Monday, June 16, 2014

Annual Summer Vacation


Versatility and Results

More and more businesses are using direct mail marketing as a powerful way to inform customers and prospects about their business. Postcards have always been a great tool. They are faster and more economical to produce than other types of mail pieces, allow for personalization with text and images, and have a high read rate.

Postcards have other uses, too, from appointment reminders to birthday wishes. They are great for a quick message to a customer or a follow up with a prospect. And did you know that it’s possible to design a postcard so that it serves as a mini-newsletter?

Don’t overlook the power and versatility of postcards to promote your business. These little giants can produce outsized results. To start a postcard campaign for your company, please contact me at (215) 923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com.

When Responses Roll In

For even greater results from a postcard or direct mail piece, have a plan for responding to callers who contact your business or organization. Specifically, be sure the person who answers the phone or monitors the website does these three things:
  1. Answer the phone with a smile. Voice inflection – the modulation, pitch and tone of your voice – is positively affected when you smile while answering the phone. Smiling helps your voice sound friendly, warm and receptive for a physiological reason. Smiling makes the soft palate at the back of your mouth rise which in turn makes the sound waves more fluid. That’s one reason why professional singers open their mouths so wide – voice tone improves when the soft palate is high.
     
  2. Ask how the caller heard about you. This is a probing question designed to uncover what marketing tools are the most effective. It isn’t a scientific poll – particularly since people might not remember – but it can be informative if no one ever mentions one of your marketing tools.
     
  3. Get the caller’s full contact information. You won’t be able to follow up if you don’t have full contact information – name, company name, phone number, e-mail address, mailing address. It isn’t as hard as you think to get the information if you give a logical reason for needing it: “In case we’re disconnected, can I get some quick information from you?”
Good voice inflection (indicating friendliness and interest) coupled with full contact information sets the scene for active follow up. Consider these statistics:
  • 2% of sales are made on the 1st contact.
  • 3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact.
  • 5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact.
  • 10% of sales are made on the 4th contact.
  • 80% of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact!

More Uses for Postcards


Although most postcards are used for direct mail marketing, they also have other uses. Here are some other ways to use postcards:
 
  • Feature a single product or service. Use a postcard in conjunction with a brochure or catalog to focus attention on the 20% of products or services that provide 80% of your sales. Create a series of postcards featuring those products/services and distribute to customers and prospects.
  • Convince prospects to move ahead. Postcards provide an alternative to follow up by phone or e-mail. They can also include a personal, handwritten message.
  • Remind people about an event. Build attendance at an event (fundraiser, annual meeting, member event) by using a save-the-date postcard, or as a thank you for attending the event afterwards.
  • Provide something of value. Use a postcard as a coupon or discount certificate to reward current customers or to attract prospects.
  • Feature a staff member. People buy from people. Help your customers get acquainted with your staff. Provide a photograph as well as interesting information about the person, like an unusual hobby, that could be a conversation starter or make a connection with a customer or prospect.
  • Remember a customer’s significant event. Use a postcard as a birthday greeting or to commemorate the number of years of customer loyalty.

Marketing with Postcards

A postcard mailing campaign, properly planned and carried out, is an efficient and cost-effective way to market to customers and prospects. Less time-consuming and costly to produce than a brochure or folded self-mailer, a postcard is more affordable and just as effective. Whether your objective is business promotion, donation solicitation, or an event reminder, a postcard gets the job done efficiently and cost-effectively.

Postcards play nicely with others

Because postcards don’t require opening for the message to be seen, they have an impact even on those who don’t actively engage with them. A well-designed postcard has the main message in plain view and catches the reader’s eye with a strong headline or graphic, resulting in a high read rate. Although a postcard typically has less space to deliver the message than a self-mailer, the postcard’s reach can be extended by referring to a website or landing page for more details. Postcards have a longer “shelf life” than e-mail and are easy to file for future reference.

Postcards work best for short messages and for generating leads (not closing sales). And they are remarkably effective when compared to email. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s Statistical Fact Book, the average response rate for direct mail is 4.4% for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer mailings, compared to 0.12% for e-mail. That explains why use of direct mail is an essential element of business marketing plans.

Postcards & NeighborMail™

A very popular way to use postcards is with our NeighborMail™ program that helps businesses tap into the power of direct mail. NeighborMail™ is a way to mail to every address in a specific area (defined by carrier route or zip code) at the very lowest postage rate available and without needing to put an address on the mail piece. This makes it the lowest cost-per-piece direct mail option.

The USPS has specific rules that apply to these mailings. One of those is the size of the mail piece. There is a wide range of size choices for postcards, from average to super size. The specific dimensional requirements may be confusing to interpret, but we can help you determine if the size you have in mind fits the requirements.

Besides size restrictions, other requirements include wording and placement of the indicia, wording to use in place of the address, how the mail must be bundled and labeled, what paperwork must accompany the mailing, how postage is paid, and how many pieces of mail can be sent each day.

NeighborMail™ versus regular targeted mailing

For some kinds of businesses, NeighborMail™ is an ideal way to conduct a direct mail marketing campaign; for others, regular targeted direct mail is best. The businesses that benefit the most from NeighborMail™ are those whose target customers can be found clustered in a specific area or zip code. Usually this means the business serves a broad spectrum of the population at large – all ages and income levels. Some examples are:
  • restaurants
  • retail stores
  • florists
  • bakeries
  • window cleaning
  • auto repair
  • car washes
  • hair salons
  • nail salons
  • barber shops
  • dry cleaners
  • pharmacies
  • housekeeping
  • carpet installation
  • convenience stores
  • landscaping
  • pest control
  • handyman services
     
The key is knowing whether to use NeighborMail™ or more targeted direct mail is to determine if there’s a concentration of the target audience in a specific area or zip code. First, define your target audience with measurable demographics like household income and age of head of household. With this information, we obtain a count of households in the specific area or zip code that meet the criteria. Compare that count to the count of deliverable addresses in the specific area or zip code, and the answer will be clear. In general, the less restrictive the criteria, the more likely NeighborMail™ will be beneficial.

Here’s an example: a local pizzeria is targeting households within a 7 mile radius that have an annual income of at least $35,000. Using the income criteria, we can determine how many households within the radius meet the criteria. This number can then be compared to the USPS count of households. If the numbers are similar (say, 4,700 versus 5,000), then NeighborMail™ is the better way to mail.

If a business has a highly specialized target audience, NeighborMail™ may not be the best choice. An obvious example is a swimming pool supply and service business. It is unlikely that a sufficient concentration of swimming pools could be found in a specific area or zip code. Instead of using NeighborMail™, this business owner should purchase a mailing list of households with swimming pools, perhaps with the additional criteria of household income.

Postcards and online marketing

One very effective use of postcards is to integrate them with online marketing – using a postcard to deliver a compelling offer that drives a prospect to a website or landing page. Here prospects can be prompted to complete a form or quick survey, redeem a coupon, or otherwise identify themselves.

Here are the advantages of using a direct mail postcard with online marketing rather than online marketing alone:
  • At the website, there’s no need to ask the prospect for comprehensive contact information as there would be for prospects who get to the website through pay-per-click or a search engine. You already have contact information; you only need one piece of information (such as a code printed on the postcard) to tie the website visitor back to the mailing list.
  • Prospects are more likely to read the initial message on a postcard than an e-mail message. As we mentioned earlier, the average response rate for direct mail is 4.4% compared to 0.12% for e-mail. It is easy to delete e-mail without opening it or to block an e-mail sender entirely. With a postcard, it is hard to avoid seeing some part of the message – especially a compelling headline or graphic that may cause the recipient to pause and read the mail piece.
  • By starting with a postcard, you can develop a targeted audience. Using demographic characteristics of your current best customers, you can obtain a mail list of others whose demographics (age, gender, income level and more) are a match. This puts the postcard in front of prequalified leads, increasing the likelihood of favorable response.

Postcards promote success

Postcards are a valuable part of the marketing toolkit for businesses and organizations. Versatile postcards can be applied to many different selling and customer relations situations. They can be used by themselves or combined with online marketing.

We can help you plan and carry out an effective postcard mailing campaign. We are experts in using headlines, text, photographs, illustrations and white space to grab the reader’s attention and promote response. Please contact Brigid at (215) 923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com to discuss your next postcard project.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to Make Your Email Marketing More Effective

Now that we've looked at some of the ways to become CAN-SPAM compliant when creating an email marketing campaign, let's look at some ways to make your email marketing more effective.

  • It's all relative – while at lunch the other day, we were talking about how inundated our inboxes have been lately with email marketing campaigns. A colleague questioned if email campaigns were still effective. The short answer is yes, they are if they are done properly. I get 20-30 unsolicited emails daily from marketers that purchased my email address off of some list. All of these get filed in the trash can. However, if my veterinarian were to start sending out a monthly newsletter about dog health, I would probably read that one. I have a dog, and this is of interest to me. If the email is about a product or service that I have used in the past or have elected to receive information about, I am much more likely to read, and forward that email on.
     
  • Don't make me hunt for the good information – emails that scroll on for days and days get sent right to the trash file too. I am way more inclined to read the high level points in a newsletter, and if something interests me, I will click on the article to read more. Don't force me to read it all in my inbox.
     
  • Your newsletter should not just be a jpg – we've all seen the email newsletters that are just a giant jpg. To me, this is taking the easy way out and not providing a good experience for your users. Take the time to recreate the email into a HTML format with actual links and text. Not only will this make the email more mobile friendly, it will also give you the opportunity to link the user up with your blog, website or social media accounts.
  • Don't have all the links in your newsletter go to your homepage – by all means, have a link to your website homepage in your newsletter. A signature at the bottom is a great place for this. However, if you have a teaser headline and a link to read more, the link should take me directly to the article.
  • Give me an offer – I am giving you my precious time by even reading your newsletter. The least you can do is give me an offer at the end of the newsletter. It doesn't have to be a coupon. But give me a reason to want to read them again, to visit your site, to call you, to give you more love.

This is a great start to a list of best practices for effective email marketing. If you have any pet peeves or great ideas for email marketing, feel free to leave a comment here and keep the conversation going.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

7 Tips for Email Marketing Campaign Compliance

Like you, every day I get more and more unwanted email. Despite the inundation of irrelevant and unwanted email, there are still a certain few that I look forward to receiving on a weekly or daily basis. Email marketing can be a very effective marketing tool if done correctly. If you are considering starting up an email marketing campaign, you’ll want to follow the 7 rules below to make sure that you are CAN-SPAM compliant.
  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
     
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
     
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but if your email is an ad, you must disclose that information clearly and conspicuously.
     
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations. Including your email address and/or your phone number does not suffice.
     
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
     
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
     
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.
Most of the popular email marketing tools (Vertical Response, Constant Contact, ProFusion Mailer, etc.) make staying CAN-SPAM compliant simple because most of it is handled automatically, however, the onus is on the sender to ensure compliance. If you need help identifying where your email marketing is coming up short, shoot Brigid an email at brigid@creativecharacters.com.