Communication developments in the last 20 years

Twenty years ago, what was happening in the world? In no particular order:

  • Tony Blair won a landslide victory in the UK general election
  • Céline Dion was topping the charts with, ‘My Heart Will Go On.’
  • Hong Kong was handed over to China
  • Dolly the sheep was cloned
  • The first Harry Potter book was published

Quite a year, one way and another, and lots to be communicated. How DID we communicate news in those far off days—and how did we make contact with our clients and potential customers on a business level?

Not like that…

Well, for a start, there was no Facebook, which didn’t emerge until February 2004. Today, it’s almost mind-boggling to realise that there are 65 million business pages on Facebook, and a quarter of the world’s population engage with it. It’s a wonderful informal way of interacting with, and building, an audience, and great for encouraging people to visit your website.

We didn’t use Twitter, because it wasn’t created until March 2006. Unbelievably, just 11 years on, Twitter has more than 319 million monthly active users. For your business, it’s an instant way to build connections with a relevant audience, to strengthen your brand, promote new products and services, or simply develop relationships.

We didn’t use image-based Instagram either, to drive customer engagement and sales or impart information in a snappy way to a possible 600 million users. That’s because it wasn’t launched until October 2010. Pinterest was launched at the same time, which enables businesses to create a virtual shop front to promote their products online.

There wasn’t even LinkedIn until 2003, which, although its focus is on job opportunities, serves a valuable function for branding, marketing and sales too, with business pages. Neither were there smart phones—we had to wait for 2007 for those—so our electronic communications were very much desk-based.

…like this

Direct mail, using the postal service! There wasn’t much choice but to use this method in 1997, but it worked—and it still works today. Everyone loves to receive mail, especially if it’s personalised and looks good. You might think it’s an older generation preference, but Royal Mail has carried out a survey which shows that 15-34-year-olds are:

  • 42% more likely to find mail memorable than the UK population as a whole
  • 27% more likely to welcome it
  • 71% more likely to trust it
  • 21% more likely to switch suppliers because of mail

Not for nothing does the Royal Mail’s brochure The Private Life of Mail carry the strapline, Mail in the Home, Heart and Head. The power of Direct Mail must never be underestimated, despite the advancement of all the digital platforms of communication.

Then there was the telephone and face-to-face interaction, which of course will never go out of fashion.

Emails started life in 1965, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They were a way of sharing files and messages for academics. In 1971, American computer programmer Ray Tomlinson, introduced the @ and in 1976, HM the Queen sent her first email. The process was still largely in the domain of academic institutes until 1988, which heralded the arrival of Microsoft Mail. The first commercial Internet Service Providers hit the scene in the early 1990s. Hotmail launched in 1996 and Yahoo Mail in 1997—twenty years ago. Smart marketers realized that email communications were the future and began to make the shift into using email to communicate with customers.

 And our conclusion is:

How lucky we are, in 2017, to have such an abundance of ways to communicate! Each method has its place: each will appeal more to a different demographic, or be more suitable for certain products and services. Things move on with exciting digital developments—but mail through the letterbox will never lose its appeal.

Mailing Expert

The wonderful world of variable data

“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.”

There’s that quote that we know so well, in its entirety – and a congratulatory pat on the back for anyone who knows who it’s by (without looking it up on Google!)[1] With any direct mailing you undertake, variable data can really increase the effectiveness of your campaign – add flavour to it, you could say.  Let Mailing Expert tell you how.

So what is variable data?

No, variable data is NOT the same as alternative facts, a phrase which is all too current at the moment.  In this context, we are talking about variable data printing, commonly abbreviated to VDP.   VDP makes use of digital technology to link print engines to databases which contain content for printed documents. It makes changes to pieces of print automatically – with no manual steps – as they are being printed, allowing you to personalise your communication with ease by varying text details, images, colour schemes, charts…you name it, if it can be printed, you can change it. It’s a technique that is closely related to mail merge, but VDP allows changes to text, graphics and layout.

Why use VDP?

Well, do you want more sales, higher returns and an exponential rise in customer loyalty? Would you like better targeted communications filled with relevant information? There are many marketing studies which show categorically that personalising communications really can boost their effectiveness.

By ‘personalising communications’ we don’t just mean putting ‘Dear Katie’ at the top instead of ‘Dear Valued Customer’.  In a 2014 survey,[2] it was revealed that 63% of people receive so many name-personalised messages that it has ceased to have any impact. Your intended audience needs something more and better now – like VDP.

How can VDP help?

Imagine you were launching a new range of clothing for children.  With VDP, each DM flyer you send out can be customised to appeal directly to the intended recipient.  It goes without saying that names and addresses will be different for each one (as in mail merge).  The brilliant thing about VDP is that with a diligently-populated database which has captured the ages, sex and ethnicity of children, in just one print run, you could produce flyers that target parents of 10 year-old girls…or baby boys…or families with Chinese heritage…or any other attribute you have researched and stored.  Of course, this all relies on the content of the database… In the example we’re using, you’ll need a whole portfolio of images showing all sorts of children wearing your clothes range.

What about populating databases?

That’s the tedious bit, isn’t it? If you’re using variable data, then it must be stored in the database in the first place.  In most cases, this has to be inserted manually, though some computer programs can gather bulk information from different sources and transfer it directly.  Your data can come from many areas of customer contact – from call centre enquiries, your website and from sales activity.  Nevertheless, at each point, someone has to put in the information and all the colour choices, fonts and images to appeal to different demographics.  And once done, of course, it has to be kept up to date.  There’s nothing worse for your company image than sending a DM with incorrect or irrelevant information.

So is it all worth it in the end?

Here at Mailing Expert, we would say a resounding YES! More statistics, if you’re not convinced:

  • 74% of marketers report that personalisation increases customer engagement leading to improving conversions[3]
  • 84% report better customer loyalty and retention[4]

SO…start filling in that database – or better still, give us a call and we’ll tell you how we can help you.

 

Mailing Expert

 

[1] William Cowper. From his 1785 poem, ‘The Task’

[2] Conducted by digital messaging platform, Lyris

[3] Econsultancy research

[4] ExactTarget

Print is alive and well (and living in Uckfield!)

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again, loud and clear. Using print to communicate with your customers or prospective clients is still relevant and significant for your company, even in the face of ever-increasing digitisation. It goes without saying that it’s not the only medium you should use – but to dispense with it altogether, well, you’re really missing a trick.

Scientific evidence

In Philadelphia, Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision- Making (yes, such a place exists!) conducted a neuro-marketing study for the US Post Office. It focused on the differing response to physical and digital media when consumers were thinking about buying something.

In short, people were asked to look at ads, both on paper and in digital format. Their responses, like eye-tracking and brain activity, were measured, and they filled in questionnaires. A week later they were re-evaluated to test the long term impact of the adverts.

Surprising results?

Actually, not that surprising. It was found that adverts on paper beat digital ads in the following areas:

  • The amount of time spent reading
  • The emotional reaction
  • Remembering the source and content
  • A subconscious desire for the product or service
  • The perceived value of the product or service

Putting it into scientific terms, physical adverts actually produced more activity in the part of the brain called the ventral stratium, associated (as proved in another study) with future purchasing behaviour.

Worth thinking about, eh?

So don’t ignore print…

Print establishes a tangible connection with potential customers – an effective way for them to acquaint themselves with your product or service. It’s becoming an overlooked secret weapon for marketers, who too often jump on the bandwagon of being up-to-the-minute trend-savvy.

But don’t ignore the digital medium either!

Harnessing the strengths of both digital and print media will give your company the best chance of being found and also the best chance of growing your customer base.

That’s a scientific fact and here at Mailing Expert we can help with both!!

Give us a call on 01825 983033 to speak to one of our experts about your next campaign.

 

Mailing Expert

We are Mailmark enabled! Good news for your company

Royal Mail Mailmark™ means intelligent mail!

Nothing to do with needing a dictionary to read all the long words in your communications — to do with an innovative way of tracking your post at every stage of its journey. This is very much more advanced than ‘Signed For’ mail.

We’ll put a smart barcode on the mailing we’re sending out on your behalf. Royal Mail scans it at various stages and automatically sends us detailed data so we know where it is and when it will be delivered.

What’s in it for you?

Knowing exactly when your mail will land on your client’s doormat allows you to follow up with a call or more information at the very best moment; therefore helping you with staffing costs too.

We’ll be able to make sure that your mailing has reached its target – and identify glitches accurately, like wrong addresses, which will make for more effective campaigns in the future.

We can even add extra data to the barcode if you require, like returns information, reference or campaign codes for your customers to scan at an event or in-store.

Mailmark™ is for bright sparks — and that’s you!

If you would like more details please contact us at Mailing Expert on 01825 983 033 or email us at info@mailingexpert.co.uk.

Mailmark