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Do your PREsearch

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PREsearch, noun: 1. The identification, analysis and segmentation of a target market before launching a direct marketing campaign. 2. A made-up word.

Knowing your audience before unleashing a direct marketing campaign can be a key driver to successful response and can greatly increase the number of consumers reached who are willing to buy and try your product. A carefully planned PREsearch strategy can help direct marketers optimize their audience, find the most valuable consumer groups and determine the best creative tactic to motivate the target audience.

With rising costs of mailing and an uncertain economy, inefficient direct mail campaigns can wreak havoc on a budget’s bottom line. Direct marketers embarking on a response campaign often arrive at an all too familiar crossroad—where do you find a sizable group of consumers who will also be interested enough in the product to provide a sustainable sample, all in a time- and cost-efficient package?

Let’s examine two common but flawed approaches to this quandary. In the first approach , marketers take a narrow focus, targeting the group with likely key responders. They might, for example, identify a group of country club golfers who might consider sampling a new golf ball. As you might have guessed, the marketers receive a fantastic response from this very targeted group. Unfortunately, this select group is too small and not a sustainable sample.

Marketers using a different approach decide to widen the target group to likely and unlikely responders, hoping to acquire a sustainable sample. Instead of asking just the golfers, the second approach also targets swimmers, tennis players and all other members of the country club—again looking for those willing to try or buy the new golf ball. In addition to the eager golfers, other members with an interest in golf respond, creating a larger and more sustainable response pool. But this approach is not perfect either. The cost associated with targeting such a large audience is exorbitant; and, with such a broadly defined target, the ROI was well below expectations.

High costs and unsatisfactory results from these two scenarios leave direct marketers searching for a new, more efficient approach to drive program performance.

Calculated market analysis prior to launching a campaign can greatly increase your chances of targeting a sustainable market segment without compromising response or cost of acquisition. Front-end research can account for as little as 15% of your total campaign budget. The minor investment can pay big dividends in delivering critical information about your most valuable consumer targets and the best creative tactics to motivate these segments to try and buy your product.

Online communication is an ideal time and cost-friendly PREsearch method to identify and optimize your audience. A carefully crafted online survey to a randomly selected group of households is an excellent place to begin. The survey should be brief and the questions should center on two important elements of your product campaign: the message and the creative. Households that don’t respond at all or respond negatively about the product are eliminated from the direct mail campaign prospect list.

This type of PREsearch can greatly increase the efficiency of a direct mail campaign. It not only weeds out the households that are least likely to respond but also gives the marketer pertinent information about the ideal message and creative to engage the optimized audience. For example, an online survey to all country club members would not only deliver an optimized audience of those interested in golf balls but could also determine whether they like golf balls that are “long-distance” or “soft-core.”

Optimizing your audience with front-end tactics ensures that you will be talking to the right audience with the right message and creative when you launch your direct campaign. In these changing times, it’s an excellent way to drive superior marketing program performance in a cost effective way.

Peter Meyers is VP-marketing at ICOM Information & Communications, a full-service provider of targeted list, data communication solutions and analytics services. He can be reached at pmeyers@i-com.com.

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