Infographic: 2014 Exigent Rate Increases

January 16, 2014

Announced on December 23rd and taking effect this month (January 2014), the exigent increase will temporarily increase postage across the board. However, these increases vary by class and mail type. Although it may seem like bad news, these postage rates are intended to be temporary- that means we will eventually see a decrease in postage rates as well. Check out this infographic for a breakdown of the exigent rate increase.


Back to the Basics: Choosing the Philosophy of Your Marketing Mix

September 12, 2013

Over the last hundred years, marketing has undergone many changes. Although classical models such as McCarthy's 1960 "Four P's" classification (product, price, promotion, place) and Luaterborn's 90's updated version that introduced the "Four C's" (consumer, cost, communication, convenience) have been (and continue to be) de rigueur of the marketing mix mentality, the philosophy behind how marketers accomplish these goals have changed over time. In today's fast paced and digital world of "the next best thing," it might be worthwhile to take a moment to re-visit the basics of your marketing campaign to make sure you aren't using an out of date philosophy that stresses production, product development, or large-scale selling; instead, get with the times and the heart of the consumer with a societal marketing philosophy. The question we visit today is not "how do I make the best marketing mix?" but rather "what is the best philosophy to have behind my marketing strategy?"

Let us take a moment to visit three conventional marketing concepts that are no longer as successful in today's value-and-relationship-centered marketing world.

Although all three of these concepts have worked in the past, they are fundamentally intrusive and relied on a one-way channel of marketing: that of business-to-customer. In today's society, technology has enabled marketing to be a two way channel, and requires firms to focus on building a lasting, better-than-satisfactory relationship with customers in order to capture value in return. Therefore, the best philosophy to have behind your marketing strategy today is one that takes into account not only your firm, but also the customer and society as a whole.

The Societal Marketing Concept:the idea that a firm should consider both the short and long term well being of the costumer, company, and society as a whole. Although this mentality might sound less profitable and more costly at first, the benefits are huge. It combines old philosophies with the new, and focuses on creating a win-win-win scenario where customer, company, and society benefit together through creating and capturing value- together.You have heard about "shared value" from your peers, the idea that societal needs impact and define markets alongside traditional economic needs. Leading companies such as Google, Walmart, and UPS have embraced the societal marketing concept. In regards to social responsibility, UPS states, "social responsibility isn't just good for the planet, it's good for business." Is your marketing strategy socially responsible?

Not only will a socially responsible marketing strategy be better for customers and society, it will also be better for your business. With a societal marketing approach, customer satisfaction skyrockets. Customers build better relationships with your company, and start marketing for you between their peers. The era of more sensible consumption and rapid globalization requires sustainable marketing that is customer driven and pulls together environment, individual, and business.

In order to truly succeed in today's world, your marketing philosophy should be open minded and go beyond conventional "produce, improve, sell" philosophies. Your focus should be creating a product and marketing mix that is not only of high quality and easy to obtain, but that creates a connection between your business and the customer, a connection that satisfies them and will last for years to come.

Stand Out by Not Standing Out

July 11, 2013

You've gotten direct mail before; a large deal of it is colored loudly, with huge pictures and promises and the whole shebang. Every company is trying to be so different that, ironically, they all start looking similar. Have you ever considered standing out by… well, not "standing out"?

Back in the early 2000's, flash intro sequences to websites were the newest fad (basically a short, non-optional Youtube video before you can continue to the business's website). They looked fantastic, were simple to view, and offered great power to marketers and businesses alike. Yet today, every competent web designer will tell you to avoid flash intros like the plague. But why, if they stood out and entertained the consumer? Because they attempted to give what the business wanted to give, not what the consumer wanted. They sacrificed simplicity and speed. The average time spent on a particular website is 15 to 30 seconds. Would you really want someone looking at one flash advertisement for the majority (if not all) that time? No, of course not; you want the individual to find what they are looking for. But they have to first want to find it, then find it fast and feel their time was well spent.

So how do you accomplish that? You make sure your website is user friendly (preferably simple and searchable) and contains worthwhile content, not marketing pitches mixed with legal jargon and false sincerity. You engage your customer, and make it personal and in depth without sacrificing simplicity.

How does this relate to direct mail and why should you care? Well, a great example comes from DirectCreative:

Dean Rieck comments that he received a simple letter in the mail: "It's a simple solicitation about refinancing my house. And I've received it three or more times now. The envelope is a standard white Monarch with a canceled stamp and what appears to be a handwritten address. The letter inside is a short handwritten note with a business card stapled to the top. The letter is personalized with my name. The envelope is one-color. The letter and business card are two-color, printed on one side. The whole package is small and cheap. No bleeds, die cuts, photos, or frills. I love it. Why? Because there is no pretense of cleverness. This piece seeks to generate phone calls and it does absolutely nothing else."

Sometimes standing out means not being pushy, but practical. In your direct mail piece, take advantage of personalization, make your statements clear and straightforward. Think from the point of view of the customer- does he want to read through a large amount of material to find what he is looking for, or would a simple, large heading be better to grab his attention? Look at magazines for example like Time- it has a simple cover that leads people further into the magazine; it doesn't try to assault the reader with everything on the front page. People want to learn more by their own choice, not be forced to by looking at the front of your piece. Make them WANT to learn more; it's probably best not to pour out your sales pitch- not to mention your pocketbook from all the extra work and design time- into the front page. Keep it simple and practical. Remember what you want- you don't want to give the consumer every product listing or every promise in the world- you want his business and you want ROI. If you want that, then give the customer what he wants. Make it simple, make it practical, and make them want more.

Boost ROI and Keep Customers Happy

June 11, 2013

Let's take a look at ideas that will help you boost Return on Investment (ROI) and keep your customers happy. Three words: Association, Personalization and Socialization.

A Fun, Brief Look at the History of Direct Mail

May 11, 2013

Today we decided to give you a brief gaze into the interesting history of direct mail!

We can trace some of the first "direct mail" pieces back to 1000 B.C. in Ancient Egypt. The British Museum has a piece of papyrus advertising for a reward for the capture of a runaway slave, as can be seen below from the British Museum's website:

Although there are a few other examples throughout history, direct mail never took a foothold in society until modern times due to high illiteracy rates. Money spent on a campaign to send pieces to customers that couldn't read them was not the best business idea, as you might imagine! It wasn't until the invention of printing press in the mid 1400's that direct mail became a more practical advertising medium. The ease of printing not only made it more desirable but also spurred public interest in print and literacy. Higher literacy rates coupled with a booming new industry made the idea of direct mail prominent and attractive. Towards the end of the 15th century, England started using print as a means of advertising. Real estate advertising via pamphlets became huge during the end of the 17th century. However it wasn't until the 18th century that advertisements for non-real estate items, such as goods and entertainment (like seen below from the Oxford Digital Library, depicting a handbill) started becoming prevalent.

The first catalogs predated the American Revolution, and mail order began soon after in the 1800s. In the first issue of Printers' Ink, dated August 1, 1888, George P. Rowell, founder of publication and America's first advertising agent, mentioned direct mail for the first time: "He printed his letter containing the resolution and certain questions founded thereupon and invited replies from several thousand publishers" (quoted from here).

By the early 1900's, direct mail was in full force, especially by large companies such as Sears whose business was largely centered around mail ordering and boasted sales of over a billion dollars. However, it was not until 1920 that the first direct mail agency was established. Since then, millions of companies have succeeded using direct mail, and continue to in modern times.

Today, we have new advertising mediums, predominantly found in social media; however, it's good to take a look at the history of direct mail, for you can see that the successful implementation of direct mail is a product of relatively modern times and ingenious business pioneers that took advantage of printing opportunities. How will your marketing make history?

Kick start your creativity with the tried and true!

April 11, 2013

Ever have a hard time coming up with a new idea for your marketing mix? Not sure if your idea will work out? Need a reliable place to start? Then you'll like today's blog post- we are going to take a look at some successful direct mail campaigns to help kick start your creativity and help you design an equally successful campaign! Although we are all after the next big thing, sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the tried and true methods of those who came before us, and innovate from there.

Company: Pfaff Porsche
What they did: Literally put your dream car in your driveway by parking a Porsche in front of select homes in affluent Toronto neighborhoods, professionally photographing them, and printing them on the spot to leave with the residents. 32% responded to a website where they could book a test drive.

More info on Pfaff Porsche's campaign: Click here

Company: Green Belgium Mailing
What they did: Sent out a letter that said "Without Water, Knowledge can't flow." And the only way you could read the piece was by holding the mailer under water. It was a great attention grab and worked magnificently.

More info on Green Belgium Mailing's campaign: Click here

Company: Bratislava Theatre Academy
What they did: Used a similar logo to McDonald's but had the "M" bleeding to grab attention.

More info on Bratislava Theatre Academy's campaign: Click here

Company: Fiskars
What they did: "Through a recent direct mail campaign in Germany, Fiskars touted themselves as a luxury cutting company. They sent out the pictured ad to display the precision with which Fiskars scissors can cut, and included a pair for the recipient to try out for themselves. The ad was directed toward purchasing managers and directors at German hardware stores. The month this direct mail campaign was launched, Fiskars reported a 19% increase in orders. The agency behind the campaign was Heye & Partner's."

More info on Fiskars' campaign: Click here

Direct Mail in 2013: trends, predictions, and ideas

January 1, 2013

So what should you be on the lookout for in 2013 in regards to direct mail? We took a look at some of the most reliable sources and predictions for the New Year and summarized the highlights into one, easy to read post.

Direct Market Association Predictions
The DMA predicts quite a few things for the upcoming year; here is a brief summary of important points.

Postage rates
Postage rates are changing in 2013; they have been officially approved. We'll highlight a few; for the rest, visit here.

Don't Forget Past Results

Although we are looking forward to a new year, a major component of a successful campaign is looking at tried-and-true methods, especially old campaigns your business has run in the past. If you've executed something similar in the past, what happened? Did it work? What can you improve on? Look back to look forward. However, even if you have done similar campaigns in the past do not forget to test this new campaign; even one change could mean major differences.

Take the Stage on Multiple Platforms

The digital age has brought many new avenues for us to market on; consider reaching out to many platforms this year. We won't bore you with the huge list of ways- a quick Google search could list them- but what is not apparently obvious is the necessity of creating a seamless cross-platform image. ChiefMarketer points out that Halo 4 did everything from tying in with Doritos and Mountain Dew to offer experience points to online live action prequels and other video content advertised on YouTube and other gamer sites. You have many marketing tools in your toolbox- don't be afraid to get creative and explore new avenues.

Direct Marketing Becomes Conversation

Matt Graham at SourceLink points out that "organizations need not only understand their values and product differentiation, but also what motivates individual consumers, and how to communicate in relevant ways… using today's technology, direct marketing should be facilitating two way dialogue- marketing conversation." Personalization is key, but it's more than just a personalized subject line; modern technologies allow almost for an entirely different campaign per individual.

File Optimization

Target Marketing Magazine suggests that it's important to start better understanding logistics- not only of direct mail, but also e-mail. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, consider the size of content and attachments of your e-mails; keep it low for mobile devices.

Data, Data, Data!

The term Big Data has been thrown around; it's implications seem obvious but the specifics are ambiguous. The main point to take away from all the Big Data talk is that the bigger the data, the smaller the focus we are allowed. We are now able to focus in on more specific sectors of the market and better and more efficiently target individual consumers. Don't get caught up in "Big Data" across all platforms- although the data is big, the focus in on each campaign in appropriate ways. Also record your progress and your marketing returns to have more data to look back on in the future.

Overall, there will be many changes in 2013 but most are making it easier and easier to market. Take some time to review your campaigns and test some new platforms this year!

Impressions Direct wishes you Happy Holidays and a fantastic New Year!

Tips to Maximize ROI with Direct Mail Marketing

December 1, 2012

Here is a list of helpful tips to help you make the most return on your investment in direct mail and email marketing.

For Direct Mail:

Know your customer: market based on WHO your customer is, not WHAT they offer your business.
Mailing lists: consider using information like marital and child status as well as ethnicity and age and separating your campaign into even smaller, more specific segments; highlight what will interest particular individuals (flowers for mother's day, tools for father's day, etc).
Address verification: use USPS address verification to help clean up your mailing's address verification
Postage costs:know different pricing and mailing options before you design your piece. This could save you thousands.
Test:Always test your campaigns on small groups before mass mailing a piece.
Capture attention quickly:get your message across quick but also consider a simple approach to stand out; whatever your design, keep it clean and specific.
Call to actionIn your piece, call your customers to action; make a limited time offer, a discount from the piece, or whatever else you would want to use. Make sure they feel the need to respond.
Make action easy:Now that they are called to action, they have to be able to respond; make sure you provide a QR code, an email address, a website, or prepaid return mail envelope; something to make their response quick and easy.
Be smart with the envelope:Make your envelope classy and clean. Make sure to include a legitimate return address and name to make your customers more approving of your legitimacy and so they can identify more with your brand.
Talk about THEM: Talk about your customer, not your brand; no one wants a sales pitch, everyone wants results.
Track:Make sure your discount codes or other calls to action are trackable.
Data, Data, Data:use the data from your trackable codes from old campaigns to improve your campaigns.

For Email:
Many marketers are now also integrating email with their direct mail. The Direct Marketing Association estimated that email made $40 for every dollar spent in 2011, but will decrease down to only $35 by 2016. Here are a few brief tips to keep your company on the high end of these estimates with your marketing mix.

Integrate email with Facebook; use data driven campaigns.
Make emails relevant; don't send offers unless they are specific to the customer.
Test your campaigns on smaller numbers of customers before mass emailing.
Consistency is key- keep personality and style as consistent as possible between all mediums.

Six Tips for Email and Direct Mail

November 1, 2012

E-mail is an important tool to use alongside your direct mail campaign. Here are some tips that will help you integrate e-mail and direct mail, as well as avoid some common pitfalls of both campaigns.

Tip 1: Call to Action: Make sure your email or direct mail piece has a brief but urgent call to action. Whether you are offering a coupon, advertising a few day only sale, or asking for donations, make sure the message uses appropriate and concise diction that will both denotatively and connotatively call your prospects to action. However, there is a balance between calling to action and yelling at your customers- try to focus your message on making an offer they can't refuse more than an offer they feel is forced on them.

Tip 2: Make Response Easy: Once your recipients of your e-mails or direct mail campaigns are called to action, if they choose to act they will want to act in the easiest possible way. Help facilitate their response by including postage paid return cards/envelopes with direct mail when applicable and a website URL or email link within your e-mails. The time between their decision to act and their actual response is critical. Make it as quick as possible, or be ready to lose interest and customers that you could have earned!

Tip 3: Follow Up: Once a recipient has responded, it is important to follow up. With small purchase on a large scale, it might be best to send an e-mail or direct mail piece that thanks them for their order or asks for feedback. With bigger ticket items, consider sending a personal thank you note or letter. Your response should be focused on gaining loyalty more than trying to get another sale; they've already made a purchase; your product will live up to its name and speak for itself, but it won't speak for your company- it's up to you to give the personal touch that will make them not only come back for your product, but come back for you.

Tip 4: Keep it Short: One of the most important parts of your message is its length! People are constantly on the move, especially now in the mobile world and with most people getting over 50 e- mails a day. If you want your message read and responded to, it has to be short and concise. Content is king, but too much content is cast away. This is an important concept to keep in mind when designing your direct mail piece, but even more important when sending an e-mail campaign. In the mobile world, it seems that your piece has to grab attention and keep attention in 160 characters or less!

Tip 5: Data Usage and Load Time: When sending your e-mails, especially ones with HTML formatting or pictures, it is important to start considering how much data your attachments and formatting uses. Many people check their e-mail on the go, with statisticians in recent months showing as much as 50% of emails being read on mobile devices. These mobile customers have data plans for their smartphones, and service providers have monthly data limits- if your e-mail totes a few MB attachment, some customers might be hesitant to download your message if they are away from Wi- Fi. They may also think that your e-mail may contain something suspicious, like unwanted adware. Most importantly, however, is the load time- larger attachments and formatting mean longer load times. Even if it only adds a few seconds, those are a few seconds your recipient might rather spend looking at another email.

Tip 6: BCC: Unfortunately, an extremely easy to fix problem belies a number of e-mail marketers, especially small businesses. When sending one e-mail to many recipients, especially without mass e- mail programs and databases, it's extremely important to place all of the e-mail addresses in the BCC field- the blind carbon copy field. This will keep the e-mail recipient's information confidential. The BCC field, unlike the "To" field when sending an email, prevents recipients from seeing the email addresses of other recipients. Just this week, the author of this blog has received three emails without the use of BCC, and it is very unsettling to think hundreds of people can view my e-mail address. In addition, a long list of addresses in the "to" field will make a great deal of scrolling necessary on many mobile devices. Remember to use the BCC field when sending mass e-mails; usually even to your employees.

Tips to Save on Direct Mail

October 1, 2012

A Direct Mail campaign can be much cheaper than you thought. Here are some tips to help keep your costs down and responses high!