A Guide on Designing for Direct Mail

direct mail designIn a recent study, 50% of consumers reported that they pay more attention to direct mail than email, and online communications are less trustworthy than “snail mail”.

So with this built-in direct mail (DM) trust factor, it seems logical to maximize the quality of the DM we are producing so that we separate ourselves from the “noise” we sometimes find in our mailboxes.

Continue reading →

Blog Interview with Premiums Expert Amy Carichner

Amy CarichnerToday’s interview is with our business partner Amy Carichner from PrintWorks Etc. She specializes in print production and promotional items, and she also recently launched a t-shirt printing service at pweapparel.com. We asked Amy to share some of her knowledge about premiums which includes solid advice and tips – see below!

Continue reading →

Blog Interview with Marketing and Creative Expert Andrew Majewski

Andrew MajewskiToday’s interview is with a good friend of ours, and business partner, Andrew Majewski. Andrew is the principal and creative director at AdSpace Communications, a creative services agency. He has 15 years of creative and marketing experience, and so we pinned Andrew down for an interview in order to soak up some of that knowledge. Enjoy!


1. Quick bio — who are you and what do you do?


I am the principal and creative director of AdSpace Communications, Inc. — a creative services agency specializing in subscription/membership marketing — as well as the co-owner of TabletPapers; which provides turn-key iPad magazine and newsletter editions for publishers. My professional experience ranges from being a member of Publisher Clearing Houses’ in-house agency in New York and the VP of Marketing for an international vitamin company to providing project-based work for marquee brands like The Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports, etc. I’ve spoken at conferences across the country and in the UK on direct mail and social media and am also a frequent contributor to various trade journals.


2. What are the key ingredients of a winning direct mail effort?


The usual suspects include I.) a proven hot-list of rental names or the company’s own recent/former customers, II.) a compelling offer, and III.) actionable creative that stands out in the mail. As an agency head it’s my job to ensure these elements magnify each other on the path to success. An example would be reflecting any audience profile information associated with a particular name list (I.) the same way you would leverage other personalized data/messages within the creative (III.).

Seasoned marketers will attest to the fact that direct mail packages sent to former customers will out pull the same effort received by prospects. If the creative directly references the previous customer relationship those response rates raise even higher. The same thinking holds true when we reference preferences gleaned from the rental lists. In one A/B test, AdSpace Communications earned our client a 35% lift using such tactics. (So marketers should push their list partners for more information and urge their copywriters to compare it against the company’s audience/customer profile data.)


3. What is one results-driven direct mail marketing tip you can give us?


If you do not have a testimonial-gathering program in place, today’s the best day to start one! Third-party recommendations are powerful tools — especially if you can obtain them from a personality or media outlet of note.


4. What is your most successful direct mail campaign to date and why do you think it was so effective?


Two big wins come rushing to mind. The first was a campaign for Emerson College’s literary magazine that Ballantine already covered in this blog. While doubling response and increasing the average order size by over two-thirds was impressive, showing the client that direct mail is still a profitable acquisitions tool (even when prospecting to highly-educated names) was the real win. This is especially true in the age of GroupOn marketing that seems to disregard margins and a customer’s lifetime value.

The second success occurred a few years ago when I wore my VP of Marketing hat. Asking my staff “have we ever mailed to Canada?” led to record gains in this channel. As our direct competitors had never tested this tactic our mailings stood out by reaching an under-touched audience who weren’t as price sensitive as domestic prospects.


5. If you were forced to focus 75% of your time on design OR copy, which one would you choose and why?


The long answer: You know that friend that you’ve come to love but for whatever reason you thought was a total jerk the first time you met? Well a direct mail piece doesn’t have the luxury of being initially misunderstood but then picking up the check at dinner or dropping you off at the airport. The short answer: If forced, I’d focus more on design.

Font, image, and color choices all wordlessly communicate status, brand positioning, and the problem being solved by a particular product or service in seconds. In the same way an infographic or Facebook update with a photo gets more likes, expertly crafted copy — providing interest, demand, and a reason to take action — takes over in direct mail only once the recipient’s attention is captured.

(And, yes, future reader who disagrees and is about to leave a snarky message in the comment section below: I should have just hedged my bets and answered that typography is a key design element in its own right.)

Blog Interview with Direct Marketing Strategist Ted Grigg

ted griggWe’re very excited to share this new blog interview with you featuring direct marketing strategist Ted Grigg from DMCG. Ted shares an enormous wealth of knowledge in his answers below — and he also blogs regularly here. Enjoy!


1. Quick bio — who are you and what do you do?


As an independent direct marketing strategist, I bring deep and broad direct marketing experience to my clients.

In the last twenty-five years, I have spent several hundred million dollars on direct response advertising using all available channels including direct mail, telesales, broadcast, print, online marketing and permission email.

My successful campaigns run the gamut in many industries including managed care, insurance, finance, technology, telecommunications, fundraising, transportation and retail.

My clients get turnkey support starting with the test plan, the creative strategies, the offers, the actual creative development and concluding with project management to launch the campaign. Our clients get full analytics support to improve targeting and ROI.

I look forward to hearing from you either by phone at 972-459-6868 or by email at tedgrigg@dmcgresults.com to discuss any direct response or other marketing consulting opportunity without obligation on your part.


2. What is the secret to successfully planning a multichannel marketing strategy?


Well, I’m not so sure that it’s a secret. As with most things it takes experience, discipline, patience and no small amount of work.

To be more specific, I think success requires a focus on the important things.

For example, the offer impacts the response rate far more than creative execution, regardless of the channel. So when my clients test, I emphasize major issues such as offer testing as opposed to creative executions tests.

Direct mail formats do make a difference in response, but the offer and the lists carry far more weight.

Beating controls in DRTV, direct mail or any other channel also requires a thorough understanding of the customer’s motivations for responding or ignoring an offering. For reverse mortgages, as an example, are most respondents in a financial bind that forces such a financial arrangement, or are the clients’ best customers wanting to invest their house value in better investment opportunities?

Knowing the answer to that question dramatically impacts the offer development and the creative strategy as a whole.

I would conclude by saying that all channels require similar disciplines to win in the market place. Test the big things and direct you message to your target markets.

There is another important element to remember when targeting the same target markets with various channels simultaneously. Keep the messaging and offers consistent. This means that the client’s website supports the direct mail response and DRTV makes the same offer. Realize that many prospects today rely on several channels before responding.

There are some indications that the synergy between multiple channels generate better returns or lower costs per sale than single channels alone. Other analyses sometimes show that this is not the case.

When evaluating response, be aware of the cannibalization that occurs between channels. For example, direct mail often prompts a web search so the respondent calls the website phone number rather than the direct mail number. In this case, it is important to set up tracking that allows you to assign channel attribution accurately when evaluating channel effectiveness.


3. What metrics should marketers focus on when evaluating the backend analytics of a direct mail campaign?


The classic backend analysis looks at two numbers. The first is the cost per sale and the other is the cost per lead.

These are shortened to CPS and CPL (or CPI for Cost Per Inquiry). The CPS drives the CPL.

For example, if the CPL is $10 and the sales force converts those leads at a 10% conversion rate, then the CPS ends up costing $100 for each sale.

The first thing I do with my new clients is to agree on an allowable CPS. The way we word this is: “How much (and NOT how little) can you afford to spend per sale?” Some clients know that already, the less experienced say “As low as possible.”

The reality is that the client needs to make that number as high as possible to maximize circulation.

In other words, is the client really interested in making 10,000 sales a year with an allowable of $50 per sale for a 10X ROI, or would he prefer to make 100,000 sales a year at a $100 CPS for a 5X ROI? The answer is obvious. The second scenario yields a much larger over all profit and a more valuable business than the first scenario. Bottom line AND profits are both important


4. What do you consider to be the most effective approach to testing new direct mail formats?


In my opinion, the best way to approach formats is to begin with the understanding that there are essentially three formats with multiple variations.

1. The postcard or self-mailer that can be a single flat piece or one larger page folded over several times to form a self-mailer. The benefit: low cost and effective in retail, couponing, seminars and some lead-generation.

2. The classic envelope package includes at least a letter, a Business Reply Form or Business Reply Envelope (BRE) and possibly a brochure and other elements such as a lift-note or some type of involvement device such as a coin or something the recipient can feel when he holds the envelope. The benefit: usually the control format that beats 75-90% of postcards containing the same offer.

3. The catalog with multiple pages. The benefit: with abundant space the advertiser can sell multiple or complex items. Products are sold “off-the-page” in one step as opposed to two-step lead generation. Catalogs are becoming less common due to escalating postage and production costs. The Internet’s relative lower costs and speed to market have bitten into catalog volumes.

Rarely will format alone beat an existing control by 25% or more as sometimes seen with offer and product testing. There are exceptions, of course. But as mentioned earlier, focus on the offer and the lists for breakthroughs. Avoid self-mailers unless you’ve proven their worth through previous testing against the strong classic envelope package.

Another point to bear in mind. Production costs are now less than 35-40% of the total package costs. Postage and list rental costs have increased at a faster pace than printing, database preparation and lettershop charges. So it pays to add costs to production that you suspect will increase response rates. I often find that adding useful elements and personalizing the direct mail package increase overall response rates.


5. What do you think is the future of direct mail marketing?


I think it depends on what direct marketing means. To me, direct marketing is a specific strategy that requires a response on a one-to-one basis to qualify as direct marketing.

This means that direct mail may or may not be a direct response piece if it’s not evaluated based on a CPS or CPL basis. In fact, any channel that elicits a direct response is direct marketing.

In my opinion, direct marketing is the future as defined above.

The Internet is at least 70% direct marketing. The Internet channel has been a boon to direct marketers because we know what gets response, how to test and have a better grasp of customer management (CRM) and database marketing than most Internet marketers.

But getting back to direct mail, I see a real future there. Email marketing is now useless as an acquisition tool for most clients (though critical in CRM) as it gets overrun by spam and is overused by lazy marketers.

Direct mail, on the other hand, has become the Cadillac of marketing because weak and fly-by-night companies cannot afford direct mail. In a real sense, direct mail remains a strong response channel but now supports a company’s brand better than ever before.

Blog Interview with Audience Development Expert Mike Popalardo

BallantineBlogJul2013We’re very happy to announce that today’s blog interview is with audience development expert Mike Popalardo from Next Steps Marketing. Mike is both a friend and a business partner. He shares some great tips and insight below so let’s dive right in!

1. Quick bio — who are you and what do you do?

I am one of the co-Founders and Principals of Next Steps Marketing. I started my career in New York at a few of the big multi-title magazine publishers – Hachette Filipacchi, Fairchild Publications and Ziff Davis Publishing in what was then called Circulation and is now widely referred to Audience Development. After spending 9 years at Miller Freeman/CMP, Inc in San Francisco, 4 of us got together to found Next Steps Marketing. On a day-to-day basis we work with magazines, non-profits and B2B clients to help them build, implement, and analyze their AD strategy, programs and processes. In this regard we are ‘platform agnostic’. We use a variety of methods including direct mail, email, strategic partnerships, PPC campaigns and social media to accomplish our goals. Inbound Marketing is proving to be an effective tool especially for B2B lead gen programs.

2. Why is audience development (AD) so important to the success of a marketing campaign?

To some extent the definition of AD, as far as it relates to media properties, still hasn’t really solidified. It’s often used as simply a synonym for Circulation. Our perspective is that AD encompasses Circulation but it contains a broader set of activities which includes “priming the pump” to build an increasing level of interest in your magazine or product culminating in a sale.
It is harder to get potential customers to rapidly make a decision, taking them to the next step helps to cut through that resistance. This isn’t really a new idea but the increasing proliferation of digital platforms from the desktop, to tablets, and mobile devices has put customers squarely in the driver’s seat. We design and manage multi-step programs that capture and develop interest.

3. Are there any audience development “secrets” you can share with us?

One of the worst kept secrets is that for many sites the majority of visitors are still coming in via Google (or other search engines). What that means is that these visitors have no loyalty to your brand. They have basically come in to grab a piece of content and get out of there unscathed. You want to find ways to capture contact information (aka – valid email addresses) so that you can begin a conversation and ultimately sell them through a multi-step program.

Another is that ‘Subject’ and ‘From’ are the most important elements in getting your email opened. Consider writing a compelling subject line and then focusing on the body of the email rather than the other way around.

4. What are some common pitfalls when developing an audience?

It’s hard NOT to make a push for that direct sale in the first communication and let’s face it for some customers that is going to work which complicates how you market. It’s also common to forget to test email and other online campaigns. So I recommend starting right there, A/B test an offer email (A) against a 3 effort multi-step campaign (B) which is built to further engage your potential customer.

5. If you could give marketers just ONE tip, what would it be?

Just one. That’s hard. But this one is particularly appropos. Try not to get distracted by every ‘shiny new object’ that comes along. Determine which ones make sense to build out for your audience and focus or prioritize your efforts there. For example, a news publication may be better served by a well thought out Twitter strategy than a Pinterest strategy.