Time to invoice? Then it’s time to market

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The mail has arrived. What do you open first?

If you’re like most people, the answer is bills, invoices, pay slips, statements, even event tickets—those familiar transactional documents you’ve come to recognize and prioritize.

Recipients know what to expect inside those familiar envelopes. But there also may be a payment envelope that features an advertisement they’ll need to tear off before they seal the return envelope. If your package is in the forefront of direct marketing practices, that generic advertisement may have evolved into a “transpromotional” advertisement.

Transpromotional ads, or transpromos, deliver transactional information like bills together with promotional marketing messages. These promotional marketing offers are personalized based on each recipient’s previous transactions. Let’s say, for example, the recipient recently purchased a book from a book-of-the-month club. If the invoice offers a transpromo advertisement, included may be an offer for a 10% discount on a book by the same author or in the same genre.

Not surprisingly, financial institutions are transpromo leaders, but players such as Comcast and American Airlines have also successfully experimented. To imagine the best that transpromo has to offer, think of, with its amazing outreach to—and influence on—current customers’ buying habits. Amazon recommends similar products to shoppers based on the item being purchased.

Who Uses Transpromo?
Speaking at the 2008 TransPromo Summit last August in New York, InfoTrends Group Director Barbara Pellow acknowledged that transpromo adoption, particularly in midmarkets, has been slow to catch on. The hangup, Pellow said, lies in transpromo’s “simplexity"—that is, that transpromo looks daunting because it mixes such key technologies as customer relationship management with data-mining technology, variable data printing and location intelligence.

But transpromo results can be impressive. For example, last December Best Western implemented a campaign to sell its own branded credit card. In the transpromo pilot, inserts were replaced with personalized and targeted promotions printed on quarterly rewards statements.

The first 50,000 rewards-card members became the control group, with another 50,000 receiving the transpromo communications test. How did they compare?

Applications for the Best Western credit card among the test group—the ones who received the transpromo statement—were boosted by 500% compared with the control group. In addition, 15% more of these guests registered for the More Rewards, Faster program, and more than one-third of those who went on to stay in a Best Western location stayed longer and generated 30% more in incremental revenue during their stays.

Pellow encourages midsize organizations to try a transpromo test at the digitally equipped commercial printers with which they already work and trust.

What Makes Transpromo Work?
If you’re considering this strategy—and you should at least think about it—add these thoughts to your analysis:

  • Take the time to plan thoroughly and make sure all the key players involved in marketing, creative design and list management are on the transpromo team./li>
  • Evaluate your transactional messages to decide where to test a transpromo advertisement. (Having a clear goal in mind will help you make this decision.)
  • Evaluate the customer data you have available to build a transpromo message. (Again, a clear goal will help to identify what data you need.)
  • If possible, make your direct mail transpromotional effort part of a wider multichannel campaign that incorporates personalized Web landing pages (PURLs), e-mail and telemarketing to help increase your response rates.
  • Transpromo is direct marketing, so make sure your transpromo document has a response mechanism to that can be measured. And remember to continue to test.
  • As for content, consider if a one-to-one educational message will work better than an up-sell or a targeted personal note of appreciation makes that invoice more effective.
Can you afford transpromo? As paper and postage rates go up, you may find that transactional mailers stress your marketing budget less than mailed brochures or special letters because you use less paper and reduce postage costs. Remember, too, that digital printing is gaining on offset, so don’t assume printing costs are prohibitive.

And don’t forget that customers are more likely to open transpromotional documents, that the average customer invests one-to-three minutes reviewing transactional documents, that they tend to trust the medium of mail more than e-mail and TV, and that customers often view statements more than once, using them later to submit expense reports, prepare taxes and file documents.

As with all direct marketing, your creativity—and testing—will make the difference.

Crystal Uppercue is marketing manager at EU Services (, a direct marketing production facility. She can be reached at [email protected]

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