign that had the following goals:
    1) Increase awareness of his practice
    2) Establish relationships with other area dentists via a study club
    3) Gain specialty referrals from the area’s general dentists

    The campaign utilized direct mail, a personalized micro-site and follow up e-mails. One of the response incentives was the ability for responding dentists to participate in a network group that would allow them to meet face-to-face with their peers.

    Halfway through the campaign, the dentist was able to achieve a record year for referrals. The average annual value per referring dentist was $20,000, which made it easy to see how a community building program like this can quickly pay for itself many times over.
     

    Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives