Saving Money on Direct Mail with QR Codes

Although QR codes are quickly being adopted by major companies and industries, adoption is moving slowly throughout the small business sector.

In an effort to promote Direct Mail and create awareness of the benefits of using QR codes in Direct Mail, the United States Postal Service is offering a special postage discount during the months of July and August 2011:

Direct Mail marketers and mail houses can save 3% on their First Class Presort Mail and Standard Presort Mail postage simply by including a QR Code that must be easily visible on the outside of the mail piece. Simple as that.

 

Although the savings can be substantial, it is important to keep in mind that if your Direct Mail campaign is not thought out thoroughly and optimized for success, then all of your efforts and cost of printing and postage will go to waste.
On the bright side, you can always learn from your mistakes.

Direct Mail is about trial and error and consistency; improvement and repetition. I don’t think any one Direct Mail campaign can be the one or the best one for that matter.

 

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If you are thinking of taking advantage of the 3% postage discount and this would be your first QR Code Direct Mail campaign, the following paragraphs will help you begin with an advantage.

Incorrect Use of QR Code QR Code Malpractice

Creating and Reading QR Codes is easy and FREE! But the biggest issue lies with what happens after the QR Code is scanned.

Obviously (or maybe not obvious enough), a QR Code is scanned with a smart phone which typically has a screen size between 2 to 4 inches. This being the case, wouldn’t you expect to be taken to a mobile-friendly website that is compatible with your smart phone’s screen size?
Well, believe it or not, this is a very common mistake made by marketers that makes the whole Direct Mail/QR Code campaign a complete failure.

Let’s say your Direct Mail piece is a postcard that promotes a new product that you are selling and the customer scans your QR code. The customer lands on a mobile friendly page that contains a great description of the product but does not have a Buy Now! button anywhere on the page. The purpose of your Direct Mail piece is to offer a product that you sell, yet a way to purchase the product is not easily made available. This Direct Mail campaign can pretty much be considered a lost sale opportunity.

QR Code Best PracticesQR Code Best Practices

A complete Direct Mail campaign using QR codes must include a mobile landing page where a call to action is the main focus of the page. Whatever the purpose of your Direct Mail campaign is, it should reflect in your mobile landing page.
If your QR Code directs the user to a video preview, make sure the video is formatted for mobile screens and should start playing right away.  The purpose of a smartphone is accessibility and convenience – No downloads!

 

The following are a few key rules to follow to create a successful Direct Mail QR Code campaign:

  • Use a vector QR Code in your artwork to make sure that it prints clear and works 100% even on low megapixel cameras. I find BeQRious lets you generate vector QR Codes you can download in PDF format easily
  • Test your QR Code on at least 4-5 different QR Code scanning apps and different smart phones before printing the whole run
  • Include information on how to scan the QR Code
  • Your QR Code should direct the user’s mobile phone directly to the landing page
  • Your Landing Page must load quickly, keep images to a minimum
  • Include Call-to-action buttons or links such as “Buy Now!”, “Sign up here!”, or “Call us now!”
  • Keep the focus of the page on the purpose of the campaign and the Call-to-action buttons/links
  • Make your QR Code link using a link shortening service such as goo.gl or bit.ly (free versions) so that you can track the number of scans and other analytics

How have you used QR Codes in your latest

Direct Mail or Marketing Campaign?

Please share any lessons you have learned when using QR Codes in Direct Mail campaigns below…

3 Key Marketing Tips for the Modern Real Estate Agent

In today’s fierce Real Estate market you have to stay on your toes. Marketing your open houses, agency, available properties and yourself as a Real Estate agent is a key component to drive business, sales and changing that For Sale sign into a Sold! sign.

As a printing company we get to see what is new and what is working across different markets using different strategies. Here are some key marketing tips inspired by what we have seen work best for real estate agencies and agents in their marketing efforts:

Content is King

1. Apply the Content is King Concept to your Real Estate Marketing Efforts

To begin with, most home buyers want to know what they are getting and how much it costs; They peruse through the property listings on your website and find a few pictures, a list of features and a few bullet points with a sales price which gives them the skinny on the property. But where is the value?

Content is King is a phrase well known to today’s internet marketers, SEO gurus and social media experts. It’s a very successful concept on the web and has been for years, these days even more so. Content adds value to a product beyond its functions or assets. Is there a positive story behind the property, the street or the town? Did someone famous or worth mentioning live there at one point? Content can give a property personality; transforming a house for sale into a home for sale. Words can influence, that’s why Content is King.

 

For Sale Sign with QR Code 2. Modernize your Real Estate Marketing Materials

With the sharp increase in consumer purchases of smart phones, it is a big mistake not to consider incorporating mobile into your Real Estate marketing.

As a home buyer, I can remember the frustration caused by seeing a beautiful house with a for sale sign outside as I drove by and saying to myself: “I can’t wait to get home and look up the listing on that house!”
By the time I got home I had forgotten the address, the Real Estate Agency that was selling it and of course, I didn’t stop to write down the phone number on the sign.  For the Real Estate agent this meant a lost sale or a lost lead at the least.

Behold, the QR Code. It began as a special barcode to track car parts and has evolved into the connection between offline and online marketing. The QR Code can be scanned with a smartphone to display information or initiate an action on the mobile phone.

A For Sale sign with a QR Code on it can lead a person who is interested in the home to a mobile friendly website where they can view pictures and contact the seller or Real Estate agent. QR Codes can also store contact information directly into the mobile phone’s contact list simply by scanning the code. QR codes are open for personal and commercial use. Here is a list of free QR Code readers and generators.

 

Personalize Communications Variable Data Printing VDP3. Personalize Communications

Real Estate agents and agencies have access to a vast amount of data about potential customers and their interests. Too often, this data goes unused to its full potential when in reality, it is bursting with value.

There is a little hidden gem that doesn’t seem to get the exposure it deserves…yet! Only the big ad agencies and corporations seem to be using this technology to their advantage. The printing industry is currently experiencing a digital evolution and from it we have the birth of Variable Data Printing, also known as VDP.

Variable Data Printing is the personalization of each individual piece in a print run. Let’s say you have a database of 5000 potential home buyers and in that database you have details about the type of homes these potential home buyers are interested in purchasing: Cape, Colonial, Ranch, two family, etc.
In your magnificent database of real estate information you also have access to all of the listings of homes for sale that have these features.

Now tie it all together. A printing company with Variable Data Printing capabilities can take your database information (usually in MS Excel format) and customize each printed piece with information pertaining to the recipient such as their name and information related to their home buying interests such as images and open house dates.

Here is a sample Postcard with Variable Data Printing

 

Real Estate Variable Data Printing VDP Postcard

 

Here are the Variable Data Fields:

 

Variable Data Fields in Real Estate PostcardVariable Data Printing is a remarkable technology will absolutely increase your read rate. Most generic postcards are glanced at and discarded. If the recipient sees their name on it, they have a higher probability of reading all of your content and contacting you.

 

 

Have you used QR Codes or Variable Data Printing in your Marketing? What other technologies are you using in your Real Estate Marketing Campaigns?

Please comment below

Measuring Direct Mail Response and ROI

I recently came across a direct mailing group post that caught my attention and received mixed responses from group members. The person wanted to know where to find statistics on how many people actually open and/or read their direct mail in order to justify statistically, the advantages of direct mail in both B2B and B2C environments.

Statistics vs. Results

Although many responders provided statistics based on surveys and published statistics such as those found in the Direct Marketing Association’s 2010 Edition Statistical Fact Book, the general consensus was that ROI in a direct mail campaign is best measured by response rates.
There are too many factors that affect the open/read rate of a campaign to measure in detail: design, copy, mailing objective, targeted audience, etc.

Return On Investment

In my last post I wrote about the USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode Requirement which is taking place in May 2011 (update). Though in recent news we learned that the United States Postal Service took big loss, they have also implemented a combination of useful tools for direct marketers. These new tools allow for Direct Mail to be tracked from start to finish, sender to recipient.

Tools for Measuring Direct Mail Response

This information, whether regarding individual pieces or entire mailings, will be available online 24/7. Many new measurement aids like delivery dates, automatic address change and mailing list updating will reduce the amount of undeliverables. Business Reply Mail with payments or offer responses can be tracked on their way back to the original sender for response and cash-flow forecasting.

Direct Mailing Services

I am sure there will be more ingenious uses for the analytics Intelligent Mail Barcodes will provide, – and we will visit those uses in the future here on this blog – but what also must be mentioned is efficiency.
The efficiency of a direct mail campaign also affects ROI.
When calculating the return on investment, one has to factor in the cost of the campaign vs. the response; in monetary figures, this would then give us the amount of return, obviously.

Until now, direct marketers have used the practice of targeting mailings directly to interested parties as an alternative to static mass mailings in order to increase response rates and reduce campaign costs. Variable Data Printing gave us Personalized Mailings and USPS tools like N.C.O.A (National Change of Address) help to clean out lists as much as possible. Intelligent Mail Barcodes can be combined with these methods to further reduce the amount of undeliverable mail (which would throw off averages if measuring open/read rates).

ROI should be measured by first testing with targeted and relevant copy and design. With all the data centric tools made available, the ROI and efficiency of your direct mail campaigns should increase when these tools are used to your advantage.

Do you have any tips for measuring direct mail ROI or increasing results?

Please comment below..

Intelligent Mail Barcodes – The USPS Automation Initiative for Direct Mail

Intelligent Mail Barcode Required May 2011As of May 2011, the United States Postal Service will be rolling out its next generation of mail delivery services . These new services are a leap forward in the “USPS Automation Initiative” with the incorporation of advanced information technology into their vast mailing system.

With the use of the new Intelligent Mail barcode, direct mail will now have the benefits that come with online tracking. From the moment the parcel leaves your mail house to the moment it reaches your customers, each and every piece of mail will be connected to the USPS network via a unique barcode and this information will be available to you and your customers at any time.

What does this mean for advertisers?

Analytics! You will now have the power to test different types of direct mail media and obtain a detailed measure of the response. If you are familiar with Google Analytics, you are aware of the benefits of knowing your website’s visitor details and browsing habits as they relate to your online marketing efforts. Well, Intelligent Mail is the real-life version of Google Analytics. Not only will you be able to learn more about your customers and improve your targeted marketing, the Intelligent Mail system will also improve delivery efficiency and decrease undeliverable mail while at the same time updating your mailing list.

Intelligent Mail Barcode

OneCode ACS™ is an automated Address Change Service that provides many benefits for businesses:

  • Address change for First Class Mail (while in the system!)
  • Automated address correction and updating the mailing list
  • Less undeliverable mail
  • Predictable mail piece delivery dates
  • Savings by having access to all available postal discounts
  • One barcode means more space for design and marketing efforts

Intelligent Mail Old vs. New Barcodes

Advantages for Businesses using Intelligent Mail

One of the most impressive uses of the Intelligent Mail Barcode system is the tracking of invoices and payments. When companies send out invoices with a return envelope included, that return envelope can be tied to the original envelope which contains payment and can be tracked. This can help businesses forecast cash flow.

Full Service vs. Basic

There are two Intelligent Mail Barcode services offered by the USPS.

Basic:

  • Requires Intelligent Mail Barcodes on the letters and flat-size mail.
  • It allows for OneCode ACS® service which has a lower cost that traditional ACS™.

Full Service:

  • Requires unique Intelligent Mail Barcodes on the letters and flat-size mail.
  • Requires unique barcodes on trays, sacks and containers (Nesting – see below)
  • Requires documentation delivered electronically
  • Requires a drop off appointment
  • OneCodeACS® and automated address correction included in price
  • Notification of initial receipt by the USPS
  • Additional postage discounts
Nesting

Under the new Full Service requirements, 3 types of Intelligent Mail Barcodes will be generated:

  • IMB ID (Intelligent Mail Barcode ID)
  • IMTB ID (Intelligent Mail Tray Barcode ID)
  • IMCB ID (Intelligent Mail Container Barcode ID)

These 3 barcodes will ensure accurate tracking of all mail pieces at any time throughout the mail system process. The barcode on the mail piece will be assigned to the barcode on the tray and the barcode on the tray will be assigned to a barcode on the container where the mail piece and tray is contained.

Requirement

The Intelligent Mail Barcode absorbs the functionality of the ACS™, POSTNET and PLANET Code® barcodes into one all-inclusive barcode. Full compliance with the Intelligent Mail Barcode system will be required starting May 2011 in order to receive automation discounts, although with the new system comes accessibility to additional automation discounts and services.

There are 7 main customer benefits in this system which were originally “Strategies” of the USPS to bring in revenue growth and retention, reduced operating costs, reduced investment costs, enhanced revenue accuracy and enhanced mail security:

  1. Uniquely identify mail and aggregates – Enables end to end visibility of mail
  2. Developed and deployed enabling infrastructureHardware, software, telecommunications systems, power, data wiring, and associated support to ensure delivery and tracking
  3. Enhanced Address Quality – Reduces unacceptable and returned mail
  4. Measured and improved commercial mail performance – Robust measurement capabilities to evaluate performance and service
  5. Drives product innovation – Use mail stream information to create and send more strategic and effective mailings to the consumer.
  6. Sharpened operational insight – The Postal Service will develop focused analytics that provide insight into operations and a clear understanding of cost drivers.
  7. Enriched customer experience – Enhanced verification and mail quality help the USPS to become more proactive in communicating and addressing issues.

Source: USPS Intelligent Mail Vision – July 2009

Has  your company already started to use the new Intelligent Mail Service?

Please share your experiences and thoughts by leaving a comment below.



Digital Supremacy: Variable Data Printing

Digital Printing has been adopted by the print industry for its efficiency, plethora of functions and small run capability. It is the underlying foundation of Variable Data Printing also known as VDP.

Variable Data Printing is a”Mail Merge” on steroids

VDP offers the ability to print personalized messages, images or graphical aspects on each printed piece using data collected about an individual, leveraging familiarity to increase ROI.
A simple example of the use of variable data is personalization of the greeting in a letter. No longer does a letter have to be informal as “Dear Customer”. We can now, thanks to Variable Data Printing, personalize the salutation to include the name of the intended recipient such as “Dear Marcy” or “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith”. This feature alone can drastically increase the chances of the letter actually being read.

advanced uses

Variable data can include the use of personalized images or graphics to really dig into the familiarity advantage of variable data. For example:

Variable Data Printing Postcard

The owner of a local cellular phone store has a database full of data about the cellular service and devices of all his current customers use. He wants to send a postcard to each of them reminding them that their contract is about to expire and that they are eligible to upgrade their current cellphone. The owner contacts his print shop and explains what he wants to do. The print shop then explains that variable data can help him accomplish this and together come up with a killer personalized marketing piece.

The postcard would include 3 personalized fields:

  • The recipients name in the greeting
  • The expiration date of the recipient’s current contract
  • A picture of the cellphone they currently own

While the designer creates a beautiful layout, the store owner creates a simple database that holds the following information separated into columns:

First Name, Last Name, Address, Address 2, City, State, Zip, Contract Expiration, Device Model.

Variable Data Printing Database


After the graphics and database have been completed and submitted to the print shop, it is the job of the pre-press technician to connect the artwork file with the database using Data Fields. Each of the column names will become a data field such as <First_Name>, <Last_Name> and so on.

Variable Data - Data Fields

Variable Data Software such as FusionPro or Darwin is then used to prepare a VPS file that merges the artwork with the database on the fly as each piece is printed.

Efficiency

The process of a standard mailing without variable data usually begins by printing the static artwork on an offset press first leaving a blank “mailing panel” for the recipient address information to be imprinted after the run is completed using a separate mailing machine that inkjets the address on to each piece.

With digital printing, the mailing address is considered variable data that can be printed at the same time the piece itself is being printed. The printing, the indicia and the address are all printed in one fell swoop. Not only is this faster, but the customer also saves on mailing setup fees and removes any possibility of smudges to the address resulting in possible lost  revenues.

This post is an addendum to “Digital Evolution: The State of Commercial Printing“, which defines the changes the print industry is visibly undergoing at this time.

Please Share your thoughts below