STEPHANIE: Hello, and welcome to the Lobcast Podcast: Mixers and Marketing. I'm Stephanie Donelson, your hostess with the marketing mostess. And I'm the senior content marketing manager here at Lob. I'm thrilled to be joined again by Summer Hahnlen. Summer, do you mind introducing yourself to any new listeners that we might have out there?
SUMMER: Happy to. This is probably what I think my third time on here, so hopefully, nobody's sick of me by now. But my name is Summer Hahnlen. I'm the senior director here at Lob. I'm also their industry expert, which essentially just means I've been working in the direct marketing space for around about 20 years on the agency side, the customer side, the analytic side, a little bit of a 360 tour. And now I'm in the tech world. So I'm very excited to be here and share maybe some nuggets of information that might be helpful to the audience.
STEPHANIE: Well, thank you so much for joining us. It's always a pleasure having you on these. And listeners, if you want to make the complementary cocktail that goes with this episode, you're going to need two ounces of gin, one ounce of sweet vermouth, a half ounce of pineapple juice, one large egg white, and 1 teaspoon of grenadine. Then in a cocktail shaker, you're going to pour all the ingredients; the gin, the sweet vermouth, the pineapple juice and the egg white, and grenadine. You're going to fill your cocktail shaker with ice, shake very vigorously to mix up that egg white for at least like 30 seconds. And then you're going to stream into a chilled coupe glass. So again, Summer, cheers and welcome back to the podcast.
SUMMER: Cheers! Apologies mine doesn't look pink because the blue glass.
STEPHANIE: You're all good. We had a color match, right?
SUMMER: We did. We color match everything except our glasses.
STEPHANIE: I thought I was being fancy! I busted out the coupe glasses this time because you always show me up with your fancy drinkware.
SUMMER: It is all fancy!
STEPHANIE: All right. So to begin, you know, they say a picture is worth a words, but the right customer data could be worth $1,000,000, which is why we're drinking million dollar cocktails. So the topic of the hour is marketing data. So let's talk about data sources, first-party and third-party. Summer, what steps can marketers make or take to make collecting first-party data easier on themselves?
SUMMER: I think it's really important that you begin with the strategy around collecting first-party data. That should be first and foremost, the strategy and one that really aligns with your company's mission and your business goals. And that really sounds like a broad statement. So I'll give you a few examples here. But before I do that, though, I just want to make sure that anybody who's joining this call that does not know what first-party data is, just want to quickly just outline that. So first-party data is any information that your company collects directly from its customers and it owns. So just one is at that stage. Just going back to the examples that I promised. The key is to align your collection with your business. So say you're running a product-based business. So product level purchases, customer surveys, consumer feedback, all of those things are very key. But let's say you're running more of a product-oriented business, and in this case, you would want data from your website, your app, your social media, and your CRM systems. So first-party data can be varied based on what your actual needs and your goals are.
STEPHANIE: No and that's very valid and a very fair statement to make. So we've talked about different ways to get it. But I think as marketers, we always know a lot of our data is not clean. So what can we do to clean that first-party data?
SUMMER: I think everyone's experienced that messy first-party data can lead to very bad marketing and poor business decisions. Many of us have received one of those DM or email pieces that where companies should know who you are but they don't have a name spelled correctly, or the email or direct mail reference is the wrong product or duration of your relationship with that brand, which can feel a little bit insulting and it can just feel a little bit as a consumer, like, do they know who I am? What's wrong with their data? I always go to that space of what's wrong with their data, because that's the space. I work in. But as a consumer who does not work in this space, it could just be basically, what's wrong with this company? Why don't they know me?
SUMMER: I think it's also important to consider the amount of outreach that potentially doesn't even reach your intended audience because your location is incorrect. So maybe the customer's home or their email is actually incorrect. So it doesn't even reach the person that you want to reach. So it's very important to clean that first-party data wherever possible, especially in the world of direct mail considering the out-of-pocket costs associated with direct mail. So many of our customers here at Lob love our AV tool because it ensures submittal addresses are accurate and ready to be mailed and that they're going to reach the intended recipient, which means essentially you are reducing that risk of an expense unnecessarily spent where it matters most. And we all know how much postage is and postage keeps going up, so don't waste postage sending it to the wrong address.
STEPHANIE: I mean, in marketing, I feel like the cost of everything is always going up, right?
STEPHANIE: I think any consumer can also agree with that.
SUMMER: Except marketer salaries that doesn't seem to go up alongside.
STEPHANIE: It doesn't match!
STEPHANIE: So, Summer, you mentioned you have, you know, 20 years of experience in this industry. How or what has your experience been with the changes in technology, in how we can acquire that third party, let's say prospect data specifically?
SUMMER: Yeah, as you said, I've been in the business for around 20 years, a little over 20 years at this point, and I've worked in the prospect space for a long time. And so the advances in third-party data collection really amazes me. Companies are using third-party data more and more each year because it's proven to supplement information about your existing audience, and it really helps you drive insights not possible with your first-party data. These insights then drive smarter marketing strategies and healthier and more profitable programs. I mean, there are technologies now that will tell you all about life event data. When someone is adding another individual to their household, you know, they're having a baby or maybe someone's going through a life-changing event like a divorce or moving homes. And for a lot of brands, this type of information being sent to them when it's crucial in that lifecycle of the customer can really make or break that sale.
STEPHANIE: No, definitely. And I think that goes back to your point. You know, earlier you're talking about we've all gotten that piece of mail that had the wrong name. And so just making sure that you're personalizing that and making sure that the message meets them where they are at their buyer's journey. I think a lot of us feel, you know, we don't want to be creepy with our marketing, especially with remarketing and following people around the web or like popping up in their mailbox with an unwanted offer. But if you've done your due diligence and made sure your data is clean, it's correct, and your value or your offer is valuable to that person. They're going to take action and they're not going to view it as creepy is going to be like, oh, this is really perfect for where I'm at in my stage or where I'm at in my life.
STEPHANIE: Cool, so a 2022 report by LinkedIn shows that 45% of sellers say their biggest data challenge is incomplete data. Summer, how can marketers work with data providers to fill in the blanks?
SUMMER: So incomplete data leads to very poor business strategy, and data should really be at the heart of any business strategy. We've spoken about the importance of personalized campaigns in a previous podcast. I think it was maybe a month or so ago, and I think it's important to restate here. Customers and prospective customers expect to be spoken to as individuals. They want to be seen as unique wherever possible. Using that third-party data to supplement your existing customer information and drive personalized experiences is where you can then convert that new prospect and develop those Intelligent Mail campaigns, not junk mail campaigns, and then at least a stronger ROI. So to your point of trying to avoid feeling like you're being creepy, I don't think we're in that space any longer. I think customers expect to be met where they're at and they don't want to have to chase you down at the time where it's, you know, most convenient for you, you know?
STEPHANIE: All right. So we talked about supplementing our list. But what if we're just starting out? What if we're thinking about list buying for customer acquisition campaigns? Are there any specific attributes that are worth the cost of including or are there any attributes that list providers provide that don't really make a significant impact, in your opinion?
SUMMER: I don't think there is any attribute that should be considered invaluable, especially when you're first starting out. You want to figure out what makes your customers tick and you want to figure out based on the data. And you want to be careful not to assume that your individual focus group of one is correct and you know exactly who your customer is. And a lot of people fall into that trap. Once you have, they can tell you what makes those customers tick. You apply those learnings to better target your new customers and then drive those conversions when you need them the most. So it's essentially like it's incapable or it's improbable that somebody would give you an attribute that does not matter. You need to figure out which attributes matter the most, and that's going to vary completely dependent upon the business.
STEPHANIE: So on the last podcast episode, Kim Courvoisier was our guest and I swear she said, it depends, like three or four times we were going to turn it into either a drinking game or I'm like, I am just going to print up like temporary tattoos for every guest that comes on the podcast. And as soon as they say, well, it depends, they get sticker.
SUMMER: We could make it into a drinking game, considering the method of our podcast here.
STEPHANIE: We really could! No, but I love your answer. Thank you for that insight. So let's say someone's starting out and looking at buying lists just in your own experience. What kind of lists have you found success with in the past?
SUMMER: When I think about data targeting strategies, I have found success with models more so than lists. But I think the answer here really is that the most successful strategies are going to start with either the lowest-hanging fruit or incredibly smart modeling technology. So when I would lowest-hanging fruit, I think of those anonymous website visitors that are clearly showing an interest in your brand. And there's technology that applies mailing addresses, emails, and even phone numbers to help you reach those customers when it matters the most. Personally, I like to start with the mailing address because there are so many customers who have multiple email addresses and you don't know which one they're checking, but they don't have likely multiple home addresses. And I also don't feel like acquisition prospect customers like to be reached out to via SMS out of the blue. We really need to develop that relationship first so that that's what I mean by the lowest-hanging fruit. And really the smart modeling answer is the idea of beginning and ending with a strong analysis of your existing customer base. Once you know that, then you can develop that really lovely profile model and the later response model where you can overlay that on a large set of prospective customers and then build from there.
STEPHANIE: I think that leads really nicely into the next question I have. So let's say you were running a customer acquisition campaign and you could either choose a lookalike audience or an in-market marketing list. Which would you choose and why?
SUMMER: I would definitely choose lookalike audience segmentation there.
STEPHANIE: Me too.
SUMMER: I have found personally across multiple brands more success with outreach, with a model's direction versus a list. And I love the fact that the model allows you to score a very large audience, and you can choose to initially target only the most likely to respond. So the top decile or my preferred approach is to actually target a random selection of the top half of the model. And then you analyze the performance and you look at what decile that came from. So that then when you see your performance, you potentially have a very large diagnosis of the entire model's performance and the opportunity to expand and grow your program with numbers behind it to prove out to your leadership.
STEPHANIE: No, I love that. So let's talk about how to leverage data for personalization and omnichannel marketing. So our own State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report showed that 52% of consumers expect campaigns to be personalized to them. What kind of personalization should marketers try with third-party lists?
SUMMER: I mean, the answer is I'm not going to say it depends. The possibilities are endless because with third-party data, marketers can supplement their understanding of their existing customers like we've been talking about. And you can also get some pretty interesting initial details on your prospective customers. So let's imagine you are a travel or travel goods-focused company. You can apply that third-party data that tells you where a person recently traveled, where they traveled to when they traveled, what goods they purchased in advance of that traveling. And then you can use that information to send something out to that customer-focused either in that area or focused on a good that they purchased that you have a better version of. And you can really we've said meet that customer where they're at and really pique their interest in your brand in a non-creepy way or say you to say you're a consumer goods brand. You could learn more about your prospect's purchase history with your strongest competitor and you can focus your creative and offer on the items that clearly matter to them and maybe get an offer on something that they've previously purchased. But again, you have a better version of or, you know, that you can just, you know, beat the competitor on. So the idea here being leverage it to help your mission move forward. And don't try to, you know, overthink it too much because that data is going to tell you the story.
STEPHANIE: Interesting OK. Since we kind of have been dancing around the creepy conversation, let's say we were using lists that identify anonymous web visitors. How can we make sure that our campaigns are valuable instead of that? Like I'm creeping in your box?
SUMMER: Exactly so people expect to be contacted on a personal level. People do not want to be reached out to like a number that is essentially the epitome of junk mail and why people have been quick to dismiss the channel direct mail in the past. But that is a thing of the past. It's expected that a company will reach out with an offer or a message that is relevant to its recipient. If you're not, you're wasting your postage. So junk mail is a thing of the past. Intelligent mail is really the focus now. And sending intelligent mail means that it needs to be targeted and personalized to meet that customer.
STEPHANIE: Excellent. So if a marketer was looking at buying in-market lead lists, how narrow should their view be? Is it better to get more granular or cast a wider net with fewer variables?
SUMMER: It's a really great question. I think it really depends on your campaign goal and your budget and where you'd see the future of your campaign potentially heading. If you begin with a really focused list intending to reach that lowest-hanging fruit, you're going to reach a very target-rich environment and you're going to drive a higher ROI. But where do you go from there? When you hit that success? Do you just keep hitting the same people over and over? We know that doesn't work. The golden rule of touches is three touches focus on the same subject matter. And you get a little bit of a rest. On the other hand, if you purchase a very broad list with fewer variables, your campaign could underperform and you won't be able to state why it underperformed. So you're throwing money out the window. So that's why it's really important to begin any program with a strategic approach grounded in your short-term and then your long-term goals.
STEPHANIE: No, definitely. And, you know, what's the point of buying these lists if you're just going to end up wasting that data, if you don't really what you want to do with it or what you're hoping to get out of using that list.
STEPHANIE: Like I get those, you know, cold emails. Like, do you want this list of these, like, prospective buyers? I'm like. But I'm not running a campaign targeting these people right now. What else am I supposed to do with this?
SUMMER: You don't want to sit on it because this data is refreshed all the time and this information is relevant right then.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, especially if you're in the B2B space. Like, I still get like cold calls, cold emails and people being like, so I see you work at blah-di-blah organization. And I'm like, I haven't worked there for five years.
SUMMER: They have poor data.
STEPHANIE: So, Yeah. All right. So, let's say I'm a marketer and I already have a list, but I need to add to it outside of direct mail. How can data enrichment and data appends help campaigns on other channels?
SUMMER: Data enrichment and data appends help all channels, not just direct mail. And direct mail really should not be done in a silo unless absolutely necessary. So the learnings from one channel will lift up the learnings for all the other channels as well. So if you consider the power of the intel and that it gives you this better understanding of your own customer base, you're also understanding what drives their intent. You leverage it across all of your channels, just like you would use the wins of an email program to then transition into a direct mail program or direct mail creative that's really resonating with someone. They will put it then on social and these channels all lift one another up. They should not be competing. So when you think about data enrichment, it's the same sort of thing. The way that people interact is incredibly similar across the channels. It's just reach them and how you reach them and which way they like to be reached. So essentially it's outside of direct mail. How can it help? It can help everywhere.
STEPHANIE: No, I agree completely. I mean, I've been on teams where, you know, we all have our different disciplines, but then we come together and we share the results of the A/B tests we've been running. You know, we dive deep into, you know, Marketo, Hubspot, whatever we're using. We look at the performance of all of these things, and then we kind of just do the qualitative analysis of it, like, what about these specific campaigns is working? And then it's, oh, Joe on PPC ads, here are some things you might want to try on yours, because we see it working really well on social media or hey, these email tests are working really well. Maybe we should try some of that language in our social media posts. And so you can your customers, while they do want different content on different channels, like you said, typically they will interact with it the same way across the board. And as marketers we're also always making sure that our messaging resonates and is consistent no matter where our customers are coming across it.
SUMMER: Correct. In this way, you lift up your brand awareness, let your channels work for you.
STEPHANIE: Yeah all right. So we talked a bit earlier about junk mail. But what do marketers need to in order to make sure that their direct mail campaigns are intelligent no matter where their data comes from?
SUMMER: I think it's important for marketers to remember that data, again, is at the heart of any smart marketing strategy, whether it's first or third party. So using this data to better understand your customers and speak to them in a meaningful way is what really separates your message from your competitors.
STEPHANIE: No definitely. All right. Well, let's move on to the last topic of today's podcast. Tracking and measurement. So, Summer, if you can only track a direct mail campaign's performance via QR code or let's say like a custom coupon code. Which would you pick? And why?
SUMMER: When I thought about this question earlier today, I almost answered it with it depends. But then I took a step back. Not because I knew your, your comment about it depends. It's because, actually, I think it's important to test the two methods against one another, because whether or not your QR code or your vanity URL or your offer code is what drives the engagement. You need to figure out within your own perspective or your existing customer base how your group likes to interact and engage with your piece. Don't take the assumption that I know that another brand uses QR codes all the time, so that must be what works. You really need to test it for your audience and test it in a meaningful way.
STEPHANIE: So is there a different method of tracking campaign performance that you would choose?
SUMMER: So I really like QR codes and bendy URLs and offer codes to be able to track specifically engagement within an email piece. But I really rely on true match-back performance and reporting to give me that full measurement and really that measurement of the incremental lift, meaning holding out a group of your control so that you can measure how much your channel actually drove the action. I think it's important to get a full view of your campaign performance beyond just whether or not someone scanned something on their phone or went to the site through that vanity URL. Because if you think about it from how you or I would interact with the piece, whether the piece wants us to interact by scanning and as this scan here and it could not be more plain, we put that piece down on the counter. We talk to our significant other, we talk to a family if it's a family decision, and then we probably don't go back and pick up that piece, or maybe we do, but then we go to our laptop or then we search something on our phone or we grab the nearest device and we do the research. We did not follow the exact action, but that piece drove the intent. So you're going to lose out on so much of that unless you do a true match-back.
STEPHANIE: No and I think that is very valid because I mean, as a marketer, you think I would to help out my fellow marketers by scanning their QR code on the postcard that I get in the mail from a make up brand that I love. And they're like, oh, do you are you interested in this product? But nope, I'm going to look at that. I'm going to grab whatever coupon code is on there. I'm going to put that down and then I'm going to go do my research. I'm probably going to make sure that my, you know, color match is still the same. I'll probably close my laptop, go have dinner, or maybe I'll pull it up on my phone again, then go back to my laptop, grab the postcard, and then put in that coupon code. But like, you're still getting hits from all these different areas and yeah, I'm not going to take action immediately unless it's a very small purchase. I feel like most people, yeah, they want to do that research, they want to do their comparisons, they want to check their brands and then come back to yours because they've got that offer in their hand.
SUMMER: Yeah you drove the intent.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, exactly. All right. So what metrics should marketers be watching pretty closely when using third-party lists, especially in the channel of direct mail? Like, the first thing that comes to my mind is deliverability and return to sender rates. But you're the expert.
SUMMER: I actually didn't think of those two. I thought of return on ad spend and cost per incremental add, because those are the metrics that as a marketer, I was using to try to prove out the value of my program to my leadership to then have more budget. So what I'm always looking for is did the campaign actually drive the business results? Deliverability and return to sender rates are important, but they were never the first KPIs I looked at.
STEPHANIE: Well, again, this is why you're the expert and I'm just the podcast host.
SUMMER: No, no, I think these are very valid. And I love the fact that we have different answers.
STEPHANIE: OK so, you know, we kind of talked about it a little bit earlier as well. We want to make sure that what we're doing has impact. But compared to, say, digital channels, how long should marketers allow for results from direct mail to come in? Like we know, as soon as we send an email campaign, we can watch people clicking on it. But it's not the same thing as a direct mail campaign. We still just send it to the printer. It has to get printed, has to get in the mail, the mail has to get into people's hands. Unlike an email that can be opened immediately. Is the halo effect something that marketers should account for and give more time before analyzing direct mail's performance?
SUMMER: Yes, short answer. Then I'll give you a longer answer. So I like then are using for the purpose of this podcast, I will answer in more detail. So I like a 45 to 60 days for getting a full read on direct mail. And yes, halo effect is a real thing. The idea of one channel and only one channel influencing someone's intent, I think only makes sense in a world where we are only sending direct mail or only sending email, and consumers don't have any sort of power on their phones to look up these brands on their own. Or we don't have any mass marketing out there.
STEPHANIE: There's no website.
SUMMER: That just doesn't exist, right? So yes, halo effect is a real thing. And when I've worked with brands that are able to study halo effect and prove out halo effect, I've only ever seen positives come out of it. Meaning when direct mail and email are combined and they have a focused message that plays on top of one another, and they're timed well, they can lift one another up by as much as 33%. And that's not a number that I'm just making up. That is literally a number from the ANA from last year. So when you think about that and then you think about the last time you read your campaign, did you say to yourself, I'm only looking at last touch attribution or am I considering the fact that there were other pieces going out there that are going to possibly want to leverage that win for their channel? And are your teammates that are running these programs on the same team and talking to each other and I wanting that credit for my channel? Am I able to share that credit? There's so many layers in here that can be a little bit complicated, especially in the world where you need to prove out your budget quarter over quarter to make sure you still have a budget. But halo effect is incredibly important to read and that's where you really need a business analytics team to do that or an incredibly smart serum. And then yes, I'd like to give it 45 to 60 days. That doesn't mean that as a marketer, I don't go and initially look after two weeks at the number of QR code scans or vanity URL entries. But if you consider how long a piece stays on someone's counter or wherever they put their mail, which in a US household is an average of two weeks, that's average actually is close to 17 days. That means that by the time that email the piece and then USPS gets it in home and maybe mail that standard class, it could take a little bit of time to get there. So you don't want to miss any of those wins that you're still driving.
STEPHANIE: No, definitely. And I mean, like people like me, I'll collect my mail up. And then when company comes over, I know hide it in a drawer somewhere. And then later I have to clean that drawer. And then I'm like, oh, well, this coupon is no longer valid anymore, but I'm still going to go to their website and see what sale they're running now. OK you're offering me 25% off if I sign up for an email. Sure I'll sign up for your emails to get that same deal that you sent me in the postcard form. But now you've got me two ways. But it is literally because of that piece of direct mail that you sent that made me want to visit you.
SUMMER: Yeah and when you sign up with that email, is it your main email that you check all the time, or is it the email that you used to capture all of those promotions? And then does email become less effective or outreach to you? Like, there's so many layers here.
STEPHANIE: There are. Yeah and then am I going to go check your social media profiles? And then you've found me, and now you're going to follow me from the web. All right. So since we're talking about tracking and measurement, I think that leads nicely into doing testing to really prove out what's working. So, Summer, should marketers be focused on A/B testing when using third-party lists to acquire customers? Or should A/B testing be restricted to lists that have been enriched because you already know some of that data is valid?
SUMMER: So as I said, I think just a few minutes ago, direct mail should really be a component of a larger omnichannel strategy wherever possible. And that strategy should not be a single one-and-done campaign. It should be a long-reach, longer-term goal like continuous improvement strategy. So if your initial volume supports splitting your list 50/50 for an A/B test, then go for it because you're going to learn a lot more out of the gate. Just make sure that if you're able to do that split within the third-party data, you do a random selection, not take the highest and then the lowest performing. As far as the model tells you, and then doing one versus the other. I've seen people make that mistake too many times. So yeah, people call it like a random selection or an N, you know, they call it all sorts of things. But if you do that because you have the budget to do that, then you're learning so many things coming out of that campaign. But if your benchmark response rate and your volume don't support splitting the list, then begin with the targeting test. Use that as your baseline because really data is at the heart of all performance and then use those learnings to then use that as a jumping off point to then begin to develop a stronger test and learn A/B program that'll go for the next couple of quarters. Because again, that direct mail should not be one and done. It should be something that you're always building on. And if you can only do one thing to start, start with the data.
STEPHANIE: OK so talking about data. What about using that data for predictive models and analysis? What advice would you offer to marketers when starting to dabble in predictive models and data analysis?
SUMMER: I always recommend beginning with information about your own program. So begin any model build exercise with your own program. Analytics companies can look at your data and then find those elements that make your customers unique from the rest of the population. They can tell you what attributes set your customer base apart. That's where you let the data tell you the story. That information is then leveraged to build an initial profile model that you can overlay on a very large audience. It's then scored top to bottom for a range of campaign sizes and touches. And this is just the beginning of what you can do with models. So you want to keep in mind that this is really a journey and not a sprint to the finish.
STEPHANIE: I mean, I think that is the motto for marketing teams across the globe. Like what we do is a marathon. It is not a sprint. It's not like you can run and get all the customers and then what? Like you should be building, you should be growing. You are obviously going to lose customers. There's going to be customer churn, but it is a marathon
SUMMER: And there's no golden ticket out there. Otherwise, I don't know that marketers would be working anymore. We just all be vacationing all the time.
STEPHANIE: You and I would have multiple home addresses because we have multiple homes.
SUMMER: I would have my own island.
STEPHANIE: I'll see you there! All right. Summer, do you have any final thoughts you want to share or is there anything that we didn't get to today?
SUMMER: We covered a lot today. And normally I don't have any additional thoughts because we cover quite a bit. But there is really one thing I just want to restate that I think I've said potentially twice before, but data should really be at the heart of your strategy. It should start with data well before you consider the creative, the offer, the copy, the tone, the format. Data has the power to tell you how your customers want to be reached and how they want to be spoken to. So don't rush to get a single campaign out the door and hope that it sticks. Begin with that really solid strategy, focused on data insights, and let the data do the heavy lifting for your program.
STEPHANIE: I love that. That's great. Thank you. Well, all right. Well, to our listeners, thank you so much for joining us for mixers and marketing. If you're curious about how Lob can help with marketing lists and data enrichment, please visit https://lobdemo.co/audience, that's https://lobdemo.co/audience. We hope you'll join us again as we talk about all things marketing and enjoy a mixed drink. As always, you can browse our library of episodes over at https://lobdemo.co/lobcast. Thanks for listening. And that's all, folks.