Three considerations for evaluating direct-mail campaigns

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In an increasingly competitive multichannel environment, marketers are struggling to optimize their marketing budgets and deliver the greatest returns on investment. Direct mail continues to be a strong driver of incremental sales, but with a greater number of orders taking place online it is becoming difficult to understand which marketing investment is driving ordering activity.

As a result, direct mail success is often underreported, leading to less than optimal changes in circulation volume, the perception of eroding customer acquisition rates and the development of potentially flawed marketing plans.

One solution is to perform a “matchback,” the process of matching the name and address of the order-placer to historical promotional files, to determine which mailing prompted a purchase. This is particularly important for Web orders placed by a customer receiving a catalog. In general, effective matchback practices fall into the following three categories:

1. Attributing pass-along responses to a targeted site. Often, the company contact receiving a mailing is not the person who places the order. Many companies have purchasing departments that place all orders, or others in the office may get the direct-mail piece and place an order themselves. As a result, marketers have a hard time giving credit to the correct mail record and calculate the true performance of each mailing.

The solution is to use a tiered approach that goes beyond contact-level matching and instead takes into consideration activity through an entire organization.

2. Leveraging professional titles to attribute response. Since decision-makers or purchase-influencers are not always order-placers, understanding the roles of different professionals within a business organization will allow marketers to evaluate the true performance of their campaigns. Marketers that target only the order-placer may waste expensive direct-mail pieces.

One solution is to classify buyer and prospect records, and their possible relationship in the company, by using job title, department, discipline and position level. Not only will distinguishing between decision-makers and order-placers help identify whom to credit, it also will improve subsequent contact decisions, leading to better response rates on remarketing efforts.

3. Adjusting for job turnover. Economic trends are making the reality of layoffs and reorganization more prevalent, with as much as half of all existing customer contact data changing per year. As a result, it becomes difficult to measure the value of a customer at the contact level.

Consider, for example, that “Irene Lory, Director of Accounting” has been replaced by “Edith Brown, Accounting Director.” Marketers can make a decision to consider Irene’s purchase history in deciding Edith’s potential value, which will impact the degree of marketing investment sent to her.

By incorporating professional job-title analysis into the campaign evaluation process at both the individual contact and broader site level, marketers are better able to quantify the true performance of each effort and achieve higher returns through more accurate targeting.

The net result can be a more correct placement of marketing dollars toward those company contacts that are most likely to directly or indirectly generate a purchase.

Thomas Berger is CEO of Cross Country Computer (, a provider of data services. He can be reached at [email protected]

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