Tag Archives: direct marketing

NFC Chips Spell the End of the QR Code

11 Jul

Image via Flickr user clevercupcakes

Wow. that was fast. QR codes, otherwise known as Quick Reply barcodes are already on their way out in the marketing and advertising world. Outside of major cities, I wasn’t sure that QR codes had really even taken off yet. I guess mobile software and location-based marketing are out-pacing the use of the QR code.

Check out these two linked articles on Business Insider that announce the end of QR codes.

1. The first article, Death to the QR Code, argues that the existing QR code technology is clunky at best. With users having to download the correct app, snap a picture and wait for the app to work. The mobile user has to be pretty invested in getting to the QR code destination in order to take all the necessary steps.

2. The second article, Google Kills Off Those Little Square Codes You Scan With Your Phone, announces the advent of NFC chips, little chips that will be installed in all the next-gen phones and mobile devices. With an NFC chip all the mobile user has to do is hold the phone near an outdoor advertisement and the phone will take the user to the related web destination. Google is rolling out the use of NFC chips in its Google places program. It recently handed out window decals equipped with the NFC technology to businesses in Portland Oregon as a trial.

You can read more about NFC chip payment capabilities on Business Insider here. Here’s a link to an article about NFC chips, Foursquare and Google on Mashable and one more about why this technology is over-hyped on TechCrunch.

E-mail : Mail : E-mail = Greater Response

7 May

If you are not already trying this in direct marketing, you should. For big campaigns, where every response matters- send a string of related communications: an e-mail, mailing, and then a follow-up e-mail. This “bookend” approach to the campaign will greatly increase the chances that recipients read and reply to your messages.  More details on 3 step bookend campaigns here.

photo via Flickr user mark_rutley

Ever Wondered What WORKS in E-mail and Direct Mail?

4 May

Have you ever had to put together copy or design for an e-mail, postcard or direct mail marketing campaign?

If you don’t have a history of testing within your organization, (and sometimes even if you do) it’s hard to know what works. It’s also hard to decide if an image-heavy or text-heavy message will work, without knowing what the competition is sending out. I mean there’s only a few seconds of opportunity for a consumer to open and read your message. If it looks the same as every other piece of mail or e-mail it will get tossed.

Well over at DirectMarketingIQ.com- they KNOW what companies are e-mailing and mailing to prospects! Through their E-mail Campaign Archive and Who’s Mailing What Archive, these folks collect thousands of e-mail and direct mail campaigns per month from leading companies and organizations.  They are literally sitting in a pile of mail packages and tracking stats and trends. Then they write candidly about trends on the Direct Marketing IQ website. So these are some pretty great resources for folks in direct marketing to check out!

Marketing to Pet Owners

7 Jun

The popular phrase “Pets are people, too!” has never been more true. Pet owners and their furry family members are evolving from a niche market into a mainstream buying power.

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association’s (APPMA) 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, 63 percent of U.S. households own pets, and, in the past four years, spending on pets has climbed 6 percent each year to a current rate of about $40.8 billion. “With the sophistication of technology and the proliferation of products, people had to become more creative in how they’re going to get their products into the marketplace.” says Vicki Lynne Morgan, president of Califon, N.J.–based Animal Brands.

Pet ‘Parents’ Will Pay More
U.S. pet owners range from low- to high-income levels. But because owning and providing for an animal is such an emotional activity, even lower-income prospects will purchase high-end products, asserts Angela Cooley, president of Springfield, Pa.–based Solutions Pet Marketing. She recalls initially making list selects of higher-income pet owners for a client’s holistic pet store, but eventually found that lower- and middle-income owners were also largely purchasing expensive, organic pet products.

For direct mail success, it is important to appeal to pet owners’ emotions, including unconditional love and nurturing. “You can appeal the same way to a pet person and their sense of nurturing as if you’re marketing to a parent,” says Morgan. Pet owners know that if they take care of Fluffy, she will return the favor by lowering your blood pressure, reducing your stress and fighting your depression. “Pets enhance the health of the owner, so anything that has to do with health care is really enriching the owner’s life—and enriching the pet’s life as well,” she adds.

In terms of copy and creative, marketers agree that the dog is the most popular and common pet—and is, therefore, a good choice when marketers are limited to only one image or narrative. If you are sending out more than one campaign, cast a wider net by varying your use of breeds, age and type of pet in both imagery and copy.

Programs, Presence and Partnership
Loyalty programs are a successful tactic in pet marketing due to a daily need for maintenance and supplies. “Twenty percent of the people purchasing from you are creating 80 percent of your sales—and you market to that 20 percent. You want to be loyal to them,” Cooley says.

Strong lists, segmented out by type of pet, are available for purchase. Marketers can overlay loyalty data, distributing discounts and rewards according to the customer’s level of purchase and, at the same time, send a cat-themed mailing to only cat owners. Aside from purchasing lists and building a custom list, Morgan recommends pet clubs, publications and organizations, as well as partnerships with vendor and manufacturer websites, as potential list builders.

The pet industry is rapidly diversifying, with a huge online presence for added convenience, and pet products and services are also showing up in previously human-dominant industries like insurance and personal services. “Years ago, there were many hotels that wouldn’t take any animals. Now, they’re encouraging. And there’s a huge growth within the service segment—you have day care, pet walkers, pooper-scoopers, training, massage therapy, pet psychologists, all different levels of grooming,” describes Morgan.

With all this industry integration, potential new partnerships can be formed. Morgan suggests fusion marketing for pet marketers. “When it comes to finding people that you want to do direct mail with … you form relationships with service providers that cater to the same clientele. If a marketer really wanted to go directly to a certain audience, they could get some helpful exposure through fusion partners,” she claims. Morgan gives an example of an insurance company informing its clients that it now offers pet insurance, and a pet carrier or crate vendor piggybacking on that mailer with its own offer.

Overall, there is a positive outlook in the pet marketing industry, as the venue for success continues to grow. “This is probably one of your more recession-proof industries. Even if people don’t have the disposable income to go on fancy trips and such, they’re going to stay home and spend even more time with their pets,” Morgan concludes.

(Originally Published in Inside Direct Mail, April 2008.)

Part II: Decoding the Intelligent Mail Barcode

19 May

Experts discuss the creative implications of the Intelligent Mail Barcode and the benefits it affords

In part one of this feature, published last month, postal experts reflected on the rules and challenges marketers face when implementing the U.S. Postal Service’s new Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) system. From that discussion, experts agreed that full service was a more attractive option than basic service and implementing IMB before the May 2011 deadline could take anywhere from a couple of months to two years, depending on your organization’s existing IT infrastructure.

Looking past all of the requirements and technicalities, the creative benefits of Intelligent Mail are great, promising to improve tracking, measurability, list hygiene and cross-channel marketing. Here’s a peek into some of the best practices and approaches the mail industry is taking.

Make Mail More Malleable
With full-service IMBs, each piece of mail will have an electronic trail of information tracking it from the mail preparer to the delivery point. Many mailers and mail suppliers have been preemptively leveraging data using the POSTNET barcode and costly USPS Confirm Service to track their mailings and analyze campaign data. However, full-service IMBs are an improvement over this method because they are universal and house data about the mail owner, mail piece, recipient and delivery through the postal system.

IM’s digital reporting capability gets even more exciting when marketers sync up this data with customer relationship management, e-mail and other automated systems. “With the visibility in the mail, you can tie campaigns together to understand when to either precede or follow up with e-mail, or when to time release of TV, radio or newspaper advertisements,” describes Thomas Day, senior vice president of Intelligent Mail and address quality for the USPS.

For those with fulfillment processes tied to the back end of a campaign, he says the ability to anticipate high order volumes and staff fulfillment centers accordingly greatly improves campaign performance.

Reporting at an individual piece level arms vendors with more information to then provide clients with predictive analysis. “We can extrapolate the predicted results based on complete delivery, so you can get up-to-the-minute analysis of where you are and where we expect you should be after all the pieces get through,” details Rio Longacre, co-founder and VP of operations with Indros Group, a software developer and reseller based in Brooklyn.

Research Available Software Solutions

The move from a paper-based to a digital environment is what Day calls the most critical and technically complex aspect of full-service IM. When the USPS was developing its systems, it was difficult to honor all of the requests and suggestions made by participating mailers. As a result, some USPS customers will have to modify their own systems to meet the specifications of the IM acceptance and reporting schemes. “We’ve got to build the system, be able to process the data and then provision the data back to those customers—and you can only accommodate so much variation,” Day notes.

The situation opens some great opportunities for software vendors to get involved and bridge the gap between the Postal Service and those customers who need to comply with IMB. One example is Indros Group, which offers solutions from barcode generation onward through an entire multichannel campaign, including direct mail pURLS and triggered e-mails. “If they are already using POSTNET, we provide the mailer ID and the rest of the information. It’s kind of plug and play; we can create the IMBs, and we’ve done the integration with the USPS. As long as they create the barcodes with our technology and print them on the pieces, everything is tracked automatically,” Longacre says.

Be Careful When Coding
IMBs will open up some real estate in the address block for those who currently use two barcodes or other service-type identifiers. In addition to downloading the IMB coding and font software at www.ribbs.usps.gov/OneCodeSolution, there are changes to mail production and preparation to consider.

For example, from his experience in the IMB pilot program, Charley Howard, VP of postal affairs for Harte-Hanks, a direct and targeted marketing solutions provider, recommends using a font with an adjustable x-y axis, especially when coding for mail trays. “You need to have a font that you can adjust the x-y axis on. You can’t just click and drag and make it fit because if you do that, you make it an unreadable barcode, and you’re going to have a problem,” he explains.

In preparing millions of pieces for clients, Howard has had to rethink his company’s quality control (QC) systems. “One of the things that a lot of people don’t realize that you have to invest in is the QC. You can’t read this barcode. And even using a scanner, how do you know what’s there is what belongs there?” he asks. The solution, he says, is to develop systems that interlink, so when you scan a piece, all of the necessary data is in front of you. Updating QC alone can mean sizable investments of time and
money for printers and fulfillment houses.

Improve Your Trigger and E-mail Campaigns
The availability of pURLs, landing pages and variable data technology has enabled mail marketers to conduct trigger campaigns, where a customer or purchase behavior leads to another marketing communication. Adding postal delivery information to a trigger campaign or CRM cycle creates an enhanced opportunity to make timely, relevant customer touches down the line.

“The barcode provides us information on when the piece is being delivered, and then based on that we can have further communications go out,” Longacre details. He adds that he cannot imagine doing a marketing campaign without IMB technology, now that he’s experienced its benefits.
Chris Duncan, senior director of promotions for OfficeMax, says IMB is more about strategy than compliance. “If we have multi-tactic campaigns, we can time our tactics better. So if we’re going to mail someone a catalog and then follow up with a phone call, we can make sure that follow-up phone call is timed correctly,” Duncan explains. Longacre says his clients that send e-mail reminders 48 hours after a direct mail campaign hits its in-home date experience a 25 percent to 30 percent boost in response.

Focus on List Hygiene
Improved data hygiene is another feature of IMB’s all-electronic acceptance and feedback. For full-service IMB customers, Address Correction Service (ACS) comes free for First Class mailings, but with Standard mail there’s a caveat that all corrections be applied within a 30-day time period, punishable by a fee.

For those mailers sending millions of Standard mail pieces, Howard believes 30 days is a bit of a stretch to avoid getting penalized with a fee. In this way, the ACS requirements almost incentivize increased hygiene activity during preproduction. “Best practice is actually to use the suite of NCOALink products before you do the mailing. But also use ACS because even in NCOALink there will be things that are missed, so you want to use both premailing and postmailing solutions to keep your lists up-to-date,” Day shares. “Most of our client base for example, they use NCOA, and they either do their database every 60 days or so or they do their mailing file,” Howard adds.

Day says IMB will force many mailers to take a closer look at overall database management policies. “IM raises the bar. What you have to do is really understand the architecture of your system and the various databases you are maintaining. You’ve got to coordinate among multiple databases to make sure the correction information gets to all of the databases. In an ideal world, you’d have one single source of address data; unfortunately, there’s many companies that use more than one source,” he says.
“Direct mail works, but it only works if it gets there in the window that it’s targeted for. We need reliability and consistency,” Howard asserts.

Ultimately, the IMB system promises to benefit mailers and the USPS by providing crucial data which will improve future performance. “We can measure how mail performs at certain [service] levels, so we can tell that the stuff that seems to be late is always this type of mail. If you can identify that, then you can do something about it, as a vendor or as the post office,” Howard enthuses.

Duncan’s goal is to invest in IM strategically, in order to improve his bottom line. “IM can be used to help grow sales, enhance customer experience and grow your customers,” he concludes.

Intelligent Mail Barcode Placement

  • On letters, the IMB can be placed in the address block or in the barcode clear zone.
  • The IMB can be placed anywhere on the address side of a flat, within a minimum of 1⁄8˝ from any edge of the piece.
  • Placement configurations are further defined in the Domestic Mail Manual sections 202.5, 302.4 and 503.13.3.

Downloading Coding and Font Software

  • Customers can access an interactive encoder-decoder tool and a library of encoding software and fonts, at no cost, on the RIBBS website at www.ribbs.usps.gov/onecodesolution.
  • Register for a user ID and password to download the encoding software and fonts for any particular operating system or printing environment
  • The encoding software includes a user guide to ease installation.

(Originally published in Inside Direct Mail, February 2009)

Also visit the Postal Affairs Blog for the most up to date news on Intelligent Mail and Direct Mail.

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