by Mike Schultz and Michelle Davidson on June 2, 2010

When it comes to cost per sales lead, inbound marketing channels continue to deliver dramatically lower costs over outbound channels. In fact, organizations that primarily use inbound channels experience a 60% lower cost per lead than those that mainly use outbound channels, according to HubSpot’s The State of Inbound Marketing 2010.

Indeed, three out of the four inbound channels analyzed have lower costs than any outbound channel, the report finds. Topping the list is social media and blogs, with 63% of the 231 marketing professionals surveyed saying those channels had below-average costs. Twenty-seven percent said they had near-average costs. That’s followed by organic search engine optimization (SEO) with 43% saying it had below-average costs.

Firms save money using inbound marketing channels to acquire leads by:

  • Spending less to produce such content;
  • Generating leads long after the content is published;
  • Improving their online visibility as they build a reputation within social media networks and in the eyes of search engines.

That doesn’t mean, however, that firms should abandon all outbound marketing tactics (direct mail, email, etc.). They might cost more, but they can be incredibly effective. Some prospects and clients respond better to those and don’t even have social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook on their radar.

The best approach is to apply a mix of both. Continue to use your preferred outbound, or push, tactics—tactics that have traditionally performed well for you—but also make sure you have a strong website with quality content that is optimized for search engines.

The key is to measurably test different tactics, analyze the results, and determine which work best for you.

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Jun 7, 2010 12:17 PM, By Bob Stein and Jennifer Deerr

Looking for ways to boost your direct mail response rates? Here’s some ideas on how to do just that, originally presented at the Direct Marketing Association of Washington List Bazaar.

1. Test an appropriate quantity.

Understand your response rate and make sure you are testing enough names to have statistically valid results. The more you’re able to test, the more valid the sample. If your offers are regional, please keep in mind the number of names available in your desired area when testing. Be sure to retest in order to ensure validity of your response results.

2. Try former buyers and expires.

If you are getting good results with active subscribers/donors/etc. on a particular list, test the formers or expires. You may have to tweak the offer, but it could open up a whole new pool of names. (And if a list has refused to let you use active names, ask for the expires—many mailers will release older names.)

3. Look beyond the datacards.

Ask to see if any special selects are available, especially if you are starting to see a drop off in results from your tried and true files. There may be a higher dollar, a tighter hotline or special source selects that may not be advertised but can still be made available. You may not get what you want or need but without asking you’ll never know.

4. Reactivate old files.

Retest a file you have not tested in a while. There are so many variables that can affect results that taking a second glance is always worth exploring.

5. Explore your merge/purge options.

Look at what your service bureau can do in the merge. Do you want to combine mail dates for a mega-merge, or can you separate the lists used by source (e.g. consumer vs. donor sourced)? What are you doing with the multis? Do you understand your merge reports?

6. When negotiating a deal, be prepared with documentation.

Do not blindly ask for discounts—be prepared to share results. Have, share and understand your mailer’s history with that list. This will equip the list manager with the hard facts that he would be able to use in negotiations. The list manager is not a Walmart employee…everything is NOT necessarily on sale.

7. Match back your results to the Web.

If your direct mail has dropped off as Web sales increased, was there a correlation? Perhaps your mail piece is sending your prospect to a new response vehicle?

8. Keep an eye on your packages.

If your sample is denied, find out why. With a little tweaking or a variation in premium, you may be approved. If there is a mail date conflict, suggest an alternate. Explore your options, especially if you have flexibility.

9. Practice reciprocity.

Be prepared to offer back similar selects on your list to mailers with whom you are currently renting and/or exchanging. They may not want or need those selects, but be prepared to make them available. If you are not currently renting or exchanging your own names, be prepared to possibly pay a non-reciprocal surcharge.

10. Have a Kum-ba-ya moment.

Cooperate with each other and help each other out. Managers and brokers can only work together if they know and understand what their final goal is. Call each other on the phone if e-mail does not get what you want accomplished. It’s quicker, it builds relationships, and you can accomplish more. There are no adversaries, only allies working together to do the best job in the best interest for their mailers and list owners.

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June 09, 2010

Direct marketing sales at women’s apparel retailer Talbots rose 26.7% in the first quarter to $63.1 million, which includes catalogs and Internet, compared with the same period last year. A total of $6.7 million of direct marketing sales were due to in-store phone orders. Another reason for this surge was the timing of the May catalog, which was released a week earlier this year as opposed to last year.

Talbots showed a significant turnaround in overall performance compared with the first quarter of 2009. Net sales rose 4.7% to $320.7 million.  The company’s operating income was $2.9 million, an increase of $25.1 million compared to the previous year’s operating loss of $22.2 million.

Store sales inched 0.5% to $257.6 million.

Talbots’ improvements in the quality of merchandise, coupled with customers’ willingness to buy at full price, were cited by the merchant as reasons for its strong performance.

Roxanne Meyer, an analyst at UBS, also attributed Talbots’ phoenix-like rise to marketing, an element sacrificed by many financially-pinched retailers in the early days of the recession.

“The big thing they’ve done this year is invest in marketing to support sales growth,” she noted. “It’s been a catalyst that has been absent for the last one to two years. Talbots hasn’t been in a position to spend money on marketing until now.”

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Apr 1, 2010 12:00 PM, Larry Riggs

As it did last year, the U.S. Postal Service is looking to try discounts on standard mail postage between July and September to coax more companies into using direct mail during the slow summer months.

  • At deadline, the Postal Service was still expecting the Postal Regulatory Commission to approve this year’s summer sale by mid-April, says Tom Foti, USPS manager of marketing mail.
  • “We hope we set a good example with the first summer sale,” says Foti.
  • Specifically, the USPS will provide a 30% rebate to eligible mailers on standard mail letters and flats postage.
  • To qualify to participate in this year’s summer sale, a company must have mailed 350,000 or more standard mail letters and flats between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2009.
  • For last year’s sale, the USPS identified about 3,200 mailers that would qualify. This year, the eligible number has risen to more than 3,500.
  • In all, approximately 960 mailers took part in the program last year. They included a number of catalogers, retailers and some financial institutions.
  • “I would say catalogers and retailers were the strongest players,” says Foti. “We have heard from some customers that they saw increased response during that time period. They saw the payback from mailing additional pieces.”
  • The USPS said last year’s summer discount program generated about 1 billion mail pieces, which yielded $24 million in net revenue.

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All forms of prospecting should include a follow-up process as part of the strategy. Mailings, trade shows, and networking are wonderful tactics to uncover prospects, but they will perform better when follow up is added to the process.

The average executive encounters 128 unscheduled interruptions a day. Even the most organized person is going to have trouble incorporating these things into an already hectic agenda. As a professional salesperson trying to reach one of these individuals, you must demonstrate what is in it for the recipient so he/she continues to talk to you.

What does a top executive care about? Not digital printing, variable data, Purls, aqueous coating, smart inserting, or any of the other value adds we love to talk about. VITOs, as Anthony Parinello calls them in his book, “Selling to VITO (Very Important Top Officers),” care about strategic objectives, like increasing profits, opening new markets, capturing market share, improving productivity, and reducing costs. Talk to them about those things, not about your equipment or what it does.

A VITO is a bottom line kind of person. He/she did not get to be a senior officer by wasting time. If you get a VITO on the phone, you have a very short period of time to get your point across. It should be a simple message: You and your company understand business challenges and have had success helping others solve them. A salesperson who guarantees help without a full understanding of the situation will not ring true to a VITO.

The Art of Voice Mail

I get a lot of voice mails. Most of them sound something like this: “My name is Bob Smith from XYZ Co. My number is… Please call me back to talk about using the Web more effectively.”

Suppose I think we use the Web pretty effectively already. Suppose I received 128 unscheduled interruptions that day. Suppose I have all of the activities associated with running two companies piling up on my desk. Suppose I have 16 messages in my mailbox ahead of that one. Does that voice mail tell me what is in it for me if I return the call? Stop talking about your company and speak to VITOs about what is important to them. Here is how:

“Mr. VITO, I was reading some industry press recently and noted that furniture retailers are expecting only a 0.6-percent increase in revenues in 2007. My company has been working with several other large retailers in our area and we helped them increase sales to their existing customers by 40 percent so far in 2007. Are you interested in exploring opportunities for your firm to achieve similar results in the fourth quarter? My name is… and I can be reached at… usually each morning until 9:30.”

Here are a few other tips:

  • Say the VITO’s name once, not 10 times in the voice mail. Once is enough and it should come at the beginning of the call.
  • Speak clearly and slowly, especially when you get to the phone number. Your recipient should not have to listen to the message over and over. Make it easy for them to call you back.
  • Use the number where your voice mail is located to make your calls. I often listen to voice mails on the way home from work. If I need to call someone back, the easiest thing to do is hit redial. If it goes back to your voice mail, a VITO can call back even at 10:30 p.m. and say, “I’m intrigued, call me back on my cell phone.”
  • Do not use the name of your company. If you do, the VITO is going to assume it is something he does not care about.
  • Write your talk track down, and practice it until you are comfortable with the message you plan to leave. It should not sound rehearsed, just conversational and genuine.

Kate Dunn is president and founder of Digital Innovations Group (DIG) in Richmond, Va. DIG is an award-winning marketing firm that specializes in targeted, personalized sales campaigns and collateral.

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Jan Riecher, VP and GM, Americas Graphics Solutions Business, HP

Digital print production can be a turning point for marketers to increase their competitiveness and grow even while gaining cost savings and a faster ROI on campaigns. There are real, winning applications based on the tremendous benefits possible only with printing. Despite an economic forecast from NAPL, a leading printing industry association, that the overall US printing industry will suffer a decline this year, predictions from myriad sources indicate that digital color printing will see double digit growth in many market sectors, including direct mail.

Much of the momentum and opportunity is based on advanced digital press imaging and data management. Direct marketers and their printing company partners can thrive by offering direct mail that goes beyond putting ink on paper.

In one example, Presentech Digital Printing partnered with marketing firm Edifice Group to take postcard mailing applications to a new level. The “pay per sale” personalized postcards rapidly increased the automotive dealerships’ sales. Auto dealer customers pay a commission based on each car sale generated from the campaign, incurring a cost only when the campaign bears fruit.

Last year, Presentech printed one million automotive dealership postcards for the program. And the summer, typically the slowest time of the year for the firm many printing companies, was busier than ever last year because summer is when most new-car models are released.

Each card is printed four-over-four with a total of 10 or more variable text or graphic images changed on each card. The fields are based on any number of data trigger points — examples include the lease expiration, mileage or service data on a recipient’s current car, or prior sales enquiries a recipient has made to dealerships in the area. Each card also has an individual Web code that leads the recipient to a personalized Web page.

Presentech Digital Printing and Edifice originally produced the program for regional auto dealerships in the southeastern US. They are on the verge of going national as the partnership enters its second year, proof that digital print can garner real results.

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Luke Teboul
VP, IWCO Direct

Our No. 1 critical recommendation for clients using variable data printing is that they must have a relevant message. Many marketers implement various kinds of geographic and demographic segmentation, but fail to make the message relevant to their audience. Second, while many people go to the Nth degree with segmentation, many of our customers tell us that this can bring the law of diminishing returns into effect. It’s possible to spend huge amounts on print by doing more segmentation and adding more revisions and controls and still not get the results you want.

Testing is the starting point and an indispensable part of using VDP, particularly with color digital print. The cost of testing is not as high as it used to be, so marketers should test as many different variables as they can to ensure that the message is accurate. Furthermore, it is the foundational elements of the project – the quality of the data, the offering, the timing and the creative – that will help you discern and establish success.

It also helps to know what you expect and to do some analysis up front to manage these expectations. Record the rate of response by phone, mail, e-mail and personalized URL to make sure the customer has the opportunity to respond with the best data. Give consumers a code they can reference when they call in to give them a sense that your offer is special and personal.

Going back to the basic elements, marketers should use a scientific cycle of testing, launching and constant refining, particularly if they have an ongoing or trigger campaign. Refine the message and alter the creative, as well as the offering and the timing. Ask yourself, “Was the piece persuasive? Did we miss our window or get the timing wrong? Did we address the pain points of the consumer?” Going through a constant cycle of multiwave mailings is a good way to check that your timing was right.

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Warren Hunter, chairman and CEO, DMW Worldwide LLC

When we think of customer advocacy, we often think of what we can do to be an advocate for our customers: how do we find ways to assist them? But what’s on my mind here is: What can we do to make our customers become advocates for us?

In today’s high-tech, high-touch environment, we have lost control of the dialog that takes place concerning our products, our service, our prices, our brand, and our image. Things like Twitter, “rate this” blogs and “hate you” Web sites all have given consumers the power to pretty much say whatever they want about you — sometimes bordering on slander. The question becomes, how do we turn this open conversation around so our customers become our advocates?

Remember the old pyramid of loyalty? Suspects become prospects who become customers who become clients who become advocates. A customer buys their first product from us. We then market to them or they shop on their own, buy a second product or service, and become clients. They are happy with their products, appreciate our service and value and the next thing you know they’re telling their friends. They have turned into advocates.

This couldn’t be more important than in today’s cyber world, where one or two dissatisfied customers can shout from the rooftops of cyberspace that we have somehow done them the greatest wrong. With just a few clicks of a mouse, we have become the Attila the Hun of the marketing world. While we need to monitor this and enter the dialog ourselves (more about that later), it is a very good thing if our advocates jump into the fray and become our defenders.

If you don’t think this is important or pervasive, take a few minutes to Google “I hate (fill in name of your company or industry).” You could end up spending considerable time reading about your own company on someone’s blog, watching a nasty parody about your company on YouTube, or learning how to follow the hate groups on Twitter. It can be both humbling and frustrating to see how your company or industry is being pilloried by someone who’s had a bad experience; real or perceived.

Here’s where your advocates come in. Imagine as you read those comments that you see someone take up your cause and, due to their good experience, start to turn the conversation in a positive vein. It could happen. Here’s where it pays for you to be monitoring what people are saying about you: You can actually enter the dialog — with full disclosure of who you are — and provide the cyber-whiner with a way to satisfy their problem. But be sincere. Your objective should be to actually fix what the complaint is about. It’s best to remember that the person went online with good reason, from their perspective. So you can’t just be defensive, you need to be a problem solver.

Once you have successfully solved the problem, the individual may even become your advocate. Remember, these are people who like to share their feelings and experiences. Nothing works so well as to help someone understand the issues and help them get their situation resolved in a satisfactory manner. So enter the dialog (with appropriate language for the medium), and help create advocates for your company.

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Sharon Goldman

When it comes to direct mail, success can be measured in a variety of ways besides straight ROI — although raising response is, of course, the bottom line. For instance, did the piece grab attention? Did its design help it get past the gatekeepers? Or, was the mailing particularly cost-efficient? Did it help increase customer loyalty? These are the factors that came into play for the following three successful direct mail campaigns. A b-to-b campaign, a campaign touting an education nonprofit and a mailing strictly for high-end luxury auto enthusiasts may not initially seem to have much in common. But they are all efforts that effectively used direct mail in creative and thoughtful ways. ?

Cost-savings savvy?

As an education nonprofit that relies on federal and state funding to survive, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) was looking to cut down on direct mail campaign costs, which — while mail remains an essential marketing channel for the organization — can be prohibitively expensive. ?

For a mailing promoting a conference that targeted 74,000 national board certified teachers, director of marketing Elizabeth Arritt had an idea of how to cut down on the number of mailers sent out: “We were already planning e-mails and mailings and I thought, why am I e-mailing all these people and then mailing something when I can tell exactly who opened the e-mail?”?

The NBPTS had about 61,000 of the targeted group’s e-mail addresses, so each one received an HTML preview e-mail for the conference twice during the span of one month. Arritt then tracked the addresses that opened the e-mail – about 11,000 – and removed those from the mailing, then targeted the mailing to states near the conference or where the organization had a strong presence, so only about 45,000 of the mailed pieces were sent out. ?

“It saves us anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per mailing, between print and mailing costs,” says Arritt. This type of cost savings effort is becoming part of the organization’s standard marketing procedure now, she adds. “We haven’t bought any lists,” she says. “Instead, we’ve gotten information from those who follow us on Twitter and Facebook as well as sign-ups on the Web site.”?

Lead with loyalty?

To mark the debut of the new Porsche 911, Porsche Cars North America’s agency, Cramer-Krasselt Chicago, sent unique direct mail kits to a curated list of 10,000 Porsche enthusiasts, including current and former 911 owners. Each package included an exclusive, limited-edition Porsche badge that was personalized with a unique code, in some cases hand-selected for a specific recipient. ?

“Our drivers are as important in developing the brand over time as the brand itself,” says Michael Baer, group account director for Porsche at Cramer-Krasselt Chicago. “We always want to stay in contact with them, give them insider information and, when and where, it’s appropriate, reward them for their passionate loyalty to the brand.” ?

The effort was part of a large marketing push that included print and online ads as well as a microsite. But the response to the direct mail piece and badge was particularly positive, says Baer. Some recipients even took the time to write Porsche and personally thank them for the gift. ?

The creative challenge for the direct mail piece, he says, was the fact that the new Porsche 911 doesn’t look that much different than the prior generation — so the company had to work carefully to get to the sweet spot of Porsche insiders who have owned multiple Porsches through the years and explain the differences in the new model. “The outside looks unchanged, but on the inside it’s a completely new car,” he says. ?

Still, the main driver (no pun intended) for the direct mail piece was loyalty — offering top customers something they could put on their desk as a keepsake about their cars. “Anecdotally, we know it drove sales, but it wasn’t designed for that,” says Baer. “It was a reward for loyalty, longevity and interest with the brand. There was no ROI on this piece.” ?

Dimensional dynamo?

When it comes to dimensional direct mail for business-to-business companies, agency Mindspace knows its stuff. After all, it has completed more than 250 dimensional mail campaigns for enterprise software company Oracle. ?

“Especially when the piece goes to a C-suite executive, where it’s hard to get through the doorkeeper — that is, the receptionist — we find if it’s in a dimensional box that stands out it gets pushed through pretty quickly,” says Brent Shetler, principal and creative director at Mindspace. “We’ve seen 20% response rates with mailers when we either send it in a box that’s interesting or just by FedEx so that it has a sense of importance to it.” ?

Last summer, the agency created a direct mail campaign for Oracle distributor Avnet, which wanted to get its value-added reseller (VAR) clients — who sell Oracle products to end users — to sign up for a lead-generation campaign to sell Oracle’s new line of business intelligence products. Twenty-five VARs received a unique, Get Smart-themed spy kit piece which included a brochure and video PDF about the program, explaining everything the reseller needed to know to make a decision about participating in the campaign. ?

Mindspace hoped to sign up 10 of the VARs, but it actually got 16 — a more than 64% response rate. While it was a small target base, the subsequent lead generation campaign was sent out by the VARs to about 1,400 prospects and included a similar spy briefcase 3-D mailing driving recipients to a personalized landing page. The 3.5% response rate generated 50 leads for the VARs – offering potential sales of more than $5 million. “With price points for the solutions starting at around $100,000, you can justify significant spend [for a mailer],” says Shetler. l?

From the May 18, 2009 Issue of DMNews

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By Adrian G. Uribarri

It has threatened to bring down newspaper empires and make books obsolete. And it has changed politics forever, with e-mail, blogs and viral video.

Yet there’s one thing the Internet hasn’t quite changed: direct mail.

In Illinois politics, it seems, dead trees still bring life to campaigns.

“Although we utilize the technology of the 21st century, people still receive mail at their house every day,” says Patrick Hughes, a Republican candidate for Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. “People go to their mailbox and pick up their mail.”

Earlier this month, Hughes sent out 175,000 mailers to Republican households in Illinois, drawing contrasts between himself and GOP front runner Mark Kirk.

Hughes had already been making his case online, with e-mails, videos and a Web site.

But campaign experts say while virtual media offer new ways to communicate with voters, other factors have helped direct mail maintain its primacy. In Chicago, consultants and printers who deal in ZIP codes say business is just fine, thank you.

“There are certain things that you can do with direct mail that you just can’t with digital,” says Terry Walsh, partner at Chicago’s Strategy Group. “Digital will probably eat into what campaigns have historically done with direct mail, but I suspect it’s not going to be as much as you think.”

Walsh’s firm handled direct mail for Obama’s presidential primary campaign and later mapped out the mail strategy for nine states in the general election.

He describes the firm’s role as a consultant rather than a printer, a key distinction now that desktop-publishing and design tools are available at the click of a button.

“The bar to entry to actually produce political direct mail is very, very low,” Walsh says. “What we get paid to do is to think about message development and delivery.”

He explains that new media have given campaigns alternative, often more efficient methods to convey their messages, but that there is still no better way than mail to reach certain audiences.

“One of the big things going on right now in electoral politics is the degree to which people vote by absentee ballot,” Walsh says. “Those are classic mail targets.”

As another example, he pointed to a time-honored campaign tactic: sending voters a reminder of where, when and how to vote, shortly before an election day. Typically, such mailers include a last pitch for a candidate, as well as details of what to bring to the polling place and information on how to get a ride for voters who can’t arrive alone.

Even in a campaign such as Obama’s, widely considered on the cutting edge in its use of digital communications and fund raising, direct mail had a place, Walsh says.

That’s a relief for Stanley Jasiuwienas, who runs Mid-City Printing Services on the Northwest side. Jasiuwienas says an explosion in television campaigning hurt the 31-year-old print shop about a decade ago.

It used to be that only presidential candidates, and perhaps the wealthier candidates in U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, ran advertisements on the airwaves.

“Now, even some inane campaigns, like those for a judgeship, present TV commercials,” Jasiuwienas says. “Naturally, there is less money that can be invested in print media.”

Jasiuwienas estimates that Mid-City prints about a third of the political mail that it did in the 1990s. During election years, he says, the campaign mailers that used to be about half of his business have dropped to about a quarter of total output.

“It was a nice piece of gravy,” he says.

Yet Jasiuwienas, like Walsh, is not as concerned with competition from online campaigning. He estimated that over the past five years, starting around the time Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s campaign marked a new high in digital politics, direct-mail printing has held steady.

Some candidates used to print appeal letters that are now more likely to land in e-mail inboxes, he says, but is online campaigning eating his direct-mail lunch the way TV did?

“Quite frankly,” he says, “no.”

One reason for that is the cost of broadcast versus online campaigning, says Bill O’Reilly, a direct-mail political strategist in New York City.

“Broadcast is gonna kill you in a state like New York or Illinois,” O’Reilly says. “Digital media’s not that expensive.”

While many campaigns make huge sacrifices to go on the air, including cutting direct mail, going online usually does not rule out such expenses.

In campaigns with seemingly unlimited resources for broadcast and online campaigning, the old mailer holds its own.

O’Reilly used the example of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the multibillionaire who had financial access to every bit of the campaigning toolbox.

Adding to a flood of TV ads and online messages, Bloomberg’s campaign also stuffed voters’ mailboxes with direct mail.

“There’s a campaign that could do every new trick in the book, but still chose to do mail,” O’Reilly says.

He credits the persistence of direct mail with its predictability.

While useful, he says, e-mail is less reliable because so many people quickly delete messages after reading no further than the subject line. Someone can throw out a piece of mail, he says, but only after holding it and analyzing it at least briefly.

“It’s been measured over the decades. It’s reliable, almost formulaic,” O’Reilly says. “You know you can drive turnout with mail.”

O’Reilly says digital campaigning will continue to grow, and to the benefit of candidates, but that its rise will not necessarily accompany the decline of direct mail.

“Maybe in a couple of generations it will go away, but not now,” he says.

“What you’re seeing is that more tools are being added to the arsenal, more arrows in the quiver. But the standbys are still there.”

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