Wednesday, December 5

How do you create successful direct mail in 2013?

The United States Postal Service postmaster general, Patrick Donahoe, recently told The New York Times that the postal service is in a financial crisis today because of an inflexible business model.  Many legislatures believe that there are options to cut costs and increase revenue while still preserving the postal service.  Reports on the current state of the United States Postal Service are a bit chaotic.  It is predicted that in 2013, the United States Postal Service will undergo changes that it has never previously experienced.  This includes postage rate increases, new piece specifications, and a reduction of the network that delivers the mail.  It is hoped that these shifts will create significant savings for the United States Postal Service.  If direct mail continues to be a profitable medium for marketing, brands must find the most cost effective solutions in light of the USPS transformation.

Postage rates for folded self mailers

The rate increase percentage is based upon produce and service.  The overall average rate increase across all classes of mail is capped at 2.1 percent.  There are a variety of common mail formats that are considered folded self mailers that currently mail at standard letter rates.  The 2013 changes now categorize these letters into a higher postage rate.  Paper modifications can also offset the impact of postage rate changes on folded self mailers and unenveloped mail pieces.  If marketers begin to understand all of the new specification changes, they can then modify and test formats that comply with new regulations without losing any impact.

File optimization

Analytics can identify a variety of items.  Two of the most important being prospects and response.  By understanding these categories of an audience through analytics, marketers will experience gains in responses and improved campaign results.  These file optimizations are another way of testing your campaigns.  Putting your database into a third-party system will help define postage rate and shipping methods to get your mail to the intended recipients on time and budget.  
Production and logistics

Marketers must execute their mail campaigns on time and on budget once their format is designed and their data files are set up.  To enable marketers to determine the in facility dates, they should work backward from desired in-home dates.  These dates also assist in driving production scheduling, from manufacturing dates to artwork and data file due dates and even material ordering dates.      

There are several options to move mail pieces in the USPS delivery system  

  • Presorting - arranges the mail file according to delivery scheme by zip code  
  • Benefit: determines campaign postage rates and cost

  • Co-palletization - combining trays of mail going to the same entry points on the same pallets
  • Benefit: similiar to destination entry, "co-pal" offers discounts for moving the mail further downstream in the USPS network

  • Comingling - Groups together pieces of mail from multiple clients/customers or one client's multiple mailers.  
  • Benefit: affords businesses and organizations even lower postage rates through deeper penetration of high volume mail into the delivery system.

  • Destination Entry - Often referred to as drop ship, this involves shipping pallets of prepared mail directly to the USPS sectional center facility
  • Benefit: provides discounts for moving the mail further downstream in the USPS network

  • Logistics planning - determines the best load and delivery patterns
  • Benefit: optimizes transportation costs
Facility closures
Through 2015, roughly fifty percent of United States Postal Service facilities face closure.  This is due to an effort to cut more than $22 billion in costs.  Ten years ago, letter carriers delivered 202.8 billion pieces of mail.  In 2011, only 168 billion pieces were mailed.  If a marketer routes a direct mail campaign to the wrong location, it will result in major delivery delays.  As the USPS moves forward with their plans to close hundreds of mail distribution centers and post offices, it is crucial that marketers understand the timing and impact of individual facility closures.  
Direct marketers must stay focused on finding postage, processing and logistics savings to maximize mail delivery.  By understanding the "new" USPS, along with optimized mail piece design and processing, this is achievable. 

Ready to kick off 2013 with a great direct mail campaign?
  Let SYNERGY help!  

Give us a call today at 714-824-3780 to speak with a sales representative.  

Or visit for your FREE quote and chance to win a 1,000 piece mailing!   

Monday, November 26

Focus On: QR Code Innovation

QR codes are one of the easiest ways for brands to collect data.  After scanning a QR code on your phone, information is available to you in a matter of seconds.  We now see QR codes on t-shirts, cupcakes, business cards, billboards, and gravestones. read that right!  Gravestones now have QR codes on them.

A very sensitive issue is now being transformed by technology by making headstones interactive.  These QR coded headstones provide a revolutionary way for people to remember their loved ones.  A funeral home in Britain is now attaching tiny QR Codes to headstones, giving a lifeless piece of granite the ability to tell a story. Once scanned, the QR code opens up an online biography of the deceased person.  The online bio can be customized to show photos, video, and family tributes.  The QR Code enables visitors to learn about the person buried at a particular grave, rather than just being limited to their basic information: name, age, date of birth and date of death. 

Another organization implementing QR Codes on their headstones is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  This commission takes care of graves and memorials all over the world, caring for memorials of almost 2 million men and women that died while fighting during the first and second world wars.  Their latest venture in to the realm of QR codes attempts to give visitors greater access to information about the cemetery and stories about what happened at specific locations during the war.  
 The commission is installing 500 information panels at cemeteries and memorials all over the world.  These panels hold general information about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission including why the cemetery is placed where it is and further details of the victims from a historical military context.  A smart phone user will be able to scan the QR code, and learn more information about the cemetery or memorial along with stories of casualties.  
One example is Ralph Wingrove, a WWII Wireless Operator, buried in an Oxford suburb.  When a QR Code linked to his name is scanned, visitors will be able to view actual photographs he took in the Middle East between 1938 and 1945.  
By 2014, the CWGC hopes that their QR Codes will link users to information about the history of all 500 sites and tell stories using text, extracts from diaries and letters, photos and audio recordings.  An interactive guest book also allows visitors to leave comments once scanning the QR code.  
Over the last couple of years QR Codes have been gaining momentum in their popularity.  As the above story proves, placement is limitless. Since they can be generated for free by anyone and accessed by anyone with a smartphone app and internet connection, they have an advantage over other 2d barcodes. 
Now that brands and companies are seeing the potential of the QR code they must learn to differentiate their code from the next brand.  Just because you give people a QR code to scan doesn't mean they will actually scan it.  Consumers need a reason to scan your QR code.  One of the biggest ways that brands are getting past this challenge is by creating custom codes with various colors and company/brand logos.  Or, they simply do what the CWGC did: come up with a use for the QR code that is so innovative, it cannot be overlooked.  

Use QR codes!  But don't just use any QR code.  Make yours custom so that it stands out from the rest of them.  Include color and unique placement.  Let customers know what they can find if they scan it so that it sparks their curiosity and interest!

Tuesday, November 20

Focus On: Thanksgiving Marketing

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I rounded up a few Thanksgiving related marketing tactics that have been catching the attention of holiday shoppers everywhere.

Nordstrom is an upscale retail chain in North America initially founded as a shoe retailer.  Today the company sells clothing, accessories, handbags, jewerly, cosmetics, fragrances and home furnishings.  Nordstrom is known for their five major sales, outstanding customer service and return policy, and always eye-catching displays of the latest fashion trends.

Most stores begin decorating for Christmas right after Halloween.  But Nordstrom takes a noble stand against making their stores look like the North Pole prior to November 25th.  This advertisement, seen throughout stores over the years, has made a huge impact with fans and customers.  It also gives customers something to look forward to - knowing exactly when they can walk into their favorite store and feel like they are in a winter wonderland.  

This PETA advertisement, aimed at children, has been put up in various US cities near elementary schools.  Most PETA advertisements are so shocking and extreme that they would never get approved to be on a billboard.  The Project Manager of this campaign stated in an interview that, "children have a natural compassion for animals.  [...] They are also bombarded with constant fast food advertisements and we'd like to offset that negative influence with a message of kindness."  The dogkey (dog/turkey hybrid) allows children to instantly recognize a Sparky just like their own and hopefully make the connection that the turkey they enjoy every year is also an animal.

Target does an excellent job advertising their low prices and special promotions during the holidays each year.  Remember the crazy red jumpsuit lady?  The company got themselves into some hot water after deciding to start Black Friday early this year.  But they are not the only company starting Black Friday sales on the 24th.  Wal Mart, Best Buy,  and Macy's are also opening their doors early to let shoppers get a head start.  While some retailers feel the pressure to keep up with competitors many employees and customers are rejecting the early shopping hours.  An online petition, that gained over 200,000 signatures, urges Target to put families before their sales.    

What other companies have used controversial (or viral) marketing/advertising techniques during the holiday season?  Does it affect where and how you shop this time of year?


Thursday, November 15

Focus On: Personalized URLS

In the first two posts for our "Focus On" series, we discussed direct mail letters and postcards.  We also discussed how to take your direct mail marketing to the next level by incorporating more than one marketing strategy.  Tools such as a PURL and QR Code engage those who may be less inclined to pick up the phone and call you.  

Here at Synergy, we love PURLS.  Did you know that a mail campaign that uses a PURL is likely to see a 30-60% increase in response? 

A PURL or Personalized URL is a unique website that is personalized for each recipient of a direct mail or email marketing campaign.  The PURL literally contains the name of the recipient in the web address.  When a direct mail or email recipient goes to the website listed, it will be personalized with their name.    Personalized URLS help you engage your audience, not talk at them.    

If you are a business that has access to a database, you should be including PURLS in your marketing campaign.  Here's why:
  • According to the DMA, 42% of direct mail respondents prefer to respond online.  
  • 81% of Marketing Executives agree that target direct marketing campaigns outperform mass-market campaigns
  • Well executed multi-channel marketing campaigns generate a sales lift of 7-37% versus traditional marketing approaches.
  • According to MindFire, Inc., studies have shown that more than 42% of direct mail recipients prefer to respond online.  Personalized URLs provide a convenient response option.  
One of the most common ways that people use PURLS is for lead nurturing.  Your business can use a landing page to collect specific information about a prospective client.  A questionnaire style survey will help you identify:
  • demographics
  • budget
  • authority
  • timeline/need
  • behaviors
Another great way to use a PURL is to drive current clients or customers to renew a membership, contract, or subscription.  A PURL should mimic your marketing materials.  Consistency is a big factor in making sure that your prospect does not get confused by your offer.  Don't let your prospect arrive at your PURL and think, "Why am I here?"  If you present your message that you gave in your direct mail piece, the prospect will know he is in the right place.  

One of the other benefits of a PURL is the built-in testing possibilities.  Feedback from your tests can be available immediately.  Make two separate templates and then segment your list in half.  Send one template to the first half of your list and the second template to the other half.  These segmented lists allow you to view which template had better respond rates over any given period of time.  Target Marketing magazine said it best.  "Once you start exploring the possibilities of a PURL, which can be personalized to any degree that your budget can bear, you'll come to see them as an invaluable tool."

Ready to get started on your next Personalized direct mail campaign?  Let Synergy help you!  

Give us a call today at 714-824-3780 to speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable sales representatives.  Or you can get a free quote by visiting