Alternate Media - What's Worth Testing? (777 words)
With the recently proposed postal rate increases of 6.4 percent by 2001 and changes in mail processing that could eliminate any hope for discounts offered for mailer worksharing, many direct marketers have found themselves looking for alternate ways to market their products and services in addition to traditional Standard A mailing. In fact, aside from postage increases, the CPM for solo direct mail rose steadily between 1994 and 1998, during which the cost to mail a control package increased $60, according to Capell's Circulation Report (spring 1998).
As a result of these trends, alternate media—with its cost advantages and targetability—could be the wave of the future.
Alternate media comes in many shapes and sizes. The type of mailer you are and your ultimate goal will determine which types are best suited to your needs as a marketer. Malcolm M. McClusky, president of List Services Corp., believes that in general, programs that have substantial monthly shipments—the ones which consistently generate new names month after month—tend to be the most popular programs. "Over the course of time, it is imperative to a program's success to be able to maintain a high volume," says McClusky.
Pricing is another consideration for any marketer thinking of turning to alternate media. Although alternate media in general costs less than solo direct mail, prices vary according to the individual types of alternative media, and that will have an impact on which type of media a specific marketer will choose. In general however, prices have remained unchanged since 1999, adds Nick Schellong, vice president, account manager at AZ Marketing Services.
Who uses alternate media? Typically, the majority are still direct mailers, according to Kathy Tofano, senior account executive for Leon Henry Inc. However, as dot-com companies emerge they seem to be making a natural leap to this kind of media to drive traffic to their Web sites.
So, what's out there worth testing? Ask a broker specializing in alternate media for ideas on what to test. Here are just a few examples to help get you started. See the resource directory that follows for more information on who to turn to for all your alternate media needs.
These free-standing promotional pieces are placed in fulfillment packages delivered to customers who have purchased items via mail order. Because they have just bought the item with which the insert is included, this form of alternate media is particularly effective as people are often more receptive to additional offers right after a purchase has just been made. Of course, this theory is only successful providing the customer is happy with the merchandise received. Make sure to include your inserts with respected companies whose image will have a positive impact on your product as well.
McClusky recommends this form of alternate media for general merchandise, membership, credit card, continuity and lead generation mailers. In addition, he anticipates that traditional mailers who are now e-commerce marketers will turn to package inserts to bring attention to their sites.
In co-op mailings, two or more companies combine their offers in one envelope. Although response rates tend to be lower than if the envelope contained a specific offer from only one company, the advantage lies in the fact that costs are often considerably lower than offers sent singularly or included in packages. As Denny Hatch says in his book, "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success," co-ops represent large numbers in a single drop and can usually provide good demographic selections. Other types of co-ops include mail-order and direct response offers, and local coupons. These programs are usually sold on a local level by neighborhood franchises.
According to John Jones, president of Good Neighbor Direct, supermarket take-ones are currently doing well for mailers. The advantage here is that instead of mailing to prospects you assume will want your offer, your pieces are free for everyone, and usually taken by people interested in what you're selling. Supermarket take-ones are also a good medium for testing copy and design for later adaptation to other media.
Similar to co-op mailings, card decks are composed of offers from different advertisers. These offers come in packs of 20 or more cards and are usually all on a related topic. Typically, cards are designed as either business reply cards or with phone and fax information for the order. These cards most likely will be flipped through, so keep the headline powerful and graphics simple. Card decks tend to be cheap in cost, but lower in response than many of the other types of marketing vehicles. However, because the cost is so low, the cost/response ratio usually evens out.