Direct Mail Marketing Strategies (3 of 5)

In Direct Mail Marketing we usually have a product we want to sell and we try to find the best way to sell it. We then work every trick and angle we can think of to develop the best response possible.  Have you ever thought that maybe this is backwards?

Strategy #3) Sell what your database tells you to! Direct-Mail shoes

Do not tailor your database to your offers, tailor your offers to your database. You need to send things your customers want, not just what you want to sell.

This is where direct mail tracking pays huge dividends.  On every mailing and every promotion you ever do you need to find ways to track and record sales and all sales details on each person.  This is the only way to develop what each individual likes about your products or services. Information is King!

An example is trying to sell coats to people that buy shoes. Sure you can likely sell some of them coats but for best results sell them more shoes.  Then, if they like black shoes; quit trying to sell them blue ones.  If they don’t like laces, promote shoes without laces to this particular person.

Variable data printing makes this easy!

Why are you pushing coats on your shoe people, anyway?

Sure, maybe you have an inventory of coats to sell too. But you should make those a secondary offer that follows directly behind what you know your customers like first.  “Buy 2 pairs of [insert favorite shoes here] and be entered to win this fabulous coat.” Then when they are buying all these shoes, you get them to try coats on and tell them about the coat sale this weekend too.

If you do not have the data to know what your customers have bought and how to personalize with variable data printing, you are at the right place here at CSG Direct, Inc.

Variable Data Print Sample

There is a huge separation in businesses that track sales and those that do not.

If you do not track your customers preferences you are going to lose in your competitive marketplace. You will lose!  Your competitors will win more sales with less money. You will win fewer sales and spend much more marketing dollars to do it.

Direct-Mail Perfect fit

COA, Ancillary Service Endorsements and Postage Rates

Undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) mail is forwarded, returned to sender, or treated as dead mail as authorized for the particular mail class. An mailer endorsement is used to instruct the Postal Service regarding the mailpiece’s appropriate disposition upon determining that it is UAA. On First-Class Mail® service, the following endorsements may be used as an updating method to meet the move update standard:

Return Service Requested. If UAA, the mailpiece is returned with the new address or reason for nondelivery; no charge.

Temp-Return Service Requestd. If UAA and a temporary change-of-address has been filed, the mailpiece is forwarded at no charge. No separate notice of a new temporary change-of-address is provided.

Address Service Requested.

  • Months 1 – 12: the mailpiece is forwarded; no charge; a separate notice of the new address is provided; an address correction fee is charged.
  • Months 13 – 18: the mailpiece is returned with the new address attached; no charge.
  • After month 18 or if undeliverable: the mailpiece is returned with reason for nondelivery attached; no charge.

Change Service Requested. Separate notice of new address or reason for nondelivery provided; in either case, address-correction fee is charged; mailpiece is not forwarded or returned but disposed of by the Postal Service. This endorsement option is available for First-Class Mail only when used in conjunction with electronic ACS™ Service.

Ancillary service endorsements allow the sender to obtain on request (provided the appropriate endorsement is used) the addressee’s new (forwarding) address (if the addressee filed a Change-of-Address Order with the Postal Service) or the reason for nondelivery. These endorsements also provide the Postal Service with instructions for the disposition of UAA mail. These new endorsements provide a simpler and more consistant system than the previous endorsements.

Optional Ancillary Service Endorsement Locations

In addition to the current location under the return address (1), ancillary service endorsements may be placed above the delivery address block (2), to the left of the postage area (3), or below the postage area (4) (postage stamps, meter stamps, or permit imprints). See DMM M012.4.3 for more information.

Optional Ancillary Service Endorsement LocationsFor accuracy sake this has been taken directly from the USPS.com website http://www.usps.com/ncsc/addressservices/moveupdate/ace.htm

US Mail Postage Rates Summer Sale

The US Postal Service is having it’s first ‘Sale’ that I have seen in my lifetime of 20 postal years. They are going to give you 30% off of your postage rates for every dollar you spent ‘above your average’.

The details are best to come directly from the US Postal Service so here is the quote from the Post Office customer Relations:

“The Postal Service will offer qualifying Standard Mail customers a 30 percent discount on eligible mailings this summer. This will provide those mailers with an incentive to prospect for new customers and reconnect with existing customers.

We think Direct Mail has tremendous value in growing your business. With Direct Mail accounting for 22 percent of the $250 billion spent nationwide on advertising each year, it’s big business. Direct mail is targeted and measurable to an extent other advertising media can’t match.

The summer sale is currently under review by the Postal Regulatory Commission. We plan to begin the discounted pricing July 1. The sale will run until September 30.

Obviously, this is a new initiative for us and we’re anxious to see how well it will work. Are any of you going to take advantage of the summer sale?”

– Steve Kearney, senior vice president, Customer Relations

The catch is, to be eligable you must mail over 1 million pieces of mail from October 1st 2007 through March 31st 2008. From those dates a ‘threshold’ is being established to compare your current summer mailings to.

You will pay your full postage rates through this season and then after October 31st the US Postal Service will determine your rebate and put that back on your permit by December 31st.

So there is a Sale, but only a handful of our direct mail customers will even apply for it as the discount is 30% of the postage spent above your average amount. Of course you still have to mail at least a million pieces in the 4 months as well.

I estimate that this will affect the ‘publishers clearinghouses’ and ‘Capital Ones’ of the world the most.  I just wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t tell you about it. If you would like us to help you calculate, monitor and apply for your savings with you we will.

Are new postage rates justified in direct mail?

All things being what they are, I am normally one of the first people to bash large bureaucratic entities such as the US Postal Service. The monopoly that they hold over the industry, the civil service mentality and attitude as well as the constant increases in the cost of doing business leave them as a wide-open target.

In thinking about the new Postage Rates, however, I also feel compelled to compliment the postal service for the latest developments that they have introduced. It has been quite an undertaking! Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of room for improvement and a many areas that they can improve on. Today let’s look at some of the positives, because they deserve to be recognized.

One of the most amazing new developments with the US Postal Service is the implementation of the intelligent mail barcode systems. It is mind-boggling to think of the amount of data retrieval, data collection and data distribution that this system is capable of. This helps the post office to track delivery times and pinpoint problematic areas within their system.

It has also been a great tool for mail service providers such as CSG Direct to build systems around for individual US Mail tracking. This is a dream come true for Direct Marketing professionals to be able to track their mailings online. It allows them to gauge delivery times, track individual pieces and better plan their projects.

Another item that I believe bears consideration is the expense of fuel that has spiked and dropped several times in recent memory. As a transportation and delivery entity, the postal service is sharply affected by fuel costs. I know in my household fuel prices have strained the budget considerably. These costs cannot be absorbed for long periods of time – especially at the volumes that the USPS consumes.

I believe that the postal service is working diligently to improve service and delivery times. With some of the new requirements for NCOA standards, enhanced barcoding and ongoing customer relationship building. I am seeing great strides of improvement in a large entity that is slow to change.

If we can only get them to work in a more customer friendly atmosphere in regard to the incessant changes and rules for mailpiece design and construction. They change the rules – industry adjusts – then they change the rules because they do not like the industry adjustments. The recent flat changes are a good example of this.

In May of 2007, the flat rate increase was harsh, so the industry started changing to smaller booklets and slimjims that were subject to the letter rate category. Now the post office is implementing new rules on these types of mailers that will cost the preparers more money to process and slow down the production. This should have been taken into consideration in 2007 when the USPS raised the flat rates to get mailers to change their formats and remove some of the burden from the flat sorters.

OOPS… I am going off on a rant – not the intention here.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the positive changes that the post office and the mailing industry are encountering. The new technologies are very cool, and very useful. If you are not taking advantage of these new technologies, then you are missing the boat! If you would like to learn more about US Mail Tracking, give one of the Direct Mail Specialists at CSG Direct a call. We are here to help!

Direct Marketing Headlines

I received a direct mail headline question and thought I would talk about it here too.

You are relying on someone giving you their quality time. If your headline is weak, you are assuming they will care long enough to read your whole copy. They probably won’t.

Your instinct may be to use a headline like “The best service in our industry”. But this is more like a followup to a real headline that grabs their attention and then makes them read more. People process information in bits and you can either lead them along or you can confuse them at the start.

I would rather entice readership with something like “Your Customers Don’t Like You”. which makes everyone say to themselves “WHAT? Our customers love us! Who is saying this?” and then you drop into your secondary line “How do you know you have the best service in your industry?”.

At this point the person reading will at least ask themselves that secondary question and see if they can answer it. If they cannot – you can take them to the next line… leading them forward into your offer.

You have engaged them! Bravo!  Step 1 complete. Remember not to think too much about step 4, 5 & 6 until you conquer step 1.  Engage them and make them talk to your mailpiece and question it.

The main problem is that too many corporations wont allow you to use headlines like that. They’ll say it’s too unprofessional or too “small company”.  They want to lead with giant brand statements like “Great service for over 50 years”.

So what?
Why should I give you 15 more seconds of my time, let alone some kind of response or business order?

Your headline must engage them.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to track and test multiple headlines to see what works best with your audience.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #7

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

Finally we can confront Sin #7:

Direct Mail Sin #7

Proof sign-offs taken too casually

Every job that we receive with electronic files requires some kind of manipulation or adjustment prior to mailing. RGB to CMYK, resizing, recropping, data merging, font replacement etc…

When your project requires a final signoff we hope that you take this opportunity seriously!

By the time it gets to this stage you have seen it many many times. Take a moment and read every line of your offer and confirm that everything is exactly the way it should be. This is your final opportunity to adjust dates, copy or data before your clients or prospects see the piece.

This is also the moment in time when the mistakes slide though and become major issues when the customers start calling.

We know that you are probably tired of reading at this point but you need to try to read the piece like it was your very first time looking at it. Study the text, confirm the data, dates, phone numbers, call-to-actions and all other components.

Common errors found at this point:

* Right date/wrong day (is it really a Thursday on that date?)

* Brand colors off

* Wrong or missing telephone numbers

* Newest art changes not sent (were we sent the most recent version of artwork?)

* Wrong offers, or error in disclaimers

* Spelling errors/typos

We know this is cumbersome but it also one of the unavoidable steps. We highly recommend you let someone else look at it and sign off with you. This identifies more errors and changes the dynamic if something is missed.

On a personal note, it doesn’t leave you standing alone as responsible for errors if more people on the team miss the same detail. If many people missed it than it must not have been obvious.  If only one person signs off it is easy for everyone to just point at you and steer clear of responsibility.  This is human nature.

Either way, the signoff process and authorization for us to proceed is your decision only.  We will not proceed without it and we are responsible to print and mail it exactly as the proof you signed off on.

Added Note about all 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail:
Allow the time needed for the quality and price you desire. This time gives you the breathing room needed to be flexible if  things you plan go wrong. No human process or timing is perfect, however much you try!

You cannot be consistently successful when you are expecting everyone involved to “jump from miracle to miracle”! You’ll save money in the end by not paying for rushed and fixed jobs. Being rushed always creates additional errors as you skip details to meet timeframes.

Our most successful customers have learned to work backwards from deadlines, successfully creating a smooth process from start to finish.

Intelligent Mail Barcodes

This is a new feature from the Post Office that was originally slated as a requirement starting May 2009.  So many mailshops and software vendors freaked out that the USPS has decided to delay that requirement for one more year.  The program is alive and well, however, just not yet required.

We have been using and developing systems around the Intelligent Mail barcode since January 2008 and have had extensive experience in Planet codes before that.

Have you seen our new US Mail Tracking tools?

We are ready for this and have actually lead the way.  Is your mailshop using this technology?  How many other things are coming that your current mailshop is going to wait for, before learning on your project?  Why do they put your mailings at risk as they “figure it out” near deadlines? It’s because most shops are reactive instead of proactive.

You deserve to be kept at the front of the direct mail revolution, not in the backseat.  These new systems create dynamic advantages for the people that partner with us. What if your competition is using these advanced services and you are not?  Mailing with CSG Direct ensures that you are staying at the front of the pack. 

This is another core reason to work with a company that is a mailshop first, printer second.  It just makes sense!

The first time I opened a piece of my own marketing campaign

The first time I opened a piece of my own marketing campaign mail more than twenty years ago, I was astonished to find the letter inside was glued to the inside flap and as a result came out in tatters from the envelope.  After I tried and failed to open the letter without tearing the piece into bitty sections, I just went at it until the thing was lying across my desk like a crossword puzzle.

Thing is, the coupons attached were in sections too.  I was horrified because the procedures for accepting the coupons was to have the customer hand the entire letter with coupons attached to the Player’s Club to be able to acquire their $5 in coin and $5 in food credit.  It said it right on the coupon.

I glanced down at the scattered micro-perforated mess and immediately hurried to the Player’s Club to make sure the representatives took the coupons no matter how they came into the counter.  Oh my!  The line of guests extended for a hundred feet and every one of them had some kind of abnormal untidy heap of baffling print tangled rag in their palms.

They all looked confused, but more importantly angry.  Instead of throwing my hands up, quitting my job and running to the nearest pub, I decided to call in every slot attendant I could get my hands on and give them directions on making our customers feel at ease. Each one of our guests were told we would honor every coupon and I ran upstairs and created a sign to post at the casino entrance and the player’s club that we would handle their bewilderment without argument.

The next two weeks went fairly smoothly and we actually had comments that the staff had done a fantastic job in the presence of catastrophe.  The GM gave me a pat on the back and then told me to fire the mailing house, but I had already communicated my frustration to the company and they gave me a credit on the next mailing. Apparently, the auto-letter stuffer had just been cleaned and the equipment malfunctioned that added the minute amount of moisture needed to seal the flap. Instead, the amount ended up being about a tablespoon and was not caught by handlers at the end of the line who were wearing gloves to protect their hands from paper cuts.

More than ten thousand letters were ruined, but a lesson was learned.  Always be prepared for anything happening and think through the confusion to the solution that ultimately makes the customer happy.

John Evanoff
jevanoff@redearthcasino.com

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #6

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #6:

Direct Mail Sin #6

Don’t use MS Excel for databases

Excel sucks for databases. I don’t know how else to put it. Sure, everybody has it and it is one of the easiest ways to display your database visually, but it doesn’t hold record integrity and it plays with the numbers in your database. The worst horror stories ever in our business have Excel in them. We like MS Excel for spreadsheets and mathematics, not for databases.

There is no describing the feeling that comes over you when you find out (after the mailing) that your customer had sorted the [Last Name] field of an Excel spreadsheet before sending it to you.  It’s like a bomb goes off and everyone involved gets hit with the collateral damage.

These “bombs” are always from excel. Every single time over the decades I have been doing database marketing, Excel is the culprit. Yes there are ways to use it properly to avoid these mistakes. But, the fact that sortation is possible in this manner means excel is NOT a database program.

You’ve been warned.  This is a Direct Mail Sin.