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original article here

Industries across the board have built quite a collection of buzzwords over the last few years. When a phrase becomes obsolete, it's immediately replaced with something better—or in market speak, "the next big thing." It's a reality that will continue as long as companies frantically seek to reinvent themselves to keep pace with change.

The print industry is no exception. This gem may sound familiar: "Our company follows a 'customer-centric' business model. No matter the request, we provide 'value-added solutions' by 'thinking outside of the box,' which makes it a 'win-win' situation for everyone."

By now everyone should be acquainted with the phrase: "cross-media campaign." In laymen's terms, a cross-media campaign delivers relevant content and a call to action through multiple channels (e.g., direct mail, PURLs, GURLs, QR Codes, the Web, social media, etc.) simultaneously as an integrated campaign. If properly planned and executed, the campaign can provide a company with an increased return on investment (ROI), more opportunities to interact with audiences, high response rates and the ability to view customer responses and create a database in real time.

Some pundits may view cross media as the latest fad, but others think it is the next generation in direct marketing. One side eventually will claim victory, but until then printers should seriously consider making this technique an integral part of their marketing efforts.

Getting Started

Campaigns vary in approach, but their ultimate success hinges on one important issue: strategy. Without a clear plan, companies will struggle to yield a positive ROI. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy, so it is important to ask certain questions before taking action.

Ed Glaser , chief marketing officer of Greenville, North Carolina-based AccuLink,Opens in a new window offered a few examples:

  • What are the objectives of the campaign?
  • Who is the target audience you want to reach and what do you know about them?
  • What channels best match the data you have?
  • How much relevant personalization can you create from this data?
  • How will you track the responders and non-responders?
  • What is your follow-up plan?
  • What data do you want to capture from the responders and how will you capture it?
  • What makes you think this campaign will achieve your objectives and how will you measure success?

According to Glaser, if the data supports it and the target audience is expected to respond favorably to it, direct mail is generally an appropriate part of a cross-media campaign. In fact, direct mail is often the starting point in the conversation you're trying to build with your target audience.

"It can be used to direct the responder to the Web where additional information can be gathered to extend the conversation and steer it toward more relevant issues," Glaser said.

He added, "If the data will support it, however, beginning with e-mails can improve the cost and likelihood of success. If you remove the initial e-mail responders from the direct mail campaign, the cost will be less and you can move quickly to convert the initial e-mail responders."

Summer Gould , director of customer service for Santee, California-based Eye/Comm, Inc.,Opens in a new window agreed that most cross-media campaigns will benefit from incorporating direct mail. Eye/Comm uses this channel for multiple reasons.

"Most commonly, we incorporate direct mail into campaigns that are targeting specific audience types—also, when there is a greater lead time that allows us to use a multiple step process," she said. "The more times we reach out to someone, the greater increase in response."

People who rely on a single touch and one channel, and offer only one way to respond, are setting up their campaigns to fail. Quite simply, "one and done" won't cut it.

"Lots of available research reveals that multiple touches through multiple channels will lift response rates by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent," Glaser noted. "Remember, a campaign must hit the recipient at the right time with the right message. Sometimes the message can be right, but the timing can be wrong. If you give the recipient another chance when the timing is right, you may be able to increase your overall response rate."

If the Message Fits

Once you have chosen to make direct mail a part of your campaign (and you know the target audience), consider the most suitable "package." If budget is a determining factor, postcards are the least expensive option.

"We can define the best direct mail package based on the offer, the goal, the audience and the product or service type," Gould remarked. "We provide many options: boxes with product samples inside, postcards, self-mailers, large and small envelopes, shaped mailers, clear envelopes and so on."

Gould cautioned that the package won't matter if you forget to design within postal requirementsOpens in a new window.

"You do not want to have something printed only to find out the post office will not accept it or you have to pay double the postage," she commented.

Another neat thing about direct mail is that mailers can appeal to the senses. "You can add in the tactile senses by using special coatings to create different textures. You can even add smells," Gould mentioned.

In addition to design, compelling copy will grab consumers' attention. Gould suggested using rhyme. "Not many people are doing it, so it stands out, and recall of rhyme is significantly higher," she said. (Tip: Be sure not to crowd too much copy and art into one piece.)

Glaser pointed out that people react more favorably to relevant and timely messages. "Name personalization should not be confused with relevancy. It will not get the job done by itself," he noted.

Glaser went on to say that the real key to design and personalization are images and messages that resonate with the audience and hold their attention long enough for them to respond.

QR Codes can be an extremely effective tool when used with a good call to action. A QR Code can be embedded with a PURL, which then takes an individual to an online landing page or microsite that includes content customized for that customer.

"If I like the color blue and you have a sale on items in your store that come in colors, offer me the blue ones. Really cultivate and utilize your database," Gould stressed.

If you intend to use QR Codes in your direct mail initiative, make sure they link to Web pages that are optimized for mobile devices. Websites designed to be viewed on a PC or a Mac will be difficult to navigate. Furthermore, try to make the QR Code on a mailing piece prominent. Last, but not least, always test the code to make sure it works before the mailing goes out.

Gould finds that QR Codes fare well with those under 44, and more females than males scan them. She also has observed that PURLs work well with people between the ages of 35-65, and again more females than males respond.

Glaser warned against ascribing certain age-related demographics to specific types of marketing campaigns. "If you believe that only age groups under 30 use social media or that only age groups over 50 will donate funds by check in a return envelope, you will be sadly mistaken. It's amazing how fast mobile and social media is gaining acceptance across wide swaths of age demographics," he said.

The Here and Now

Tracking results is essential to a cross-marketing campaign. This can be done in many ways depending on the scope and methods of the campaign. Gould urged everyone to test lists, offers and/or creative. Code by each test version to see which gives the most responses.

"The QR Code can be tracked automatically and so can a PURL. If your direct mail is not incorporating those, you can use the old fashioned method of asking for the code on the website order screen or when they call or come into the location. All of this information should be entered into your CRM software so that you can run reports and easily see who responded how," she instructed.

When using cross-channel marketing, the results are easy to track. According to Glaser, most campaigns offer a real-time on-line dashboard that tracks most response media such as landing page usage and answers to survey questions, website hits, mobile responses and social media activities.

"The areas that need special attention that are not usually counted on dashboards are direct mail responses (i.e., business reply envelopes and cards). In addition, phone calls can be problematical. You will not want to restrict these types of responses, but you must enforce the regimen of the user counting and reporting any mailed-in responses or phone calls received from the campaign," he said.

Direct mail might not be the most appropriate channel for all cross-media campaigns. But when planned out correctly, it is cost effective, it offers room for creativity and drives people to the Web to continue the conversation or make a purchase.

"If the message is captivating and the graphics are irresistible, your letter will be opened and once that far, your chances of response have just grown significantly," Glaser concluded.


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CASE STUDY: Cross-Media Fundraising Campaign

Situation: A distributor needed a standout fundraising solution for one of its non-profit clients, which awards up to $20,000 in clinical research grants each year. The annual research campaign traditionally launches in early February, with the goal of raising $25,000 by December 31.

Challenge: Historically, the research campaign had been run out of the nonprofit’s office with a PC and an office copier. Building donor loyalty is critical for nonprofits seeking to maintain or expand programs. While every nonprofit seeks donations, crafting a special appeal for a targeted purpose can increase donations regardless of economic climate. The distributor wanted to offer its client a solution that would engage new and existing donors.

Solution: Using the client’s existing database, the distributor revamped the nonprofit’s appeal with a direct mail-driven cross-media campaign featuring the InteliMailer letter package with full-color images, personalized messaging, business response envelope and a personalized URL (PURL) configured to accept online donations.

Nonprofit Results: The early response from the fundraising campaign is producing eye-popping results. The nonprofit has seen a 36 percent response rate to its appeal, with $23,056 raised in the first month and an ROI of 1,412 percent.

*Case study provided by Ed Glaser , chief marketing officer, AccuLinkOpens in a new window.

 


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