One of the primary arguments against direct mail is the cost to get the campaign going. There are printing costs, postage costs etc, but looking at your direct mail budget as an expense is slightly flawed. View a direct mail budget as an investment not an expense since you should get your budget back in new sales. Measure the success of a direct mail campaign by measuring your return on investment (ROI). Does it really matter if you spend $10,000 on this month’s mailer if it brings you $25,000 in new business? It does if you don’t have $10,000 to spend.

There are a number of ways you can get that initial investment down so you can increase your ROI and make direct mail more affordable.

What can you do with your data list to prevent wasting money?

1. Don’t mail to people who don’t need your product – The single most effective way to keep costs down in a direct mail campaign is to reduce the number of people on your data list. Don’t mail to a general list. Every contact you mail to who don’t/can’t/won’t use what you are offering is a waste of money so you need to target your mailings. When you talk to a list broker make sure you are targeting demographics that are likely to care about your advertising. Don’t market a Mac Power Book to Bill Gates or pool cleaning services to someone who doesn’t have a pool.

2. 81¼A Goose Chase Circle Nowhere USA – It doesn’t matter if you buy, rent, or collect a list from customers you waste money with every direct mail piece sent to people who are no longer there. Delivery Point Validation (DPV) should be part of every data list process before your first stamp gets licked. Not that I suggest licking stamps. We have machines for that these days.

3. Jack moved last year –Before you apply your postage you need cross reference your list against the National Change of Address (NCOA). There is no reason to send Jack Hill’s mail to Jill Crown. You are just going to give Jill a headache and waste some money that could have been used to get Jack to buy the in-home water purification system.

Printing costs are second only to Postage costs so what can be done to keep those under control?

1. 11×17 Yeah, that will get their attention! – Paper is the number one cost of printing. The more pieces you get out of one sheet of paper the cheaper your mailer. It sounds simple but make sure you and your graphic designer know how your project is getting printed. Will it printed on a sheet fed printer or a roll printer? What the starting size of the paper? What is the usable print area? This simple series of questions should be asked before ink meets paper to keep cost down and efficiency up.

2. Gold leaf is pretty… – Paper quality directly affects the way your potential customer will persevere your product and company so you don’t want to use newsprint, but there is no reason to use the most expensive stock on the market. Ask about your paper options. Most printers have an in-house paper stock that they buy in great quantities so they get a very low price on it. Plus it’s probably very well suited for direct mail, and the finishing processes that add a professional touch.

3. What do you mean 4 color process , my mailer only has green on it? – Full color printing, aka 4-color process printing uses four colors of ink (Cyan Magenta Yellow Black) to recreate the spectrum of color we see. It’s needed if you want to print photos or more than 3 different colors on you mailer, but could you get your message across only using one, or two colors? Design your mailer using 1 or 2 spot colors an you could save money depending on how the piece is printed.

The big expense of a direct mail campaign is postage, but all postage is not the same.

1. First class or standard – The most obvious option you have is the class at which you want your mail to travel. First Class mail is the more expensive of the two, and it usually gets delivered in 1-2 days. It’s more likely to get opened since postal employees are instructed to make every effort to deliver fist class mail even if there is a missing component in the address. Standard Mail is less expensive, and delivery times vary between 2 -9 days. This is fine for anything that is not time sensitive but don’t use it if you want your mailer to get to an address on a certain day. Another concern is that the USPS doesn’t guarantee the delivery of standard mail. If the mail is undeliverable it’s likely that it will just get thrown away without notification.

2. It’s shaped like a teddy bear -The size and shape of your mailer affects the cost. There is nothing more frustrating that realizing you could have saved $0.13 per mailer if you would have reduced the size of piece by 1/8th of an inch. I know $0.13 doesn’t sound like much, but if you are mailing 2,500 pieces a week that adds up very very fast. Asking if you could get lower postage rates by making a small change to the size or shape of a mailer is always a good idea.

3. All postage is NOT the same, wait I said that already – A good mail house knows techniques that will reduce the cost you have to pay for postage. The USPS will discount postage costs if part of the work of delivering the mail is done before it gets into their hands. Ask about Co-palletization and Commingling to get volume discounts. Ask if you can get automated pricing. Ask about ways to save money. Postage costs are too complicated to explain in a blog post, but if you have questions leave me a comment and I will answer.

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One of the primary arguments against direct mail is the cost to get the campaign going. There are printing costs, postage costs etc, but looking at your direct mail budget as an expense is slightly flawed. View a direct mail budget as an investment not an expense since you should get your budget back in new sales. Measure the success of a direct mail campaign by measuring your return on investment (ROI). Does it really matter if you spend $10,000 on this month’s mailer if it brings you $25,000 in new business? It does if you don’t have $10,000 to spend.

There are a number of ways you can get that initial investment down so you can increase your ROI and make direct mail more affordable.

What can you do with your data list to prevent wasting money?

1. Don’t mail to people who don’t need your product – The single most effective way to keep costs down in a direct mail campaign is to reduce the number of people on your data list. Don’t mail to a general list. Every contact you mail to who don’t/can’t/won’t use what you are offering is a waste of money so you need to target your mailings. When you talk to a list broker make sure you are targeting demographics that are likely to care about your advertising. Don’t market a Mac Power Book to Bill Gates or pool cleaning services to someone who doesn’t have a pool.

2. 81¼A Goose Chase Circle Nowhere USA – It doesn’t matter if you buy, rent, or collect a list from customers you waste money with every direct mail piece sent to people who are no longer there. Delivery Point Validation (DPV) should be part of every data list process before your first stamp gets licked. Not that I suggest licking stamps. We have machines for that these days.

3. Jack moved last year –Before you apply your postage you need cross reference your list against the National Change of Address (NCOA). There is no reason to send Jack Hill’s mail to Jill Crown. You are just going to give Jill a headache and waste some money that could have been used to get Jack to buy the in-home water purification system.

Printing costs are second only to Postage costs so what can be done to keep those under control?

1. 11×17 Yeah, that will get their attention! – Paper is the number one cost of printing. The more pieces you get out of one sheet of paper the cheaper your mailer. It sounds simple but make sure you and your graphic designer know how your project is getting printed. Will it printed on a sheet fed printer or a roll printer? What the starting size of the paper? What is the usable print area? This simple series of questions should be asked before ink meets paper to keep cost down and efficiency up.

2. Gold leaf is pretty… – Paper quality directly affects the way your potential customer will persevere your product and company so you don’t want to use newsprint, but there is no reason to use the most expensive stock on the market. Ask about your paper options. Most printers have an in-house paper stock that they buy in great quantities so they get a very low price on it. Plus it’s probably very well suited for direct mail, and the finishing processes that add a professional touch.

3. What do you mean 4 color process , my mailer only has green on it? – Full color printing, aka 4-color process printing uses four colors of ink (Cyan Magenta Yellow Black) to recreate the spectrum of color we see. It’s needed if you want to print photos or more than 3 different colors on you mailer, but could you get your message across only using one, or two colors? Design your mailer using 1 or 2 spot colors an you could save money depending on how the piece is printed.

The big expense of a direct mail campaign is postage, but all postage is not the same.

1. First class or standard – The most obvious option you have is the class at which you want your mail to travel. First Class mail is the more expensive of the two, and it usually gets delivered in 1-2 days. It’s more likely to get opened since postal employees are instructed to make every effort to deliver fist class mail even if there is a missing component in the address. Standard Mail is less expensive, and delivery times vary between 2 -9 days. This is fine for anything that is not time sensitive but don’t use it if you want your mailer to get to an address on a certain day. Another concern is that the USPS doesn’t guarantee the delivery of standard mail. If the mail is undeliverable it’s likely that it will just get thrown away without notification.

2. It’s shaped like a teddy bear -The size and shape of your mailer affects the cost. There is nothing more frustrating that realizing you could have saved $0.13 per mailer if you would have reduced the size of piece by 1/8th of an inch. I know $0.13 doesn’t sound like much, but if you are mailing 2,500 pieces a week that adds up very very fast. Asking if you could get lower postage rates by making a small change to the size or shape of a mailer is always a good idea.

3. All postage is NOT the same, wait I said that already – A good mail house knows techniques that will reduce the cost you have to pay for postage. The USPS will discount postage costs if part of the work of delivering the mail is done before it gets into their hands. Ask about Co-palletization and Commingling to get volume discounts. Ask if you can get automated pricing. Ask about ways to save money. Postage costs are too complicated to explain in a blog post, but if you have questions leave me a comment and I will answer.

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by Heather Westgate, Chief Executive, TDA

It’s widely acknowledged that many direct marketers are earmarking greater portions of their budgets for online activity. The relatively low cost of digital media, combined with a capacity for more detailed measurement, makes it an attractive option in many ways.

However, anyone who thinks that their business can survive on search marketing and banner ads alone will probably be disappointed.

Digital marketing brings many opportunities for enhanced engagement, but you need to get people to visit one of your spaces – whether it’s your website, Twitter profile or another online hub – before interaction can begin.

Much of the time, offline channels remain the most effective acquisition tools and they play a valuable role signposting existing and potential customers online.

Direct mail, with its ability to engage one-on-one with customers, can play a particularly powerful part here. In some cases, it can actually be more appropriate and lead to greater cut-through.

It’s true that you might not always be able to prove exactly which press ad or which piece of direct mail prompted an online visit. Despite your carefully crafted easy-to-remember campaign URL, a potential customer may still have ultimately arrived via Google.

But you can’t attribute all the success – or the entire budget for that matter – to that last click. Successful marketing involves many touch points and chains of connectivity.

Axing your offline budget and diverting it all to digital would be like trying to run a car without an engine.

When developing a marketing communications strategy, it should never be about adopting an ‘either/or’ approach. It’s about customer insight, intelligent targeting and applying the best combination of channels, and the role of imagery and visual creative has a fundamental part to play here.

Some, for example, may prefer to read a physical rather than digital copy of a magazine – not only is it more portable, its ability to bring content to life with imagery and colour leads to a more stimulating and engaging experience for the reader.

Equally, a well-thought out direct mail campaign can drive online traffic and convert customers. The direct mail pack is, after all, tangible and can therefore create longer-lasting impressions on the recipient.

Direct mail’s ability to bring content to life with imagery and colour leads to a more stimulating and engaging experience.

Direct mail’s biggest strength is probably its ability to personalise a message. It’s also often more likely to spark an online visit than other forms of advertising such as press ads, as people who receive mail at home have instant access to their personal computers.

According to recent reports, neuroscience experiments support the theory that direct mail creates significantly longer-lasting impressions on certain areas of the brain compared with digital marketing, and could therefore have a bigger impact on a brand’s bottom line.

This has been backed up by research commissioned by Royal Mail, which showed that a physical piece of direct mail is significantly more multi-sensory than an online version, due to the increased number of senses which are triggered by simply holding something, rather than seeing it on a screen.

It’s important to remember too, that whilst the ultimate goal might be to sell, the more traditional offline tools can enable you to achieve steps such as building a brand, acquiring leads, or deepening an existing relationship.

A great example is an integrated campaign which we created recently for Cancer Research UK, so it could thank its regular donors for their support and show them the difference their help had made.

The mailing was designed to deepen relationships with supporters and inspire them to continue giving. It focused on personal stories about people local to each donor’s area who have battled with cancer, and on donors’ own motivations for giving.

Recipients were invited to visit the Cancer Research UK website to share their own stories. More than 2,000 recipients responded with their own stories, showing that the key aim of engagement had been achieved.

Many think that visual creative-based campaign marketing is living on borrowed time, but this denigrates the concept of integration.

When combined effectively with a digital strategy, the use of imagery and visual creative in direct mail can lead to a more compelling customer experience and more effective customer acquisition.

It should still be considered as a key component in any campaign strategy, but be reinforced with a significant presence across other channels, in order to shape the customer journey with maximum effect.

The secret to creating effective customer journeys – and therefore better ROI – is finding the right balance between push and pull marketing.

There isn’t a one size fits all solution, the ideal ratio ebbs and flows in line with the audience, the proposition and the business need.

Direct marketers need to embrace this approach with increased confidence and panache. Rather than thinking in terms of online and offline ‘matching luggage’, ROI should be the starting point, and how effective integration can help deliver it.

This in turn should spark a return to some of the core values and techniques of direct marketing – targeting, proposition development and strategic timing.

Over the next year or so, I expect to see a rise in sophisticated ‘test and learn’ activity exploring new and exciting ways to manage customer journeys across platforms.

The best direct marketers are those who are not tied to one approach and who communicate with today’s consumers, not at them.

Heather Westgate is Chief Executive of leading direct marketing agency, TDA.

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Originally posted by sumgould on Eye/Comm’s Blog

Direct mail is not the new kid on the block. However, it is very effective. Direct mail is seen as a non-intrusive form of marketing. When the piece arrives in the mail box, the consumer gets to decide when they want to read it. Mail is engaging. Consumers spend on average 10 minutes reading direct mail.

Of the 1000+ B2B marketing professionals surveyed by Marketing Sherpa, 79% found direct mail to be either effective or very effective. 72% of adults said they have replied to direct mail pieces that contained a “buy one, get one free” offer. This indicates that direct mail pieces with an irresistible offer will get results. It also indicates that the word “free” is more appealing to people than a discount.

Direct mail is a tangible form of advertising. It gives you a physical presence in your customer’s home or office, and can literally put your product in their hands. Mail can be targeted to reach very specific audiences – almost every individual, household and business can be reached by mail. Including direct mail in your marketing mix will yield a larger ROI.

The Green aspect of mail:

  • Direct mail is a green way to shop. If Americans replaced two trips to the mall each year with shopping by catalog, we’d reduce our number of miles driven by 3.3 billion—a 3 billion pound reduction in carbon dioxide and a savings of $650 million on gas alone.
  • Mail represents only 2.4% of America’s municipal waste stream.
  • The production of household advertising mail consumes only 0.19% of the energy used in the United States.
  • Mail is made from a renewable resource. The vast majority of paper produced in America today comes from trees grown for that specific purpose. The forest industry ensures that the number of trees each year is increasing, so trees are not a depleting resource. In fact, forest land in the United States has increased by 5.3 million acres in the past three decades.
  • Direct mail is critical to the economic well-being of communities, businesses and charities throughout the United States. Last year it represented more than $686 billion in sales, supporting jobs at more than 300,000 small businesses across the country.

So, as you can see, Direct Mail is an excellent marketing channel as well as a green process.

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The US Postal Service will launch a major advertising campaign in September seeking to promote use of the mail as a marketing tool by American businesses.

Postmaster General Pat Donahoe announced to the National Postal Forum this morning in San Diego that the campaign will target the sizable 75% chunk of US businesses that currently do not use the mail for advertising purposes.

The push to get advertisers on board comes as part of a USPS priority to boost the business-to-consumer channel to help counter a general decline in mail volumes.

The business-to-consumer channel is currently responsible for around 70% of its revenues and 80% of mail volume, but with three quarters of businesses not using the mail for advertising, Donahoe said there was a “major opportunity” for the Postal Service.

The campaign will include television spots and direct mail, building on the lessons learned from the USPS package delivery advertising campaign, “If it fits it ships”, which has so far seen 25m extra flat-rate boxes mailed in the US so far this year alone, a 35% increase year-on-year.

“We are ready to apply the lessons from our package marketing and develop a major advertising campaign to support mail,” he said.

Donahoe said the Postal Service hadn’t focused on promoting mail through significant advertising in 10 years. The new campaign would be “a little unusual, but it could be very powerful”, he added.

Industry input

The Postal Service looks likely to use its existing advertising agency Campbell-Ewald on the campaign, and Donahoe said that as well as involving mailers in the campaign, the USPS would seek to share insights from the campaign with customers, and feed their thoughts into September’s message.

“This won’t be just a Postal Service campaign,” he said.  “If our industry aligns around the same marketing insights about mail, the potential exists to multiply that advertising effect,” he said.

Donahoe told Post&Parcel this morning that his team would look to discuss the campaign’s initial research with members of its industry advisory group MTAC – the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee – as well as with key members of the advertising industry.

“We’re trying to get some advertising people together, to run some ideas by them,” he said. ”A lot of decisions are taken by large advertisers as to what their clients will use – and if they are not thinking about the mail, there’s not a lot we can do.”

Rough cuts of television spots that could feed into a possible campaign have featured representatives of the public speaking about their relationships with the mail and why they could not do with out it.

The Postmaster General is keen to promote the “tremendous value of the mail” to American businesses, particularly competing against the digital and television advertising.

“We’re saying to them: you can go on a website, and you’ve got to compete with millions of other website, and get people to go visit that website,” he said. “With the mail you’re just competing with whatever else is in the person’s mailbox that morning.”

Among the 75% of businesses that do not currently use the mail for their advertising, Donahoe told reporters this morning that the pharmaceutical industry could be a key target for this kind of campaign. The Postal Service researched America’s top advertisers ahead of a market trial to offer major advertisers a “money-back guarantee” this summer to promote the use of direct mail, and the research revealed that major pharmaceuticals are doing “zero” advertising through the mail.

“It’s shocking how little they use the mail,” Donahoe said. “For pharmaceuticals it’s zero through the mail, and yet they’re all running these television ads that make you afraid to buy anything they’re selling.”

The concept of working closely with its customers on the advertising campaign fits with a theme at this year’s National Postal Forum of “seamlessly aligning with your business”. Around 4,000 delegates – mailing companies, equipment and suppliers as well as Postal Service staff – are expected at this year’s event, which runs until Wednesday.

Source: James Cartledge, Post&Parcel

original posted on Post & Parcel

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Which is better direct mail or digital marketing? The answer is whichever avenue gets you a new customer, but the question is flawed. The question should be what is the best way to increase your ROI?  Combining digital marketing and direct mail will increase your ROI. Don’t look at digital advertising and print advertising as competitors look at them as partners. At first glance it may seem that direct mail and digital marketing would be strange bedfellows, but they have a great “opposites attract” kind of relationships. Here are 3 ways to integrate the digital and print marketing to help your bottom line.

1. The good touch – Once a prospect sees your brand and company name they are likely to remember it and pay attention to future correspondence. By combining direct mail and email you get the opportunity to touch a prospect twice to make the critical first impression; their inbox and their mail box. One person my delete unsolicited email (or have their spam filter do it for them), but that same person my look through the mail they receive.  After your company makes an impression on the prospect and they start to recognize your branding all your future marketing attempts will have a better change at conversion.

2. But I am a real Boy! – A decade or two ago companies were investing in websites as ways to prove to consumers that they are real. Now it’s the other way around. Every fly-by-night-pray-on-your-savings-greasy-haired-con-artist has a web site with an official looking @mycompany email. By combining a well developed direct mail campaign, with an equally well developed digital marketing campaign you create an impression of integrity and stability with your prospects.

3. Sorry your information is out of date – One thing that digital marketing has over direct mail advertising is the ability to change. Find a phone number with a typo on a web site; it gets changed in 5 minutes. Find a phone number with a typo on the 20,000 piece mailer that went out last week; find a new proof reader. What that means is that print media should focus on driving people to the web. Use print to build your brand and get prospects to visit you online. Send them to your website, or your social media page. Get them to follow you on Twitter. By using this strategy all of your print materials will have a longer shelf life, and your customers will be able to get the latest information.

Blending direct mail and digital advertising will get a better response versus using one over the other ever time.

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Direct mail is one of the best marketing tools when you want to connect with a potential customer on a personal level. A well developed campaign can generate new sales for pennies on the dollar, source leads for your sales people, create brand awareness, and make your marketing budget work harder and go farther. On the other hand a poorly developed direct mail campaign will leave your phones silent and give your sales people the opportunity to catch up on their reading. So how do you create a well developed direct mail campaign? Is there one factor that dictates if your mailer is read? Can one decision reduce your response rate? What makes one direct mail campaign work while another fails?

You can have the best data list but if you don’t offer the potential customers something they want they won’t respond. New and innovative creative without a call to action will leave your registers empty. The point is this: the key to direct mail success does not involve one single component it involves everything working together. What are the components? How do you maximize the effectiveness of each component? Well…

The three most important components are often considered to be the data list, the creative, and the offer.

1. Data List
Arguably the single most important part of any direct mail campaign, your data list dictates who gets your direct mail advertising, and who doesn’t. Before you go out and buy 10,000 addresses you need to know who you are marketing to. Define your audience and the audience and sub-segments. You know your business best, and you know who is going to buy what you have to sell. Decide where the best opportunities are and target your direct mail campaign. By working with a good list broker, and knowing the type of person who is likely to purchase your product you can send your direct mail piece to the people who are likely to buy your product, and only those people.

There is no reason to send an ad offering “half price pool cleanings” to everyone in an apartment complex. By getting specialized data from a list broker you can dictate specific factors that will make your mailing more likely to succeed. You could start by making sure everyone on your data list has a pool then narrow your list down further by making sure the prospects already use a pool service. Targeting specific demographics, versus mailing to the general population, increase the chances that your mail targets have an interest your product or service and will want what you are offering.

2. Creative
First impressions are everything. From the time a prospect sees your direct mail piece you have 3 seconds to get their attention. If your mailer doesn’t captivate the reader your ad will end up in the trash. If the mailer looks cheap the company sending the mailer will be considered cheap, and the mail piece will be considered junk mail. A professional designer with a good understanding of the direct mail campaign’s goals can create a mailer that will connect with customers emotionally, personally, and logically. The most effective direct mail campaigns connect with the reader on an emotional level before the reader can process any logical approach to marketing. Non-profit mailers tend to pull heart strings, car companies use relaxation and luxury to connect to the prospect. In either case the connection is emotional from the second the customer sees the direct mail piece, but to really separate good direct mail from great direct you should reinforce the emotional connection of the mailer with individual personalization.

Variable data printing allows some truly impressive personalized direct mail. A car company’s service reminder campaign serves as a superb example. When a customer takes their car in for servicing the car company notes the customer’s millage, the services purchased, what time the customer’s service appointment was, and the mileage the car. Based on a number of factors such as mileage or the date of the previous appointment the dealership will mail a service reminder to the customer that says something like “Mr. Jones, it has been three months since you were at the Main Street Dealership to have the oil changed on your Jetta. We have set aside 8am on Wednesday May 4th 2011 for you. Please call us to confirm this appointment, or to schedule a time that works better for you.” In addition to the very detailed personalization, the reminder postcard will have a picture of the newest Jetta in case the customer is interested in purchasing a newer model. Personalization really separates good direct mail, from ok direct mail. Most of the time people won’t have that kind of data on new prospects, but it’s important to think about what information you do have.  Investing in a good data list you can get some very good information to use for personalization and emotional connection.

3. The Offer
People are offered discounts and freebies all day long every day. It’s come to the point that many people are desensitized to the generic discount offers. The offer  you present in your direct mail campaign needs to be something that will appeal to the niche segment. Think about a restaurant that’s mailing to an opt-in list gathered at a charity event. By offering to donate $2 to the charity for every entrée purchased when they bring in the mail piece the restaurant does 2 things. First they appeal to the charitable nature of the people on the list, and second they provide something of value to the prospect, food. Another option could be offering a free chocolate dessert to a list of people who left their contact information at a local chocolatier. In either case there is a specialized offer based on specialized information about the potential customer. The more customized the offer the better your response rate will be, as long as you targeted the offer to the right people. Never assume that a general offer will work as well as a targeted offer. No matter what offer you decide to use you need to get to the point quickly. Potential customers want to know “what’s in it for them” and they want to know sooner rather than later.

The data list, creative, and offer are often seen as the most important parts of a direct mail campaign, but there are 5 more components to good direct mail campaigns that need to be addressed.

4. Call to Action
A call to action is not an offer. It might include an offer, but the call to action tells the potential customer exactly what to do next. Call now to get your free Yo-yo, Log in to get more information, Send us the enclosed postcard to get your free book. Sometimes it seems like an obvious next step but never leave anything to chance. Telling them exactly how to take advantage of the offer will increase your response rate.

5. Contact Method
When the customer follows the call to action it’s vital that you let the customer choose the kind of interaction they find the most comfortable. For some it will be a phone call, others will want to use a web site. Give the customer as many options as you can, email, web, phone, fax, QR codes, snail mail. If the customer doesn’t like their contact options they will simple choose not to contact you. You only need to list contact information once. Not once per side, just once. If a person wants to contact you they are more than willing to flip over a direct mail piece to look for your phone number.

6. Timing
A direct mail piece offering a 20% discount on landscaping plants to a someone who just spent $500 dollars buying new shrubs  is not going to work very well, but if you mailer arrived a day sooner that may be different. It’s important to try to predict when people will be receptive to your offers. It’s impossible for a plumber to know that a prospect is going to have a pipe burst in a week, but that plumber knows that February is the coldest month of the year so sending out a direct mail campaign in January would be a good idea. You can’t predict specific events but you can focus on constants like changes in seasons, or regular maintenance as noted in the car company example above. Be sure to you what information you have to the best of your ability.

7. Repetition
Direct mail is not a one and done approach to marketing. When you make the decision to buy a TV you’re already familiar with 2-3 stores that sell electronics, and your familiar with them because you have seen their advertising. Direct mail gets its best results when a prospect gets multiple mailers over a period of time thus building a customer’s familiarity with your company. They start to learn about you and your services so when it turns out they need your services they are you are the first company they think of.

8. Testing
To truly understand what works and what doesn’t work you need to test. Don’t just test when things don’t work, test when they do work. Test multiple offers. Test multiple creative approaches. Testing a successful campaign can give you insight into why it works so you can make it better. Testing a campaign that doesn’t work can salvage your marketing investment. You may think you know why your direct mail campaign is working, but will never know for sure until you test it.

Mailing a great offer to the wrong people or sending amateur creative to customers will cause your sales to suffer. Plan your mailer, think about your audience. What will motivate them to contact you? How do you connect with them on an emotional level? What is the best time to for them to receive your mailer? Don’t plan for just one mailing. If your budget only allows you to mail to 10,000 pieces try mailing to 2,500 people 4 times. If your campaign is good you will get a better return on investment. Direct mail is only as good as the components that create the campaign, but when all the components work together you get a powerful personalized ad that speaks directly to the needs of your customer.

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Have you had a direct mail campaign that performed well above what you expected? Or a direct mail campaign that failed horribly? What do you think you did right or wrong? Comment and let us know!

QR Codes are being talked about in the world of Direct Mail, Direct Marketing, retail sales, insurance sales, real estate, or any other industry where a new way to connect to a consumer is a good idea.

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Look! A QR Code. Follow it to go to our home page.

I have seen more posts regarding what they are and how “x” company can integrate this wonderful new technology to leverage your ROI and increase your response rate in your targeted sector of demographic focus… bleh. The short explanation is this: QR Codes are an everyday part of life for Smartphone users who pay attention to new tech.  Soon they will simply be an everyday part of life, so it is in every marketer’s best interest to learn about them, and use them. It is not in every marketer’s best interest to spend three days reading article after article to learn about them so I am going to speed up the learning process.  This post compiles information from a bunch of different sources and present it here in way that you can read the bits you are interested in and ignore the bits that you already know. Plus, I will even site sources that I use so you can get more information on a specific topic. Guess what kids, learning how to write a research paper in college was worth something in the real world.

“What is” with a little “how to”…

Let’s start from the beginning. A QR Code is a bar code . Similar to the UPC Code you will find on any product in your local grocery store with a couple of important differences, data storage and readability. A UPC code is read in one dimension, laterally, and can hold about 30 American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) characters.  A QR code is read in 2 dimensions, laterally and horizontally holding much more information, up to 7,089 characters including ASCII, binary, kanji, and kana. It’s the added dimension that lets a QR Code hold so much more information and do some of the very cool things that it can do. I’ll talk about the “can do” a little later now let’s talk about the how to.

Scan it. Seriously to activate a QR Code all you need to do is point a smart phone with the correct reader application installed at the paper, billboard, television screen, or computer monitor where the code is displayed and scan it. Not all QR Code readers work the same, nor will they handle data the same way. The QR Code industry is in need of some standardization but until that happens your best option is to search for “QR Code Reader” in your favorite application market and pick a reader that looks good to you. Most new smart phones come with a QR Reader installed.  I use a smart phone with an Android operating system and the preinstalled reader was called Goggles. I don’t believe iphone has a reader preinstalled but you can get a reader application free. I installed I-nigma on an iphone 4 and Neoreader on an iphone 3 over the last few weeks.  The above mentioned readers are not the only readers just the ones that I have used personally, and are not endorsed by this blog or the QR reader association of America… blah blah blah…

Once you have the reader installed, launch the application, use the smart phone’s camera to display the QR code on the screen and either snap a picture or, depending on the application, the QR Code may be recognized automatically. Goggles needs you to snap a picture I-nigma will react when you get the code positioned inside the frame displayed on the screen.  After your smart phone reads the code then it will react based on the information contained in the code, and do what it can do.

Now about that “Can Do”…

Right now there are two major uses for QR codes. The most common use is directing the phone’s browser to a web page of some kind, just like the one at the beginning of this post.  Encode a URL as a QR Code then scan it with your smart phone. Your phone will open its browser and point you to the website. This is nice for a couple of reasons. First it saves the consumer the hassle for typing in a URL by hand. I know it’s a small thing but simple is usually better in all things. Second it lets them visit the website immediately while your marketing actions are fresh in their mind.

The second big use right now, and one of my favorites, is the QR Code business card.

demo QR vCard

Fake business card

This is usually done by creating a V-Card, or meCard, then translating that code to a QR Code format. You can embed your name, address, phone, email, website and more in a QR so that a user can scan the code and get all the information entered into your contacts automatically. You don’t need to worry about losing a business card again. Just losing your phone, and frankly you are going to have bigger problems to worry about if that happens. Notice how their are a lot more squares in this code than the on above. The more information you put in the code the bigger it gets so don’t try to encode your entire company directory at one time.

There are other things that QR Codes can do. Lots of other things:
• Browse to a Website (as noted above)
• Bookmark a website
• Make a phone call
• Send a text message (SMS)
• Send an e-mail
• Create a vCard (also noted above)
• Create a meCard (I noted this above as well, pay attention!)
• Create a vCalander Event
• Google Maps
• Bing Maps
• Geographical Coordinates
• Android Market Search
•Youtube URL for Iphone
• Encode the Latest Tweet of a User
• Tweet on Twitter
• Twitter Profile Image Overlay
• Create a Blackberry Messenger user
• WiFi network for Android
• Free formatted text
• Taking payments (this was not noted above, I will explain this later)

How about a little more “how to”…

Even with all the things that QR Codes can do they are surprisingly easy to create. There are a number of websites that will help you create a QR Code ( look a list of QR Code Generators!) Keep in mind one generator is not a good as another. My personal recommendation for QR Code generator of the afternoon is http://keremerkan.net/qr-code-and-2d-code-generator/ . I used Kerem Erkan’s generator to create all the QR Codes listed in this post. It has a very simple interface and lets you control file output and the color of the code. Surprise! QR codes don’t have to be black and white.

QR Art…

Warning: I am a designer by trade so I may get a little over excited about this bit. You do not have to slap an ugly QR Code on well designed media. QR Codes are just now going main stream so they tend to be the focus of the media they are included in. Big black and white squares positioned right in your face.  For now this makes sense since the marketers using them tend to need to educate their audience on what they are and how to use them. As they become more common they will become something people will look for, like a web address, allowing designers to integrate functional QR art seamlessly with their design. Just because they are traditionally black and white does not mean they should be. QR codes:

• Can be any color
• Can be any modular material
• Must have at least 55% contrast between the foreground and the background
• Should have a margin or “quiet space” of 4 units
• Need to have clear detection patterns in the corner
• Can have up to 30% of the code obscured if you use the highest error correction
• Can be read with any orientation
• Can put it in perspective
• Can be anamorphic (widescreen)
• Can have the cell shape distorted
• Can have the interior made of circle or other shapes
• can have the design reversed.

free Text QR Code

Nothing of interest in this QR Code

 

 

If I have your head spinning with all the QR possibilities I suggest looking at Erica Glaser’s post about QR Design. I found 80% of all my information about QR design on her blog. Or if you still want more look here for some very creative uses of QR Codes

Why…

Why would anyone want to use a QR Code? Because there are benefits to using QR codes. For the user, aka, the consumer, or the reason you are getting your paycheck, QR Codes are simple.  Seriously, its point and click, how much easier can it get? If you are concerned about the learning curve I have shown nearly a dozen people how to use QR Codes in the last three weeks. As soon as I show them how to install a QR Code Reader on their smart phone the three minutes of lessons are over and they start scanning ever QR Code they see. I know this is true because they bring me all the printed material they find with QR Codes on it. OR they walk up to me with their phone and tell me to scan the image of the QR code that they have displayed on their screen.

Yup this QR Code is made of sand

A QR Code adds an element to print media that will get people to interact in a way never before possible. In the past print media drove people to the web by putting a URL on the paper. If the marketer was lucky the consumer remembered to look up the website when they got home. With a QR Code your magazine ad, newspaper article, t-shirt, button, coffee mug, billboard, etc, becomes interactive at the time your viewer is looking at the advertisement.
You can change the content of a QR Code after it’s printed. No, you can’t change the ink on the paper but you can change the web site the QR Code it pointing to. Since QR Codes that resolve to a URL point customers to mobile-friendly websites you can change the website all you want without changing the print. Update quantities, add customer reviews, list your new line of toe-socks, and everyone who scans the QR Code will see your updated information in essence extending the lifespan of print media pieces.

So let us marketers talk about maketing…

For all of us marketing types, one big benefit of using a QR Code is the trackable nature of the technology. QR Codes with the right support behind them can give you an incredible amount of data: where the code was scanned, what time, what kind of phone was used. Even if you don’t have a budget for fancy metrics you can still get great details about who is scanning the code with Google Analytics and a little creativity. Let’s say you are branding coasters with your company’s newest line of beer, and distributing the coasters to 8 different bars. If you build 8 different landing pages that look identical, and embed landing page one’s URL onto the coasters that get distributed to bar one, and no other coasters get send to that bar, you know that every time someone visits landing page one they were at bar one. Maybe you are sending a direct mail piece and you want to test three different versions of art? Use three different landing pages, and three different QR Codes. Use one code per version of art. You will get some good data, and every consumer will get the same online experience.

This is a tool…

QR Codes are tools and they are not marketing in and of themselves. Well they are new enough now that they market to the techie crowd just by being used, but that will not last. There a some things that can be done to get people to use the QR Codes

Educate the consumer. For now a little bit of education will go a long way. Many people with smart phones still don’t know what a QR Code is. That will change. For now a brief how to” is a good thing.

Tour of Tri-Win Digital Print and Mail Services

Scan this QR Code to get a tour of our building.

Let the consumer know what to expect when they scan a QR Code. If the QR Code links to a video simply say “scan this QR Code to view our video.” Seriously, this QR code does link to a video tour of our facility.

Most importantly give them something new! Don’t just link to a digital image of the ad give them new content. You could create a 2 part ad and link to the other half of the video, or offer them a chance to sign up for an email list. Hey, you could just offer them 10% off their next purchase because they scanned your QR Code. As long as there is more information after they scan the code that is the important part.

Is this just another tech fad…

Yes, it is another tech fad but it is more than that too. There are some large corporations who are adopting the QR Code as part of a daily shopping experience.

Macy’s is using QR codes. They launched a new service called “Macy’s Backstage Pass” that will provide consumers with essential tips,  and information on their latest trends via 30-second films formatted to work on users’ mobile phones. In addition to committing to use the technology Macy’s is also educating consumers with a 30-second TV spot running nationally that shows shoppers how to use the QR Codes and what they will get when they scan them.

Best Buy is using QR Codes. Back in September they added QR Codes to product information tags making them the first national retailer in the US to deploy this technology. Scan the code next to the TV you are thinking of buying and you get access to the product detail page.

Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats is using QR Codes adding them to more than 12 million boxes as the primary distribution vehicle for, “Honey & Joy,” a web based sitcom.

Starbucks is using QR Codes. Letting consumers pay for their coffee is the latest us of QR Code technology. The goal here is to get Starbucks customers to stop using physical Starbucks cards and start using Virtual Starbucks cards. To use the service the customer displays the QR Code on their mobile phone and a reader located at the point of sale scans the code and subtracts the cost of the drink from the funds preloaded on the Starbucks card mobile account.

Home Depot is using QR Codes. Partnering with a mobile barcode platform developer call Scanbuy Home Depot will use QR codes to provide “how to” videos, information about the supplier, appropriate usage guidelines, safety instructions, or anything else Home Depot deems smart phone appropriate. Plus you will also b able to purchase the product using the mobile phone after scanning the QR Code in-store or at home.

But wait QR Codes are not just for retail applications.

New York is using QR Codes. By 2013 all New York City building permits will have a QR Code on them so smart phone users can get details about  the ongoing project or file a complaint regarding safety or noise concerns.

Tokyo is using QR Codes. There was an experiment in Tokyo where QR codes were overlaid on top of a city map.  When the QR Code was scanned the user was given directions to the part of town associated with the QR Code.

The Post Office is Using QR Codes. “Deliver Magazine”, a publication produced by the post office, did a feature article on QR Codes in October, 2010.  Since then they have started using QR Codes in marketing to offer people the ability to get free flat rate shipping kit

What does all of this mean…

I see them popping up all over the place, and I bet you will too now that you know what they are.  They have already taken hold in Japan, they have been in use there for years. While it has only been in the last year or so that QR Codes have started to get the public’s attention they have it now. Plus with it projected that 50% of Americans will have a smart phone by Christmas 2010 the use of QR Codes will only increase. For now integrating QR Codes into your marketing will give you a competitive edge, in a year not integrating them in your marketing will mean you are behind.

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Are you planing on integrating QR Codes into your marketing strategy, or have you already printed them on every thing you own? Let me know, and if you think this post was useful to you link to it, or pass it along to your friends.  Thanks!

With a little bit of help from Direct Mail Beginning to End –Production and a lot of coordination you, your printer, and your designer have created a direct mail piece that is creative direct and won’t make you choose between printing it or making your car payment. Now it’s time to tackle the other major cost of creating your direct mail campaign, postage. Depending on the mailer either your printing or your postage could be your primary cost, and every creative decision you made will affect your postage now.

The size of the piece, the weight, if it folds, how many tabs need to hold the folds in place, if there is an envelope, and how the address is oriented relating to the shape of the mailer are all factors that will affect how much it costs to mail your campaign.  There is no way to begin to scratch the surface of everything you need to know about navigating postal regulations in a blog post, and I am not going to try. The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) published by the post office is over 1,000 pages. It covers everything you need to know from how the size of your mailer dictates the postal class it will mail in, to the permitted saturation of colors used for printing the background of your address block. While the post office has been kind enough to post it online (note the shiny blue link text) there are so many rules with the mail the only way to be sure you are getting the best rate, short of reading it from cover to cover three times, is to work with a direct mail house. Get an expert (Remember last week I told you I would use that phrase again!)

Lots of printers these days are doubling as mail houses trying to offer a convenient one stop location for direct mail needs. There is nothing wrong with an all in one print house and mail house. It’s convenient, and can save time and money by eliminating the need to ship your printed stock to another location, but be sure they truly understand the mail regulations. I know of one case where a restaurant chain was mailing 2,500 5 3/4” x 11 5/8 mailers a week through a printer who was moonlighting as a mail house. The printer was simply trying to offer a convenience to the restaurant and make a little extra money on the side so it sounds like a good deal, but all postage is NOT the same. After about six months the restaurant chain was approached by sales rep for a mail house who told them that if they changed the size of the mailer to 5 3/4 “ x 11 ½” they would save 0.13 per mailer. Making that change took less than 5 minutes to implement, had no effect on the cost of printing, and no customer noticed the difference saving the restaurant $325.00 a week. The restaurant switched mail houses, and started looking for a new printer.  I don’t know if the designer picked the size of the mailer, or if the printer suggested the size. I do know that no one looked at the specifics of presorted first class letters and presorted first class flats until the direct mail expert talked to the restaurant.

The best intentions can backfire when someone gets involved who doesn’t know what they are doing.  A mail house should know direct mail, and a print shop should know printing. Places that do both printing and mailing should know both printing and mailing.  The designer, the printer, and the mail house should be able to communicate with each to solve problems in the creation process and reduce cost. As the business you might need to be the intermediary unless you find a direct mail company that offers design, print, and mailing as a package, and (I’m going to say it again…) has an expert in each field.

This is the last post in the Direct Mail Beginning to End Series, but it is far from my last post. If you have questions, and you probably do since this series was designed to be an overview of the direct mail process, post them in the comments and I will answer them or I might just write a whole new post based on your questions!

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So now you have a great list of prospects and with a little help from last week’s post, Direct Mail Beginning to End – Design, a clever professional looking design that people will want to read your direct mail campaign. This week it’s time to take your creative to a practical place and, sadly, allow real world considerations to start affecting our final outcome. Things like size, shape, paper quality, color, weight all affect what your final costs will be. I know is sounds complicated but if it was all intuitive I wouldn’t need to write this blog would I?

Let’s start with paper quality and finishes. This decision should focus on your aesthetic preference and what impression you want to give to your customers. Do you want to have nice textured 130 pound paper or would 60 pound text paper work for your mailer.  The quality of your paper speaks to the nature of your company.  If you go with the cheapest option your decision to use low quality materials will be obvious to you prospects. Selling a luxury car with uncoated paper that tears as you turn the page will not send the message of quality and status that ultimately sells a $50,000 car. The better quality paper you use the better your mailer looks, but even if you can stand in front of the owner of your business and justify why you spent three dollars for each postcard you mailed you may want to reallocate that funding somewhere else. High quality paper sends a message of quality but too much quality can send the wrong impression. For example, if you use a very expensive stock in a donation direct mail campaign for a local charity you may find that you have sent the impression that the charity has extra income so donations may not be needed after all. Your paper choice should be affected by the message you are trying to send. If this doesn’t make much sense to you talk to your designer. If you have a good artist working for you they will understand what I mean and offer a suggestion or two regarding paper and finishing.

The paper finish: gloss, matt, coated, uncoated, etc. effects the impression your mailer has on a customer, so you need to consider paper finish as part of your impression but the bigger concern is durability. It doesn’t matter what paper you choose if the mailer is destroyed by the time it reaches its destination. Once I made the mistake of printing a direct mail campaign on a gloss finish paper without using a protective coating. By the time it made it thought the mail it looked like someone had used it as sand paper. You can save a little money if you decide not coat the paper with a protective finish but make sure it can survive the post office’s automated processes. You may not need to use coated stock if your mailing goes in an envelope, but any surface of the direct mail piece that is exposed in the mailing process should have a protective coating to avoid damaging the ink.

Now let’s talk about the ink. The more colors that you need to print the more expensive it is to print. Printing one color of ink is going to be your cheapest option. You have options of printing 2, 3 or 4 colors as well. 4 color printing is also called full color since you use cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) to reproduce the full spectrum of colors. If you are printing 1, 2, or 3 colors you are probably using a spot color. Spot colors are inks that are mixed before they are put into a printing press to get a certain color and are generally not mixed. That ends today’s remedial ink 101 lesson. With direct mail your printing options are only limited by your budget, but remember the more inks you need the more your cost will be. There are some very creative and eye catching designs made using 1 or 2 color printing so don’t let the concern of ink costs limited the quality of your art. To make sure you are getting the best materials for your money you need to be sure the printer you are working with understands their business and knows when digital printing is better than off-set printing.  Get an expert (pay attention to that expert line I’m going to use it again in next week’s post).

Printing is the first major cost of producing a direct mail campaign. There are decisions that need to be made at this stage of the process that have wrong answers. Very costly wrong answers so get a printer that knows what they are doing! Get an expert ( I guess I used this line sooner than I thought. It must be IMPORTANT!) Make sure your printer is willing to discuss options with you. They should be willing to talk to you about the printing process, and discuss options on what kind of printing would work best for you.  Allow them to make recommendations, but make sure they can tell you why they made those recommendations. Make sure you know how long it will take to get your materials printed. Once you get your mailer printed you will need to deal with the other major cost of a direct mail campaign, postage, and I will deal with that next week in Direct Mail Beginning to End – Postage.

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