The best thing about March Madness is every game and every possession counts. The stakes are high and the reward is great. In many ways it’s the perfect analogy for the high stakes environment direct marketers experience when developing winning direct mail campaigns. Whether your goal is to lift the trophy or lift your response rates, it requires strategy, preparation, an understanding of roles and a sound rotation to be victorious.
Now, when it comes to basketball, you should probably disregard most of what I have to say. After all, I picked Michigan State to cut down the nets, and probably spoiled my family’s good name by picking my beloved Indiana Hoosiers to lose to Kentucky in the second round. But when it comes to direct marketing you can trust me to provide sound advice.
Preparation is the Key
Bob Knight once made a statement about basketball that really stuck with me, “The key is not the ‘will to win’… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” I can’t help but think how that relates to direct mail campaigns. Everyone wants to win, to blow previous response rates out of the water, but not everyone has the will to make that happen.
We help many clients each year improve their results. By far the biggest impact we have is building discipline and planning into their mail plan. Making the commitment to do the fundamentals correctly is absolutely critical to the success of these campaigns.
A data partner of ours shared similar feedback from their business. While they are incredibly innovative with their modeling and analytics, it was their rigor around data hygiene that consistently delivered results.
The Stars and Supporting Cast Must Execute Their Respective Roles
Very few basketball teams achieve success without a star player. Yet the stars can’t shine without the other players understanding their roles and executing flawlessly. When it comes to direct mail campaigns, the list and offer are the stars, while the copy and creative can help put a campaign over the top.
This was one of the first lessons I was taught in direct marketing and it still rings true today. From my vantage point, most of the industry is well aware of this order of priorities and lives by it. What is often underestimated is the lift that can be achieved with copy and creative. We frequently see 30, 40 even 50% lift in net response (booked accounts) with our tests. If your list and offer are optimized, we can drive large improvement with copy and creative. If the list and offer are not optimized, the benefit of copy and creative results can be inconsistent.
I know I’ve written about this before, but accurate channel attribution and control rotation are still the biggest gaps we consistently see in the direct marketing universe. What is the impact of direct mail on the digital channel? What is the impact of TV on direct mail campaigns? I can tell you the impact is big on both counts. However, exactly how big and how this should affect your marketing budget decisions is only answered with proper channel attribution. Using only last touch is like a basketball team only practicing their shooting, probably not the “will to prepare” that Bob Knight was referring to.
Control Rotation Brings Results
Finally, one thing that happens every year in the NCAA basketball tournament is there will be an “unlikely hero” during a game. Someone the other team was not expecting will step up with a performance that determined the outcome of the game. It’s easy for a team to keep passing the ball to their best shooter on every possession, but over time that player’s performance will diminish as teams anticipate that strategy. They have to move the ball around and get other players involved even though statistically, it has lower probability. It is exactly the same in your mail plan; effective control rotation will provide lift to your overall results.
I hope your March Madness brackets are faring better than mine. If you’d like to discuss your direct marketing strategies, or just brag about how your picks are doing, feel free to send me a note.
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