Progressive Technology

Direct Mail as an Impulse Marketing Tool

Think QR codes for personalized coupons and 3D augmented reality experiences within catalogs pages.

Merging digital and physical advertising is going to be the new direction for growth in direct marketing. Mailers receive lower rates for sending direct mail that includes 2D barcodes with a call-to-action.QR code direct marketing

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been offering new programs to compete with cheaper digital channels and to reach consumers in an increasingly digital world and providing incentives to direct mailers to do business with them.

“Right now is a pivotal point for direct mail; it can do things it never did before. It can elicit an impulse buy,” says Gary Reblin, VP of new products and innovation at the USPS. “Direct mail was never viewed as [an] impulse tool at any point in history, but now it can [be one]. We’re trying to evolve the mail to have its place in a more digital and mobile society.”

Marketers must think differently to stay relevant and engage today’s oft-distracted, multichannel customers. Personalized mailings using database technology makes it more expedient to execute mailings, as flexible and easy as email, so marketers can make changes to campaigns in progress based on the results of conversion data and personalized target markets.

 “Marketers today are gathering as much data as possible on customers, taking that information to [compose] relevant communications, and using direct mail as the vehicle,” says Don Jarred, VP of production services at marketing services provider Epsilon.”

Here are 10 tips for clever direct marketing:

1. Deliver your message into the right hands

Consumers expect messaging to be relevant across channels, including direct mail. Marketers often have scores of data about customers and prospects and should use this information to avoid batch-and-blast messages.

“Direct mail is a great way for us to target consumers,” says Laks Vasudevan, director of acquisition at Discover Credit Card. “It’s our most targeted platform, and we use it as an opportunity to understand the consumer more.”

2. Make it personal

Combine transactional and profile data to make sure customers get a message that is right for them. Marketers also use predictive analytics to craft and send communications that they anticipate will do well with a particular individual.

“Analytics tools are essential to creating smart databases that can self-mine and identify”¦the responses [marketers] are looking for,” says Grant Miller, global VP of operations and product management at Pitney Bowes.

The USPS’s Reblin emphasizes that personalization is vital to the effectiveness of direct mail. “Direct mail still gives the consumer the idea to check out a product, unlike when they do a Google search and have to come up with the idea themselves,” he says. “But it has to be targeted to get the customer’s attention.”

3. Remember those special days

Triggers like birthdays are especially effective for connecting with customers on a personal level.

“Birthdays are very personal to all of us, and we like to have the personal touch by sending something in the mail,” says Kelly Cook, SVP of marketing at DSW. “A customer may love getting an email from us for fashion tips or to let them know about a triple points offer, but their birthday is different.”

4. Integrate direct mail with other marketing channels

Use direct mail as part of an overall messaging program that includes TV, radio, billboards, contact centers, and online.  Consumers are introduced to messaging through TV ads and billboards, but direct mail serves as the catalyst to drive sign-ups either via your call center or an online application.

“Direct mail is a critical part of a communication plan,” Vasudevan says. “But we believe that it’s important that we use multiple channels to close the loop.”

5. Plan holistically

When using direct mail as part of an overall multichannel effort, it’s essential to consider how each channel will impact the others. For example, adding QR codes to a direct mail piece is a great way to catch a customer’s eye, but if it leads to a website that’s not optimized for mobile, then it could turn customers off instead of spark a sale. Or, when using direct mail to encourage customers to go online and register for an event, the PURL (personalized URL) should lead directly to the sign-up page, not the brand’s homepage.

“Direct mail is no longer just a mail piece,” the USPS’s Reblin says. “If you want it to be more effective by integrating it with other channels, then you need to think about the whole experience.”

6. Use 2D codes wisely

Adding a 2D barcode such as a QR code can bring a static piece of marketing to life. During the 2012 political campaign season, politicians used direct mail pieces with QR codes to deepen the conversation with citizens. After scanning the codes, the recipient could watch a video of the candidate speaking on a specific issue, for instance.

“Mail is a great jumping-off point,” USPS’s Reblin says. “It can encourage people to go deeper to find out more.”

7. Push the envelope

Mailers are rethinking how to use the envelope as a marketing tool. Discover, for example, uses images of its cards on its direct mail envelopes. Its mailings go out when the brand is already running ads on TV, radio, and billboards, so the customer may be more likely to open it to see what offer Discover has tailored for them.

“Marketers should experiment with the envelope to get a customer to open it and not dispose of the mailing,” says Pitney Bowes’ Miller.

Using full color on envelopes has gotten easier to print thanks to new wrapping technologies, which build envelopes quickly and efficiently out of one roll of paper around the mailers” without driving up costs.

8. Think customer-first

As with all marketing, direct mail should be inspired by the customer. “Gone are the days of blanketing the universe with one offer,” Epsilon’s Jarred says. “We’ve become much more analytical and send creative that is backed by a real understanding of the customer.”

Demonstrating that understanding means that marketers must get back to basics: make sure their lists are current, their mailings are targeted, and their promotional offers are meaningful so their message will resonate with the recipient.

9. Increase production with new technologies

New innovations in ink jet technology make it easier and more cost effective for marketers to produce high-quality mailings and get them out quickly. With these innovations in direct mail production, the channel has more in common with email than it has in the past. Although, in general, direct mailers still plan ahead for campaigns, it’s easier than ever to test campaigns in progress and change them during the execution based on how recipients are responding.

Improvements in database integration can also help speed the mailing cycle without risking the personalized experience. “In the past you would print out a whole bunch of pieces and have them in warehouse ready to distribute, and then add envelopes,” says Pitney Bowes’ Miller. “New analytics tools allow you to sub-segment and fine tune your market, coming out of the blocks without requiring a lot of extra effort to identify your target market when you get into physical production,” he adds.

10. Marry mail and mobility

Consumers are used to getting direct mail pieces with coupons or toll-free numbers on them. Mobile offers ways to simplify both. Inspired by Google Wallet, this month the USPS is launching a new promotion to encourage mailers to send direct mail pieces with coupons that can be uploaded to a mobile phone.

The USPS is also encouraging marketers to add QR codes that feature click-to-call triggers. Recipients can scan the QR code and the phone number will automatically pop up on their phone. All they have to do is click to reach the company’s contact center. “This is a great way to solicit an inbound telemarketing response,” says Epsilon’s Jarred. “By allowing consumers to capture information more quickly, direct mail is staying nimble.”

 

Check out the details on these 10 tips in a recent article in Direct Marketing News by Dianna Dilworth

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10 Steps to Optimize Invoice Processing [Infographic]

Providing value to its clients has been a priority of BMS Direct. Utilizing their state-of-the art equipment BMS customers receive an advanced invoice processing service that delivers accuracy and productivity.  James E. LaPrade, Sr. President, BMS Direct explains the value to BMS clients.

“We have had a number of client requests over the years to outline how our invoice processing services increase efficiencies and reduce costs. This infographic simplifies the 10 steps BMS Direct utilizes during the production process to ensure our clients’ invoices and statements are processed in the most efficient manner.  As an added benefit, the utilization of our invoice processing services will increase cash flow for our clients. I look forward to learning how our services may help your organization.”

10 Steps for Optimizing Invoice Processing

10 Steps for Optimizing Invoice Processing

With regard to accuracy and efficiency, BMS Direct Vice President, Leif  Aagaard, Jr. explains the expectations of BMS customers,

“Over the years, the accuracy and efficiency of our invoice processing service has been refined to ensure 99.9% accuracy with each mailing. Our SSAE 16 compliance guarantees the privacy and security of your data while our state-of-the-art equipment ensures the most cost effective data processing services obtainable.”

For your convenience, we have also created the 10 Steps to Optimize Invoice Processing [Infographic] in a PDF file you can download. For additional information on our invoice processing services or to find out how BMS can help your organization please contact us.

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Discontinuance of POSTNET Barcode

USPS files final rule to discontinue POSTNET barcode

The Postal Service filed its final rule on the discontinuance of the POSTNET barcode to go into effect on January 28, 2013.

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BMS Direct Achieves SAS70 Type II Certification

March 1, 2011, BMS Direct successfully completed a rigorous TYPE II examination and audit of their statement printing services in conformity with the Auditing Standards No 70 (SAS 70) for Service Organizations.

The SAS 70 was developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) for service providers who wish to prove a high level of control effectiveness to independent auditors, and is the most widely recognized auditing standard for service companies.

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Intelligent Mail Barcode Required May 2011

The Intelligent Mail barcode will be required by the USPS beginning in May 2011

May 2011 is the date set by the United States Postal Services requiring Intelligent Mail barcodes for automation discounts, business reply mail and confirm service.  Combining the capabilities of the Postnet and Planet barcodes into one unique barcode  makes the Intelligent Mail barcode a much more efficient process for all parties involved.

What is an Intelligent Mail Barcode?

The Intelligent Mail barcode, formerly referred to as the 4-State Customer barcode, is a new Postal Service barcode used to sort and track letters and flats. The Postal Service is promoting use of the Intelligent Mail barcode because it expands the ability to track individual mailpieces and provides customers with greater visibility into the mailstream.

How does it work?

The Intelligent Mail barcode combines the data of the existing POSTNET™ and the PLANET Code® barcodes, as well as other data, into a single barcode. The Intelligent Mail barcode is a type of height-modulated barcode, that uses four distinct vertical bar types (Full, Tracker, Ascender and Descender).

How do mailers benefit from the Intelligent Mail barcode?

The Intelligent Mail barcode is the result of the Postal Service’s efforts to develop more robust codes capable of encoding more information, while minimizing the space used on the mailpiece. The Intelligent Mail barcode:

  • Has a greater overall data capacity than existing barcodes.
  • Provides mailers with more digits for their use, allowing for unique identification of up to a billion mailpieces per mailing.
  • Provides more accurate and detailed information about mailings which can enable better decision making.
  • Increases mailpiece “real estate” by eliminating the need for multiple barcodes.
  • Allows for participation in multiple USPS service programs with a single barcode.

Am I required to use the Intelligent Mail barcode in lieu of POSTNET and PLANET codes?

Currently, use of Intelligent Mail barcode is optional; however, because it offers significant advantages over POSTNET and PLANET Code barcodes (including using less mailpiece “real estate” and offering more overall data capacity), most customers have found it makes good business sense to adopt this new format, today. The Postal Service will require use of the Intelligent Mail barcode to qualify for automation prices beginning May 2011.

For more Q & A regarding Intelligent Mail Barcodes download USPSIMB_QandA Fact Sheet.

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PRC helps businesses stay competitive

Rejection of Postage Increase Will Help Businesses Stay Competitive and Save Jobs
Tony Conway, Executive Director, Alliance for Nonprofit Mailers
Affordable Mail Alliance Commends Postal Regulatory Commisson on Rejection of Postal Rate Hikes

Washington, DC – The Affordable Mail Alliance – an unprecedented coalition of more than 1,200 nonprofits, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, major trade associations, consumer groups, and citizens representing the vast majority of the mail sent in the United States – said today that the decision of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to reject the rate hikes proposed by the Postal Service is good for businesses, and will actually benefit the USPS in the long run.

The proposed rate hikes, which were to have taken effect next January, would have added $3 billion annually to the nation’s postal bill even though the rate of inflation is close to zero. The PRC decision reaffirms that the Postal Service must limit rate increases to the rate of inflation, as the law requires.

“The PRC today has helped countless businesses stay competitive and saved tens of thousands of jobs,” said Tony Conway, Affordable Mail Alliance spokesperson and Executive Director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. “The Commissioners recognized that imposing an additional tax on Postal Service customers is not the way to address its financial troubles. Our members look forward to working with the Postal Service on the long-term restructuring needed to restore the Postal Service to competitiveness.”

While today’s decision will help the Postal Service retain volume and revenue, there is still more work to do. Blue ribbon commissions and government auditors have reported for decades that the Postal Service needs to streamline its inefficiently large network of undersized and obsolete mail processing plants. And although contracts with several major employee groups are up for renegotiation, the unions have signaled that they will strongly resist any major concessions. Additionally, Congress should also take a hard look at the Postal Service’s current obligations for prefunding its retiree health benefits program, a major cost burden. This prepayment schedule is another major contributor to the Postal Service’s financial problems.

“The Affordable Mail Alliance is truly an unprecedented effort with members across the country all of whom deserve thanks for uniting to address this important issue,” Conway said. “We are also grateful for our support from Congress and particularly for the leadership of Sen. Susan Collins, the key author of the 2006 Postal legislation at issue here and a tireless advocate for the future of the Postal Service. We stand ready to move forward in addressing the other issues that are so important to the future of the Postal Service.”

More on the Affordable Mail Alliance

The Affordable Mail Alliance is an unprecedented coalition of postal customers. The coalition includes charities, consumer groups, small business, national retailers, utilities, banks, insurance companies, Fortune 500 companies, and the customers who use the Post Office every day. The members represent many of the Postal Service’s biggest customers—and many of its smallest—and use every major class of mail. For further information, please visit www.affordablemailalliance.org o contact Jessica McCreight at jmccreight@skdknick.com or (202) 464‐6900

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pURLS become Prominent

2010 Forecast: Direct Mail Far From Dead, with pURLs Playing an Even More Prominent Role

by Ethan Boldt,Inside Direct Mail

However, because of those reasons cited in paragraph one, direct mail is not going anywhere. In fact, with the powerful addition of Personalized URLS to the arsenal, direct mail may even be positioning itself for a comeback. “I think the channel’s forever altered, but not forever gone,” says Nancy Harhut, executive creative director at Harhut for Hire and former executive creative director of Hill Holiday. “People still trust the mail, like to touch their mail, and sometimes prefer the privacy, security and record of mail.”

Here’s how 2010 will shake down, according to some well known direct marketers:

1. Direct Marketing’s New Holy Trinity?

While social media and mobile marketing is becoming more popular, they both remain small potatoes compared to what Harhut calls marketing’s “Holy Trinity”: direct mail, email and Personalized URLs. “Direct will still lead acquisition efforts and then be used to punctuate customer deepening campaigns. There’s been some evidence that all the email we’re sending is hurting its efficacy, while at the same time, direct mail has been ‘rested’ long enough so that now it’s working even better than before- what’s old appears new again,” she describes.

Meanwhile, she believes that SoMe and mobile will find their rightful place in the communications mix, but will always be minor players. Instead, she’s adamant that the DM-EM-PURL approach will grow more prominent. “Smarter targeting, more data-driven communications and increased personalization will become necessities,” says Harhut, who mentions that the historic problem has always been data quality but that most companies have access to clean, robust data today.

2. Personalized URLs Help Create a Channel-less Future

Most companies have siloed their marketing efforts, but Harhut thinks that self-interest will begin to trump channel. “If the target sees something of value, then that will be more important than where he or she sees it,” she explains. “The humble closed-faced, teaser-less, ‘hand addressed’ #10 or ‘greeting card’ will continue to pull. Mail that carries an ‘ignore at your peril’ air about it will continue to get opened.”

In other words, creative mail that skillfully employs the usage of Personalized URLS will only enhance the chance a prospect will respond. Because Personalized URLs are so eminently trackable, then the credit of a conversion will then be given to both the direct mail piece as well as the landing page.

Indeed, with this channel-less future, direct mail may change its role for many campaigns. “It will still be a driver to action, but will have a dramatic shift toward use as a follow-up tool,” predicts Grant Johnson, CEO of direct marketing agency Johnson Direct. “It’s much more effective than email from a prospecting aspect and some of those companies who abandon mail will come back and use it to begin the dialogue. As the web grows more and more, mail will play a key part in driving new visitors. Email as a retention tool is very powerful, but too much email, spam blockers, and overuse will make it less effective and some firms will go back to mail.”

3. New Testing Group: the Landing Page

Just as testing remains a key to successful direct mail, the same is true with purl campaigns. “Don’t forget that testing here should still apply, yet is woefully missing,” states Johnson.

For example, a test that shows that conversion rates were much lower than anticipated usually point out the landing page wasn’t synced properly with the direct mail piece, and that could extend to the data, the personalization, the creative or the offer. “Not syncing the landing page with the direct mail piece that brought the prospect there is the #1 destroyer of conversion rates,” affirms Bob Bly, copywriter.

Yazge, Print and Graphic Communications, Jan 2010, click here for direct link.

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