You walk into an OfficeMax store, or go online, and make a purchase. Once upon a time, friendly service and a good product might make you a repeat customer for that office supplies business. Today, that purchase is the “trigger” for a campaign that cross-sells or upsells you correlated products.
I recently interviewed Chris Duncan—director of marketing for OfficeMax, which is headquartered in Naperville, Ill.—about his organization’s progressive trigger campaigns and its heavy reliance on direct mail.
Ethan Boldt: How much a part of a trigger marketing campaign is direct mail versus the other channels?
Chris Duncan: You can use e-mail, telemarketing, in-store, mobile marketing and many others for trigger marketing messages. The “trigger” concept is really just a process of identifying trends and behaviors that you want to respond to. We chose direct mail because it’s been effective for us. We use a variety of formats like letters with envelopes, self-mailers, postcards and many others.
EB: Are most of the “triggers” point-of-sale (POS) data? What about customer feedback or survey data?
CD: The triggers are based on statistical analysis and customer trends. We utilize historical POS data (retail stores, online and phone orders) to identify the triggers and utilize that same POS data that we collect every day to identify when members have met those triggers. We don’t use customer surveys or feedback as part of our trigger program but may do so in the future.
EB: How long have you been using this method?
CD: We’ve been using customer behavior to drive some of our marketing for years. We developed a trigger marketing system within the last several months to be even more proactive towards customer behavior … [and] we are impressed with the response that we’ve seen.
EB: I understand that OfficeMax preprints shells and then fills in VDP offers/messaging. How does your creative team interact with marketing/database groups to develop appealing creative while working within the boundaries of variable data formats?
CD: The creative part of this has been exciting to work on. We brought together associates from production, marketing and creative to develop great communications for our customers. We used past results of direct mail to help drive what formats work. Production worked with our printers to modify those formats so we could be highly efficient and go to market quickly; and our in-house creative team developed pieces that would stand out in the mailbox and elicit responses. It was a great team effort.
EB: What kind of obstacles have you faced with this strategy, and how have you tried to overcome them?
CD: The biggest obstacle is time. We’re trying to get communications in the mail within hours (not days or weeks) of triggers being hit, so we need to move quickly and don’t have much room for error. There’s also a lot of setup and behind-the-scenes work that needs to get done for this to be successful.
EB: Can you describe some of what goes on “behind the scenes” to create such a quick communication?
CD: The setup is where most of the work is. We set up rules based on a lot of statistical analysis and customer trends that we find valuable. We look at the data every week and find members that have triggered those rules, and from there we get a communication out to them. The process of sending data to a printer, printing a direct mail piece and starting a mailing is completed within a day or two.
EB: What do you have in store for the future for OfficeMax direct mail?
CD: The future of direct mail for us will continue to evolve. It will probably include the blending of catalog and traditional “mailers” as well as continuing to push the envelope with creative.
We’re also going to try new types of materials and formats. We’re currently working on an eco-mailing for our MaxPerks members. It’s an exciting piece, and I think our customers will love it. It’s nearly all eco-friendly, down to the ink we use. We’re continually testing new things, and you’ll see higher-end pieces come out from us in the future—but only when and where it makes sense. We let the ROI determine how much we can invest in mailings and which segment we mail it to.
EB: How has the role of your copywriters evolved alongside your direct mail program?
CD: Our copywriters’ roles have become increasingly more important as our direct marketing has become more complex and more personalized. The great thing about one-to-one communications is that you can communicate directly with your customers, but you also have to have the organization and resources to support that type of marketing. It’s a challenge, but it’s also an exciting opportunity.
This article is adapted from the Straight Talk interview that was published in the April 2008 issue of Inside Direct Mail, a sister publication to Target Marketing magazine. To learn more about Inside Direct Mail, visit www.insidedirectmail.com