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5 Ways to Stop Losing Money on Direct Mail Sampling Programs

April 2, 2014 By Daniel Rodic
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For marketers who use direct mail sampling, it traditionally has been a "spray and pray" approach. They blindly give away numerous product samples through rental lists, hoping to reach the right consumer and increase their likeliness to purchase the product.

These programs are usually measured on metrics like how many samples have been distributed, which tells marketers nothing about how effective the program was in terms of customer conversion.

This approach to blind sampling does not leverage the latest targeting technology or best practices for personalized, relevant marketing. Here are five ways to stop losing money on sampling to help marketers use this technique to reach the right customer at the right time with the right message, and then measure the ROI.

1. Set a Clear Goal, and Track  Relevant Metrics
Marketing is closely tied to business strategy. Before you start marketing planning, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of where you want to take your business in the upcoming year. Each of your marketing tactics (including sampling) should tie back to your key business objectives, and have a relevant metric or measure to give you an indication if the tactic is delivering on the specified objective. Depending on the maturity of the brand, the primary business objective most likely falls into one of three categories.

  • Increase Consumer Engagement and Brand Awareness
    New brands or product innovations normally count increasing engagement and awareness as a key business objective in the first couple of years after launch. The main objective is to have your brand included in a consumer's consideration set within the category. To meet this objective, brand managers should explore high-engagement sampling methods, which include a strong education component for consumers. A well thought out experiential sampling campaign or a direct-to-consumer in-home sampling campaign are the most effective tactics for educating customers.
    For each campaign, marketers should track key metrics such as: percentage trial by new users, intent to purchase, and recollection of key marketing messages. Preferably, you would use a sampling methodology that can organize this by high-level demographic data, such as age, income groups, gender or geography, to guide future investments into the most lucrative consumer segments.
  • Grow Share or Household Penetration
    For almost all marketers, growing share or household penetration is an on-going metric they are measured on, regardless of the stage of the brand. At this stage, marketers should already have a good understanding of who their most lucrative target customers are, and should use sampling methods which are highly targeted to reach these consumers. It's important not to waste samples on consumers who do not fit within your brand's target customer group.


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