Variable Direct Mail Printing

Variable Direct Mail Printing can be one of the most powerful mediums of our times. However, most people who sell this to their clients are not even really doing Variable-Printing. 80% of all Variable-Print is nothing more than mail-merge and fancy fonts.

If I get another direct mail offer with my name spelled in sea shells on a beach I am just going to go insane. “OK, Great, you have a sea shell font – wow – thanks!”. What if I’m scared of the ocean? What if I am allergic to Seafood of any kind? Are you selling me something to do with a beach or shells?

If you don’t really know that much about your customers we can append over 100 fields of additional consumer data about them so you know if they like dogs or cats, drive Fords or Chevy’s, etc.. Ironically, done by real variable data teams in direct mail; we’ll still cost you less than all those printers because we do it every day without the baggage of all that crazy software they got sold.

At CSG Direct, we have over 2 decades in Real Variable Data: Variable Data Printing, Variable Data Coding, Randomization, Variable Data Email, Websites, and more.

Data Tips: Deduping and Suppressing

Cleaning a database of dedupes is one of the simplest ways to maximize its efficiency for your data marketing needs. This includes many small steps, but two are imperative when mailing to your customers.

The first is deduping. Deduping is simply the process of removing duplicate records. There are several different options you can choose to go by when deduping, this allows your marketing campaign to be as efficient and direct as you would like. For example, here is a list of deduping options that CSG offers.

One Per Individual Deduping

Individual Exact – This matches the address, first and last name, and zip code. So, if there is a Bob Smith at 123 Liberty Lane in your list twice one will be exported out of your list.

Individual Tight – Compares the same as above, but those that sound alike, such as: Christopher Ryan at 123 Liberty Lane, Chris Ryan at Liberty Lane or Jonathan Smith or John Smith. These are considered the same person and therefor a dedupe.

Individual Exact and Tight deduping comes in handy when your mailer has individual offers like the example below.

John Smith at 150 Freedom Dr. gets 100 bonus points
Sally Smith at 150 Freedom Dr. gets 120 bonus points

Although both live at the same address, they both have different first names therefor are not deduped out by using Individual Exact and Tight. This allows you to market to multiple people within a single household. Furthermore, you can market variable offers to every unique individual inside your data list.

One Per Household Deduping

Resident Exact – Dedupes the list by address and zip code only. So regardless of name if two or more records have the same exact address all but one record will be exported out of the main list.

Family Tight – Compares the last name, address, and zip code. This catches and slight variation of spelling that may occur between dedupes.

For example:
John Smith, 123 Liberty Lane, Apt B302
John Smith, 123 Liberty Lane

The above is a dedupe, although one of the above addresses contains an apartment number, the bottom record must be deleted in order to prevent the targeted clientele receiving multiple mailers for the same marketing campaign.

Resident Exact and Family Tight are handy for generic mailers that don’t have variable offers. There is really no need to send a mailer to everyone in a household for the same event, not only is it over marketing and annoying to those receiving the offer, but it is a waste of print and postage expenditures.

One Per Company Deduping

Company Exact – Much like Individual Exact with the exception that it compares the Company Name instead of the First and last along with the address/zip code.

Company Tight – Matches Company names that sound alike and have the same address/zip code.

For example:
Flag Makers Incorporation, 123 Freedom Way Suite 202
Flag Makers Inc. 123 Freedom Way Suite 202

This is obviously a dedupe, but wasn’t picked out by Company Exact because “Incorporation” was abbreviated in one and not the other.

Company Exact and Tight is only used when a list contains a company field.

There are instances where you will have First and last name fields along with a company field. This opens the possibility that several individuals at the same company and address will be in your list. Whether you want each of those instances to be mailed to will be entirely up to you.

Suppression

Suppression is when two different data lists are deduped against each other; whether it be Individual Exact, Resident Exact, etc.

This is typically utilized when you don’t want to mail to customers that were previously mailed to in recent marketing campaign.

So you can see that there is a lot that can be done to with these two data processes that can save you some big bucks, prevent your mailers from annoying your targeted audience, and ultimately insuring that you are getting the best out of your data.

CSG Direct Mail app US Mail Tracking at PCC

The Northern Nevada Postal Customer Council Direct Mail vendor fair took place last Friday, the 19th of November; at the Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno Nevada.

This was Reno’s first direct mail vendor fair in a very long time as the new PCC board is revamping the local chapter.  The PCC used to be held in the state capital of Carson City but has since moved to Reno since it is the SCF and the main BMEU for the region.

Direct Mail Booth

CSG Direct was there (of course) to show off lots of our current technologies and direct mailing innovations. We brought samples of our variable data personalized printing, dimensional or textured printing, personalized 2d barcodes, Intelligent Mail Barcodes and of course our direct mail tracking application CSG DIRECT MAIL.

We had hoped to bring samples of our newest variable personalized digital mapping for direct mail printing but they were not ready in time, so we’ll save those for another day. We didn’t really need the variable maps though, since our direct mail application on the iPad stole the show.

We brought two iPads so we could show many as many people as possible as the crowds gathered around our booth. Michael Hemphill jokingly declared, “We come from the future” as he proudly demonstrated his newest US Mail Tracking innovations.

Database Marketing, Direct Mail vs Email

As someone that has been in database marketing for over 2 decades I have had my share of deep experience in both direct mail and email variable data driven forms of direct marketing.

Email is a dying service and is going to go away in it’s current form.

We started by building our own email broadcast and link tracking tools back in the late 90’s.  We were in email marketing from 1995 to 2005 as an add-on to our direct mail services. Back then it was HOT and NEW and everyone wanted in, but so few people knew what they were doing so we enjoyed a decade of great prosperity.

But then in 2005 we got out all together just as a swarm of vendors and competitors were getting in. There was still a lot of money to be made in email after we got out but we recognized the fight those vendors were entering into.

There is a real ugly truth about email marketing that the companys buying the service do not know that definitely hurts them.  When you send even 1 message it has to go through multiple firewalls, mutliple virus scans, multiple email processing rules and multiple spam filters.

If it makes it past all those gatekeepers and lands in your prospects in-box they can tag you as SPAM that very second. That action affects all those same gateways and spam filters for each message that follows it.

Then, 10 minutes later you send an email to your customer to ask them about an order you are working on and your email message gets blocked by their spam filters. All because now you have been recorded as a spamming company. I guess the rule of thumb is if you don’t want to be treated like garbage marketing, don’t put your message next to the garbage in someones inbox.

We saw this coming, it was getting bad years ago and the writing was clearly on the wall. Email results are also at historical record lows too.  Low responses and a technical nightmare are not a recipe for success.

I have been talking about this for months with my peers but I guess I decided to blog about it today because I spent 3 hours removing an email virus from someones computer. What a pain in the ass and an uneccessary use of everyones time. There are so many other ways to communicate that don’t risk your entire it investments.

As someone who manages a firewall, one of the biggest security breaches we deal with on any given day is EMAIL. Email my friends, will not be around in it’s current form and I would not invest any current dollars moving in that direction.  For real electronic success you should chase SEO combined with social media like facebook marketing as well as others growing in popularity.

Then, really get to know your direct mail program. Direct mail is the most courteous of all forms of non-electronic marketing. It is still also the most focused, trackable, adjustable, shareable, savable, copyable, calcuable form of marketing.

But beware, there are spammers in direct mail too.  There are more spam marketers in direct mail than there are true direct mail marketing companys. These vendors will make you look bad and get your message thrown away just like email can be.

Nothing makes me sadder for a company then when I lose a bid by $100 to a printer and that company loses thousand$ in response and the direct mail information that comes with it.  Lowering their prices is the only tool in a printers bag compared to a real direct mail company that offers full service and full results.

Find out where your vendors core focus is. If they are primarily a printer or a print broker, forget about it.  Find database junkies, variable data printing and response pros. That is our niche, that’s where real direct mail lives and breathes. Experienced direct mail people know it and their businesses thrive off their direct mail results.

Real direct mail marketing isn’t broadcast print, it is made up of multiple data sources, multiple data-relevant messages, calls to action, results tracking and offer adjusting based on results.

You don’t get that from a printer, that’s direct mail baby.

What Variable Data Printing Is NOT

Variable data printing can be one of the most powerful mediums of our time. However, most people who sell this to their clients are not even really doing variable printing. Eighty percent of all variable print is nothing more than mail-merge and fancy fonts. If I get another direct mail offer with my name spelled in sea shells on a beach I am just going to go insane!

“OK, Great, you have a sea shell font – wow – thanks!”. What if I’m scared of the ocean? What if I am allergic to seafood of any kind? Are you selling me something to do with a beach or shells?

[First Name] mail-merge is kindergarten at best. The tiny increase in response (if any) will rarely justify the extra expense for this kind of fluff. Plus, you have to worry so much about all the negative associations with an unusual, unrelated approach to selling your goods and services.  What’s worse, I have seen entire campaigns switch themes away from a companies core brand just to include these fonts.  If you are a medical supply company you shouldn’t sell yourself with a beach theme just because it looks cool to you.  Remember, it should be relative.

Unfortunately the real professionals of variable printing, the database teams in direct mail, have been inundated with printers that are being convinced to buy hundred thousand dollar specialty packages like seashell fonts and PURLs.  So, in many ways, this is now the industry standard. To the real database marketing professionals this is very disheartening.  However, use this to your advantage!  We’ll show you personalization that makes sense, creates additional results and is truly tied around the desires of your customers and prospects.

If you don’t really know that much about your customers we can append over 100 fields of additional consumer data about them so you know if they like dogs or cats, drive Ford or Chevy, etc. When this is done by real variable data teams in direct mail it will still cost less than all those printers because we do it every day without the baggage of all that crazy software they bought.

At CSG Direct, we have over two decades experience in real variable data: variable data printing, variable data coding, randomization, variable data email, websites, and more. Our entire site is an example of variable data, but you wouldn’t know that unless I told you. The images, alts, metas, content, embeds, etc. are all database driven variable content management.  All of these tools are built right here at CSG Direct!

CSG Direct lives and breathes variable data so you get better results with REAL personalization!

Database Marketing Versus Personalized Mail

At first glance database marketing could be seen as either a very vague expression or a very specific one.  Obviously in direct mail we are always using databases in our marketing, but that does not really identify which of the above we provide in specific mailings.

We define the difference simply based on volume and functions used due to the volume. For example, even thought it is rudimentary at best; in order for a mailpiece to be considered personalized there is at least one area where you refer to the person you are addressing by name. With database marketing we may not specifically call the person by name, but we will make sure the offer presented will likely appeal to the recipient based on mining, tiers and historical data.

So in many ways both of these can be considered “personalization”. However, when the audience gets large enough, we may have to resort to non-personalized printing in order to meet a large scale budget. This eliminates marketing directly to the person, and replaces it with marketing to a segment of people or interests. A quick example would be 20,000 pieces vs. 250,000 pieces. We can easily digital variable print (aka Variable Data Printing) anything from 500 to 35,000 pieces or more and keep costs reasonable and response rates elevated. But at 100,000 pieces it becomes much easier to reduce costs dramatically by breaking down the project into tiers and eliminating variables like “Hello, John” from the copy.

At 250,000 pieces we will have strategically separated the data into many tiers, some of which stay digital to maximize personalization and postage. The other versions are printed on a traditional press to maximize price efficiency and avoid paying the per-click charges that digital presses require. This is database marketing – the management of a campaign to optimize costs and response as well as postage cost and delivery balancing.  This is one of the specialized services we are known for, as well as the actual segmenting and variable coding of the project.  Much of this is accomplished with our proprietary programs to maximize flexibility.

You don’t get this done at a printer, this is direct mail and database marketing at its core and belongs with database marketing professionals so you get real results, real savings and a 360 degree understanding of the balance of all the above.  This is where CSG Direct has earned much of our reputation!

NCOALink Initiatives are Working

We are really starting to see the difference the NCOALink initiative was intended for. Each year we have seen 17-20% of the population move. Over 40% change their address annually. In the past we have dealt with returned mail and undeliverable piece percentages as high as 8-12+%. Because of this CSG Direct became a direct NCOALink limited service licensee years ago. This helped, but not as much as the USPS requiring NCOA services as of November of 2008.  Now people are taking it more seriously.

These high return rates are dropping dramatically with the new NCOA initiatives.

The US Postal Service says that Almost five out of every 100 mailpieces are UAA. When you look at UAA mail by reason, approximately 75 percent is caused by people moving. In addition, when you look at UAA mail by class, Standard Mail accounts for almost 63 percent of all UAA mail volume.”

So according to them you should be seeing an average of 5% undeliverable mailpieces.

This is the main reason why the USPS has pressed the NCOA initiatives and why we became the only NCOALink licensee in the state of Nevada.

The USPS delivered 202.7 BILLION pieces of mail in 2008. So just 5% of that is 10 billion pieces of undeliverable mail bouncing around in the system. They needed a way to eliminate that waste and the NCOA process is doing just that.  We are now seeing closer to 1% (or less) of all mailings being undeliverable with the NCOA process fully in place.  However, it is only required currently every 90 days and as we approach the 90 day cycle the mailings do tend to have higher returns.  Monthly or every-job requirements are bound to follow. An example of this requirement is the CASS process that was the predecessor of NCOALink.

In short, it will only get better, but it is only as good as the people that fill out the change of address forms.

Cup-more-than-half-full: At least with direct mail you know EXACTLY how many people did not get your message. With every other medium you will never know.  If I run a TV campaign I HOPE everyone sees it, I KNOW they don’t all see it, but I will never KNOW how many did.  Same with radio, print, billboards, E-mail, newspapers, etc.

Direct mail is responsible and accountable marketing. :)

Get More Information on NCOALink here at CSG Direct, Inc

Problem with PURLS in Variable Data Printing

I don’t think there is a compelling enough reason to do personalized URLS. We are a variable data printing company and database marketers ourselves. We find PURLS are pushed by the digital press manufacturers as something expensive to sell that the buyer can use to generate business. It’s expensive to buy!

There tend to be a few quick uses for it and then PURLS lose their glamour. The primary use is to get data from a client. Wow, it’s got my name in it! But the fantasy wears off after the first time; especially when they find out that it’s a fact-gathering expedition or survey only.

(Which is great once, but you cannot do monthly surveys without a reason.)

There are just so few reasons to use PURLS.
We focus more on personalization for increased appeal and response. There are many (much more secure) ways to get a client to interact online without PURLS.

In short, expensive gimmick, few uses for the same customer, cool only on the first day it rolled out.

I (We) have been building variable data websites since 1995 to work with direct mail campaigns. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective and you can do it quickly with simple landing pages.

By the way, did I mention that we invented a way to track direct mail through the normally hidden mailstream? When we do a mailing you can track the production of your piece online (since 1999) and also track when it is delivered to the US Postal Service.  We also let you track each piece on its journey to its end delivery post office.

There are so many more things you can do on the cheap than to rely on PURLS.

Just my take, but then again I have been doing variable data printing and database programming for over 20 years in direct mail. Not meant as plug – just a reference of experience.

If you need a variable data printing quote just let me know. It’s one of the things we are famous for.