Tag Archives: analysis

Direct Mail – still part of the marketing mix…

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There’s a belief that Direct Mail is long dead.

“It’s too expensive,” people complain. “It’s just junk mail” … “People just throw it in the bin – they don’t even bother to read it” … “email’s so much cheaper”… “it’s all online now”

chess pieces on a glass boardWell, there’s some truth in some of those statements.  But more worrying is that so many people don’t even know how to run a direct mail campaign any more.  They don’t understand the significance of – or indeed how to capitalise on –  the extraordinary wealth of data available to help refine the target market, the creative approach, and the message itself.  

Equally important is how to integrate direct mail into the overall marketing plan, using the channel in combination with online and other offline activity.

So I think it’s time for an objective look at direct mail – starting with its strengths and weaknesses. 

DM strengths & benefits

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Data … big data? Or back to the Dark Ages

Back in the 80s, there was this thing called “junk mail”.  And it was so called because it involved blanket mailing a mass market with little or no targeting. In other words, the message was irrelevant to a huge proportion of the recipients, so just got thrown in the bin.

Then we discovered targeting, analysis, insight and profiling.  And the direct mail messages become more appropriate, relevant, cost effective, and considerably less irritating to the consumer.  A classic case of less was more.

I remember the day that “personalised laser text” became available, and we were able to send out mailings with personally addressed letters which referenced the prospect’s other interests.  Letters that said (something along the lines of)

Dear Mrs Bloggs,

Because of your interest in the world’s wild places, we wanted to introduce you to our our brand new books which demonstrate the extraordinary and dramatic nature of our own planet earthfrom volcanoes to earthquakes …. 

The letter, including that simple piece of “personal” text, was enclosed into a small envelope with a miniscule brochure and mailed out.  It achieved over three times the response of the standard pre-printed control direct mail letter which was mailed in large envelope with enormous, heavy, expensive brochure

But now the European Union is proposing to take us back to the Dark Ages and the days of blanket mailings.  Their new proposed legislation is currently in progress, and will impact every level of prospect marketing.

It’s quite clear that the increasing use of new technology makes revisions to current data law essential, particularly given consumer concern over privacy which has not helped by our own government’s appallingly cavalier behaviour and carelessness with our personal data.  (Some of the breaches committed by government departments would have, if committed by the data industry, have caused severe punitive measures.  Somehow when it’s the government which gets it wrong, the whole thing just quietly gets swept under the carpet. Rant over…)

However, in addition to technological and social media impact, the traditional media channels will suffer significant difficulties.

A brief summary of the key areas is listed below:

  1. Explicit consent to be granted by the recipient prior to any direct marketing – either by word or by action.  In practice this means that where consent is required, organisations must ask for permission to process data.  Without such explicit permission, marketing prospects will not be allowed to receive mailings or cold telemarketing calls.  Current legislation allows such mailings and / or calls to be made unless the prospect has actively opted out.
  2. The customer has the “right to be forgotten” – ie they can insist that their details are emoved from a database in their entirety.  This is entirely impractical.  Once deleted, when or if that customer appears again on the database (if, for example, rented from a third party list, or in the event that the customer makes another purchase), the customer’s request for deletion will have vanished.  So in practice, the “right to be forgotten” should trigger the inclusion of that customer into a ”suppression” or “do not mail” file so that there is no inappropriate future contact.
  3. Profiling or segmentation may not take place without consent.  This will have serious impact on those data businesses which hold shared transactional data from multiple companies, or geo-demographic data, or indeed simply work with marketing profiling models.
  4. List broking is likely to require significant changes to comply with new legislation.
  5. The definition of personal data has been extended to include, potentially, IP addresses and some cookies.  Quite apart from the fact that an IP address or cookie may be used by a number of individuals, this will make it much more difficult for businesses to analyse and profile web activity.  The impact on digital marketing will be significant and, arguably (given that there will be no ability to provide relevant, targeted marketing) counter-productive.
  6. Cost:  DMA (UK) Ltd research shows that complying with the proposed regulation could cost companies an average of £76,000 each. It estimates a total loss to UK industry of up to £47 billion in lost sales.  These costs come, in part, from:
  • Companies with 250 or more employees will need to appoint a data protection officer
  • Under current legislation, subject access requests can be charged at £10 each.  Under the proposed new legislation, this charge is to be eliminated. This is likely to result in increased numbers of requests.  In addition to the lost revenue from existing volumes of which is likely to increase the number of requests, frivolous and serious.
  • Every organisation that suffers a data security breach would have to notify Information commissioner within 24 hours
  • Right to compensation from the controller or the processor in the event of processing activity causing damage to a person
  • Increased fines / sanctions to be imposed

On the face of it, the picture looks pretty bleak.  But there’s no need to despair just yet – there is time to provide our views on required adjustment, amendment and refinement  before these proposals are ratified and become law in the UK.

But for that to happen, businesses need to act now.  There is a fantastically detailed amount of excellent information to be found at the DMA (UK) Ltd.     So have a look and check to see how the current proposals are likely to affect your business and your marketing.

Then we need to write to our MEPs – and the DMA has made this easy by providing this link which has all the vital information, including who your MEPs are.   We need to ask them to fight for the fair interests of business.

We’re all for sharing knowledge and information and enjoy a healthy debate, so if you have any questions, views, tips or knowledge, please  just “reply” below. Victoria Tuffill – victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk   01787 277742 or  07967 148398.   Feel free to visit our website.  And yes, we’re on Linked In, and Twitter

Keeping Continuity Alive and Kicking

A firm staple in many a Direct Marketers diet, continuity programs present great opportunities to leverage sustainable ROI, and it seems fairly obvious – doesn’t it?  Having a portfolio of products  (or services) that are continuity based carries great benefits for business and consumer alike – but that initial, often significant investment is completely reliant on the lifetime value of those customers and their loyalty to the product they ‘signed-up’ for to be successful.  In essence that could be anything from the classic monthly subscription to magazines & books through vintage wines, chocolate and training courses.

In recent times, trends have not been great with the departure of several established continuity based companies hitting the wall, having lost their edge in this passive revenue sphere.  The factors that such perpetuity programs were forecast upon are far more volatile, helping to erode the ROI along the continuity journey. Vital LTV falls sharply as customers (across B2B & B2C) tighten belts and withdraw from subscriptions or continuity programs too early to realise the revenues needed to tick the ‘success’ box.

Of course – that’s exactly the offer we marketers often promote at the outset – there is no commitment – free to cancel at any time.  The difference is now more customers take us up on the offer – flexing their rights and greater confidence to change their minds, buy something else, respond to a new offer etc.

Analysis is key to proactive rather than passive marketing

Analysing conversion and cancellation rates over time – any business can see what’s happening after the event, but preventing it is another project entirely.  Its relative of course, not every business and product needs an equal % of initial customers to get past month x before being a valuable asset.  The great news is that business can intervene at any stage with a little creative thinking about improving customer loyalty, and without breaking the bank.

Having a high degree of segmentation and promotional material across multiple channels & offers is expensive and can be an operations nightmare, particularly if you are working with a legacy system. Crucially, work with what tools you can access and optimise them quickly – get the timing and message right and it will procure the best results possible for you.

Multi-channel opportunities can really come into play here, allowing flexible, integrated marketing strategies to work in harmony with tactical opportunities offering highly relevant communication at the right time via the right channel.  Longstanding or fixed strategies can become stale, justifiably focused on the critical initial conversion rates whether from acquisition or retention campaigns. The golden rule of quality data (not just the transactional) apply but crucially, need to extend well beyond the early order stages.

All customers are not equal …

The behaviour of customers needs to be known before it can be understood and responded to appropriately. This is not easy – we all know transactional data is not the same as behaviour – it’s just not multi-dimensional enough in an age where customers can behave erratically and spontaneously across all the channels available to them. I might order online – and complain by phone, followed by a letter….that I post on Facebook … with my angry face on Pinterest! Furthermore, as a continuity customer, I may not interact with the organisation at all along the way, until I decide to stop buying.

Of course – if you’re starting out with a continuity portfolio – getting the right infrastructure at the start will reap rewards later on.  Use a specialist multi-channel team that work together to think of EVERYTHING – you don’t need to implement everything straight away but at least have it on the watch list, creating an environment that can proactively adapt quickly to changes and demands as they arise.

Enhance every customer touchpoint as a key step to engage more, add value and gather the data needed to make the decisions that work – obviously not a process reserved for continuity programs alone, but generally better practiced for new orders or repeat business. Creating additional or tactical touchpoints is now easier than ever with online channels providing cost-effective platforms to increase contact and test ideas without significant costs when there is not necessarily a direct sale at the end of it. Equally, using more traditional methods like telemarketing and telephony in general, via non-sales routes can have a significant role to play in enhancing the relationship.

Sustainable continuity marketing has to embrace CRM principles and a large dose of common sense, ensuring we extend the life of customers and their loyalty levels as far as possible – whilst also realising it could be a shorter journey for the vast majority.  In the good old days, marketers relied heavily on customer apathy to generate this pot of passive income – getting them to and beyond break-even into profit was more about hoping they won’t back out, that they valued the offering enough to stay with an organisation.

Customers are wiser and better-informed with more choice than ever before, so marketers must also raise their game and think creatively to ensure continuity programs stay alive and kicking.

By Googie Oktem, August 2012

With 25 years expertise in the Direct Marketing industry including agency and clientside roles, Googie has a reputation for getting the job done! She has been consulting since 2001, working with clients to implement and deliver successful ROI-driven projects, both online and offline. Her specialist knowledge of using telemarketing resources and call centres produces great results for clients and suppliers, exceeding client KPIs and reducing costs on numerous end-to-end telemarketing projects.

© Googie Oktem and Tuffill Verner Associates, August 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Googie Oktem and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

So what’s new about multi-channel marketing?

multi-channel imageWell, I know I’ve been in marketing for a long time. But I can’t help raising a wry smile when I hear today’s up-and-coming extol the virtues of this or that media channel, and propose it be used as a marketing tool. Occasionally (too rarely) they even suggest testing and measuring results. And the listener is left with the impression that direct marketing is all their very own invention.

There is no doubt the media opportunities have evolved beyond recognition since the direct marketing of the ‘90s. As well as traditional channels like direct mail, loose inserts, press ads, telemarketing, package inserts – all of which are, when appropriately used, an effective part of the marketing mix – we can include email, websites, e-commerce, mobile commerce, apps, social networks, blogs, e-newsletters, microsites, links, PPC etc etc.

And it’s not only the number of channels that has expanded. So has the number of vessels which deliver our communications every day. Technology’s exploded into smartphones and iphones, tablets and ipads, readers, smart TVs, pcs, laptops, Macs. Print media is also evolving – with more advertising in return for free information, QR codes to integrate with new technology, and a greater degree of personalisation within customer communications.

To cope with the diversity and range of channels, marketing platforms are evolving to help businesses integrate their marketing and make it customer-friendly.

Of course the prolific nature and ongoing evolution of marketing channels drives a correspondingly diverse number of “experts” who offer a range of “optimisations” – search engine optimisation, conversion optimisation, click-through optimisation, social media optimisation and so on.

But what I find so interesting is that, despite the new and continuously evolving channel opportunities, the basic principles of direct marketing are unchanged. It’s still a science that involves data, analysis and insight, media choices, creative and design, pricing, branding, product, offer, research, communication, delivery and customer service.

And it’s still about identifying and understanding the customer. Testing data, channels or media, offers, products, new ideas, new creative / copy, response and delivery mechanisms is still an essential part of the process.

And, vitally, it’s still about identifying and measuring the business’s key metrics ongoing to provide insight and refinement of ongoing, healthy and integrated activity.

Certainly there are significant shifts in consumer behaviour – they are more sophisticated, with a shorter attention span. They are hit by multiple messages about multiple products and services from multiple businesses via multiple devices. The lines between above- and below- the-line advertising have blurred to the point of oblivion – which does make the measurement of individual media channels a little more challenging.

But ultimately, the aim of any successful business has to be to deliver appropriate and seamless services, products and communications to its customers, while allowing the customer to deliver communications back through the channels of their choice. And the company that can achieve that is the company that will succeed, both now and in the future.

by Victoria Tuffill 30th August 2012

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996. She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud. Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, August 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.