March Madness is here and with more than 40 million Americans participating, there’s a strong probability you fill out at least one NCAA bracket. Last year I decided to be bold and organize my own bracket pool amongst my friends and colleagues. I even had a trophy made. Needless to say, despite being a huge college basketball fan (having grown up on those great Bob Knight teams), I came in dead last.
This got me thinking that in certain ways, picking your bracket can be a little like selecting the right marketing mix for your next campaign. When developing a strategy for the right channels to reach your prospective or current customers, there are traditional powerhouses to choose from, some options that seem to be trendy right now, and others you’re unfamiliar that will require more research before determining how much faith you’ll put in them.
Direct Mail is a Powerhouse for Your Marketing Mix
The question becomes, do you have a sound strategy that relies on data and rational decisions, or are you guessing and going with gut feelings? Unlike filling out your March Madness bracket, you don’t want to flip a coin or choose the team with the mascot you like best. Instead, use data as your guide. Based on the 2016 DMA Response Rate Report, we know your odds for success and marketing glory will be greatly increased by stacking your marketing mix with direct mail.
Whether you’re focused on creating new customers, or building stronger and more profitable relationships with existing ones, direct mail plays an important role in today’s customer journey. In terms of creating new customers, it should be a #1 seed in any marketing mix bracket because of its ability to target individuals with data.
With that said, it can also seem like an expensive option compared to other channels, given that we typically measure acquisition response rates in tenths of a percentage point. Once a prospect becomes a customer, email is almost exclusively the channel used to stay in touch. Despite a very low response rate, the extremely low cost drives a high ROI. I am sure that everyone can attest that some companies have taken this low-cost channel a bit too far.
Don’t write off direct mail when it comes to your customer loyalty efforts though. The response rate for direct mail can be much higher than for a stand-alone email campaign, offsetting any difference in cost. And as my colleague Alan Sherman has pointed out, using email and direct mail as a combined strategy can yield even higher results.
Great Teams and Great Direct Marketing Rely on the Fundamentals
When filling out your bracket, a wise strategy is to focus on teams that are disciplined and fundamentally sound. It’s no surprise these teams tend to perform well under pressure. Since the dawn of direct marketing, the hierarchy of the four fundamental elements for success have not changed: List, Offer, Copy, and Creative. If you have these elements down pat, your direct mail programs will be in a position to thrive.
While these still reign supreme, we should add a couple new tenets to this list. First, you must consider your Cadence, or how frequently you are reaching your prospect universe. Will it be monthly, bi-monthly, or eight times a year? How you rotate control packages across the touches is crucial, too. The cadence of customer communication and how you use a control rotation is key to direct marketing success. While it can be challenging to find a control package, let alone a stable of them for rotation, this can have a substantial impact on response.
There is also a Halo Effect to all of your marketing efforts. It’s necessary to determine what impact other channels have on direct mail response, and vice versa. Television has probably the largest and most broad effect on all channels, followed by radio, then direct mail, and finally, digital. Defining this halo effect speaks to accurate channel attribution, which can seem equivalent to finding the Higgs Boson particle. Despite this difficult challenge, we must continue to pursue accurate channel attribution, for the sake of your direct marketing efforts.
Great Coaches Are Essential
Finally, it’s no coincidence that the same teams tend to dominate the top of the college basketball rankings each year. Coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, Geno Auriemma, and Bill Self are always at the top. I like to think that they are better at honestly assessing their team’s strengths and weaknesses and adjusting their game plans accordingly.
That’s what our marketing and creative strategists offer our clients. Alan Sherman, Wes Sparling, and Mike Dietz—and many more on our team—have decades of direct marketing experience from which to provide sage recommendations to complicated issues. In a given year, they have worked with dozens of clients on hundreds of test engagements, which is more than most people will see in a lifetime. Their guidance is a crucial aspect to powering our clients’ marketing and improving response rates to create new and more loyal customers. We simply see more of the marketplace: what’s working, what’s not, best practices, and innovative ideas.
Good luck with your March Madness brackets this year. Based on recent history, I am quite certain I am the last person who should be providing betting advice. However, I do know direct mail will be a sure winner for your marketing efforts. If you’d like to discuss this further, please let me know.
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