Thursday, June 21, 2007

As in Life, Timing is Everything

DM News just published a Direct Marketing Association (DMA) study: Timing key for consumers not buying via DM

Essentially, the DMA surveyed a panel of consumers and asked them why they did NOT respond to a direct marketing offer. The primary reason was that it wasn't the right time to make that particular purchase.

From the article: "According to the DMA’s “DM Consumer Response Study,” a national survey of multichannel direct marketing sent to 1,000 U.S. consumers that was conducted between October 2006 and January 2007, 24.4 percent of respondents cited “not the right time” as the main reason for not buying during the two-day diary period of the study."

Now, if we direct marketers only had that crystal ball, we'd know EXACTLY when to present an offer. Response rates would go through the roof. Our customers and prospects would be so pleased that we were serving them so well. We'd save money on not marketing to people not in the market. Life would be good.

Sadly, it's not that easy. However, with a clever look at available data, there are some cases when you can hit that need head-on; when you can anticipate exactly when your prospect will be needing your product and hit them with an offer right at that moment. Here are some real-life examples of times when our clients have gotten it right. Needless to say, results from these "just-in-time" campaigns were spectacular.

Example 1: Use credit data to trigger shoppers. For a mortgage client, we used a credit bureau to monitor their prospect universe of homeowners. Anytime one of those prospects applied for a mortgage loan through one of their competitors, our client would send them a compelling offer, via first class mail. Since the mortgage process can be lengthy, in many instances, our client was able to take the sale away from its competitor. This marketing program served the consumer as well; they now had a few competitive loan offers to review.

Example 2: Watch for life events that cause big changes. The classic example is targeting new home-buyers. The concept of marketing to new homeowners is certainly not new. But, as a new homeowner myself, I can attest to the effectiveness, IF you are presenting the right offer. Personally, I took my 20% coupon from Linen and Things and went to town! I bought new towels (had to match the new bathroom), rugs, window treatments, even a gazebo for the backyard! The 20% discount (on top of an annual sale) made me pleased. And, Linen and Things' investment in a postcard mailing to me, a new homeowner in their area, paid off in spades.

Example 3: Watch for usage patterns or how your customers are transacting with you. Credit Card marketers are pretty good at this (although they don't always take advantage of their findings). They'll look for rapid increases in card usage usually on the look-out for fraud/stolen card. We always urge them to go the next step and, if the increased utilization is NOT fraud, try to figure out what is causing the change. Are these business purchases, that haven't been made in the past? Perhaps the customer is starting a new business. What a great opportunity for a financial institution for small business services. Do the purchases appear to be related to home remodeling? If so, there's yet another set of opportunities (REFI, anyone?).

So, in a nutshell, while we Direct Marketers don't always have that crystal ball to understand exactly when our prospects and customers need to buy from us, we do have lots of data and tools at our disposal to implement what RRW terms "Just-In-Time Marketing." We've written a white paper with more ideas and tactics to make this happen. We'd be happy to share.

We'd love to hear of more examples of when you got the timing down and hit your customer or prospect at the exact right time, when YOUR crystal ball was working for you :)

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