By Mike Wesner You have to do a lot of things well and if you miss in one area it can adversely affect your entire campaign. June 21, 2005 -- Back in April 2004 I wrote an article for ODJ that looked at the "Seven Traits of a Highly Effective One to One Marketing Campaign." I had just worked closely with Dr. Dean Gilbert of Clemson University on a research project that studied how image and text personalization improved response rates of variable data generated direct mail pieces. Well, how much have I learned in a little more than a year? The Seven Traits still stand firm, but I've learned that 1-to-1 Direct Response success can sometimes be very tricky. You have to do a lot of things well and if you miss in one area it can adversely affect your entire campaign. But don't fret. I'd like to help you on your journey to 1-to-1 success, which is very much attainable. During the last three years I've achieved response rates that range as high as 69 percent on a national account with significant volume. Some naysayers say results like these cannot be achieved in large volumes. Unfortunately, because of an agreement with the company and a very competitive market, I'm not allowed to talk about it. Then again, last week, I learned of a 0.2 percent response rate for one of my clients. This client had already journeyed down the wrong path when I joined the campaign, and unfortunately I couldn't undo a lot of what was wrong with this campaign. Some of the lessons can be passed on to you. We can however, learn some things from both of these campaigns. I continue to learn and this is why I've expanded the list to "Nine Factors" now. Key Attributes In some campaigns, you can be successful in all of these areas and miss one of the attributes and the entire marketing campaign can flop. I have seen several attributes that affect the success of direct response strategies. I've carefully selected the term direct response instead of direct mail because my qualitative and quantitative studies have shown that several marketing channels often work together to produce a successful direct mail campaign. Therefore, I like to refer to these as direct response marketing techniques. All of these factors are important. In some marketing programs one factor can emerge as more important than others. In some campaigns, you can be successful in all of these areas and miss one of the attributes and the entire marketing campaign can flop. I can confidently say that if your can put a "check" in the block beside of all of these factors, I guarantee you will see increased response rates in the execution of your CRM systems or your efforts to generate new opportunities for conversion in your business. Now let's look at the key factors that will affect your direct marketing success. 1. Strategy This is a new factor and it replaces "data" as the most important ingredient in successful 1-to-1 response campaigns. You've got to know where you're going if you want to get there. When I get the opportunity to participate in these discussions I often ask the customer what does success look like. Describe to me what did we did together that would make our reunions in the future look winning a NCAA Final Four basketball game? What did we do together that gets me a high five when I come into your office in the future? While response rates are an important metric to measure, what's more important is the conversion rate. This type of question can usually focus the team on what they want to do and what they'll need to do to get there. While response rates are an important metric to measure in direct response marketing, those rates should not be looked at in isolation. More important is the conversion rate: how many respondents completed the desired task (made a purchase, called a number, filled out a survey, etc.) A low response rate may not be indicative of a poor campaign if the conversion to sales is high--his is why our mailboxes are clobbered each day with credit card offers which achieve less than .4 % response. U.S. households received an estimated 5.23 billion credit card offers last year, according to Mail Monitor, the direct mail tracking service from Synovate. This was up 22% compared to 2003 and exceeds the previous mail volume record of 5.01 billion offers set in 2001. The high level of clutter has caused response rates to drop to an all time low of 0.4% in 2004, from 0.6% in 2003. Still, this means there are almost 21 million responses each year to credit card offers. That is why you mail box is cluttered with credit card offers each day. 2. Data You can purchase it or you can capture it. If you capture it, you can model it and you can profile it and ultimately make some very important strategic decisions on up-sell, cross-sell, or plus-sell opportunities. Most people that I work with have very low confidence in their data. Often you can buy data but without the definition that you really need for the best outcomes. But until you know where you're going, you will not know what type of data that you'll need. If I know I can determine some pretty important things in the lifecycle of your car by knowing your odometer reading on your vehicle, then I've got to set up a method of capturing that data along the way--maybe a reasonably priced oil change. You've got to have good data and the quality of it will be instrumental in your success. Please see my discussion last month on this topic. 3. Packaging Will a mail piece be opened or discarded? This is the initial business hurdle to overcome. Can you at least get the recipient to set it aside to look at later? Last year I served as a keynote speaker at a state postal convention. I was amazed at a term that many in the audience were talking about during the week. There was a continuous buzz about the "mail moment" in their worlds. Postal employees take pride in the fact that mail is the one thing that our society allows to interrupt us in our hurried lives. We all have a "mail moment" in our daily routines. Can we capture the attention of the recipient in the time that it takes them to walk from the driveway to the kitchen garbage can? 4. Design It has to look good. It's got to leverage 1-to-1 marketing techniques. I'm often amazed at how our graphics team can take the exhausted mail piece from a prospect who is near despair from not getting the lift they anticipated and giving it an "extreme makeover." This affects results and will contribute to keeping the piece out of the garbage can. 5. A good product If a product is poor or if the company hasn't accurately discovered it's overt value in the marketplace, it is unlikely to do well. This affects direct response success more than any other factor. If a product is poor or if the company hasn't accurately discovered it's overt value in the marketplace, it is unlikely to do well. I don't look forward to working with customers that have poor products. I've had to learn the hard way that sometimes I need to walk away from a project if a customer insists on doing something that I know will not work. Some products just aren't going to do well when taken to the market place with direct mail. If you're product is a "big ticket" item, then you can withstand some low response rates. It helps if you have a superior product. It also helps if you have a good understanding of your products "overt value" in the marketplace. Know how to position your product. Maybe it not superior in quality, but it's cheaper. There's still four more traits to go, so check back in tomorrow for the remaining 4 traits of an effective 1:1 direct marketing campaign. Please offer your feedback to Mike. He can be reached at [email protected].