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Direct & Email Marketing

How To Get The Most Value For Your Direct Marketing Money

Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.

Grant Fleming

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It is a common, global problem in the digital age – how do you convert vast amounts of data into demonstrable business value? Marketers aren’t exempt from this conundrum, and the pressure is always on to justify the worth of running a marketing campaign in real world, practical terms.

So how can you glean the most profitability from a campaign? Start by addressing a core challenge: Separating the important data from the not so important.

More particularly, focus on demographic information that is easily accessible like age, gender, location. Then follow up by looking a bit deeper and adding data such as marital status and income. Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.

1. System essentials

Beyond this, while choosing the right data is key, it’s wise to use the best direct marketing system possible for your marketing needs. For starters, it should report on the data that is most important. It should also offer smart dashboards that displays comprehensive information. And it should accommodate users who want to put analytics and insights together manually.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

Having all three in place – pulling together data, running analytics and translating those into presentable reports – is not just a nice to have. It’s increasingly essential, as direct marketing is fast becoming a saturated space. Figuring out ways to better personalise data, and target and curate the right audience for the right message at the right time has become mission critical.

2. Aid from the machines

The good news is that machine learning is set to take much of the onerous work out of personalising data. But the caveat is that its usage doesn’t exempt you from being involved, as machines still need to be taught what constitutes good data to begin with. You thus need to know and understand how to curate data properly from the outset.

For the foreseeable future, you still need to understand what you are feeding the machine learning algorithms with, and most importantly, testing assumptions. Avoid the tendency to assume that because the results came from a machine, they are correct. Rather, conclusions drawn need to be continually tested, verified and honed where appropriate.

3. Pitfalls and challenges

But, while you may have a basis from which to extract more value from your data, what is preventing you? Among key obstacles that many marketing companies do not realise, is the power of the tools that are available to them, especially those locally produced.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

This is to their detriment, as the tools readily available in South Africa boast sophisticated, yet simple, insight dashboards and reporting metrics that could power-up their marketing efforts.

As for a potential opportunity, this too is a topic that is often mentioned in other industries, that of creating greater integration with a variety of tools. In reality, few companies have managed to integrate their digital, social and direct marketing approaches well.

Getting more money out of your data boils down to sorting the wheat from the chaff, having the right system in place, curating data, and finally, using machine learning with an eye towards it being an aid, rather than a replacement for human efforts.

Grant Fleming has held senior management positions at leading tech, mobile and ecommerce companies. His current role is CEO of Leadify, an automated sales fulfilment channel that helps B2B and B2C brands and businesses turn internal IP into income. He drives the productisation and enhancement of this intelligent SMS and email platform allowing users to customise campaigns, control costs, performance and revenue and eliminate duplicates, overlaps, retargeting and bounce rates. Since launch in 2015, Leadify has processed over 1 billion marketing messages.

Direct & Email Marketing

Build A Better Database And Boost Your Audience

Put frankly, if you have not crafted your message so that you are engaging with your audience, with their permission, you will be out of the direct marketing game.

Grant Fleming

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For businesses across the board, one way to get better returns is by improving efficiencies. For marketers in particular, the million rand question is how to build better databases and grow their audience.

Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify, says that building up an audience around particular marketing messages or strategies rather than pushing out any and all content to anyone, is essential. The latter may have been a trend that TV advertising praised, but it is ineffective as well as wasteful, when applied to direct marketing campaigns.

Marketers also must pay attention to their ‘list hygiene’ i.e. ensure irrelevant messages aren’t being sent to the wrong demographic. Do this by avoiding over-marketing, a factor which may be missed by those operating with a ‘more is better’ mindset. This can derail efforts, as even if people are partially interested in the marketing message, they will reach an unsubscribe point more quickly if marketers press them too often.

Dealing with information deluge

Front of mind for marketers should be that people are being besieged by information more than ever. Additionally, email and SMS channels are especially hotly contested marketing spaces, full of marketing promotions.

Clearly, any marketers who want to increase their opt-ins need to get their message and audience right from the outset, while ensuring that they send carefully crafted campaigns at the right time.

Segmentation needs to become more sophisticated too and is among top marketing trends for 2018. Doing so helps marketers treat their audience differently and adds a level of personalisation to their campaigns.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

The Smart Insights report even suggests greater personalisation will result in an increase in conversions, by keeping marketers relevant and in touch with lists’ changing needs and preferences.

Strategies for success

Analytics can play a significant role here.

More granular detail can be built up over time such as what day of the week, and time of the day messages should be sent to particular segmented audiences for the optimal response.

Spread marketing messages out for a while too, and then hone in on specific days of the week, and times of the day, according to the audience being targeted. It’s considerably more effective to target the right audience at the right time than continuously sending general messages all day.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

The importance of A/B testing to help hone the message to your audience also cannot be underestimated. By testing two or more variants, and listening to the feedback received, marketers have a basis from which to optimise their campaigns.

Further benefits

As for databases, is bigger still better? Yes, but only as a starting point for the data to be further segmented and refined, empowering marketers to more accurately define their audiences.

All this may sound like a great deal of work, but the benefit of doing so isn’t just to build an audience. It will also help marketers deal with the increased pressure from the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to ensure they aren’t spamming their audience.

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Direct & Email Marketing

Honour The Opt-out

Gareth Mountain from Olico, explains how PoPI will effect companies undertaking any form of direct marketing, and why it’s important to honour the consumers’ right to opt out of the marketing process.

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It’s in a companies’ own best interests to toe the line when it comes to direct marketing best practices. It boils down to the fact that ethically it is the right thing to do, and that they should not wait for the implementation (and subsequent fines) of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to kick in to respect the consumer.

1. Electronic comms and outbound calling

The most notable point to understand when it comes to electronic channels of communication (email, SMS, Automatic Voice Messaging), is that companies will need explicit opt-in permission to contact the consumer. Here it is not about having the legal right to market to them as the Electronic Communications Act currently specifies, but rather being able to prove that they specifically gave permission for your communication.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

This is set to bring about an overall decline in electronic marketing, and securing that valuable opt-in permission is going to be crucial. Yes, some companies will certainly struggle, but by providing relevant, ethical, targeted deals to your consumer database, there’s no reason for them to opt-out, especially if your offers are beneficial.

When it comes to outbound calling, PoPI permits one marketing call to a person, even if they have not opted in. During this call, operators can attempt to get them to opt-in for future marketing (both electronic and voice). While this might protect jobs in the South African call centre industry, it could   result in locals receiving more intrusive calls, while less intrusive email and SMS marketing declines.

2. Respect the No

One thing to keep in mind during all marketing communication, is to respect the public’s requests. If a person asks to be removed from your electronic marketing or direct calls, make 100% sure to comply and ensure their number/email does not slip through the cracks to the next campaigns.

On a national level the Direct Marketing Association of SA (DMASA) has established a National Opt Out Database to adhere to. Paid-up members of the DMASA have access to this database as well as the process involved in making sure that their own database corresponds to the DMASA no contact list. This is through a process called “Deduping” and ensures companies do not accidentally market to anyone on this national do-not-call database. DMASA members also need to adhere to the code of conduct which regulates behaviour in the industry.

3. The responsibility of the company

When it comes to a company-wide level, it is best to automate the opt-out process so that human error is taken out of the equation. Keep a record of the opt-outs and inform the consumer that they have indeed been taken off the database.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

One grey area where we believe companies might try and bend the rules, would be to opt-out the consumer on a product-level, meaning that although they have said no for marketing on one brand or product, the company will continue with marketing other products in the stable. It is unlikely, however, that a consumer will decline receiving marketing for one product, and still want communication for another. Rather take them off the database completely.

The reasons why companies must honour opt-outs are numerous, with the fact that the PoPI Act allows for fines of up to R10 million or jail time for violation perhaps standing out as the most prominent. But with the ethical behaviour of companies under the spotlight locally, the moral responsibility of respecting the consumer should not be ignored.

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Direct & Email Marketing

Why AI Won’t Replace Direct Marketing

Leadify’s CEO, Grant Fleming unpacks what AI means in terms of marketing your business and explains why it’s not likely that it will ever replace direct marketing.

Grant Fleming

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The application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a topic that is being vigorously focused on by a multitude of industries. These range from financial services deploying AI based chatbots, to entertainment services like Netflix™, which use AI to predict and suggest what viewers may want to watch next. For marketers, the question arises: How will the rise of AI affect their industry?

As with all new technologies, AI is a topic that has fallen prey to being massively overhyped. That, however, does not make it any less useful or innovative. In fact, often all the hype that accompanies an exciting technology allows for markets to be tested and for the most practical use cases to emerge.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

Leadify’s CEO, Grant Fleming unpacks what AI means in terms of marketing your business and explains why it’s not likely that it will ever replace direct marketing.

1. You must firstly ask yourself, is it the real deal?

It is essential to define what AI means in the direct marketing context and separate that from machine learning. In fact, we are nowhere near true AI; we have some automation and machine learning processes. Thus, those who are punting AI in marketing automation don’t know what they are talking about and are just using buzzwords.

Even as true AI, and quantum computers that could solve humanity’s pressing problems in minutes, are still on the horizon, machine learning holds the more immediate promise to truly impact on marketing.

More particularly, according to a recent report by Forrester, all indications are that one of the more viable benefits of machine learning will be enabling marketers to improve on customer experiences and support. Additionally, in the short term, leveraging machine learning will enhance existing products and services, as well as streamline processes.

2. Rise of machine learning

Such applications are available now. Leadify already integrates machine learning to assist with handling Exclusion criteria. This ensures that contacts that have already been marketed to in a previously defined period are not sent campaigns one after another.

Another important aspect is on our delivery failure prevention strategies, where the system works out the probability that a marketing message will be delivered to a particular contact, or not. If the probability is low, based on certain previous delivery criteria, then the message to that contact is not queued. This saves the wasted marketing cost.

Beyond machine learning helping marketers do their jobs more efficiently, the necessity of the human touch should not be diminished, as there are certain functions that are easy for people to perform but difficult for a machine to replicate. A key example is a marketer’s ability to understand customers from an insights perspective. Furthermore, campaign managers and analysts can readily be at coal face of the campaign, in contact with customers, even as all the automation is done via the platform. In short, the value of human interaction can’t be replaced by a machine.

Related: Direct Marketing: Permission is Key

3. Here to stay, but not to rule

Already we are seeing this with chatbots, in which an artificial intelligence program leads customers up to a certain point when buying insurance for example. When the chatbot reaches the limit of what its algorithms can accommodate, customers are handed off to a real salesperson to complete the transaction.

In other words, it looks like machine learning is intended to handle the grunt work, rather than rendering their makers irrelevant. Additionally, people are generally more comfortable interacting with other people.

But what about the future? Should marketers be leery of AI replacing their current practices? I do not believe so. There is a practical consideration that makes it unlikely AI will overshadow direct marketing anytime soon – cost. The initial implementation of AI will likely not be cheap, at least not from the outset. This then will likely compel organisations to balance cost versus utility when considering whether to use AI for mass market direct marketing automation.

Ultimately, the value of AI/machine learning will ultimately be measured against the bottom line. After all, if AI can improve response rates by 50% but also increases costs by 200%, its worth will quickly come into question.

All this bodes well for how AI, even as it becomes more sophisticated, will likely be employed. As marketer’s servants and assistants, not our overlords.

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