Print Production Spotlight: Defining Print’s Role in Modern Direct Marketing
An Internet information company seeking to boost response rates and drive traffic to its website was reluctant to use direct mail. After the campaign generated so-so results in numerous online channels, however, a direct mail test produced the highest response rates and the most stickiness of any medium they used—even for the coveted new-media generation of 18- to 35-year-olds.
The moral: "Sometimes you find a role for print in the areas you least expect it," says Matthew Downey, vice president, Anderson Direct Marketing, agency to the aforementioned Internet information company.
Many marketers still have high expectations for printed direct mail. The Winterberry Group projects spending on direct mail to increase 5.8 percent in 2011 to $47 billion dollars, more than any other direct or digital advertising category. This would be the second consecutive year of growth, following three years of decline.
"Print is alive because you can create an integrated mix that is relevant to the person you're targeting," says Alan Scott, member of the CMO Council Advisory Board and former senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Enterprise Media Group, Dow Jones and Co. "Print plays a vital role, but it's different than it used to be."
Print Is in the Mix
The mean number of media used in today's direct marketing campaigns is three, according to market research and strategic consulting firm InfoTrends. A recent test conducted by the Xerox 1:1 Lab demonstrated the role that relevant, personalized print can play in these campaigns.
The 1:1 Lab program runs tests comparing the results from a traditional direct mail campaign to the same campaign with customized messaging that is relevant to each recipient. In tests run in multiple industry vertical markets, the customized messaging has consistently delivered positive results. Highly regarded direct mail leader Reader's Digest Canada as much as doubled response rates with a more personalized approach.
A recent lab test dramatically boosted enrollment in Miami University of Ohio's honors program. In the test, conducted jointly with direct marketing provider b+p+t communication solutions, nearly identical multimedia campaigns using direct mail, PURLs and email were sent to two groups of 20,000 randomly selected prospective students. One group's campaign applied relevant content based on students' interests, while the control piece limited personalization to basics, such as name and address.
The data-driven campaign generated a 1,466 percent greater response rate than the control and a 6,000 percent increase in targets converting to prospects. Seventy-six percent of PURL visitors had received the personalized mailer. Campus visits increased by 32 percent over the previous year, reaching capacity and thereby shutting down promotions early. The incoming class size was 31 percent larger than the school's goal, and 90.5 percent of the enrollees had received the data-driven mailer.
Results like these have convinced many enterprises to include print in multichannel marketing. Universal Pictures puts most of its budget into broadcast, but "Print is seeing a resurgence since digital [printing] came into play," says Doug Neil, senior vice president, Digital Marketing, Universal Pictures. "There are touch points with consumers in all different media. We're making sure all our touch points are covered."
Driving Better Responses
One reason direct mail makes such strong contributions to multi-media campaigns is that today's more relevant, personalized print drives better response rates than the static and "Dear Frank" personalized pieces of the past. Where average direct-mail response rates long hovered at about 1 percent, the 2010 DMA Response Rate Trend Report found letter-size envelopes generated on average a 3.42 percent response rate for a house list and 1.38 percent for prospects.
And, contrary to the popular belief that direct mail is tossed directly into the wastebasket, eight out of 10 households reported that they read or scan direct mail received at home in the 2010 U.S. Postal Services Household Diary Study on 2009.
Indeed, some promotions are still done best in print-only formats. The Ford Motor Company has found in testing over the years that direct mail works best for generating extended service plan sales for its vehicles. In a Xerox 1:1 Lab test produced in conjunction with Ford's fulfillment and direct marketing vendor partner Budco of Highland Park, Mich., a more relevant direct mail piece boosted sales by 35.7 percent.
Combining relevance and a compelling reason to open the envelope drove similarly stellar results at Dow-Jones. "One of our most successful campaigns used mass customized publications that we delivered by FedEx," says Scott. "We got a 50 percent response rate from C-level executives. They read it because it was delivered overnight. They responded because the content was so strong. We showed them we know their company."
Adapting to the Digital Era
Of course, testing helps marketers determine the best triggers for driving results. Here again, today's digital printing provides an advantage. First, the technology's cost-effectiveness in short runs makes producing relatively small test batches imminently practical.
Second, results are measurable. And when print drives targets to Web locations, the results can be tabulated automatically and immediately for prompt campaign adjustments.
Indeed, crossmedia campaign management solutions can often roll up results from all media channels into a single marketing console to provide key metrics, such as return on investment, across the entire campaign. That's because these systems are fully integrated across multiple media, using a single set of rules to drive creation and management of multiple pieces in various media from a single collection of assets.
Any digital medium can be incorporated in cross-media campaigns, from email to micro websites to social media and SMS text, streamlining management while reaching targets in their preferred media. And increasingly popular QR Codes—readily created for print in most variable software packages—make it easier than ever for consumers to connect to a Web location by simply scanning the code with a mobile device.
Yes, print's role in direct marketing is changing. And perhaps the most critical change is that today's personalized, relevant print is driving better results than ever before.