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.
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
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.
- Direct Mail is still effective, but is starting to work better with integration with email or other digital incentives/response avenues.
- Social media and other easy online venues make brick and mortar and mom and pop stores much more profitable and able to compete with giants like Amazon.
- Video content is becoming extremely important; people are avoiding advertisements and have many blockers now, so instead of putting ads between entertainment, advertise WITH entertainment.
- Mobile is key; a staggering number of emails and web pages are now being viewed from mobile devices. Make sure you're websites and emails are optimized for mobile.
Postage rates are changing in 2013; they have been officially approved. We'll highlight a few; for the rest, visit here.
- Postage rate (percent change):
- Letters 2.610
- Flats 2.617
- Parcels 3.081
- High Density/Saturation Letters 2.059
- High Density/Saturation Flats and Parcels 2.092
- Carrier Route 2.907
- Overall 2.569
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.
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 lists.USPS.com'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.
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. p>
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!
- Less is more.
- Design your piece; don't invent the wheel.
- More personalization.
- Consider the dimensions.
- Leave your print with an imprint.
- Clean it up!
- Direct mailers are your friends!
- Advantages of Direct Mail
- Okay, so how do I start a direct mail campaign? Five easy steps.
- Step One: Determine your target audience.
- Step Two: Create the piece.
- Step Three: Make response easy.
- Step Four: Test and run the campaign.
- Step Five: Analyze results
- Be tactical. Having a lot of testimonials is great to show that your company is doing a good job; however, overwhelming customers with a long list of testimonials on the front page of your website might not be the most effective way to get the message across. It's important to place the testimonials tactically- maybe one on the front page, and then interspersed through your website in applicable places (such as under a heading for a particular product).
- Advertise them. On direct mail pieces or other forms of advertising, pick one or two testimonials and place them in appropriate places so that the testimonial reinforces the idea that the testimonial offers; try to make sure it doesn't look ostentatious.
- More people means more appeal. Try to get groups or organizations' testimonials about your job well done. Credible sources and groups will do wonders for the credibility of the testimonials. Obviously, people are more likely to agree with a testimonial from someone they know than an anyonymous source.
- Be specific. Anyone can fake a testimonial that says, "The product works great. I would recommend this to a friend!" A testimonial that gives specifics turns empty words into meaningful moments. Which testimonial is better? "The headphones are an amazing product. They work great. I'd recommend them to a friend!" Or a more specific testimonial: "Every day I run in the mornings and the headphones never fall off my ears thanks to the design- they just keep going as I keep going. When I accidently stepped on the ear bud, they sent me a replacement within a week. Customer for life." Surely both testimonials are out there for you- just make sure to pick the right ones.
- Credibility. Include people's entire names, where they work, what their title is, etc. More credible people, more appeal .
- Be unique. The testimonials shouldn't just tell of a job well done- it should tell of how your company gets your specific job done in your specific way. No one else can do business like your business. Have testimonials that highlight your particular philosophy or what sets you apart from the competition.
- 98% of consumers bring in their mail the day it is delivered, and 77% sort through it immediately. Source.
- " More than 64 percent of consumers told us they "value the mail" they receive in their mailbox, but when we asked businesses what they thought, only 36 percent told us they thought consumers still value their mail." Source.
- 15% of all consumers receiving at least a catalog and 12% receiving at least a letter, postcard, and/or flyer from a company made a purchase on the company's website. Source: Comscore/United States Postal Service Catalog Study
- Direct Mail represents 52% of total mail volume in the United States. Source: DMA 2010 Statistical Fact Book
- On average, those who receive at least a catalog spend 28% more and buy 28% more items than those who do not receive a catalog. Source: United States Postal Service Catalog Study
- When it comes to making purchases, 21% of adults say they are more likely to purchase based on direct mail promotions rather than e-mail offers. Source
- According to a survey of 6,400 online shoppers, households receiving print catalogs shop online more often and spend more meaningful time at retail websites; results held regardless of age, income, region, or education for the survey respondent. Source: ComScore Case Study: United States Postal Service
- Response rates for direct mail to an existing customer average 3.4%, compared with 0.12% for email -- roughly a 30-fold difference. Source.
- Organizations of all sizes found direct mail to be a very effective tactic. One-quarter of organizations with fewer than 100 employees viewed the use of direct mail in this light; 19% of mid-sized organizations and 21% of large organizations also considered direct mail to be a very effective tactic. Source.
- Changing Channel, Customer Experience, and Growth
- Cutting Costs
- New Bill Passes the Senate Floor
- Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion
- Everyone loves a sweet treat. One company last year decided to mail a box containing two Thorntons chocolates- "one for the recipient and one for them to share. Recipients were prompted to witness the resultant delight with a view to achieveing a similar response from customers, client, and employees. Data capture was driven through a competition offering a years supply of Thorntons chocolate to the winner." (Via Katapult-studios.com)
- Seasonal Says Significant. Easter signifies a fresh start and the beginning of spring. Send seasonal greetings that embody that idea- use themes such as bunnies, eggs, outdoors, flourishes, flowers; use bright colors, fancy fonts, and choose diction in writing that conveys freshness and warmth. Consider packaging your coupons or information that you send with your direct mail pieces in a small Easter egg- it's fun, simple, and affordable! No matter your strategy, keep in mind that keeping it seasonal keeps your piece significant and eye catching to recipients.
- Easter Egg Hunts- for Adults, too! Many non-profit organizations can benefit by offering Eater egg hunts for kids- promote the event and offer special pricings and promotions in a community event. It brings out great people who have an emotional experience at your event and associate those good feelings with your company. But kids aren't the only ones who love to go Easter egg hunting! If you own a retail business, try putting an Easter egg basket with eggs that contain different coupons in the front of your store and offer customers the right to pick an egg with a purchase of a certain item or dollar amount. Maybe even put in a coupon for something big such as a $50 coupon or 50% off an order in one of the eggs and advertise that. This strategy has been proven with many companies- everywhere from hair salons to grocery stores.
- Jesus is Risen! Easter's Christian celebration of Jesus' Resurrection is a holiday celebrated by over 75% of the U.S. population that considers themselves Christian, according to a December 2011 Gallup poll. Send out a message highlighting your company's Christian background if you have one, or join the spirit and offer some form of fundraiser for a positive moral cause like A.C. Moore and Easter Seals, who raised over $140,000 during the Easter season for children affected by Autism.Perhaps use creative Christian marketing ideas like these which use Christian imagery such as crosses and strong wording and fonts.
- There is no longer an "average American." - The US population is growing in diversity and in a multi-cultural way. There is no longer an average American out there.
- America is a multi-segmented and multi-generational nation: In our 10 largest cities and four states (California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii) - no race or ethnicity is a majority of the population anymore. Married couples with children make up fewer than 21 percent of all households. There are over 10 million multi-generational households in which there is at least one grandparent living with his or her adult children and those children's children.
- The multi-cultural shift is driven by immigration - The non-minority part of the US population- white non-Hispanics is aging very rapidly. Today, only about half of the more than 4 million oirths nationwide are white non-Hispanics. So a higher proportion of the younger population - the children and younger adults - are African-American, Hispanic, Asian or multiracial. As the older population ages and more of them pass on, the younger generation becomes a greater share of the total population, a much more diverse population.
- Don't treat each generation or age segment as independent entities - It is essential that marketers address the mUlti-dimensional nature of our society.
- Know your audience.
- Know your piece.
- Know your direct mailer.
- Customer must have a USPS business Customer Registration Identification (CRID)
- Mailing includes standard mail flats only
- Each mailpiece must be equal to or less than 3.3 ounces
- Each mailpiece must display special indicia or permit imprint
- Each retail unit submission must include a minimum of 200 mailpieces; but not exceed 5,000 mailpieces per day
- Mailing must be accompanied by PS Form 3587-1, which includes delivery statistics documentation
- Postage rate of 14.2¢ charged for each mailpiece
- Postage is paid in full at the retail unit
- Manage, schedule and prioritize work, staff and equipment to effectively and efficiently prepare mail.
- Collaborate with management, sales team and production to develop and maintain workflow- process, procedures and training.
- Maintain a close relationship with USPS to ensure compliance with regulations that may affect operations and clients' direct mail programs.
- Work closely with management to assist existing and available technologies; make recommendations for future equipment needs.
- Develop budgets and approve expenditures for supplies, materials, and human resources, ensuring that materials, labor and equipment are used efficiently to meet production targets.
- Confer with technical or administrative staff to resolve production or processing problems.
- Hire, train, evaluate, and discharge staff, and resolve personnel grievances.
- Initiate and coordinate inventory and cost control programs.
- Prepare and maintain production reports.
- Develop and implement production tracking and quality control systems, analyzing production, quality control, maintenance, and other operational reports, to detect production problems.
- Institute employee suggestion or involvement programs.
- Coordinate and recommend procedures for facility and equipment maintenance or modification, including the replacement of machines.
- Maintain current knowledge of the quality control field, relying on current literature pertaining to materials use, technological advances, and statistical studies.
- Negotiate materials prices with suppliers.
- Liaison between production and sales departments using employee suggestions and employee involvement programs.
- Accuracy - Ability to perform work accurately and thoroughly.
- Adaptability - Ability to adapt to change in the workplace.
- Assertiveness - Ability to act in a self-confident manner to facilitate completion of a work assignment or to defend a position or idea.
- Business Acumen - Ability to grasp and understand business concepts and issues.
- Change Management - Ability to encourage others to seek opportunities for different and innovative approaches to addressing problems and opportunities.
- Coaching and Development - Ability to provide guidance and feedback to help others strengthen specific knowledge/skill areas.
- Communication, Oral - Ability to communicate effectively with others using the spoken word.
- Communication, Written - Ability to communicate in writing clearly and concisely.
- Conflict Resolution - Ability to deal with others in an antagonistic situation.
- Creative - Ability to think in such a way as to produce a new concept or idea.
- Decision Making - Ability to make critical decisions while following company procedures.
- Detail Oriented - Ability to pay attention to the minute details of a project or task.
- Energetic - Ability to work at a sustained pace and produce quality work.
- Flexible - Ability to adapt to new, different and changing requirements.
- Innovative - Ability to look beyond the standard solutions.
- Leadership - Ability to influence others to perform their jobs effectively and to be responsible for making decisions.
- Management Skills - Ability to organize and direct oneself and effectively supervise others.
- Problem Solving - Ability to find a solution for or to deal proactively with work-related problems.
- Reliability - The trait of being dependable and trustworthy.
- Resource Management (People & Equipment) - Ability to obtain and appropriate the proper usage of equipment, facilities, materials, as well as personnel.
- Self Confident - The trait of being comfortable in making decisions for oneself.
- Technical Aptitude - Ability to comprehend complex technical topics and specialized information.
- Time Management - Ability to utilize the available time to organize and complete work within given deadlines.
- Working Under Pressure - Ability to complete assigned tasks under stressful situations.
- Resilient - Ability to recover from, or adjust to, misfortune or setbacks.
- Education: High School Graduate or General Education Degree (GED)
- Experience: Minimum of four years related experience.
- Computer Skills: Microsoft Office Suite
- First-Class Mail letters (1 oz.) remain unchanged at 44 cents
- First-Class Mail additional ounces increase to 20 cents,
- Postcards will cost 29 cents
- Letters to Canada or Mexico (1 oz.) increase to 80 cents, and
- Letters to other international destinations will remain unchanged at 98 cents.
- Your Direct Mail Gets Through to Your Customers!
Each marketer that hesitates at the words of "postage increase" without considering how minimal it is means that your mail has a better chance of getting through to your customers. How great is that? The competition is eliminating itself out of insufficient knowledge and initiative. Be informed and recognize that the cost increase may end up paying for itself through more customers!
- The New Increase Means a Better USPS
The postage increase will help give the USPS the revenue it needs to cover its own costs, so that it will be able to take care of your direct mail and your businesses' standard mail even better in the future. As chief operating officer, Donahoe was instrumental in the Postal Service achieving record levels of service and customer satisfaction, significant workplace improvements and a cumulative increase of productivity of over 8 percent since 2001, including seven straight years of productivity gains (quoted from here.) He hopes to continue this and will be able to more realistically as USPS revenue increases. In addition, these new prices have a good chance of remaining the same for a great deal of time without further increase, as the USPS gets closer to succeeding in receiving permission to withdraw funds from the already oversaturated (by over 70 billion)Civil Service Retirement fund.
- USPS posts 8.5 billion loss
- Deliver Magazine site gets revamped, free magazine offer
- Customer Service improvements
- American Postal Workers Union extends contract negotiations
- USPS files appeal to exigent rate increase decision
- Beware of fraudulent delivery messages
- Due to either extraordinary or exceptional circumstances;
- Reasonable, equitable, and necessary under best practices of honest, efficient, and economical management;
- Necessary to maintain and continue the development of postal services of the kind and quality adapted to the needs of the United States.
- Pros: high profit margins, anticipated lower rates, no waiting for Congressional approval to make changes
- Cons: Consistency would drop dramatically; complete stoppage of delivery to many select areas (especially rural areas, which account for 21% of the United States population1)
- Pros: Simpler- the working system in place remains, but with great improvements, everyone still gets their mail
- Cons: Congressional approval for future issues still necessary; won't be as profitable.
- Eliminating Saturday delivery should be a last, not first, resort. More time should be spent determining if mail volume declines will slow—if not reverse—as the recession ends.
- Many people depend on Saturday delivery—seniors who need their mail-order prescription drugs, small businesses on Main Street trying to meet payroll, and major businesses like eBay whose business models depend on Saturday delivery.
Sending mail out to a massive amount of prospects isn't always the best approach; consider sending out a smaller mailing, but make that mailing much more personalized. Many studies show that pieces with "to resident" or "to the household"- or any generalized term, for that matter- are far more likely to be thrown away than a personalized piece.
Many firms will spend a large amount of money on getting that new original idea for their piece. Although this can be a great thing to individualize your campaign, if you are a smaller business or are sending a simple message, consider using a professional looking template to greatly minimize costs. Sometimes this works better if the template is tried and true.
Keeping the last tip in mind, personalization has become key for Direct Mail; even in massive mailings it's important to at least organize mailings by particular demographics relevant to your product. To save money, consider using a postcard or self-mailer with a personalized message (envelopes add expense); other good alternatives are flyers and brochures.
Talk to your direct mailer or look up online how different sized pieces meet different specifications and mailing classes (and prices!). As a general rule, the smaller/simpler, the less expense mailed. Less intuitively, however, are specific bulk prices and other deals.
Stamps can be costly; instead, use a presort permit that is printed directly on the piece. This will dramatically reduce labor and stamp costs. If you don't have a permit, don't worry- direct mailers like Impressions Direct have a permit that they can use for you.
Targeting is the most important aspect of direct mail; as mentioned early, personalization is key. However, this is only possible with data-driven targeting. Your business probably already makes use of such data; however, it is important to maintain, update, and clean this list; old entries that will not generate response are extremely costly and detrimental to your campaign. So make sure your lists stay current!
Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM): allows you to send out pieces to a particular geographic region. Although this isn't the most targeted approach, it might be a better, low cost option for businesses who tend to operate locally. For example, a new barbershop who prides itself on low wait times might want to choose EDDM- everyone needs a haircut, and many people would prefer a no-wait local shop to traveling a bit for somewhere else.
It's a great idea to get to know your direct mailer. Direct mailing businesses only succeed when you succeed. They are there to help you ever step of the way. Take advantage of their specialized services- they will also be able to help you save more money. Guidance is available that will help you address all of the important pricing factors. Feel free to give Impressions Direct a call and we'd be happy to help you plan your next successful campaign!
Head to Head: Email vs. Direct Mail
September 1, 2012
In the modern marketing world, a common question has become "Do we use e-mail or direct mail in our marketing campaign?" Many analysts have tried to answer this question and there is a plethora of information supporting both sides. But is one really better than the other? The answer may be surprising.
First, we must look at the strengths and weaknesses of each method. In brief, direct mail has the appearance of legitimacy, and is almost guaranteed to be seen by your customers (a USPS study shows that over 97% of US citizens check their mail daily, and over 75% look through it the same day). However, direct mail can be costly and time consuming. Email has speed and low cost. However, email can lack personalization and the appearance of legitimacy. Which is better? Should non profits go for the lower cost email and for profit businesses with extra capital go for the more costly but effective direct mail?
Mal Warwick wrote an article that stated in the fund raising industry more money is raised through direct mail than email. Email only accounts for 2 percent of the total funds raised in the United States by non profits, that is only $7 billion out of $306 billion. Direct mail accounts for a large portion of all non profit donations. According to the DMA email generates over 21% of the total for-profit business revenue of campaigns and 58% of US Marketing Executives feel 'Marketing ROI' is currently the most important buzzword/trend to pay attention to.
Either way, don't lose sight of the most important aspect of your marketing campaign- the message! Although the channel in which the customer receives the message is important, it's easy to forget about the message itself when trying to plan the proper marketing mix of email vs. direct mail. Make sure that your message is as personal as it can be. Also, tailor the message to the channel- direct mail might be more effective for generating new leads or getting customers in the store, where e-mail is great for customer trust and retention. Both must be timely messages- i.e. seasonal discounts from direct mail, thank you emails after an order, etc.
It is nigh impossible to pick which is better- it seems that each day more and more experts are agreeing that the best idea is not to use email over direct mail, nor direct mail over email. The answer to the problem is: USE BOTH! Brian Rainey, President of Abacus, agrees: "Email has been shown to be most effective when used in combination with other direct marketing disciplines and in support of the same objectives."
Joe Melle, CEO of Throttle Media, best sums it up when he said that "Cross media advertising has always been suggested and something that larger companies have always participated in. The more ways you get your brand out there the better, and creating a multichannel campaign is not only effective for the current product or service you are marketing it is good for the long term marketing of your brand. So it looks like direct mail and email marketing can not only coexist but also work extremely well together."
Why and how to use Direct Mail
August 1, 2012
This article will give you a brief overview of the advantages of direct mail as well as some thought provoking questions that will help you design your own successful direct mail marketing campaign.
The advantages of direct mail are many. In a sentence, direct mail offers you the ability to quickly produce a cost effective campaign that will yield a quicker response than other marketing mediums as specifically as you want, and give your targeted customer base a personalized message that will be sure to leave lasting impressions. Direct mail is also hard for your customers to ignore- it shows up with limited competition, and is sure to be viewed- if they want to ignore your message, the recipient first has to view your piece and size it up before they are able to cast it aside. The power is totally in your hands to make an appealing piece that won't get tossed with clutter. Direct mail has been proven to yield high ROI, and a simple google search will yield multiple articles and studies that show this. A recent notable finding from DMNews showed that direct mail has "a response rate of up to 10 to 30 times that of email- and even higher when compared to online display." Read more about how direct mail response rates beat digital here.
Although every direct mail campaign is different, here are some guidelines to get you started. If you have any ideas or questions, feel free to call us at Impressions Direct and we'd be happy to explain the process to you; also check out our unique ten stop process here.
The first step in any direct mail campaign, as is marketing in general, is determining who you want to advertise to. A good place to start depends on your type of business- for example, if you are a non profit organization you might want to send a piece out to people you have listed as donors in the past; if you are a university, you could find a mailing list with the age 17-20 demographic in your area; if you are a barbershop, you might want to advertise to everyone in a few mile vicinity. Consider using Every Door Direct Mail, which delivers to every home in a certain area- learn more about USPS EDDM here. Direct mailers like Impressions Direct can help you find or create a mailing list to accurately suit your needs.
You need to create the piece of mail that you will be sending to your target recipients. The possibilities here are endless. First decide the message you want to send- a valuable offer or coupon, an informational piece, an invitation to an event, a call to action, or donation? Make sure your offer is compelling and personal. Also consider WHEN to send your piece- an advertisement for a toy sale might be better around Christmas time than a week in June. Next, decide how you want to send it: there are so many unique possibilities, which will probably largely be decided by the goal and cost of the campaign. Some ideas would be: standard postcards, catalogs, letters, self mailers/flyers, brochures, packages, and unique mailers like our CargoCard. You can also look at benefits and descriptions of different kinds of pieces here.
Your piece should motivate recipients to respond; you can make it easy for them to do so by enclosing a business reply envelope, offer a website or email, or a telephone number. Make sure they can get in contact as easily and efficiently as possible. Make sure to code your pieces so that you will be able to track who and where the response was from. This knowledge will allow you to plan further campaigns more carefully and accurately.
It's impossible to predict response on your piece- so sometimes it is a good idea (especially for larger campaigns) to mail out a limited number of pieces at first usually around 5-15%. Then depending on the results you can adjust your campaign accordingly or continue with the current plan. If you choose to omit this step, which is more practical in most cases, you should now run the campaign.
Tracking your response rate, it is a good idea to analyze your results after the campaign is over. Entrepreneur.com offers some good questions to ask yourself after your campaign: "Did the final results match what you expected from the test? What parts of the demographic responded better than expected? Are there subsets of your target audience that you can focus on in future mailings? Every direct-mail campaign you run should contribute not just to your sales figures but to enhancing your customer database. "
Hopefully this article demonstrated the benefits and ease of a direct mail campaign. If you want to learn more about how your business can be benefited by direct mail, feel free to give us a call and we will address your questions and help you design a marketing campaign that gives your company the results you expect and deserve.
Making Thank You's Work for You
July 1, 2012
A thank you from a client or customer is a great way to attract future clients and customers. Many businesses use some form of testimonials- either online, by word of mouth, in a brochure or catalog- however, is your business using them effectively or including them on your direct mail? Here are some tips to help evaluate how well your testimonials show new customers how much your old customers love you!
Overall, testimonials are a great way to promote your business. However, make sure to consider if you can use them better or in a different way!
Under the Radar: Direct Mail Silently Beats the Competition
June 1, 2012
We've all heard it: USPS is declining, direct mail use isn't as good as it was in the past, many marketers are taking direct mail out of their marketing mix. However, if the public eye looked more closely, it would see that this is truly not the case. Looking at the statistics of up to date studies, it is clearly evident that direct mail is still powerful- and even increasing in popularity! Here are some mind-boggling statistics that might convince you how prevalent and powerful direct mail truly is:
USPS Today, in Brief
May 10, 2012
Lately the United States Postal Service has consistently been making the news. There have been many recent changes and decisions within the USPS; here is a brief summary on the latest as of May 2012.
In Postmaster General Donahoe's April 2nd keynote address, he emphasized that the post office is trying to stay current far into the future by using four business strategies: "Strengthening the 'business to consumer channel,' improving the customer experience, growing the package business, and becoming leaner, faster, and smarter as an organization." Later he went on to address the concern of the digital world saying, "Are people going to incorporate digital into their lives? Of course they are. But- people don't want to go 100 percent digital. There's a level of control and comfort and security that mail provides… people want the tangible hard copy." Even though digital is becoming a big part of the modern world, businesses and consumers agree that there will always be a need for some form of mail service, and the USPS currently has the most experience and capacity for meeting this need far into the future; therefore, the biggest challenge the USPS will face is keeping costs low while still meeting this fundamental need.
The USPS recently announced an alternative plan to their original idea of closing a lot of post offices. In short, they hope to save $500 million a year by changing post office hours of rural locations and partnering with local businesses to offer mail in other locations. The plan is meant to be implemented over the next two years, and was largely a response to the thousands of voices of Americans in rural locations that rely on the USPS to get important documents and daily information. This is a big change and would greatly help the postal office's financial woes.
Postal Legislation (S.1789) just passed Senate approval on April 25th. It is now off to the House. The bill "encourages a more flexible, less costly workforce. It would keep mail flowing while cutting costs. It would allow plant closures if the USPS maintains local mail delivery speed" (quoted from here. The bill would allow use of the overfunded retirement fund, prevent five day delivery, allow USPS to sell non postal products (when appropriate), and expands alternatives to closing post offices. For a more thorough summary, click here.
The Postal Regulatory Commission approved the USPS price adjustment promotion. It will provide a small postage discount for standard and first class mailings. Make sure to take advantage of this; registration began May 1st, and the promotion will run from the beginning of July to the end of August.
"Effective June 24, 2012, the Postal Service™ will revise the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®) 705.5 and 709.3 to add a new temporary promotion in the summer of 2012 for Pre¬sorted and automation First-Class Mail® cards, letters, and flats, and Standard Mail® letters and flats bearing two-dimensional mobile barcodes or equivalent print technol¬ogy. The program period for the promotion is July 1, 2012, though August 31, 2012.
The promotion will temporarily reduce the prices for cer¬tain types of First-Class Mail and Standard Mail items that contain, in or on the mailpiece, a transactional two-dimen¬sional barcode or similar print technology, such as water¬marks or tags (collectively "Mobile Barcode" or "Mobile Barcodes") readable by consumer mobile devices." Click here for the full press release.
The post office has undergone many changes recently, and is sure to undergo many more in the near and distant future. We will do our best to keep you updated on the USPS and what it means for your business in the coming months. Make sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter, as we will post relevant postal information there as it becomes available!
Why Direct Mail is Integral to Marketing
April 1, 2012
Many marketers are turning to online advertisements and e-mail marketing. They offer mass exposure to a general audience, and with new technological advancements online advertising because better targeted and more personalized. It is necessary to embrace this in your marketing strategy in these times; however, consumers are beginning to ignore these new innovations because of overexposure. Online and digital advertisement is quickly losing its effectiveness; however, direct mail is only increasing in viability and necessity. Direct mail is still as important as ever- perhaps even more important in this digital age as it stands out more and won't be nearly as easy to ignore. Direct Mail offers better exposure, targeting, and personalization.
Firstly, by its very nature, direct mail is much more likely to leave an impression upon a prospective client. In order to ignore your advertisement, a person has to literally have it in their hand, size up your piece, and decide to set it aside before they can move on to something else. That alone is a huge benefit that online advertisements can't boast; often times people completely ignore online advertising. Many studies use eye tracking to demonstrate "banner blindness." According to Google, banner blindness is "a phenomenon in web usability where visitors on a website ignore banner-like information." (Click here for legitimate studies/information on this interesting psychological phenomenon).
According to Ballantine's 2012 Direct Mail Trends, "Your your prospects are bombarded with email, web advertisements, mobile ads, texts, TV and radio advertisements all day long. Studies have found that people have moved past their initial apathy to direct mail and are tending to respond again to receiving a piece of physical mail. Research by Mail Print1 found that '85% of consumers sort through and read selected pieces of mail every day. 75% of consumers are saying that they are examining their mail more closely in the recent months to search for coupons and discounts. 40% of consumers say that they have tried a new business after receiving direct mail, and 70% have renewed relationships with businesses that they had previously ceased using.' It's not just that people are receiving less physical direct mail, it's also that marketers are being smart about what they send and to whom they send it. Direct mail is also changing through the use of unique direct mail formats that include color, oversized formats, and interactive elements that make the piece stand out from the rest of the mail. Try an oversized envelope that stands out from the standard #10 envelopes that dominate a pile of mail."
Finally, direct mail offers better targeting and personalization than digital advertisements do. With mailing lists based on everything from geographic location to political preferences, you are able to better narrow your target audience down. A lot of impressions that happen online appear to people who have no need for your product or services- yet you are still paying for those impressions! Save money, time, and effort by going directly to your target audience. And since you are able to so narrowly advertise, you are able to personalize the message much better. You can find a lot more information on targeting your direct mail pieces with variable data printing here, or with every door direct mail here, among many other places.
No matter your marketing mix, Direct Mail must be an essential piece of your repertoire, especially in this digital age. It offers unbeatable exposure, targeting, and personalization.
Don't Put All Your Marketing in One Basket
February 1, 2012
Bring some Easter Cheer to your customers with these Easter marketing ideas!
Get Your Marketing in Shape for 2012
January 1, 2012
The New Year is here. What are some key facts to keep in mind for a success in 2012?
Customers are ready to move. As you read this, you probably can think of a few people (perhaps including yourself) that you know have made a New Year's Resolution. According to USA.gov some of the most popular New Year's Resolutions include eating healthier, losing weight, furthering education, managing stress, saving money, taking a vacation, helping others, or helping the environment. Most businesses, including yours, directly or indirectly contribute to one of these areas. Look at your company and consider highlighting some of the aspects that customers want to work on (and are willing to pay for!) this coming year.
Customers are social. Meet customers on their level- on their Facebook pages. Boasting over 800 million active users, Facebook is an amazing place to market. Facebook makes the majority of its revenue from selling advertisements that are displayed to users, and have their business model set up in order to accommodate advertisers of all levels from Wal-Mart to the local food pantry. Find out more about how to market to specific markets with Facebook here. However, a social media presence is useless without other forms of marketing, and there is certinaly more than one way to personally target customers. According to Direct Marketing News editor Allison Schiff, "Integration of social data [into direct mail] will drive the personalization of marketing campaigns." Direct mail is as important as ever, and even more so as it may seem easier to neglect due to new online advancements.
Direct mail is not obsolete; it just requires a new perspective of adding personalization and targeting. Thankfully, new advances from the USPS with services such as Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) and direct mail companies targeted lists and services such as 2nd Impressions offer great ways to keep direct mail current. Check out this article from dmnews.com for more ideas to keep your direct mail up to date in 2012. Make sure to keep your direct mail campaigns, as well as your standard marketing campaigns, going strong while you embrace new trends of social media. Marketers who maintain a good balance of direct mail and online advertising (among other marketing strategies) tend to be the most successful, as they are utilizing all channels to reach their customer base.
Customers are Mobilizing- mobile-phoning, that is. According to ConsumerReports.org over half of phones purchased in 2011 were smart phones. Customers are getting smarter- and using their smart phones. Studies show that customers are spending more and more time (and money) on their phones. MobileMarketer.com indicates that "the share of online retail dollars attributable to mobile devices in the United States doubled from 1.87 percent in April to 3.74 percent in December, according to a new report from RichRelevance." Predictions estimate that in 2012 mobile purchases are only increasing. This offers many new opportunities for marketing. From proven strategies tested by giants like Sears to new possibilities like advertising on the home screen of every phone, there are many ways for your business to take advantage of the mobile market in 2012. No matter your strategy, make sure to include some sort of mobile platform in for your business in the upcoming year or plan to get left behind.
If you keep in mind that customers are on the move, becoming more social, and are starting to use mobile phones drastically more, you will be able to maximize the success of your company in this New Year.Happy New Year from Impressions Direct!
'Tis the Season to Go Direct
December 1, 2011
In response to frigid and unwelcoming reports from both weathermen and financial analysts, many smart companies and organizations are turning to warm and personal solutions in direct mail. Direct mail offers innovative and cost-efficient solutions that will help your customer base grow without shrinking your wallet.
Direct mail is the way to act, and the time to act is now. The holiday season is always a peak time for spending: consumers have an eager eye out for new ways to spend and give. According to Jack Kleinhenz, an economist for the National Retail Federation, consumer spending has "surpassed expectations" for this holiday season. Charitable donations also flourish at this time of the year, thanks to the generous spirit of the holidays.
Direct mail has the ability to attract new customers at this peak time of giving and spending. The payoff can be bigger than Santa's red bag. For example, health insurer Highmark has recently reduced its marketing cost by over 60% by streamlining its direct response initiatives. This project included increased advertisement through customized direct mail. Thanks to these initiatives, Highmark is enjoying a 32% response volume increase, and a much lower cost per response and cost per member.
If you are searching for an affordable and creative business solution that won't break the bank, it's time to consider direct mail. Give us a call at Impressions Direct, and we will commit ourselves to your success this holiday season.
Happy Holidays from Impressions Direct!
USPS Problems: Blame the Government?
November 1, 2011
Recently, the post office has been in a dilemma due to financial issues. The USPS failed to pay their 5.5 billion dollar bill that was due September 30th. Yet the post office did not falter; they received an emergency postponement. These fiscal issues have caused uproar for budgetary cuts, with the most prominent suggestions being to end Saturday delivery and close branches Saturdays and close branches. However, in "Twisted Government Accounting Behind Postal Service Woes" Bob Sullivan suggests that the Post Office is not to blame—it actually the U.S. government. Sullivan goes as far as to suggest that the Post Office is actually bailing out the government quipping, "The fiscal gyrations are so twisted that the Postal Service is right now forced to pre-pay health care benefits for employees the agency hasn't even hired yet — in fact, for many future employees who haven't even been born yet — all to artificially shrink the federal deficit." This seems like a nonsensical approach for the government to budget their finances.
Supporters of the federal postal system are rallying behind the USPS with determined ad campaigns and generally voicing their opinions about how the Post Office should not have to stop running on Saturday or shut down branches. The ad campaigns are proclaiming that the "government got us into this mess, they can get us out."
Some individuals would rather see the post office be run by private companies. Most of these individuals think the post office has more problems than just this financial crisis such as long lines and poor customer service. The USPS realizes that there are deeper problems, and representatives say that they will address them in the future, but first must figure out a way, in conjunction with the federal government, to get out of this "fiscal crisis."
Jumpin' on the Green Wagon
October 1, 2011
It seems like just about everyone is going green. In fact, there was a New York Times article back in 2008 that was entitled "Direct Mail Goes Green. No, Really." By Claudia H. Deutsch. In this article Deutsch suggested that companies who send direct mail were not doing enough to be eco-friendly saying, "The vagueness of the recommendations has not endeared the coalition to environmentalists, although many are more amused than outraged by the concept of direct mailers painting themselves green."
What does this mean for you? What are the ways businesses can to make sure their direct mail is eco friendly? Now businesses can be a part of something called The Mailing and Fulfillment Service Association, MFSA for short. The MFSA created a Sustainability Accreditation program, whose goal is to maintain the environment and natural resources. Okay, so what exactly do the words sustainability and accreditation mean?
According to mfsa.org, sustainability is a policy that asserts that the environment and humans are interdependent and that rubbish needs to be removed to preserve quality of life. Accreditation is when an association that consists of industry experts awards recognition to an organization, school or company that has met certain requirements or standards determined through appraisal.
Now, you do not have to be a part of MSFA to be accredited. You simply have to adhere to the guidelines and pay a fee. It is $486 for MFSA members and $786 for non members.
The benefits of becoming a Sustainably Accredited company are provided on the msfa website but, to sum it up, if you become a Sustainability Accredited company you can not only compare yourself to other companies doing similar things but also provide the public with the documentation to back up your green status. The MSFA will also provide you with materials to help you out in staying green.
Obviously, you do not have to become a part of this program to go green, it is just a helpful tool to help you jump start your green status in your direct mail.
Things to Think About...
September 1, 2011
Direct mail coming back with the economy...
Consumers are now seeing more direct mail back in their mailboxes. After three years of decline, direct mail is roaring back. Direct mail advertising sales rose 3.1 percent last year and it looks like the medium is well on its way to achieving a 5.8 percent level of growth in 2011. Why is direct mail coming back? Because email marketing is not as effective as it once was. There are simply too many emails and consumers are now becoming insensitive toward those offers according to Herbert Rivero of Minuteman Press. Rachel Hambick, a 31-year-old resident of Rogers Park in Chicago observed the same thing, "The emails that I am signed up for? They seem to email me several times a week, which is almost too much. You become desensitized to it." Debbi Woolf, a 49-year-old teacher living in Evanston, IL, said her family opens direct mail envelopes for coupons to use at neighborhood restaurants.
The future of direct mail - five key demographic trends... According to marketing trends analyst Peter Francese, whose clients include Ogilvy & Mather, there are five key things that today's marketers need to know about today's consumer:
Optimizing Your Piece for Savings
August 1, 2011
Starting a direct mail campaign can be easier and more cost effective than you think. Here are some tips to keep costs low and response high!
Send out mail only to the people you know may have interest in your product- narrow mailing lists down by demographic. There are different options for targeting- you can either go by a list that your direct mailer has assembled, or use other options like Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). For example, if you own a business that installs garage doors, you would want a list of people with homes that had garages and not carports or just driveways. Yet if you owned a barbershop you would probably choose EDDM and choose to send out your piece to everyone in the area, because everyone needs a haircut!
Before launching a campaign, consider these important questions that directly influence pricing. Content: What class of mail is it? Size: How big is it? Shape: is it a letter, flat, or parcel? Weight: How heavy is it? Distance: How far is it going? Quantity: How many pieces do you want? Nonprofit status: Does your organization qualify for nonprofit prices? Speed of Delivery: Express Mail, Priority Mail, or First Class Mail? Click here to learn more about Business Mail 101.
Get to know your direct mailer. Businesses like Impressions Direct succeed when you succeed. Not sure about a specific part of your campaign? Help is only a phone call away! Guidance is available that will help you address all ofthe important pricing factors. A direct mailer's job is built around delivering the most effective and affordable results to clients- so let us help you!
Get Response with Quick Response (QR) Codes
July 1, 2011
Although introduced in Japan in 1994, Quick Response Codes (QR codes) are just now finding widespread use in the United states. What is a QR code? A QR code is basically a 2D barcode that can be read by a cell phone. When you are checking out at a grocery store, the clerk scans the barcode and the price comes up on her screen. When you use your cell phone to "scan" the QR code, your phone takes you to information about the business, advertisement, etc. that the code wants to convey. In order to read the code, you need a QR code reader, which takes less than a minute to download on an iPhone or Android.
The reason QR codes are useful is because they can convey a lot of information within a very small space, and make that information instantly available (and save-able!) on a phone. It is also fun for your audience to decode, and encourages them to look at more information. Many organizations are starting to take advantage of QR codes. However, due to the "newness" of the codes in the US, the most successful campaigns are ones that target tech-savvy audiences. For example, ITT Technical institute recently started a direct mail campaign that sent out a postcard to prospective students. This postcard was completely blank other than the words "ITT Tech" and a big QR code.
The question remains, however: are QR codes the current fad or the near future? Currently, Google is encouraging use of QR codes, but marketers speculate that the true test will be whether or not Facebook starts making use of the codes, because it has the largest user base and would give QR codes instant global recognition. Currently, Facebook has not publicly announced any endorsement for the codes, but speculation asserts that Facebook will address the possibility in the future.
Although QR codes are still in an introductory phase in most parts of the United States, it may be a good time to start looking into what QR codes can do for your business. Impressions Direct has already successfully used QR codes in direct mailing for multiple clients- maybe your business can benefit from it next!
Stand Out by Not Standing Out
June 1, 2011
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.
EDDM: Small Business Direct Mail Becomes Even Easier
May 1, 2011
The newest campaign initiated by the Post Office, EDDM ("Every Door Direct Mail") is making direct mail easier and more important to small business than ever before.
EDDM allows small businesses to send out direct mail with extremely low costs. The most costly part of direct mail, the mailing list and the annual postage permit, is completely eliminated. In addition, the postage is even cheaper compared to first class mail.
Once you have your direct mail printed to your specifications, all you have to do is go to smp.usps.gov and choose EDDM, type in the zip code or city and radius of where you want your mail to go. Once you select your routes, you fill out some simple paperwork and are ready to drop off your mail to your local post office.
Let's look at a practical example of how this works. Bob opens a new barbershop in Chesterfield, Missouri. He decides he wants to send out a flyer to customers in a 5 mile radius of his new shop. Instead of paying a large sum of money for a annual postage permit (and costing him a great deal of time) and purchasing or sorting a list of potential customers, he decides to use EDDM. He goes to a printer and has his mail printed according to EDDM specifications (which can be found below), goes online and fills out some simple paperwork, and takes his mail to the local post office and pays the low per piece fee. The post office takes care of the rest by addressing them to everyone in a 5 mile radius of his shop. Within three days, everyone living in Chesterfield next to Bob's new barbershop knows that if they need a haircut, they can try out Bob's new place.
Clearly, this is a great new addition to USPS- and good for every small business (especially for Bob- there will be a lot more people needing haircuts now that they have stopped pulling their hair out over the fees and complexity of direct mail for small businesses before).
Here are the requirements for EDDM as listed on the USPS site:
Now Hiring: Production Manager
April 1, 2011
Responsible for all aspects of production including, but not limited to, programming, laser print production and letter shop operations. Responsible for staff management, production output and configuration and maintenance of equipment. Coordinate with management and sales team to deliver high-quality, on-time and cost effective services to clients. Additional responsibilities include, but not limited to, interview, hire and train employees; plan, assign and direct work; appraise performance, reward and discipline personnel; address complaints and resolve problems.
SKILLS AND ABILITIES
Conditions of Employment
All job offers are contingent upon a satisfactory background verification and drug screen.
Click on "submit resume" below with your resume or inquiries.
Thanks- looking forward to hearing from you!
What do the Postage Increases Mean for You?
March 1, 2011
It's official- USPS price adjustments are set for April 17 (the official release can be found here).
So what can you expect in regards to your business's mail, as well as your direct mail advertising?
First off, here are some price changes of note for retail customers:
"While changing prices is always a difficult decision, we have made every effort to keep the impact minimal for consumers and customers doing business with us at retail lobbies," said Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe in a former press release. "We will continue to balance our business needs against the needs of our customers."
The overall increase is about 1.7%, which keeps with the PRC (postal regulatory commission) standard of keeping with inflation.
What can you expect for direct mail? Impressions Direct's own John Fortner assures, "Because the rate increase is less than originally proposed by the USPS and not a significant increase, I do not see it having a big impact on our clients. Although there is no such thing as a good increase in cost, our customers rely on direct mail as an effective marketing tool and I don't see that changing at this time."
Some critics are saying that although that at first glance the postage rate increase may seem negative, smart marketers should see it as a new opportunity for two main reasons:
So what should you be ready to expect in April 2011? Slightly higher postage, more customers, and a stronger post office. Maybe it's not so bad after all.
Keeping Customers Happy and Boosting ROI in 2011
February 1, 2011
Well, it's now 2011- and the New Year has ushered in a great deal of change. Consumers' demands are rising. How are you going to meet their demands? Let's take a look at ideas for 2011 that will help you boost Return on Investment (ROI) and keep your customers happy. Three words: Association, Personalization and Socialization.
"You can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You've got to say it in a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don't feel it, nothing will happen"- William Bernbach, co-founder of DDB Ad Agency. In order to stand out from all the clutter, you can't just have the best advertisement. Your customers are told that they can get the "best," "unique," "original," "long lasting," "beautiful," "amazing" product a hundred times a day. Yet you've heard of product loyalty in everything from cars to food- "I love flying Southwest Airlines" or "McDonalds is the best fast food." Obviously, you want your consumers thinking "[Your Business Here] has the best product of their industry!" This seems almost impossible to get someone to say. Yet it's obviously been done. How?
Well, the first step is looking at it from a psychological perspective. Although the nuances of advertising are endless and best left to the marketing team, there is one general principle you must stress in your advertising: a direct, positive association between the consumer and your business. Getting a customer to walk through the door cannot be your sole focus- you need to keep that customer coming back. Although studying market trends and analyzing independent consumer studies is a great start, why not first start with yourself? We are all consumers. Let's use the examples above: what makes you love Southwest Airlines? The quality of the aircraft that you probably couldn't make any actual comparison to the rival airline's plane in the next runway? Or was it the great service and friendly stewardess that you remembered? How about McDonalds- the forgettable, changing-every-day staff at the counter or the unforgettable, reliable food that you know you will enjoy no matter which McDonalds you visit in the world? You want your customers to psychologically form a positive association between your product or service and your company's name. When you take a flight or walk into that restaurant, you don't just feel like one of the million people who also board that plane or walk into that store- you feel special, you feel like you belong, you feel like you know and can rely on that place to give you the results you expect and deserve. Now, from a marketing perspective- how do you accomplish this? That's the million dollar question, and for 2011 it appears economists and marketing analysts alike agree that in order to answer that question, your focus should be on personalization.
"Targeting customers with personal, relevant content is key to getting the best return on your investment" - Jeff Hassemer, VP of Product Development, Experian Marketing Services. In today's culture, personalization of customer experience cannot be stressed enough. As the U.S. economy has shifted its focus from good production to services, giving each customer the optimal experience has become the focus. Obviously, you want to offer your clients the best service you can. I'm sure you can think of ways of boosting customer happiness and make for the most personable experience as possible at your location. That is relatively simple and already being accomplished if your business is still in business. However, how do you keep your customers happy, even after they left the store?
Simple: you MUST keep the personal business-to-client relationship going on, long after they walk out the door satisfied. New innovations in technology and consumer tracking have been quickly utilized in the market, especially in the closing months of 2010. Businesses like NPD offer many new services that can help you track where and what your customers are buying. You must utilize customer data to deliver the most personal and engaging experience, from dynamically generated web pages to personalized e-mails, landing pages, direct mail- and most importantly, social media.
You've probably heard it in a movie before when someone is going through their mail: "Mail, mail, junk mail, junk mail... aha! There it is!" When you send out a piece of direct mail, or produce any advertisement, you are competing with thousands of competitors- as a matter of fact, according to multiple studies, the average American is exposed to over 3,000 advertising messages a day. What will set you apart from the clutter that gets passed over as "junk mail" or the other logos and billboards? Many studies have been done on how to make your piece stand out from the crowd- however, none of these have yielded widely applicable results. The main way to stand out is by standing up and shouting out! Not literally, of course, but by establishing a constant and reliable presence that will bridge the gap between consumer and your business.
This is where social media steps in. When getting into social media, one word should stand out above all others: Facebook. Establish your business's social presence on the largest social networking site in the world, which boasts a 500 million user count. Yes, over 7.5% of the WORLD'S population uses Facebook. Get your name out there with a free account, and then maybe utilize Facebook's advertising plans and get the word out even better. Either way, your social media presence will allow you to connect directly to your consumers in an informal way that they are comfortable with and use to connect with other brands and people on a routine basis. Not only that, but then they tell their friends about you, too.
Let's use an example: one of your happy customers goes home and sits down at their computer to relax and browse stories and talk to friends on Facebook. While waiting for someone to respond to their most recent post, they decide to open your product. They like it. Who do you think is going to hear about how much they like it in a few seconds? Their friends. And thus the chain of word of mouth begins, and peer to peer advertising begins. That kind of advertising is priceless. "But wait, I wonder if they have more great stuff like this back at that store? Let's see if they do!" and then they find your Facebook page in the next few seconds and either ask a question or look at your website. Then they'll "like" (choose to get updates from) your page, happily choosing to receive product and business updates that you want to get out to them- still, all for free. If that's not enough to convince you of the necessity of a social presence in 2011, then possibly this last part alone may sway you: arguably one of the best tools social media gives you is customer data. Yes, that's right, more precious customer data.
Therefore, socialization should be the crux of your focus on advertising this year. It will allow you to both further personalize your brand and get through to your increasingly loyal customers, while providing you with even more data to utilize in your business strategies. So don't get caught in the vicious circle of advertising just enough to get your customers in the door- take part in the ever-rewarding circle of positive association, personalization, and socialization in 2011
The New USPS at a Glance
December 1, 2010
The year 2010 has held many changes for the United States Postal Service. However, there have been a great deal of changes going on this month. This blog entry will give you a quick glance at all of the recent changes and news with the USPS
On November 12th, USPS reported a net loss of $8.5 billion for 2010- this is the largest loss in the history of the postal service. However, most of the USPS' loss in FY 2010 was due to the statutorily required prefunding payment of $5.5 billion the Postal Service made to its Retiree Health Benefits Fund (which is already oversaturated by 70 billion; getting congressional approval to use this fund is the most probable way the USPS will get out of debt.) DM news states, "One positive trend is that Standard Mail increased 8.9% in the final quarter of FY 2010, marking its third straight quarter of growth. However, its rebound was not enough to boost overall FY 2010 volumes, as total mail volumes declined by 7 billion pieces."
Although created in 2007, the Deliver Magazine website (which is run by USPS and gives great advice on mail marketing strategies) just got revamped (launched Nov. 16, 2010) and is now far more appealing to the eye and interactive. In addition, it offers better advice for mid-to-small sized business. Make sure to peruse the new site or subscribe to their online magazine pdf's free of charge.
As stated in the last blog entry, there are obviously new customer service improvements coming along with the new Postmaster General Donahoe. They hope to better convey their products and services, improve small business relations, and new pricing incentives. More information about these changes is sure to become available as Donahoe takes office on December 3rd.
The APWU, the largest employee union of the USPS with 211,000 members, could not come to an agreement with the management. Therefore negotiations have been extended both for the APWU and the NRLCA (national rural letter carriers association) for a 60 day mediation process to reach an agreement before the government decides for them. Tensions have increased due to NRLCA contracts tied to mail volume. More info can be found here.
The US Postal Service filed a brief with a federal court on November 23, appealing the Postal Regulatory Commission's September decision to block the USPS from enacting an "exigent" rate increase in 2011. he PRC has until January 14, 2011, to reply to the brief. The USPS must then respond to that document by January 28, according to Gerald McKiernan, spokesperson for the USPS (via this article).
The USPS recently issued a statement saying to be wary of phone calls and e-mail messages that claim to be from the post office: "For emails: If opened, the messages instruct customers to click on a link to find out more about when they can expect delivery of their "package." Simply delete the message without taking any further action. For phone calls: Please do not provide any personal information and let the caller know you're not interested and hang-up the phone. The Postal Inspection Service is aware of the problems and are working hard to resolve the issues and shut down the malicious programs. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused our customers." (quoted from here).
We hope this summary and quick glance at the many recent changes with the USPS has been helpful.
Happy Holidays from Impressions Direct!
Postmaster General Retires; Long Live the Postmaster General
November 1, 2010
On October 26, 2010, Postmaster General John Potter officially announced his retirement after nine years of holding office.
Although Potter leaves office amid a slew of controversy over the debt, the focus is now on Patrick R. Donahoe, who has been selected to succeed Potter.
Patrick Donahoe was named Deputy Postmaster General and Chief Operating Officer in April 2005. The second-highest ranking postal executive, and the 19th Deputy Postmaster General, Donahoe is a 35-year postal veteran. He previously reported to the Postmaster General and is a member of the Postal Service Board of Governors. 1 Now, he will serve as the new Postmaster General, starting on December 3 when Potter officially steps down.2
Most agree that Potter's legacy favored eventual privatization of the Post Office. Having worked with Potter for years, what can we expect of Donahoe in regards to both policies and general changes?
"We laid out a plan that puts the Postal Service on a profitable track," Potter said in an interview with Businessweek.3 "I believe that if the actions are taken in the immediate future that the Postal Service will be a very healthy and viable organization. But it's after they get through a transition."
According to the Washington Post4, Donahoe said, "We're not going to do things to kill this organization - far from it. I grew up in Pittsburgh. I watched the steel mills go away. My mom and dad worked for General Motors. I watched General Motors go away. We will not let that happen in this organization." So what's next? "The focus now is not so much on the facilities, it's how do you provide access to a changing demand for the American people?" Donahoe said. Upgrades to the USPS Web site and merging the backroom operations of nearby post offices should help address the changing demand." Donahoe is also targeting long waits in line at the post office. "Our average wait time in line is under three minutes, but we still have places that are over 10 minutes," he said. "That's got to get fixed."
However, some disagree that there will be any dramatic changes. "Industry groups are not expecting any dramatic changes to the U.S. Postal Service in the wake of Postmaster General Jack Potter's announcement Tuesday that he plans to step down" says Larry Riggs, in an article for DIRECT magazine5
"I think the postal service will stick with the plan it announced last March because the full board was in support of that," said Tony Conway, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers.
"I can't imagine the USPS is going to abandon all the work to date to turn the postal service around," said Hamilton, Davison, president of the American Catalog Mailers Association. "Going forward, both Conway and Davison said they expect similar, but not identical, behavior when Donahoe takes over the Postmaster General role" surmised Larry Riggs.6
Whatever the future holds for the USPS, you can be sure that there will be change- but will the change stick to the plan set forth by the board in March? The next month should tell as Donahoe takes center stage and begins his own legacy.
PRC Denies Exigent Rate Increase
October 1, 2010
A few months ago, the United States Post Office proposed a postage rate increase of 5.6% in order to help with the budget shortfalls. However, yesterday (September 30, 2010) the PRC (Postal Regulatory Commission) unanimously voted to deny the rate request on the basis it did not meet the three provisions of the exigent rate exception.
In order to qualify as an exigent rate adjustment, there must be evidence of all three of the following:
From a PRC press release: "After careful consideration, the Commission agreed with the Postal Service that the recent severe recession, and the decline in mail volume experienced during the recession, do qualify as an extraordinary or exceptional circumstance under the law. However, the Commission finds that the requested exigent rate adjustments are not due to the recent recession, or its impact on mail volume. Rather, they represent an attempt to address long-term structural problems not caused by the recent recession. The Commission finds, therefore, that the Postal Service has failed to meet its burden under the law and the Commission is unanimous in denying its request for an exigent rate increase."
Many hoped the rate increase would help alleviate some of the negative symptoms produced by the rising deficit. Thus the most important question of the present is quite simply, "What next?"
Many are uncertain of what to expect as the new fiscal year begins. However, what is certain is that Congress is going to get involved... but not until after the November elections when it gets back from its adjournment.
Although there are obvious disagreements on specifics, the current general horizon shows two main prominent opinions about the best way to deal with the USPS in the future. Here is a quick overview of the two main ideas:
Privatization: There are those who wish to dissolve the USPS and make it into a privatized enterprise.
Reformation: There are those who wish to keep solvent the USPS and make it a better structured entity
Both strategies would eliminate the current USPS deficits.
Although there are many disagreements on the exact future of the USPS, those who support privatization, reformation, and the PRC itself all can agree that there is a need to address the prefunding of Retiree Health Benefits issue. This congressionally mandated provision forces the USPS to place over $5 billion a year into a fund that cannot be touched, and is reserved for retirees. However, the problem is that this fund is already oversaturated by $50-80 billion that quite literally is unnecessary.
Thus, interim, all we can do is help formulate possible constructive strategies that will help the USPS and the future of direct mailing, which so many businesses rely on.
USPS 5 Day Delivery Detrimental to Business
August 9, 2010
Recently, businesses throughout the U.S. have been concerned about what the debates and controversies surrounding the United States Postal Service (USPS) mean for their business. The USPS has experienced moderately severe debt in recent years with mail volume decreasing steadily each year. Some attribute the decline in productivity and increase of debt to e-mail and other online venues of communication; others attribute the decline to the recession; still others hold that there are many unnecessary costs the Postal Service can cut down. It has been proposed that cutting the mailing week from six days to five days could dramatically reduce debt. However, the five day mailing week could prove dangerous to the long-term stability of the Postal Service and fatal to small and large businesses alike.
In light of recent financial problems, the Postal Service has been searching for ways to cut down debt and overhead costs. Many people have become upset with the USPS, believing that the action on the part of the Postal Service in addressing this issue is insufficient. However, according to a USPS article, the Postal Service faces unique constraints that make it difficult to cut costs: "The Postal Service is not a private sector company... Many of the cost-cutting efforts by other shipping companies are not an option for the Postal Service. These companies raised rates, increased surcharges, adjusted service levels and stopped payments into 401 (k) plans. These are either not options or require regulatory approval for the Postal Service."
Since March 2010, the U.S. Congress and the PRC (Postal Regulatory Commission) have been contemplating about changing the mailing week to five days to help with debt. The new delivery schedule would take effect with the 2011 fiscal year and would eliminate USPS delivery on Saturdays. Craig Huey (president of the Creative Direct Marketing Group) in his July 2010 article on directmag.com, states that "some studies estimate that a five-day schedule could save from $1.9 billion to $3.5 billion a year." A 2008 George Mason University study (undertaken for the PRC) helps support his claim, stating that one less delivery day could save the USPS almost 2 billion.
Although this may seem to be a large amount of debt reduction, the NALC provides some facts that show how a five day week would be terribly detrimental for America. Not only would the 5 day week save just 4 percent of costs while cutting out 17 percent of daily deliveries, but also have a large, negative impact on businesses.
According to the NALC:
The six day mailing week is essential to most businesses. Even small businesses would take a blow from the new delivery schedule, as many small businesses' competitiveness rely on the USPS to get their products to customers as soon as possible in the most cost effective way, such as Click-N'-Ship and flat rates, not to mention standard mail for direct mailers who are trying to advertise their business. Also, as the NALC points out, it will have a negative effect on businesses by driving customers away. Customers may choose not to purchase a certain product because they feel reluctant to wait three days (Friday to Monday) to receive their item.
So what is the solution? It would seem that the best solution would be to draw from the Civil Service Retirement System fund.
In June the PRC reported that the Postal Service overpaid $50 billion into the Civil Service Retirement System. In January the Inspector General Office put the estimate at $75 billion. In addition to the over-funding, the USPS is required to make $5.5 billion annual payments into the already over-saturated account. According to NALC President Fred Rolando, "Congress now has all the evidence it needs to quickly correct this accounting error. Doing so would help put the Service back on more profitable footing and enable it to maintain its excellent level of service without having to resort to radical, short-sighted cost-cutting measures such as eliminating Saturday mail delivery service."