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

It’s holiday time! Does that mean suspension of marketing initiatives?

Marketing in August? When it seems that everyone in the entire world is making sandcastles on Bognor Regis beach or sipping cocktails at sunset in Bali (apart from you)? You’d think not, wouldn’t you – unless your business involves buckets and spades, sarongs or sun tan lotion. Actually, there’s no need to stop at all, as long as we all use a little bit of common sense.

For a start…

Not everyone’s on holiday

The streets of Paris empty out in July and August when locals take their annual vacation. Shops and businesses close down for an entire month, sometimes longer – but that’s not quite the same in the UK. Most of us, if we take holidays at all, may only be away for a week or a fortnight. Even then, with the blessing (or is it a curse?) of internet technology, many business people aren’t completely out of the loop, still checking emails and responding to requests – so a carefully thought out campaign may not be the waste of time and resources you anticipated.

Know your audience. Maybe it would be better to wait until September – but maybe not. If you trade internationally, check out their holiday periods and work around them, or with them.

Use the time wisely

It’s true that the pace of business can slacken off in the summer months, so make the most of the lull in activity by planning, researching, working on marketing strategy, enhancing your SEO.

Try something new

You know you’ve always been meaning to make the time for using Twitter more, or Facebook, or LinkedIn. The summer months give you that opportunity to experiment, while there’s less to do in other areas.

Be ready for action

Like a good boy scout or girl guide, you can Be Prepared! When September comes around, (all too quickly, you’re probably thinking), you can be ready to launch a stunning campaign when your clients are all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a break and keen to get on with the next phase of the working year.

However…

Don’t you just dread coming back from a holiday and your in-box is overflowing with a huge volume of emails and your in-tray is stuffed full of post which needs your attention? Your clients won’t be any different, so best to judge your time carefully here and avoid the first few days of September – that’s unless your marketing is so brilliant that it will shine out like a star in the gloom of too much correspondence.

Be entertaining

Yes, that must always be your aim, but never more so than when you send out material in the summer months, when people’s thoughts may already be up in the air en route to Malaga or the Maldives, rather than focusing 100% on what’s on the desk in front of them. We’ve all been there!

We’re always here to help

We’re not saying that we never take holidays, just that we plan them so you’ll always have a Mailing Expert on hand to answer queries, offer guidance and fulfill your Direct Mailing requirements.

Why not contact us on 01825 983033 or send us an email on info@mailingexpert.co.uk

Mailing Expert

Time to spring clean your data? (Yes, we know it’s July!)

For any direct marketing campaign you need data – people’s names and contact details – and for an effective, cost-effective initiative, the data you use must be accurate.

Out-of-date data – does it matter that much?

A great big YES in answer to that question, for a number of (quite obvious) reasons:

Using inaccurate contact details, you may:

·        Waste your time and money

·        Miss important potential clients

·        Damage your company’s reputation

·        Breach compliance with the Data Protection Act (soon to be GDPR)

·        Annoy people for whom the mailing is irrelevant

·        Distress relatives of the bereaved

Some facts about data decay

Just because you’ve lived in the same house for the last 15 years and your place of work has been at the same address since the beginning of time, it doesn’t mean that everyone else is in the same position.

According to research,[1] each year around 13% of people in the UK will move home; 300,000 will marry or have a civil ceremony, meaning they may change their surname; 600,000 will die; 200,000 will emigrate and hundreds of thousands may move to the UK.

Every year, the Royal Mail has to make about 1.25 million address changes to its Postcode Address File (PAF) – that’s more than 3000 a week. The PAF gives us access to over 29 million residential and business addresses (at the last count.)

It’s said that if you communicate with someone, there’s an alarming 20% chance that their contact information will change in some way within 30 days, and, in 5 years, if you do nothing to clean your data, you may have nothing relevant left at all in your database.

When was the last time you cleaned your data, or had it cleaned?

How we can help at Mailing Expert

We can offer you a full range of data cleaning services – which doesn’t ever involve the use of spray polish or feather dusters, by the way!

Or we can offer an audit, which determines what you need. We can hone and refine the data you wish to use for a marketing campaign to get it in the best possible shape to maximise its value. Here’s what we’d recommend:

1.     Screen against the PAF database

2.     De-duplicate – removing any records which are essentially the same

3.     ‘Goneaway’ (people who’ve moved) and bereavement screening

4.     Check against the Mailing Preference Services register – people who’ve said they don’t want to receive mailings.

Doing this will make sure you make the most of savings available of postage as well as reducing the impact of negative publicity arising from incorrectly sent mail.

Contact us for a chat on 01825 983033 or info@mailingexpert.co.uk about your data needs.

 

Mailing Expert

[1] Mycustomer.com

Thoroughly modern millennial’s – forget the hype, learn the truth

What is a millennial, anyway? It seems to be one of the most common media buzzwords of the moment, particularly around General Election time, because this section of society is one which all political parties are keen to capture. In fact, there are a number of definitions of a millennial, but in general it refers to someone who was born between 1980 and 2000, which is to say, the twenty and thirty-somethings of today.

Introducing a (stereotypical) millennial

Let’s call her Tiffany (the 11th most popular name of the 1980s.) She’s a digital native – and that description means she grew up around technology – the smartphones, the iPads, the tablets, emails, texts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp… They’re second nature to her and she’s rarely to be seen without her face looking down at a small screen and her fingers moving at twice the speed of sound as she texts her Best Friend Forever.

As for marketing to engage people like Tiffany, well, it must be some form of digital communication because that’s what millennial’s prefer. Tiffany doesn’t go in for reading unless it’s Kindle, and most of her interactions with other human beings are digital.

So that’s how we must organise a market campaign targeting millennials

Forget Direct Mailing…waste of time and money. We must approach them through social media, send an email or a Tweet or link to an all-singing-all-dancing website. That’ll hook them.

WRONG!

A number of surveys have gathered evidence which shows almost the exact opposite. Here’s one from the US Postal Service[1] and we’re sure the same applies to millennia’ls in the UK.

What do millennial’s really like in a marketing campaign?

·         87% of millennial’s enjoy  receiving Direct Mail

·         Nearly 50% say they ignore digital ads but only 15% say they ignore Direct Mail

·         57% tell us they’ve made purchase based on DM offers

Yes, just like Baby Boomers – the post-war generation – they like to have something tactile and tangible which they can read at leisure and keep if they choose to. Just like Baby Boomers, their recall is 70% higher from DM to a digital ad.

So what next? Digital or Direct?

Do both! For marketing we have more platforms to choose from than ever before – and don’t we know it, constantly bombarded with digital noise which often causes us to tune out and switch off.

Direct Mailing will help your voice to be heard above that onslaught of electronic communications. It’s something we’re good at here at Mailing Expert (our name wasn’t picked out of a hat!) so please contact us 01825 983033.

 

Mailing Expert

[1] STILL RELEVANT: A look at how millennials respond to Direct Mail – USPS, 2016

When is an envelope more than an envelope?

No, that’s not a riddle – it’s a serious question we’re going to answer in this blog. First, be thankful we’re not living in 3500 BC (although it may feel like it sometimes!) In that era, in the Middle East, envelopes were hollow clay spheres!

It wasn’t until the 2nd century BC that paper envelopes were introduced in China. In the UK, envelopes were always handmade but in 1850, Edwin Hill and Warren De La Rue were granted a patent for an envelope-making machine. You still had to use your own glue until the 1900s, when pre-gummed envelopes were produced. You learn something new every day with Mailing Expert!

Envelopes for direct mailing today

Around 50% of people surveyed prefer to receive sales material through the post, according to ‘Reasons to love mail’ PRINT.IT, Spring 2015 – and unless you’re using postcards, that entails envelopes. Regular envelopes of all sizes, windowed envelopes, envelopes of every colour, padded envelopes…there’s a vast range of options at your disposal when you’re thinking about a direct mailing initiative. Which to choose? Does it matter? Our contention is – yes, it DOES matter, if you want to maximise the effectiveness of your campaign. Everyone spends a lot of time designing the letter, brochure or flyer that goes inside the envelope, but what’s the point of that if the envelope itself is so dull that people don’t bother to open it?

Size and Colour

If you receive lots of mail, then another A4 brown envelope or standard white DL envelope (A4 letter folded into 3 equal parts) will probably get lost in the crowd. A brightly coloured envelope, one with an attractive customised design or one that’s a non-standard size will help your mailing to stand out. Be wary, though, of sending zany mail when your message is about professional services or is B2B marketing. That may not reflect your intended first impression and may be considered unprofessional by some.

Bulk

If you’re anything like us, then something tangible inside an envelope, whether it’s a pen, coaster, bookmark or key-ring, is almost certain to pique our interest enough that we’ll definitely open it to see what’s inside. That’s worth considering, weighing up the cost of stuffing the envelope and possible additional postal charges against a greater likelihood of your message being read.

The extra personal touch

Hand-written names and addresses are more likely to attract interest as are envelopes which are stamped rather than franked. It suggests that the letter comes from a human being rather than a corporate machine. Of course, for a large-scale campaign it’s almost certainly too time-consuming, and therefore not cost-effective. We have the facility to print multiple names and addresses automatically and there is font that looks very like handwriting as a compromise measure.

Ease of opening

You may laugh but it has been shown to be a factor in the success of direct mailing campaigns. You know how annoying it is when you buy something and have to battle with packaging – well, to a lesser extent, the same applies to envelopes. Busy people simply won’t bother if it’s too much of a chore.

Any questions?

We think we’ve covered everything, but if you don’t agree, just ask. Every mailing initiative, every group of intended recipients is different, and careful thought needs to go into the best approach – including the envelope. We can help you with those choices at Mailing Expert.

 

Mailing Expert

Up Close and Personal Mailshots

In an earlier blog, we delved into the world of mailshots and the value of creating unmissable mail moments for your clients and potential customers – which is exactly what we’re so good at, here at Mailing Expert, without wishing to blow our own trumpet too loudly. (But doing it anyway!)

For your mail shot to be noticed and read – well, that’s what you want, isn’t it? – there are certain measures you have to take. How else will your DM campaign be an effective means of promoting your product or services – and cost-effective too? We’re here to help you get your messages noticed and your deals considered.

Looking good?

When you’re designing your mailshot, whether it’s a letter, postcard or flyer, think about who it is that you want to engage and design it accordingly. It’s important to know your audience. Are they young mothers? Silver surfers? Professionals? City dwellers? Undertake some research into the sort of aesthetics that will appeal. That might sound like stereotyping but, in reality, it makes marketing sense. If it’s relevant to whoever you’re targeting then they’re more likely to read it.

If you don’t feel confident enough to create something in-house then you could make use of our professional design and printing services.

The personal touch

Are you more likely to read something that’s addressed to you by name or something generic? There’s really only one answer to that question and at Mailing Expert we have the means to personalise each item you send out with the customer’s name. Be careful, though, to make sure whatever you send is genuinely relevant to that person and sent at an appropriate time. It will backfire badly and make your company look sloppy if it’s a poorly targeted mailshot.

Words matter

Be brief. It’s strange to say, maybe, but thinking up a few choice words and a snappy headline actually takes a lot longer than writing great chunks of text. It’s worth the time taken – every minute of it. Directness, a dynamic central message and clear instructions about how to proceed if someone is interested are crucial. People are always busy these days. If a piece of writing takes too long to process, guess what?…it will be discarded.

Be warm and engaging. It’s a great way to start building a relationship with someone, or consolidate an existing relationship. Think about humour and edginess, if that fits in with the personality of your brand.

Tried and Tested

Don’t just get your mailshot printed and sent off without testing it out on colleagues or people you know from the relevant demographic. Far better to tinker a bit with design and wording before it’s too late. Above all, proofread and proofread again. There’s nothing more calculated to give the wrong impression about your company and the significance it places on attention to detail than a mailshot which has spelling mistakes, words missed out and apostrophes where apostrophes shouldn’t be.

Value for money

Follow all these suggestions and your mailshot will reap rewards for your company, tempting new customers and impressing others. Your name and brand will be out there and remembered for all the right reasons for a long time to come.

Contact us on 01825 983033 if you’d like our help.

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

Wish you weren’t here? We’ll start 2017 off for you with our ideas for postcard campaigns. That’ll make you feel better!

Happy New Year to all of you from all of us and we hope you had a great time over the holidays – that’s if you were lucky enough to have a few days off. Well, here at Mailing Expert, we’re raring to go and the first thing on our minds is the humble postcard.

No, not holiday postcards. No, not saucy seaside postcards. What we’re talking about is the use of postcards in a direct mailing campaign and there are many reasons why this is an all-round Good Idea.

Here’s our top ten:

1. Postcards are the most cost-effective form of direct mail

Think about it – one piece of card, little copy to create, no envelope to stuff and seal, keeping costs down for high-yield campaigns. Small yet powerful!

2. People like getting postcards

Perhaps a postcard  reminds everyone of holidays, but whatever the case, the message is instant, without the need to spend precious minutes opening an envelope. Just a little tip – a postage stamp rather than a franking means your cards are less likely to be categorised as junk mail.

3. There’s a great opportunity for creativity in design

There’s nothing nicer than a colourful imaginative postcard dropping on your front doormat. Simplicity, clear imagery and a succinct message are crucial so your card has immediate impact.

4. Thinking outside the (post)box!

Super-creativity can add a touch of unforgettable genius to your campaign. We’ve heard of cards with messages that only show up when exposed to sunlight or are printed on indestructible material with a challenge to the reader to try to tear it in half. How to get your recipients engaged and likely to show your card to other people, which spreads your message even further.

5. A chance to clarify your objectives

When you’re describing your product, service or a special offer, it’s all too easy to burble on and confuse your audience. Not with a postcard! It’ll take a bit of time to hone your words into very few but then you’ll be clear in your own mind exactly what you’re offering – and so will your recipients.

6. Less to go wrong

In long correspondence, there’s a higher chance of making a mistake whether it’s a typo or an incorrect detail. It only takes a few seconds to proofread a postcard – but beware, a mistake on a postcard will show up big time!

7. The possibility of a noticeable increase in sales and revenue

A simple, effective carefully-considered direct marketing campaign with postcards can see a high return on investment for much less effort than other means – research says 20% more

8. People are more likely to keep postcards than other marketing material

Once read, there’s little aesthetic incentive to keep a letter, emails are often deleted  – but an attractive postcard might be pinned to a notice board, stuck into a diary or propped up on a  windowsill.

9. Multifarious uses…

Apart from information that needs to be confidential, postcards can be used to encourage new customers, promote your company, increase brand awareness, send greetings, direct people to your website, announce events and promotions…the list is endless

10. It’s fun to do!

Admin jobs and office work, let’s face it, can be tedious. Postcard campaigns allow you to give rein to your creative and jolly side – and all for the worthy aim of helping your company to grow.

At Mailing Expert we say HOORAH FOR POSTCARDS! Contact us at once on 01825 983033 or info@mailingexpert.co.uk to discuss your next campaign.

Mailing Expert