Showing posts with label Targeting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Targeting. Show all posts

3/06/2022

BCHP: A hard-to-find doctor for my non-existent child

When someone asks me if I have children, I sometimes joke, "None to my knowledge." In that context, when I receive a postcard asking me, "Looking for a pediatrician or pediatric specialist?" I have to wonder if someone knows something I don't.

Maybe I do have a child. Maybe my wife has a bun in the oven. Or maybe the reason I received this postcard is less dramatic  that the postcard from Boston Children's Health Physicians (BCHP) merits a Fail for Targeting.

Let's set aside for the moment the fact that I do not have any offspring and break down the postcard's content.

Boston Children's Heath Physicians
Mommy is happy with her healthy baby.

The front of the postcard simply suggests that I choose Bost Children's Health Physicians. It doesn't suggest why I choose one of their doctors. What makes their physicians desirable? To put it in marketing terms, what is BCHP's unique selling proposition?

BCHP Boston Children's Health Physicians
Where is Forest Hills, Queens?
Not in the area shown on the postcard.

The address side of the postcard includes a minor sales message that supports the Call to Action – to “find the expert care your child needs to grow and thrive.” And the postcard displays a map that appears to show the locations of doctors. There is an arrow pointing to the map, reading, “Find a pediatric provider in your area” with emphasis on “your.” Quick takeaway: most of New York City doesn’t even appear on the map.

Maybe there is a provider near me, but how would I know? Rather than communicating how to find the provider – and placing it next to the Call to Action to do so – there is a bunch of white space below the map. The response method is on the other side of the postcard…well, sort of.

Buried on the bottom right corner of the picture of mom and her smiling baby is a URL leading to the Boston Children’s Health Physicians home page. Somewhere on that home page is information that supports the postcard’s messaging, but it isn’t easy to find. The QR code doesn’t lead to the same page as the URL; it leads directly to the practice locator page. And the placement of the QR code (within an image on the opposite side) is a Fail for Creative.

BCHP Boston Children's Health Physicians
BCHP locations not quite near Queens
Let’s get back to finding a provider in my area. I tried the QR code on my smartphone. It indicated that the nearest practice was in Bardonia, NY.

As the crow flies, the distance from Forest Hills, Queens, NY to Bardonia is about 27 miles. As the parent drives in traffic, however, it is two toll bridges and typically an hour drive or longer with a sick or tired child in the back seat. (That assumes the parent has a car. After all, this is New York City.) This long distance to a physician confirms that the postcard was poorly targeted geographically – another Fail for Targeting.

Returning to the caption below the map, what is a “pediatric provider?” Why use that kind of industry jargon when the front of the postcard uses “pediatrician” and “pediatric specialist” while the address side of the postcard cites having 55 “practices”? Why throw yet another term out there? I realize I’m not a parent but, if I were, wouldn’t I want to find a “doctor” for my child?

IMHO, this postcard from Spectrum Marketing Services does not really support Boston Children’s Health Physicians. It is poorly designed, written, and targeted.
 
Finally, unless there is a back-end method in place for tracking response to the individuals being mailed, this isn’t direct marketing – it’s mailed advertising.


Lessons:

  1. Vet your data sources to target matching demographics.
  2. Just being available is not enough. Even a medical practice needs a differentiator.
  3. The means of following through on a Call to Action should be located close to the Call to Action, and easy to find.
  4. Vet your physical targeting to people who can easily get to your physical business or medical practice.
  5. If your Call to Action includes a web site, don’t just list a home page. Use a direct URL that aligns with the Call to Action.
  6. Apply jargon consistently using terms your customers understand.
  7. Even a postcard for a medical practice should include some method of tracking results.


11/30/2021

PayPal: Venmo $10 Giveaway Email Lacks Explanation or Focused Targeting

This recent email from PayPal trying to cross-sell Venmo merits Fails for Creative and Targeting.

PayPal Venmo $10 Offer
Enrollment offer email, sent to long-term
Venmo customer

The email offers me a straight cash bribe (or, as we say in marketing, an incentive) to sign up for Venmo. The Call to Action is to click on the “Claim Your $10” link that will bring me to the below landing page.

Venmo $10 Offer Landing Page
Landing page
lacks explanation of Venmo product features or customer benefits

The landing page reinforces the incentive and discloses information about fees -- and allows me to sign up for Venmo and verify my phone number.

But what is Venmo? Neither the email nor landing page include a product explanation. Simply put: If someone hasn’t used Venmo -- which is, after all, the kind of person the email is targeting -- they would have no idea what it is or why they should provide their mobile number to get $10. Both the email and landing page should include benefit statements or at least some brief sales messages.

Now, in fact, I know all about Venmo. I’ve been using it for a long time, long enough for Venmo’s parent PayPal to know that I am an active customer. That is why I give this a Fail for Targeting. There is no value in sending a new customer acquisition offer to a long-term active customer like myself. Communications like this can make customers question the strength of a brand.

Speaking of brand, why doesn’t PayPal put its name behind Venmo -- at least on this marketing email? For customers who haven’t heard of or used Venmo (like the ones targeted by the offer), including phrasing such as “backed by PayPal” or “a PayPal service” would at least lend some credibility to the product.

This isn’t the first time PayPal has offered me an incentive for something without explanation. Last year, PayPal sent me an offer for Honey that lacked a product value proposition. Nor is this the first time that PayPal has demeaned its brand with shoddy marketing communications. These communications can implicitly send a message to customers that PayPal doesn’t have its act together, which could lead to decreased trust and decreased use. Is this a company to trust with cryptocurrency purchases?

Sometimes marketing managers are so obsessed with their products, they forget the basics. That’s why they need to take a step back, review lessons like the below, and avoid sending Mail That Fails.

Lessons:

  1. Explain what it is you are selling and why it is beneficial.
  2. Extend your new customer offer only to potential new customers.
  3. If selling an affiliate service, consider explaining the relationship with the affiliate.

6/09/2021

Charity Mail Deluge

When COVID hit last spring, I thanked God that I was fortunate enough to stay healthy and safe when so many people here in NYC were infected. I wanted to give back but, like many others too frightened to help in person, I chose to donate money. I donated to several charities, including some I had not given to before. That was April, 2020.

Then, starting in October, 2020, this happened:

102 Charity Solicitations
102 mail fundraising solicitations
October - December 2020

I received 102 mailed fundraising solicitations from charities to which I had never donated. Most of them were related to feeding people -- in Africa, South America, and Manhattan. Others were for: environmental causes; providing medical care to people in faraway lands; building houses; preventing people from being born with disabilities; helping people born with physical disabilities, orphans, wounded veterans, Native American children, Native American senior citizens, "inner city children" who can't afford a Catholic education, and one that appeared to have something to do with housing recovering drug addicts in hotels.

Many of the classic direct mail fundraising techniques are included: blind envelopes, pictures of children near death; envelope teasers reading "URGENT NEED NOW", "EMERGENCY APPEAL" or simply "PLEASE"; envelopes a layperson might think had been hand-addressed and stamped; tear-jerking letters; promises that my donation would be matched by a mysterious benefactor; business reply envelopes; blessings by nuns; Christmas cards; a decade's supply of return address labels; pens; baby socks; and so on. If you have created or supported direct mail fundraising solicitations, you know these packages.

It appears to me that one or more of the charities that received money from me in spring 2020 chose to make some more money by including my name on a rentable mailing list. I was included on a Hot List of new donors or a timely "COVID Giving List" of sorts.

There is a part of me that feels negative about this experience. I could go into a rant about how the federal government subsidizes charities with lower postage rates, or how many of these organizations are charities in name only because they pour more money into soliciting donations than they do actually supporting their supposed cause. But, hey, that's the nature of the medium.

(Personally, I'm a bit disappointed at myself. I typically research charities, preferring to contribute to those that have low administrative costs and can demonstrate how they are effectively using the money given to them. I didn't fully vet the three that potentially had actualized additional funds from my proactive donation. That's my personal lesson today.)

I looked back at my donation history and narrowed down the list of charities that broke my heart to three. I won't name them here, but I know who they are and I know I will never donate to them again. That type of charity merits a type of Fail for List.

Direct response marketing guru Joan Throckmorton taught me something I wish I had recalled last year: When doing business with a new organization, consider using a fake middle initial. When you see that middle initial show up elsewhere, you know where it came from. So, that's my direct marketing lesson today.

OK, that and including baby socks in your fundraising solicitation is pretty crass.


Lesson:

If you want to see how information about your personal activity is shared and sold, use a fake middle initial. You have 25 of them to work with, so go at it.

2/06/2021

SpotHunter: How to Hunt for Customers

Last week, I received this flyer:

SpotHunter flyer
SpotHunter flyer
1-sided. Copy appears at a bit of a slant

It arrived in a blind envelope addressed to the impersonal "Current Resident." It is obviously marketing mail. IMHO, it has all the makings of low-end j--- mail. (I'm not writing out the word because I avoid inappropriate 4-letter words on this blog.) The envelope appears impersonal, it has no return address, and it includes a spotty-looking postage permit stamp. 

SpotHunter Outer Envelope
Simple Blind Outer Envelope.
No return address.

I opened it because, well, I love direct mail marketing. But would a typical consumer open it? I don't think so. I noticed several of the same pieces -- addressed to "Current Resident" at other units in my building -- placed in a well-named trash receptacle located in the mailroom.

Mailroom Trash Receptacle
(Inappropriate 4-letter word blacked out)

Inside, there is an impersonal flyer for an app called SpotHunter. The headline reads "Have Trouble Finding Open Street-Parking? Let Us Help." In this context, the hyphen between "Street" and "Parking" is improperly placed. Plus, there's no period at the end of the headline's second sentence. These types of errors may appear minor; however, this type of errors often subconsciously distracts readers from the content and reduces confidence in the product itself. That is a minor Fail for Creative.

Overall, the flyer appears to clearly convey a message: Use this app to find parking and help other people find parking spots. 

Is this really going to work? I don't know. What I do know is that in most of New York City, open parking spots are hard to find and disappear quickly. New Yorkers get into fist fights over parking spots. Even if an app yells "There is an open parking spot 3 blocks away!", the spot may not be open when the driver arrives there two minutes later. And let's not forget that touching your mobile phone while driving is illegal in New York. So, if one cannot utilize the app while driving and a driver cannot expect that a spot appearing on the app is truly available, how useful is it? I guess the app needs scale to be useful; however, the more people that use the app to find parking, the more people are going to go after that precious parking spot a few blocks away.

Well, I can't try out the app -- for me, it is currently useless. It is available only on iPhones, and my phone uses the Android operating system. In fact, about half of the mobile phones in use today are using the Android operating system. So, upfront, half the people who received the mail cannot use the product. That's a Fail for Targeting.  

Given that it appears  everyone in my Queens building received the flyer, I assume SpotHunter carpet-bombed the neighborhood. That's another mistake, because many people in Queens do not have cars. They use mass transit to get around. According to NYCEDC, 62% of Queens residents have cars. In my neighborhood, that percentage is closer to 40%. So that means about half of the 40% people receiving the mail cannot use the product, e.g. 80% of the mail is truly j---,  furthering the Fail for Targeting.

If I were responsible for a marketing campaign for SpotHunter, I would first suggest not using direct mail. Consider perhaps a guerrilla marketing campaign such as placing flyers on cars parked in the neighborhood. Annoying, yes, but at least you are reaching people who have cars to park. A highly geotargeted online effort could also be a good use of limited spend. Some social media platforms allow you to target people who self-identify as having cars. Or consider targeting based on attributes likely to be associated with car use. Then segment down to the type of operating system being used. 

If I were required to utilize direct mail without targeting, I would:

  • Create a simple postcard that conveys the sales proposition. One side would include the headline benefit statement with a visual supporting message, while the address side would include supporting benefit statements and the call to action to Download the app for free.
  • Or, create a flat and geographically target homes with residents likely to benefit from the app using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail tool.
  • Drop mail as soon as the app is available for Android.

Lessons:

  1. Make sure your content is free of grammatical errors.
  2. If your app is available only on an iPhone, you are missing half the market.
  3. If your mail has a simple message, consider a postcard rather than a flyer in an envelope.
  4. If you are targeting geographically rather than individually, consider using the Every Door Direct Mail service from the US Postal Service. 

11/24/2020

Truvia: Postcard could be sweeter

I recently received this postcard introducing me to Truvia, a zero-calorie sweetener. 

Truvia Sweet Complete
Postcard front

Visually, this postcard makes Truvia seem like a compelling alternative to sugar. The picture on the front suggests this is something I could use when baking a cake, making a smoothie, or sweetening coffee. Plus, as a potential customer, the postcard offers me the opportunity to try out one of their products for free. 

Free is a great price for a new product. It is a proven way to get a potential new customer to go outside of their comfort zone, to try something new, and to experiment a bit. It's such a common sales practice that drug dealers reputedly offer the first hit of crack cocaine for free. Customers get addicted, and they pay for more drugs. A sugar-alternative zero-calorie sweetener shouldn't be treated like crack cocaine but, hey, the makers of Truvia certainly want me to be hooked. 

Truvia Sweet Complete Free Offer
Postcard address side

The address side of the postcard includes supporting copy: a well-written product explanation, a benefit statement, an explanation of how to use the product, and a coupon for a free 16-ounce bag. I'd say that's sweet (pun intended). 

The Call to Action is simply "Find it at your local ShopRite." Therein lies the rub (or, should we go with the pun, the 'topping'). From where I live in Queens, the nearest ShopRite is typically a 25 minute drive in traffic -- under 10 miles as the crow flies, but that crow doesn't have to worry about Big Apple traffic. So, no disrespect to ShopRite, but I won't shop there when there are 3 supermarkets and a Target within walking distance. 

So, would I give this call to action a Fail for Targeting? Not really. Presuming this was a national campaign, I can't fault the marketing manager for including someone located several miles from an eligible supermarket. It's pretty complex to design targeting criteria based on travel time to a supermarket chain.

However, I could give the call to action a Fail for Creative. The coupon is valid at any retail location that carries the product. It turns out that, according to the Where to Buy link on the Truvia web site, the advertised product is available at a nearby Foodtown. Rather than mentioning only ShopRite, the postcard should have mentioned their "Where to Buy" website, e.g. 

Visit www.truvia.com/where-to-buy for a store location near you
or
Use your free coupon at ShopRite,
or visit www.truvia.com/where-to-buy for other nearby locations

When a prospective customer can try your product for free with few hassles, that is like zero-calorie icing on the cake.

Lesson: 
Make coupon redemption easy for your customer by offering relevant redemption options.

10/25/2020

Caviar: What Is It?

Two postcards arrived within a day of each other. One includes elements that can make direct mail successful; the other Fails in multiple ways.

freshdirect new customer offer

freshdirect new customer offer

This postcard from freshdirect reflects smart use of these elements, specifically:

  • Targeting: No one at the targeted home has purchased from freshdirect. The targeted home is in a freshdirect delivery area and in a zip code where overall use of grocery delivery has increased.

  • Offer: There is a new customer incentive of $25 off the new customer's first purchase, -- a good reason to to give freshdirect a try. Plus, the offer is valid for about three weeks from the postcard's in-home date, motivating that customer to take action right away.

  • Creative: The 5 1/2" x 10 1/2" postcard clearly communicates its sales proposition both visually and in prose. One side of the postcard succinctly communicates the service provided, and even includes a tag line to reinforce the sales proposition. The address side includes the call to action and supporting benefits messages. The incentive is unambiguous -- at a glance, the reader knows what it is, the value, when to use it, and how to take advantage of it

  • Timing: Mid-October is likely the last time of year to mail and avoid the oncoming clutter associated with holiday catalogs and other gift-related mailings.

  • Execution: The postcard was printed with spot varnish to protect the pictures from appearing scuffed.

  • Tracking: The new customer incentive includes a promo code for the customer to use. This promo code facilitates the customer discount, but it also allows freshdirect to track the customer's path to becoming a customer. This means freshdirect can reasonably assume it was the postcard that motivated customer action.

Well done, freshdirect!

On The Other Hand ... 
The below 6" x 11" postcard from caviar is physically larger than the one from freshdirect, yet it communicates much less. From looking at the postcard, can you answer the question: What is caviar? 

caviar new customer offer 10/2020

caviar new customer offer 10/2020


OK, its a food delivery service -- but what kind of food delivery? Does it deliver meals and groceries like freshdirect, in-home food kits like Blue Apron, or perhaps single-person prepared meals like freshly? From the pictures of the kale salad and what I now think may be a poke bowl, I couldn't tell, but a google search revealed that caviar is a delivery service specializing in meals from high-end restaurants. So, I guess it's more like seamless.

According to their snippet on a Google search caviar offers, "Delivery & takeout from the best local restaurants. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and more, delivered safely to your door."  There you go: a brief, succinct explanation -- one that should have been included on the postcard. The snippet also mentions, "Now offering pickup & no-contact delivery.That is an important supporting message during this pandemic that should also appear on the postcard. The lack of a sales proposition and supporting messages is a Fail for Creative. The postcard has plenty of white space, so why not use it?

Also, it takes a pair of reading glasses to review the disclosure noting that this offer is good through December 7, approximately eight weeks after the postcard arrived. That response window is too long to encourage what is typically an impulse decision: namely, what to have for dinner tonight. This wide response window merits a Fail for Offer.


caviar postcard disclosure text 10/2020
The caviar introductory offer is not valid for DoorDash customers.
It expires eight weeks after arriving in home

That fine print also leads to meriting a Fail for Targeting. The recipient is a regular DoorDash customer, making that person ineligible for the discount. 

wondered why a meal delivery service would make customers of a different meal delivery service ineligible for a discount. In my research, I learned that DoorDash had bought and integrated caviar into the DoorDash network several months ago. Here in New York City, the integration did not go well

For the postcard recipient's mailing address, Caviar offers delivery from only 17 restaurants. That’s a small number compared to DoorDash’s 398 restaurants. (Furthermore, all 17 of Caviar's restaurants were inclusive to those available through DoorDash.) This lack of compelling selection might merit another Fail for Targeting.

There is no reason to expend the cost of sending mail that does not communicate a sales proposition with an invalid, non-urgent discount offer to a home that has limited purchase opportunities. If DoorDash continues to waste marketing dollars like this, caviar's days are numbered. 


Lessons:
  1. When soliciting new customers, communicate a compelling sales proposition.
  2. A response window should be long enough to give a customer time to respond, but not so long that immediacy is discouraged.
  3. Mail your offer only to customers who might be eligible to take advantage of the offer.

7/06/2020

PenFed Credit Union: Not Military Precision

I recently received this solicitation from PenFed Credit Union, whose formal name (according to Wikipedia) is Pentagon Federal Credit Union -- a name that aligns with the company’s pentagon-shaped logo

The solicitation letter is pretty typical for mid-tier credit card providers: window envelope with teaser; letter with Johnson Box; clear Call to Action; Schumer Box; buckslip insert reinforcing benefits and the call to action; and required credit prescreen opt-out notice.


PenFed Federal Credit Union






The first line of the disclosure on the front of the letter reads, “To receive any advertised product, you must become a member of the PenFed Credit Union.” I originally thought this might be a Fail for Targeting since I have never worked in the military services or at the Pentagon and thus, I thought, would not be eligible for membership. The letter itself does not mention membership criteria, and I also could not find a mention on the main pages of their website or their sitemap. I did, however, find some information about membership eligibility from third-party websites such as on WalletHub; from there, I returned to a page that listed Affinity Partners

On affinity partner pages such as this one related to the American Red Cross, there is some copy that reads:

"Congratulations! As an employee, retiree, or volunteer of the American Red Cross you are eligible for PenFed membership! How does PenFed define volunteer? A volunteer is anyone who provides time, talent, or treasure. Time is the hours volunteering for the organization, talent is the unique skills a volunteer brings to the organization, and treasure is both financial and blood donations."

Aha! I am eligible for PenFed Credit Union membership because I supported the American Red Cross. Perhaps the Red Cross shared my contact information with PenFed in hopes that I would become a member and the Red Cross would receive some benefit for the referral. If I am correct -- and, perhaps even if I'm not -- the letter merits a Fail for Creative because the letter lacks an explanation of membership eligibility. 

The letter should explain membership eligibility and how broadly they define it. Even a couple lines along the lines of "We support people who serve the military but also offer membership benefits to tens of thousands of other people who support the military or one of our affinity partners." Or, if I received this offer because of my history of American Red Cross support, why not call that out? Touting affinity relationships helped make MBNA America successful -- perhaps that approach could work for the credit union.

At the very least, PenFed should add a page on its website explaining membership criteria -- a page that is indexed by Google, easy to find and easy to understand. This easy-to-find page on Affinity Federal Credit Union's website is a good template.

Also, is this offer a Fail for Timing? According to CNBC and other news sources, many banks are cutting back on balance transfer offers during these extraordinary times. Perhaps the credit union has a contrary view of where the economy is headed. Or, maybe it has reviewed its current membership pool and credit prescreen criteria and has taken a different view of credit default risk. Or, maybe the credit union had planned this campaign long in advance, and just decided to move forward.

Lessons:
  1. If soliciting members for your credit union's credit card, include language that suggests the person is not only eligible for the credit card, but also eligible to join the credit union.
  2. Membership eligibility for a credit union should be easy to find.
  3. Consider whether a pandemic is a good time to offer 0% balance transfers.

2/04/2020

Spectrum Cable & Discover Bank: Know Thy Customer

Preparing an acquisitions direct mail acquisitions campaign mailing list takes time -- sometimes, a lot of it. Typically, a preliminary list needs to be pulled from an external database, checked against one (or several) internal databases, and sent to a lettershop. Depending on the state of your business’s files and how antiquated your systems are, this process can easily take a month. After receiving your mailing list, the lettershop typically needs three to five business days to personalize your mailing, prepare it for mailing per postal service guidelines, and get it in the mail. Once a large-scale Standard Rate mailing is in the mail, it can take the USPS about a week to deliver it.

That’s about six weeks to execute an acquisitions direct mail campaign -- not including creatively developing and printing the mail, which can hopefully be a concurrent step. Nor does it include planning the mailing, determining costs, getting cost approval from management (or, if you run the business, ensuring you have the money to spend), training people at the inbound call center and customer service to react to customer responses, preparing the website for online responses, and setting up the business’s internal procedures to process sales to new customers. Whew! 

While you are soliciting new customers, you might take efforts to make existing customers more profitable. This means differentiating your prospective customers from your existing customers. Understanding who your own customers are, from your own internal database, is something I call “Small Data.” This is where Spectrum and Discover merit a Fail for Targeting.

In December, I was already a Spectrum customer for high-speed internet when I received a self-mailer offering a cable TV package. That was a valid attempt at upsell. However, on the same day, I received a nearly identical-looking self-mailer offering a high-speed internet and cable TV bundle. The upsell mailer was addressed to me, while the acquisitions mailer was addressed to “Current Resident” with a salutation of “Dear Neighbor.”

Given that I received both self-mailers on the same day, I presume they both had been mailed from the same lettershop with separate mailing list files released to the lettershop on the same day. Spectrum could have (during their weeks of preparing the mailing lists) deduped actual customers from the prospect file; however, they obviously did not. Perhaps this was a timing issue -- but I’d signed up for Spectrum Cable in early October. Even a company as large as Spectrum should be able to run a customer check given that much lead time.

Spectrum Cable Self-Mailers
Address Panels


Spectrum self-mailers envelope back

Upsell roll-out panel & letter

Acquisitions roll-out panel & letter
Also in December, I received a pair of solo mail packages with similar offers -- one designed for upsell and one for acquisitions. 
Spectrum Solo Mail
Outer Envelopes

Spectrum Cable Front of Upsell Letter

Spectrum Cable Back of Upsell Letter
Upsell Letter

These two packages demonstrate non-optimized list hygiene.    

With Spectrum, there could have been an internal issue related to timing of removing new customers from prospect lists; however, the same can’t be said for Discover Online Savings Bank. I recently received a self-mailer addressed to me, inviting me to open a new online savings account. Nice creative, but I opened the type of account with Discover Bank in 2018.

Discover Online Savings Bank
Discover Bank
Address panel
Discover Online Savings Bank
Back panel
Discover Online Savings Bank

Discover Online Savings Bank
Inside panels
A business needs to value its customers by not confusing them with prospective customers. Or to paraphrase Hamlet, “To thine own customer be true.”

Lesson: 
Remove customers from your prospect mailing lists on a timely basis.


9/24/2019

Simplisafe: The Story Is About Apartments. The Mail Is Not.

Many companies have a story connected to their foundation — often explaining what inspired the CEO to create the company. And, no, the inspiration is not, "To make a boatload of money." At SimpliSafe, the story begins with a robbery:
After his friends were robbed, Chad Laurans discovered a serious problem in the home security industry. No one was protecting renters. Alarm systems needed a ton of hardwiring and came with pricey long-term contracts that couldn’t be canceled. So Chad built something new.
This story about Chad Laurans's inspiration is quoted from SimpliSafe's page focused on apartments, located here. The same page includes a sales message referencing apartment protection:
Now SimpliSafe is the fastest growing home security company in the nation. SimpliSafe won’t lock you in a long-term contract and 24/7 professional monitoring is only $14.99 a month. Protect your apartment—the smart way.
So it would appear that Mr. Laurans understands the needs of people who live in apartments for adequate security.  That brings us to a postcard mailed to apartment homes and what I believe is a Fail for Targeting and Creative.


SimpliSafe Solicitation - Sales Side
Lead Generation Postcard

I live in a co-op apartment building, which typically consists of units that resemble apartments. Although they are cooperatively owned (rather than rented out) by their residents, these are very similar to rental apartment units in that they are underserved by the legacy home security companies.

SimpliSafe Solicitation - Address Side
Lead Generation Postcard - Address Side


On their website, if one clicks on "Shop Now" either from the home page or the /fearless landing page mentioned on the postcard, the lead product is the most expensive one. Even the "Shop Now" link found on the apartment-focused page leads to several product bundles starting with The Haven for $489 that includes 14 pieces of security equipment including a freeze sensor.

Presuming this postcard is part of a national campaign, a version should have been created specifically for people living in apartments.* The apartment-versioned postcard could support Mr. Laurans’s story by mentioning the need for even small apartments to have physical protection. In addition to communicating a low monthly price, the postcard could focus its limited space to communicating safety, peace of mind, renters insurance discounts, and effortless set-up. The Call to Action would be to a visit a landing page that reinforces service benefits while leading with a product package best suited for apartments. This could be The FoundationThe Essentials, or a similar lower-priced package. After all, many renters don't need water or freeze sensors.

Apartment-centric page - mobile view

SimpliSafe may also want to consider the entire prospect user experience that results from using the postcard as a lead generation device. Above, for example is the Apartment-centric page as viewed on a Pixel 3a XL. Much of the type is too small to read on a mobile device. Other pages in the domain require a reader to scroll left and right — cumbersome on a laptop and an outright hassle on a mobile phone. Mobile use as a percentage of internet traffic continues to increase, even for people in their homes, and especially for young renters. SimpliSafe should consider creating mobile-friendly versions of their site or fully embrace responsive design.

If SimpliSafe's communications are optimized for target market relevancy, this company's story could have a happy ending. To paraphrase a SimpliSafe tagline, that would be "Direct Marketing. Done Right."

Retargeting. Done right.
SimpliSafe Retargeting Ad - laptop view 


Lessons:
  1. When your product has multiple target markets, segment your list selection and messaging to appeal to those target markets.
  2. Maintain messaging consistency and product recommendations relevant to your target market segment all the way through an online sale.
  3. Consider how your content appears on mobile devices.

*It could be that SimpliSafe is segmenting rental-style apartments in their list selection, and I received a piece designed for single-family homes because I live in an owner-occupied unit. Nonetheless, the presence of an apartment number in my address should have been a flag for list scrubbing, segmentation, or at least understanding the nature of co-op apartments.

6/07/2019

The Citi Never Sleeps, or Stops Mailing

In February, I wrote about Citi sending solicitations to their credit card customers for their Citi Rewards+ Card at the same time as offers for their current credit card. This practice appears to be continuing.

In that February post, I mentioned someone who received an offer to trade in their current Citi card around the same time as receiving an activation offer. That was confusing to him. Since then, that person received the upgrade offer for the Rewards+ Card again, twice. All three mailers were the same self-mailer -- right down to the visuals and copy. I also received the same Rewards+ Card upgrade offer twice.

While it is a well-proven direct marketing best practice that reaching the same person with the same offer multiple times will result in incremental response, this technique is typically utilized by communicating variants of the same message. Benefits messaging might be rotated, or the second mail (or email) with the same offer would include a message that calls out “Second Notice,” “Time is Running Out,” or something similar that resonates with a heightened level of urgency. But sending the exact same mailer three times is, IMHO, a Fail for CreativeIt reminds me of the Urban Dictionary’s definition of “insanity,” which I prefer not to write out myself. My supposition is that the idea was to save money on creative by having one base version to mail -- and mail and mail.


The reason for my supposition is that I also received the exact same creative (only twice), as did my wife (only once). All the preprinted elements were the same. The only differences between her self-mailer and mine were in the variables regarding our respective current Citi cards and how they compared to the new Rewards+. I presume this to be Citi’s high-volume Control packageIf so, they really should consider A/B testing different layouts.

Not only that, but I and my wife also received concurrent bonus offers for using our current credit cards. Taking a step back here, let’s remember that the consumer credit card industry is mighty competitive. It’s not enough to convince a consumer to obtain your credit card. Once that consumer becomes your customer by applying for and being approved for your card, you need to motivate the customer to actually use your credit card. In industry jargon, that is known as “activation.” One way to accomplish this goal is by offering a bonus reward for use; another is to solicit the customer to accept a product upgrade. Fine -- but doing both at the same time merits Fails for Targeting and Timing.  

We both received upgrade offers and activation offers on the same day. In other words, we found four pieces of Citi mail waiting in our mailbox. 

Citi has business-to-customer relationships, but perhaps they should think about this like a personal relationship between two people who are casually dating. Using this analogy, Citi is having dinner with it's significant other.  While enjoying the salmon, Citi says both "I want to move in with you." and "It's ok to see other people."

Lessons:
1) If at first your targeted offer doesn’t succeed, you can try again -- but at least try something different.
2) Prioritize your business goals; then, prioritize your customer communication tactics.

Rewards+ Upgrade offer I received twice

Activation offer I received twice

My activation offer letter - front

My activation offer letter - back.
Not valid if I chose to switch to Rewards+




My wife’s upgrade mailer


My wife's upgrade mailer - inside.
Same base copy, different personalization.


Different product comparison table,
specific to current Citi card.

My wife's activation offer letter - front.
Same visuals as mine, with card-specific offer.

My wife’s activation offer letter - back.
Also not valid if she switches to Rewards+.

2/12/2019

Citi: Thank You Card Offer Conflicts

One of my responsibilities when I worked at Citi’s Credit Card division was profitable balance growth on their Citi AAdvantage Credit Card. A common way to grow balances then (and still now) was to mail to customers balance transfer checks they could use like regular checks to pay off higher-interest credit cards or use to make significant purchases.

These checks were directly tied to the credit card number and existing account. The functional implication was that, if a customer changed his or her credit card number, the check would bounce. This occurred when a customer’s credit card was replaced due to theft or fraud, or if the customer switched to a different Citi credit card. Poor customer experience!  

Occasionally, the business priority would be to solicit customers to upgrade their existing Citi AAdvantage Card to a more premium product—say, from a basic card with a $50 annual fee to a Gold-level card with an $85 annual fee. The upgrade solicitation list would be prepared in advance and deduped from the balance transfer check solicitation list. This not only prevented checks from bouncing, it also allowed our customer communications to focus on only one aspect of the credit card product during a time period.

Outside of Upgrade Mailer
That policy from years ago comes to mind when I reviewed these two offers, which the same person received related to his Citi Thank You Preferred Card around the same time. In late January, he received an offer to switch his existing Citi Thank You Preferred Card to the new Citi Rewards+ Card. This new card offered a different points accrual method. It’s a shiny self-mailer complete with details, comparison of the customer’s current Citi Thank You Preferred Card to the new Citi Reward+ Card, and more disclosures than you can shake a stick at. Creatively, this is a pretty persuasive mailer.







Upgrade Self-Mailer Inside Panels

A week later, in early February, the same person received a self-mailer with an offer to add an authorized user to his Citi Thank You Preferred Card. Specifically, the offer was an opportunity to accrue 2,500 Thank You Rewards points—worth $25 in gift cards—if the customer adds an authorized user to the card and spends $2,000 by 2/28/19.

Outside of Citi Thank You Add A User Mailer

The first Fail here is for a combination of Offer and Timing. Setting aside the upgrade offer, this offer has a response window of under 30 days. Normally, 30 days is an ideal response window to allow a customer enough time to read the mailer, consider the offer, and take action. But this offer requires the customer to take two separate actions. First, the customer has to request the card for the authorized user. Subsequently, the customer and/or the authorized user have to spend, together, at least $2,000. If there is an expectation that the authorized user would do the spending, the customer would have to wait for the card to arrive in the mail, activate it, give it to the authorized user, and hope that authorized user already had plans to make a pretty significant purchase or two. That’s a lot of activity to expect of a customer during the cold month of February.

Citi Thank You Rewards Mailer

Citi Thank You Rewards Mailer
Inside of Citi Thank You Add A User Mailer

Most credit card bonus points offers for new customers have a window of 90 days to meet a spending threshold. Perhaps Citi could have structured this offer such that the customer would have 30 days to add an authorized user and another 60-90 days to meet the spending requirement.

The second Fail is a combination of Offer and Targeting. The fine print on the offer to add an authorized user includes the line, “If your account is closed for any reason, including if you convert to another card product, you may no longer be eligible for this offer.” In other words, if the Citi customer accepted the offer he had received one week prior to this one, then this offer is void. Poor customer experience!

When I worked at Citi, we took measures to avoid overlapping offers. That does not appear to be the case today. It does not appear to me that one of these mailers was delayed in the mail for a long time, so let’s rule out bad postal delivery. Maybe the Citi Rewards+ Card Product Manager wasn’t aware of what the Thank You Preferred Card Product Manager had planned, or maybe they had conflicting business objectives. I can only speculate.

Lessons:
  1. When planning the timing of your mailing and determining the offer response window, consider customer actions required to fulfill the offer.
  2. When you mail an offer to your own customers, be sure your offer doesn't conflict with other offers or create a negative customer experience.