Talon Mailing & Marketing

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Deer Park, NY 11729

(631) 667-5500


Welcome to the Talon Mailing & Marketing December 2015 Newsletter.

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Direct Mail Testing: Your 3-Step Guide to Better Response Rates

By Tom Hexamer, loyalty360.org

Would you believe me if I told you that something as simple as one sentence, just five little words, has the power to lift results by 20%?

As direct marketers, we’re all looking for an edge, even just a slight adjustment to the offer, copy or design that will lead to better response rates. Would you believe me if I told you that something as simple as one sentence, just five little words, has the power to lift results by 20%? The key is direct mail testing.

When we engage with clients, the bar is typically set at achieving double digit improvement in response rates, at least 10%, compared to past campaigns. While this number varies by the client’s test volume and their appetite for risk, most of our clients consider anything below 10% a disappointment. How do we achieve double-digit improvements? We test, test and test again. Consider this your three-step guide to achieving better response rates:

1. Build an annual direct mail testing calendar:  Understand what volume you can commit to testing for the year and build a calendar to implement those tests. We generally recommend committing 20% of your direct mail volume to testing. Then build a list of all of things you want to test, which can include data, offers, segmentation, messaging, creative and format. With a clear view of your testing strategy, it’s much easier to prioritize what you want to test.

2. Build discipline into your test design:  A good friend once told me, “You should learn as much from your losers as you do your winners.” Know what you are testing and what you will learn before you commit to the test. In our Acquisition Audit process, we review a client’s testing history. Many times we find that all they know for certain is that a package didn’t work. There might be some very good elements to that package, but due to lack of discipline in building the test design, they are lost to “we tried that and it didn’t work.” With proper test design, you will learn as much (or more) from how the test panels perform compared to each other as you will from how they compare to your control.

3. Build a control rotation:  You would be amazed how rarely this cardinal rule of direct marketing is actually being followed. Controls have a tendency to fatigue as recipients see the same package over and over again. Generally we find that this is a result of clients who are struggling with their testing process. They can’t seem to find packages that work even remotely as well as their control package and therefore have no choice but to keep mailing the same package. Without rotation, control fatigue is amplified significantly.

We recently took a client through the three-step process described above. We built a direct mail testing calendar for the year and worked through prioritizing our testing options to build an efficient test design. They told us they were in the process of completing an extensive segmentation analysis of their file and how their customers used their product differently. Armed with this information, we built segment-based message testing into the testing calendar for when the analysis was complete. One of these tests, a simple change to the headline of the copy deck, delivered that 20% lift I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Remember, direct mail testing is a process, not an event. Look for incremental gain and learning throughout the year. A well planned calendar with discipline built into the test design will improve results and create options for control rotation. It will also create a rich database of test learnings that can be leveraged to improve results year-over-year.

Five Mistakes That Will Doom Your Direct Mail Campaign

By Justin Restaino, nationalmortgageprofessional.com

Avoid these common pitfalls and watch your response rates soar.

When you use direct mail as a marketing strategy, you typically invest a lot of money upfront. There’s the cost of the mailing list, perhaps the expense of the graphic designer, the price of the mailer itself, and of course, the money spent on postage and handling.

 Because you are making such a significant investment, you want the best results you can get. To accomplish this, we advise you to avoid these common pitfalls:

1. Lack of personalization
A one-size-fits-all letter is going to quickly find its way to the trash can. Instead, you want to use personalization—“Dear Jane” rather than “Dear Homeowner.” This leaves a far more favorable impression on the recipient than a generic-looking form letter.

2. Wrong mailing list
Most marketers would say that a mailing list is the most important factor in a direct mail campaign. Buy your list from a reputable source—or use your own contacts database—to make sure that your mailer ends up in the hands of people who matter. For instance, a marketing letter designed to attract first-time homebuyers is wasted on people who already own their own homes. Keep in mind that by over-thinking your mailing list by narrowing your criteria too much you could end up with over-saturated/less responsive clients, and thus, the wrong mailing list.

3. No call-to-action (CTA)
If you fail to use a call-to-action, you’ve wasted a significant opportunity. Your mail piece should have a clear CTA, requesting that the recipient take a specific action after reading the letter. This could be something as simple as asking them to call you to set up a free consultation or to return a postage-paid mailer.

4. Unprofessional
Have you ever received something in the mail that looked like your grade school child designed it? Remember that appearance matters. While you don’t necessarily have to hire a graphic designer, you do want to send out letters or postcards that are professional and attractive.

5. Create benefit-driven copy
Rather than inundating your readership with a list of every service that you provide (feature-driven copy), you want to make it clear to your recipients how they can benefit from a loan. For instance, you might mention that they can save thousands of dollars, go on that European vacation they’ve been dreaming about, or have a backyard for the kids to play in once they own their own home. Think about the reasons that your typical client retains your services and make sure to highlight these benefits in your copy.

When designing your piece, it is best to rely on the experience of a professional. After all, their job is to create the most effective approach for your campaign. All too often, pieces are built without the advice of an expert to ensure the wrong steps aren’t taken, so don’t hesitate to rely on their expertise to review your approach.

K. Justin Restaino is vice president of Titan List & Mailing Services Inc. For more than 15 years, he has led Titan’s Mortgage Division, helping lenders of all capacities grow their businesses utilizing targeted direct mail.

Seven Trends to Watch in Direct Mail

By Jean Gianfagna, propertycasualty360.com

So, what’s new and what’s working in direct mail these days? Here are seven interesting direct marketing trends I’m seeing as a marketing consultant.

1. Oversized mailings

When there’s a glut of mail, very large pieces command attention. Despite the significant postage savings from mailing smaller-size pieces that fit USPS standards for automated processing, I’m seeing many direct marketers mail huge, oversize postcards and envelopes.

2. Adding a soft-touch varnish to increase tactile appeal

Another clever way to make your direct mail stand out is to apply a soft-touch varnish coating to the carrier. The soft-touch coating literally makes the paper feel soft, which makes you want to touch it.

Doug Mack of Duke Print & Mail Solutions in Cleveland says financial services marketers like using soft-touch “to create an impression of prestige or a high profile status. It’s also great for annual reports and many colleges use soft-touch varnishes for their first-impression pieces or view-books.”

3. Luxury marketers who are doubling down on direct mail

Luxury product marketers have never given up on direct mail. In fact, they seem to be boosting their use of this channel, with very high-end mailings that support their brand exclusivity and feature stunning product photography.

4. Loyalty program support and acceleration

Name any customer loyalty program you belong to and I’ll bet direct mail is integral to that marketer’s relationship with you. Casinos are extremely savvy at using data from gamblers’ activities to reward customers and promote future visits. I get at least three targeted promotional mailings a month from the Horseshoe Casino here in Cleveland as part of my Total Rewards program membership — and I’m not even a high roller.

5. Power use of direct mail by selected market segments

Nonprofit fundraisers, political marketers and colleges are the direct mail power users, relying much more heavily on this channel than other marketers. I see no sign of this letting up, despite the proliferation of social media:

  • A Cleveland nonprofit I work with says that direct mail continues to be their best fundraising channel.

  • Political candidates and causes are already ramping up direct mail for fundraising and driving voter preference ahead of next year’s presidential campaign. I guarantee our mailboxes in Ohio and other swing stages will be deluged.

  • Colleges are sending nearly every college-bound high school a huge volume and variety of direct mail. In fact, if you’re looking for samples of the most creative use of data in personalized direct marketing, check out what college direct marketers are doing.

    For example, the Rochester Institute of Technology sends postcards to high school juniors, using the most basic data — name and address — to create a clever mailing with an image of a car heading down the highway passing a sign that shows the distance from the junior’s home to RIT. The car also is adorned with a personalized license plate featuring the junior’s name.

6. The vanishing reply form

Reply cards and printed response forms are going missing from more and more direct mail packages, especially mailings for high-end products. In a previous Smart Marketing Strategy post, I wondered if this would be a trend — and it is. For example, a promotion for Nordstrom’s Trunk Club has a web-only response mechanism. Look at the next five catalogs you get in the mail and see how few include printed reply forms, which used to be ubiquitous in direct mail catalogs.

7. Smaller quantities

Every client we work with that’s using direct mail is reducing mail quantities through better targeting, especially our business-to-business clients. This is good news for our industry; people who consider direct mail “junk” are usually looking at mail they never should have received in the first place because it’s not relevant to their needs. It’s also a smart marketing strategy: Mailing fewer pieces gives you the budget flexibility to increase the quality of your promotion, which could produce higher response.

Win Brooklyn Nets Tickets!

Enjoy a great day of Basketball!

We are giving away two tickets to see the Brooklyn Nets. 

All you have to do to win is be the first telephone caller (please don’t hit reply or send an email). Voice mail messages count so it's fine to leave a message.  Call Michael Borkan at (631) 667-5500 x 11.  These tickets are great seats! 

  • Thursday December 10, 2015.  Nets vs. Philadelphia 7:30 PM.

Do you know of anyone else who would be interested in receiving our newsletter?  Please let us know by email:  mb@talon-mailing.com

To learn more about our company, please visit our Web site: www.talon.com or contact Michael Borkan at (631) 667-5500 x 11.

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In this Issue:

Direct Mail Testing: Your 3-Step Guide to Better Response Rates

Five Mistakes That Will Doom Your Direct Mail Campaign

Seven Trends to Watch in Direct Mail

Ticket Giveaway!

New Clients

Mike Borkan's Links - Web sites you probably haven't seen

View Samples of Our Work

Newsletter Archives

Direct Mail Humor!

New Clients:

Talon welcomes the following new clients this month to our growing roster of customers:
  • Maryland Community Connection

  • Network Advertising

  • 2 New Lists from Statlistics

Mike's Favorite Links:

Some interesting links...

pixabay.com - Over 510,000 high quality photos, illustrations, and vector graphics. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

webflow.com - Build Professional Websites Without Writing Code. This web design tool is trusted by 320,000 designers and design-driven brands like Pinterest, IDEO, and Razorfish.

askwonder.com - Wonder's network of professional researchers curate personalized collections of content from the web's most trusted publishers to help you understand any subject

grammarly.com - Grammarly makes you a better writer by finding and correcting up to 10× more mistakes than your word processor.

vocativ.com - The site uses intelligent technology, smart journalists and the wisdom of the crowd to find story leads and angles no other news organization can.

ditch.tv - DitchTV lets you channel surf the web and discover the best online videos quickly. Use your keyboard to skip videos, flip channels and jump categories.

Work Samples:

Did you know Talon offers the following services? 

Click on the links below to see samples.

Direct Mail Humor!

Click on image below to enlarge.

Do you need help marketing to your clients?   Talon can help!  Call Michael Borkan at 631-667-5500 x 11 to learn how to increase revenue.

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