7 simple ways to freshen up your direct marketing

As the snows begin to melt here in the Northeast, many of us start to think about spring cleaning, the domestic ritual of blowing away cobwebs, rearranging those things put asunder by a hard winter, and just plain throwing out old junk.

Why spring? Spring represents a time of renewal -- blooming flowers, hatching eggs, and sprouting seeds. Also, it comes after the all-important holiday season, when most marketers had little time to think beyond the next send date.

Just as we think about cleaning our homes, we marketers should also use this time of relative sanity to clean our interactive direct marketing programs. Email, mobile, and other addressable online media benefit from a fresh look on a regular basis.

So, without further ado, here are some things to think about for your marketing spring cleaning:

Clean the gutters (aka, remove dead members from your list)
First and foremost, take a look at your lists. Do you have a bunch of addresses that simply don't respond anymore? Cull 'em down. Just as the dead leaves in your rain gutters can clog the system, so can your dead addresses. Swollen lists increase send times, development costs, and, of course, mailing costs. It may seem like a big leap to cut out 20 percent of your list, but it will improve your performance overall.

Wake up your perennials (aka, reactivate slow responders)
Before you write off non-responders, make a good-faith effort to revive them. We've discussed reactivation at length before, so I won't go into detail. But it suffices to say that it's worth your while to test a few approaches to bringing the dead back to life.

Resolve to look good for summer (aka, streamline processes)
As an exercise, our company assembled all the people who work on some large clients and outlined the campaign process. Essentially, we asked, "What happens after the client says 'go?'" and put each step on a Post-it note on the wall. When we did that, we took a look at the wall and saw many, many more Post-it notes than we could believe. So we immediately identified steps in the process that could be combined, reduced, and in some cases eliminated. We found efficiencies simply by looking at the big picture. And identifying those efficiencies paid off with top-line costs. So get your teams together and see where you can clean things up.

Put your winter things away (aka, adjust your mailings)
As the seasons change, so too might your audience's needs. Retailers, of course, cut back on mailings after the holidays, which stretch into early January. Shame on them if they continue to pummel the consumer with email as the year progresses. But beyond cadence, marketers should look at whether the content and offers that they send in the spring should shift from those sent in the winter.

Open the windows to let fresh air in (aka, get another point of view)
We often get so close to our marketing that we lose sight of the big picture. So take the spring lull to invite others in to evaluate your marketing. Whether those "others" are other marketers in your organization or a third-party agency, they can often take a fresh look at your program and make helpful suggestions for improvement. It never hurts to get smart opinions.

Plant seeds (aka, try new ideas)
Unless spring is your high season, this time of year represents an excellent opportunity to experiment with new ideas. Working on initiatives in targeting, segmentation, social, mobile, or your personal favorite next big thing now gives your team time to understand how these initiatives can work on a larger scale. Moreover, learning from small mistakes now can help your team get it right at a more critical point in the marketing schedule. So put up that fan page or test SMS before it gets too hot.

Check your spring clothes for moth holes (aka, test old assumptions)
Last year, you hopefully conducted testing to understand your brand's best approaches for cadence, offer, copy, images, and/or subject lines. Unfortunately for us marketers, test results do not stand forever. Audiences become too accustomed to seeing the same things over and over again, or, in some cases, they have changing needs. This spring, look back at the things you've learned and see if you can't improve on your current efforts -- or at least see if anything has changed. Starting with the oldest first, re-run tests or add in new variations and see what has changed.

Spring only lasts for three months, so addressing all these initiatives might prove too daunting for many marketers. So prioritize and pick the ideas that offer the greatest possibilities for advancing your team's objectives. And, as they say on the farm, plant your corn early.

Chris Marriott is vice president and global managing director for Acxiom Digital.

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