Message & Media: Delivery Confirmation
Full disclosure: I am a writer and creative strategist, not a media maven. I love words. Even more, I love stringing words together in ways that encourage people to respond with a quantifiable click, phone call, mail-in response, or visit to a Web site or retail store.
In my world as a writer, media planning and buying have always been someone else's job. And still are.
However, like so many of you reading this, I have become fascinated by the multitude of media choices now available to target and deliver the messages you and I write. And there are more new media options headed our way.
This means that in today's media-rich world with readers strapped for time and bombarded with marketing communications, wordsmithing alone probably won't get our messages opened and read. We've got to understand how to deliver the message at the right time and in the right place.
What follows are media-related tips for delivering maximum impact from a direct marketing writer.
• Don't be overwhelmed by choices. Remember what's worked in the past, and test those new options that make strategic sense for reaching your audience and meeting your business objectives.
• Apply common sense and basic direct marketing principles. Measure and evaluate results, including initial response, closure rates, average order size (dollars and units), abandon/cancellation rates, lifetime value, etc. Remember, direct marketers track and measure to the individual level of response.
• Cheaper on the front end isn't necessarily more cost-effective on the back end. Track, measure and compare results.
• Not all media is direct response media … but that doesn't mean you shouldn't use it. Like public relations and special events, social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are marketing tools with the power to influence buying decisions. Use them accordingly.
• Don't put all your eggs in one basket. For example, a client recently called with a letter writing assignment. After successfully testing an e-mail cross-sell offer to customers, he wanted to make the same offer in a letter to his remaining customer database. The rationale? Even with a successful 15 percent to 20 percent e-mail open rate, he still wasn't reaching 80 percent to 85 percent of his highly qualified buyers. A matchback of direct mail respondents showed they hadn't opened the e-mail. Common sense dictated using both e-mail and postal mail to maximize results.
• Just because you know your offer is on your Web site or featured in your organization's magazine, that doesn't mean your customer knows it. Last week, I called my credit card company with a customer service question. In the process, I learned I was qualified for an upgrade—at no charge—to a card with attractive benefits and no penalties. When I asked why I hadn't known this before, I was told, "Well, you could have read about it on our Web site or in our magazine." I've never been to the Web site and never read the magazine. A targeted phone call, e-mail, letter or even a postcard would have been appropriate.
• Not all messages are appropriate for all media. A letter still looks more personal, more valuable and more confidential than e-mail. It's also less easily "trashed" by mistake or intentionally. If you offer financial services or other products of personal importance (e.g., legal, medical, upscale travel), don't forgo postal mail for e-mail without testing.
• Put your message with a measurable call to action on your shipping box or packing materials. Create a product insert (not package) that encourages a second purchase. Be creative, be inventive and put your message in multiple places where your customer will see it.
• Some market segments respond better to specific types of media than others. For example, mature audiences 75-plus years old remain more comfortable with postal mail even if they have e-mail addresses. On the other hand, Facebook ads may be just the tool you need for reaching younger audiences with relevant targeted messages.
• Test. Studies, case histories and anecdotal reports confirm that marketers who are most successful across the board using all types of media follow the direct marketer's mantra of test, test, test.
• Go digital. Got a message that needs to get out fast? New digital media allows you to write, rewrite, edit and deliver in a matter of minutes.
• Don't take a message written for one medium and plop it into another without careful review. Be aware that e-newsletters are different than ink-on-paper newsletters. Web ads are read differently than space ads. Readers' expectations after opening an e-mail are different than after pulling a letter out of an envelope.
• All messages (no matter which type of media delivers them) have hot spots. Know where they are, and use them to your advantage. Examples include the subject line and preview pane in e-mail, the salutation and P.S. in a letter, and the headline and photo captions in a space ad.
• Consider the appropriateness of your media. The media you use for prospecting may not be the same as you use for communicating with your customers.
• Use different media to communicate with different customer segments. Just because you send a personal First Class letter with a 44-cent stamp to the top 20 percent of your customers who generate 80 percent of your sales doesn't mean you have to mail First Class letters to all your customers.
• Save money; prospect within your own database. Cross-sell, upgrade, reactivate. They're very cost-effective ways to generate new business.
• If you limit yourself to using only one medium, you limit your opportunity for success. The more places consumers see you and the more ways they hear from you, the better they know you, the more they like you and the better they trust you.
• When your contact strategy includes a series of messages, have a strategy for your mix of media. Do what is appropriate for your message, audience and business objective. It could be an initial phone call, followed by a personal letter, then ongoing e-mail communications.
• No matter how cheap it is, media isn't a good investment if it doesn't generate the cost-effective results you need. Weigh the pros and cons of any media choice including cost, open rates, security concerns, deliverability rates, recipients' perceptions of the medium, how it supports your brand, etc.
• Timing is as important as the media and message. Factor in time of delivery, holidays, how soon is too soon and how often is too often.