Tag Archives: multichannel

Peer-to-Peer Mail

5 Oct

Software provider Centage addresses a letter to financial executives from its own chief financial officer

When mailing to a business audience, it’s always a challenge to get a package through the mail room, passed the administrative gatekeeper and into the right person’s hands.

Yet, getting into the decision maker’s hands is only half the battle. Once the busy executive has your message in hand, your mailing needs to immediately resonate with her or it goes straight into the recycling bin.

In its April mailing advertising Budget Maestro software, a financial management tool, Centage vied for credibility and relevance by tailoring its message specifically to its audience of financial managers.

The package arrives in an 11″ x 17″ kraft envelope with only a plain business address label. Enclosed are a one-page letter and a four-page, 8-1/2″ x 11″ glossy brochure. There is no reply device in the mailing, because the call to action directs prospects to call an 800 number or go online to find out more about the product and sign up for a 30-day trial or webinar (Archive code #836-699110-0907).

To establish credibility and relevance, the letter opens with a personal touch: “Dear Britt, Everyday senior financial executives like you, are analyzing their financial results … You’ve got to keep a tight handle on expenses and cash flow.” This “you-oriented” copy shows the prospect how Centage understands her professional role and how it can help meet her needs.

Another strength of the letter is that it’s written from Centage’s chief financial officer, John Orlando. Holly Intravia, director of marketing for the Natick, Mass.-based software provider, says that in the past she’s tried sending letters from the director of sales, but using the CFO as the signer adds a lot more credibility to the letter. There is also a paragraph about how Orlando was personally involved in developing the software to ensure it meets a CFO’s needs. “It adds some validity that our own CFO was involved in the product and is interested in sharing and educating prospective CFOs about the solution,” Intravia says.

In addition to the letter, a four-page, colorful brochure also addresses the financial executive’s needs head-on. “The brochure gives me an opportunity to convey more salient information in a different way than just a text-on-a-white-background letter,” Intravia shares. Budget Maestro’s benefits are clearly outlined throughout the brochure, along with snapshots of the software’s dashboard and reporting, to give prospects an image of what they can expect from the product. The copy, much like the letter, highlights how the product can help “you”—a financial officer—meet your goals.

There are bold, graphic calls to action throughout the brochure, and prospects have a choice of four responses: visit a landing page for a free 30-day product trial, visit a second landing page for a free webinar, call an 800 number or visit Centage’s homepage. The various calls to action help Centage determine where the prospect is in the buying cycle. “CFOs or controllers or VPs of finance don’t usually take that much time out of their day unless there’s some real interest in evaluating solutions,” Intravia says. For example, if a prospect signs up for a 45-minute webinar or a product test drive, he may be further along the buying path than someone who simply calls or visits the homepage.

When a prospect responds to the direct mail piece, the information is integrated into Centage’s CRM system, and a sales representative follows up with him. The company uses a tracking code and customer-provided data to attribute online responses to the direct mail campaign and to more accurately calculate ROI for the mailing. Intravia also says she does some email marketing to nurture those leads who come in through the mail and get them to sign up for a webinar.

Doing the work of a lift note, a Q-and-A on the back of the brochure, titled “5 Questions All CFOs Want Answered,” allays prospects’ doubts about the product. “You’re trying to anticipate their thinking, ‘OK, this sounds great, but how much time is it going to take? How much is it going to cost?’ … They’re reading the brochure and formulating these questions in the background, so now you’ve anticipated their questions and tried to put some answers to them,” Intravia comments.

Centage has been mailing a variation of this package for a few years, having also tested a postcard, a 6″ x 9″ self-mailer and a one-page letter with a 8-1/2″ x 11″ insert. This year’s mailing will determine how the larger, four-page 11″ x 17″ brochure will perform against last year’s smaller insert. Along with monthly direct mail drops from April through September, the company also advertises online and engages in email and telemarketing campaigns.

While it is too soon to calculate this year’s results, Intravia says the campaign is on track to perform as well as it did last year. She shares that past direct mail campaigns have brought in as much as a 300 percent total return on investment in revenue. “It’s much more than a breakeven,” Intravia notes.

Intravia plans to use her direct mail marketing’s healthy ROI to test more vertical messaging in next year’s mailings. Using design templates to produce variations on the mailing, she wants to address different industries’ needs with specific copy. “There’s certain industries where we’ve had a lot of success … I would want to test this package with very industry-specific messages. How our solution, the Budget Maestro product, can be tailored to help them budget for their particular industry needs,” she describes. The only challenge, she reveals, is finding new lists and further segmenting her lists to get enough volume and quality for a good return on a vertical mailing.

IDEA IN ACTION: Benefits of a One-Page Letter
You may be lucky enough to get your business mailing onto the decision maker’s desk, but you need more than luck to actually get your letter read. One tip to appeal to busy executives is to keep your sales letter short and sweet. “People are very busy these days, and there’s a lot of competition for their attention … So I think that a one-page letter, getting to the point as soon as possible, with the language that resonates with their daily challenges is sufficient to motivate them to take some action,” says Holly Intravia, director of marketing for Centage. “If you’ve got something attractive, interesting and engaging, and your message is right on, that’ll motivate the prospect to call you or go online to your website,” she adds.

(Originally published in October issue of Inside Direct Mail.)

Advances in Multichannel Fundraising

18 May

I’ve spoken to experts and written about the effect Obama’s campaign had on online and multichannel fundraising. Now that Obama for America has revolutionized political fundraising the field looks completely different- compared to just a couple of months ago.

Looking back through my archives, I found an article written in December of 2007 about political fundraising direct mail. Here’s what one expert had to say then:

New technologies and multichannel campaigns have not yet significantly impacted the tried-and-true methods of political fundraising direct mail. “Our industry tends to lag behind the curve in terms of the tactics and the tools that are available,” says Brett Feinstein, partner, Pound Feinstein & Associates, a Richmond, Va.–based full-service fundraising agency.

Who knew that Obama for America would raise half a billion dollars online? I don’t think anyone anticipated the magnitude of that campaign and its impact on future political fundraising. To read more about this- check out the two part article:

The Obama Effect: 10 Takeaways for Multichannel Fundraisers

The Obama Effect Part II: 10 More Takeaways for Multichannel Fundraisers

Trigger Happy

15 May

Trigger campaigns are becoming a direct marketing staple, with new technologies available and consumers increasing expectations for responsible, relevant messaging

In November 2007, Facebook.com—a social networking site with more than 67 million active users—launched Facebook Beacon, an advertising technology that used customer activity to trigger ads within the social network for services and products. If a Facebook member were to purchase movie tickets on Fandango.com, a listing would appear on Facebook to share news of this purchase with all of these members’ social networks. Ultimately, due to privacy issues, the technology was poorly received by Facebook users and scaled back to an opt-in feature.

With recent reports of a decline in Google search ad clicks, a trigger-based marketing solution like Beacon appears ahead of its time. It illustrates where direct marketing is headed: into a multichannel trigger environment, where a prospect’s experience is tailored to suit her preferred platform, needs, affinities and past purchasing behaviors.

Where Do Triggers Come From?
What defines a trigger campaign is its focus on a timely event to produce a 1-to-1 communication that responds to said event and is, therefore, highly relevant to the consumer. Marketers can use internal triggers from a customer’s recent behaviors and purchases, append external triggers from other list and public information sources, or even address external consumer holidays or purchasing seasons like Back to School with specific communications. Jeff Haggin, CEO and president of Mill Valley, Calif.–based Haggin Marketing, suggests there are also natural triggers embedded in a customer’s life cycle—new customers, current customers and lapsing customers can all be sent appropriate offers reflecting their customer experiences.

“Trigger campaigns have been going on for a long time; they just haven’t been called that. New homeowner marketing, for example, has been around for decades. The word trigger has only been in the lexicon for probably the last eight to 10 years,” says John P. Riley, president and CEO of Poway, Calif.–based Trigger Direct. Advances in digital printing and greater mastery of e-mail communications, however, has made the 1-to-1 technology faster and easier to employ and track. “Marketers have always targeted based on geographics and demographics. Then in the ’90s, you started to see a lot of psychographic targeting … but event triggering is sort of like the layer above that where the variable of time is included. So suddenly, when a certain event occurs, marketers can reach those prospects at just the right time,” Riley describes.

Benefits … and Dangers
Trigger campaigns offer speed, efficiency, timeliness, relevance and, as a result, a greater potential ROI. “Your response rate is higher because it’s relevant. So your ROI is better, and that’s one of the huge benefits,” Riley says.

Advances in digital printing, are making the technology more feasible for small companies and national companies alike. “We work with a retailer that only mails about 400 to 500 pieces per week. They’re getting a response rate on average of about 4 percent and as high as about 8 percent some weeks, and their ROI for every dollar spent on a marketing campaign is $16 in revenue,” Riley notes. In a recent test that Direct Group managed for a financial services firm, Don McKenzie, president and CEO of the Pennington, N.J.–based printer and fulfillment company, says that trigger mailings boosted the company’s response rate from .5 percent to 5 percent.

“The beauty of it is—you react or communicate with the customer based on something they did. I think customers generally appreciate that fact and tend to have a higher level of interaction than if something comes unsolicited in the mail,” says John Giusti, vice president of small business marketing at Staples. “It’s relevant mail; you’re cutting down a lot less trees. It’s received by the recipient much more warmly than junk mail—it’s the exact opposite of spam,” Riley adds.

While there is some concern that like Facebook’s Beacon, trigger marketing may pose privacy threats, most marketers feel comfortable pursuing responsible trigger-based approaches. “If you start to stray outside of core [marketing] principles too much, then I think you might start to run into privacy issues and things like that, but it really depends on the company and how they’re using the data,” Giusti says.

Where to Begin?
Most businesses already have a great amount of data that can be optimized in trigger campaigns. “A lot of database marketers like me, we always salivate at how much data these companies have that they don’t use,” Riley says. Looking at transaction-level details, Haggin suggests, will help define a customer’s history and experience with your company.

“Try to make the cream-of-the-crop work first; that’s where the greatest benefit and value will occur. Direct marketers who have in the past used one control package ought to start personalizing and versioning the existing vehicle for best customers,” says Haggin, who also finds value in using analytics to highlight cross-selling opportunities within your database. “Do some analysis to find out, ‘If people bought product X, what is the propensity to buy product Y? What is the No. 1 product Y?’” he says.

“You want to commit a certain amount of time and energy to [trigger marketing] because often the quantities are really small and the economies of scale don’t work as elegantly—so it may take multiple mailings or marketing initiatives to achieve a sample size large enough to evaluate,” Riley cautions.

To guarantee a high enough ROI to offset the cost of rolling out and establishing a testing baseline, be sure that the campaign is not just another customer touch, but has a distinct offer and marketing goals. “When you’re thinking about a trigger campaign, you need to be thinking, ‘What do I exactly want to come out of this? What can my level of engagement be with the customer? And, ultimately, what action do I want that customer to take?’” Giusti says.

Silos and Setup

If you’re appending external data onto your customer file, then the setup is simple. “It’s easy. You hire a vendor, who will acquire the data, run a direct mail campaign and then the advertiser’s phone just rings. As the prospects enter into the company’s CRM system, eventually they close that business, and it enters their financials,” summarizes Riley, who adds that the only time you need to get interested in a detailed setup with the data is if you’re doing internal triggers.

For internal triggers, the challenge lies in developing a cohesive approach across several marketing specialties. “You have the classic challenge of right brain versus left brain and analytic-type people trying to translate results and findings over-the-transom to the people that are doing the creative and production work … it’s just plain, hard work, and you need deeply experienced people across the disciplines to work together,” says Haggin, who advises employing a team experienced in deep database marketing analytics.

From the vendor’s point of view, McKenzie says, “If we take on a brand new client, who had not been involved in trigger-based printing in the past, there would be a normal transition time in learning about their data and understanding how they want to mail. But once we’d gone through that normal transition, then literally we can start doing trigger mailings immediately.” He adds that with a setup in place, production time is reduced from about four weeks for a traditionally printed campaign, to a couple of hours or days for a digitally printed, completely variable campaign.

The Full Integration of Triggers
Haggin Marketing developed a full-scale trigger campaign for its client eBay, which involves online and offline 1-to-1 pieces. “For eBay, we have been mailing catalogs versioned based on product affinity … so there are a number of different versions of a catalog that we create, and we’ll change four-color [treatment] and make the front-end appeal based on recent purchasing history,” Haggin explains. If a customer purchased mainly women’s shoes, the catalog’s cover and opening spread would be set up to lift that product. The catalog is also personalized with the prospect’s name and a pURL, which leads to a unique landing page reflecting the same product affinities and personalization.

Trigger campaigns can also incorporate other online features like product ratings and customer-service feedback. “When a customer buys something, we will go back out there with a trigger-based campaign to ask them to rate that item,” says Giusti, who also notices a trend in using service experiences as a trigger opportunity to reconnect with the customer to gain feedback and show appreciation.

Riley has incorporated time-tested direct mail techniques into a multichannel trigger campaign. “We’ve been able to take three-step letter sequences—like a collection letter sequence where you are able to turn the negatives into positives—then overlay it on top of an event trigger, and we’ve gotten really good results,” Riley says.

Trigger’s Bright Future
Trigger-based marketing is integral in rounding out a multichannel campaign and moving forward with online and mobile technology. McKenzie believes that trigger-based mail volume will increase to become at least 5 percent to 10 percent of total mail volume by the year 2010. To offer this valuable service, Direct Group is the first U.S. company to invest in an Océ JetStream 2200 system, a digital press which enables full front and back variability in four colors at high speeds and quality. “The Océ system will enable our clients to leverage three significant and converging industry trends—the rapidly increasing adoption of trigger-based mailings, the availability of revolutionary digital printing technology and the demand for more effective postal strategies to combat recent and future rate increases,” McKenzie says.

“This whole 1-to-1 future that’s being realized finally—it’s going to get more and more targeted, and costs are going to come down. There’s an unstoppable trend toward greater personalization and more relevant marketing messaging, so that we as marketers can reach individuals and provide opportunities to buy products and services that people have a real and true affinity for and desire and need for,” Haggin concludes.

(Originally published in Inside Direct Mail, May 2008)

A Hybrid Call to Action

15 May

Netflix successfully blends word-of-mouth, mail and online in one offer

In 1938, when Orson Welles adapted H.G. Wells’ novel, “The War of the Worlds,” for radio, it sounded like a real-time news broadcast. Millions of listeners went door-to-door notifying their neighbors of the “invasion,” causing a panic.

The influence that peers had on one another during Welles’ broadcast is an early predecessor to the word-of-mouth campaigns marketers use today.

Netflix, the world’s largest online movie rental service, has built word-of-mouth into its direct marketing campaigns using a tell-a-friend direct mail offer. The offer must travel from the Netflix member’s mailbox, into a friend’s hands and then finally push that friend online in order to close the loop. It is a combined multichannel and word-of-mouth effort at play.

In March, Netflix mailed the tell-a-friend offer to current customers in a 4-3⁄4˝ x 7˝ three-paneled self-mailer. “The tell-a-friend campaign … that’s an extension of the members evangelizing the service themselves; we’re facilitating that evangelism,” says Steve Swasey, VP of corporate communications at the company’s Los Gatos, Calif., headquarters (Archive code #127-692231-0805E).

To get members to open the piece, copy on the back of the outer panel announces, “You Get Free Movies When Your Friends Try Netflix.” Inside the postcard are four spot-glued “Free Month Trial” cards, each with a URL and unique priority code for redeeming the offer. For each trial card activated by a friend, a member receives one extra DVD in her stream of rentals.

Ease of use makes the offer work, as the cards are passed along from the direct mail recipient to a network of friends and family. “The wallet card … it’s designed so people can put it in their pocket, or put it in their purse and when it comes up in conversation, say, ‘Oh well here it is,’” Swasey illustrates. After distributing the card, the burden lies with the Netflix member, who may follow up with an encouraging call or e-mail to his card-holding friends to persuade them to activate the free trial offer, so the member can receive free movies.

Swasey believes that Netflix is today’s new “anchor mail”—an anticipated mailing which gets prospects out to check their mailboxes daily. “We’re a [mail] piece that people look forward to running out to their mailbox and getting,” Swasey remarks.

To align its direct mail marketing with the excitement members feel upon receiving their rentals, the tell-a-friend self-mailer is designed to resemble the red-and-white rental envelope. “It’s all consistency … we want to be the place you go for movie enjoyment made easy—just a great place connecting you with movies you love. So everything has to look the same, and when you see the red mailer, that’s an iconic piece of mail,” Swasey shares.

Unique priority codes on each trial card make this mailing completely trackable. Combining direct mail results with other internal research, Netflix reinforces the success of this marketing program. “We always poll Netflix members randomly about their satisfaction. We ask them what’s the likelihood that they will recommend Netflix to a friend, and more than 95 percent of our members tell us they recommend Netflix to friends,” Swasey reveals.

Netflix also employs traditional A/B tests to continually improve its efforts. “The beauty of Netflix is we can do a test cell of tens or hundreds of thousands of members overnight, because we’re an internet company, and we have all of that data. We have 8.2 million members, so we have hundreds of tests … It is a metrics-driven company, and it’s all done on the back of really sophisticated A/B testing,” Swasey describes.

While the results remain confidential, Swasey says the campaign is successful and will continue to mail. “We’re not doing anything at Netflix that isn’t returning a good ROI, retention of membership or growth of membership for us,” he concludes.

(Originally published in Inside Direct Mail, August 2008)