Billing Inserts Reach Qualified Recipients

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With all the changes on the media landscape, it's time for a fresh look at billing statement inserts. Billing inserts are a high-impact medium delivered First-Class into the home in an uncluttered vehicle that is a "must read." Consumer credit remains a growth industry, largely because of the salesmanship of many in direct marketing. The medium delivers 240 million contacts monthly for outstanding reach and no clutter.


For those of you unfamiliar with billing inserts, here is an overview of the basics.


Billing inserts ride along with monthly credit card bills from banks, financial marketers, retailers, utilities and gas and oil companies. The amount of advertising is restricted by First-Class postal limitations. In keeping under the ounce limit you typically have only two noncompeting offers per mailing.


The compelling nature of the package - the bills must be paid - ensures that your offer is seen and likely read. The implicit endorsement of the branded card issuer you ride along with gives your offer an added response lift as consumers trust the credit issuer and have an active account relationship.


Explicit endorsement through co-branding is also available if you have the right broker relationships. This affinity aspect of the medium is unique and, depending on your own brand or offer, the synergy can produce a powerful effect.


Because you are mailing an active buyer and creditworthy customer, you already have prescreened a highly qualified prospect. The added wow for your finance team is that virtually 100 percent of purchases are made via credit card.


What types of marketers and offers work? Many product and service marketers use billing inserts as an integral element of the marketing campaign. Success in billing inserts spans a range of pricing and single- and two-step models.


For example, Bose at the high end has been successful at the same time that lower-priced premiums also have had long runs. DirecTV and other subscription offers work. Collectible and gift product marketers use inserts to capture more of the market when they identify a successful item. Clubs, continuity, health/fitness and various merchandise offers have succeeded.


What about testing? With a 240 million rollout universe, you need a large enough test cell to give you a confident read. Of course, the offer and price point are factors, but as a rule of thumb a 250,000-piece test is suggested to give statistical significance. With a typical $35-$38/M all-in cost, it's a fraction of direct mail and telemarketing cost per contact and a lower cost than package inserts.


Creative and format variations give a range of possibilities from one-, two- or three-panel formats and bangtails to possibilities in offer structure and creative design.


These formats and structures can be tailored to marketers' goals and objectives: Are you looking for requests or subscriptions? Multi- or single-purchase incentives? Continuity, one shot or some combination thereof? Are you trying to supplement a broader media campaign and build increased frequency against the target to prompt response? Whatever your objectives, the medium has the format and creative range to achieve the desired communication and response.


Can you use existing creative? A marketer might wonder, "Why not just fold up the piece I've already created?" This won't work. The promotional pieces need to be carefully designed to conform to the format that is acceptable in the issuer market. Treating the creative as an afterthought is not the way to use the medium.


A full-service provider will help you manage the creative development and deliver a cost-effective, well-designed piece tailored to billing-industry specifications. Also, the co-branding element with quality institutions like American Express is a big benefit worth customizing to garner the affinity response lift.


Marketing basics apply in this medium, too. You have to consider the offer's audience, seasonality, demographics and timing. A qualified firm can help you avoid unforeseen pitfalls. Also, a qualified service provider can help you navigate the issuers' offer requirements around creative and offer positioning.


Overall, billing inserts offer an excellent opportunity for high return on marketing investment with an array of advantages:


· Credit-worthy credit buyers.


· A must-read, First-Class delivery.


· Resulting increase in average order and back-end performance.


· Ease of implementing multi-pay and other credit variations.


· Affinity-based selling.


With so many programs and tactics facing regulatory or saturation effects, now is an excellent time to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with billing inserts and the potential they can deliver.


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