How to Create Successful Statement Mailings

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Statement insert mailings, such as those used by bank credit card issuers, continue to be an attractive opportunity to generate substantial numbers of sales at relatively low cost. Success is seldom attained by chance but rather by working from a plan that commits to testing through a number of campaigns. You want to find the right combination of attention-getting graphics, memorable headlines and call-to-action statements that generates sales which persist.


Here are several key points that can help bring success to your programs:


Endorsement provides lift. Endorsement from the sponsoring institution provides credibility and increased readership. The endorsement usually involves application of the logo to the piece and often a short comment from the sponsor encouraging consideration of the offer. In many instances, use of the sponsoring organization's colors conveys an image of official status to the offer.


Creative graphics/headlines are keys to success. Use graphics and layouts that stand out from other envelope contents. Present headlines that describe the product, benefits and offer in a memorable way. Clearly state how the customer can take action. You may want to test alternative graphics with a headline that seems to work or conduct headline tests with a successful graphic layout.


Send different creative if re-mailing during the same year. If a promotion does well, you will want the opportunity to mail more than once within the year to the same file. If you keep mailing the same piece to the same customers, after two or three mailings the control mailing piece will lose its effectiveness, and you will have nothing to mail the next year. You want to build a roster of top-performing mailing pieces that can be productively sent one after the other to the same customer segments.


Never mail only one creative version to a large file. The world changes. Sometimes, the offer you made last year does not work this year. Sometimes, a previously successful creative does not work to a new segment. There often is a 50 percent difference in performance of insert tests in the same mailing. To limit the risk of mailing poor performers to large audiences, use several controls and tests each time you mail to a major segment. It really is a big risk to mail one insert version to more than 40 percent of a multimillion-piece mailing.


Continually test new creatives. Developing successful "control" mailing pieces is not easy. It usually takes dozens of creative ideas to narrow down to a few mailing pieces that are live-tested to small, 100,000-piece segments. It usually takes three to six attempts to find a piece that works well enough to be retested by tripling the quantity the next time out. After two successful live tests, you can be comfortable mailing a new creative in million-piece quantities.


Test enrollment options. In the late 1980s, The Chase Manhattan Bank pioneered the use of large-scale credit card statement billhead programs to accept enrollments of insurance offers. By adding an enrollment check box to the statement billhead form that comes back with the check, it makes it easy for the customer to enroll. This format has been copied many times by financial institutions for a variety of offers.


Make sure you find all billhead enrollment orders. When customers enroll through billheads, you have the challenge of finding orders among millions of payments being processed. Traditional fill-in coupon responses tend to be easy to find and batch for processing. Manual processing of billhead enrollment requests is reliable but labor-intensive. The process becomes part of the effort to outsource for special handling, change of address requests and other customer comments.


Using automated scanning systems can create significant variables in finding check box enrollment requests. All sorts of factors can throw the machines off their ability to find marks made on billhead paper. Continually test traditional fill-in coupons against enrollment scanning until a very high level of confidence exists that the automated process is working properly.


Track results carefully. Exact determination of the response rate and cost per sale with statement inserts can be difficult when you are working on a space-available basis. Account issuers that barcode their statements can tell you exactly how many of each insert version are mailed out each month. Even if you have to estimate, it is vital to track the performance of individual creative pieces.


Sometimes, it takes an on-site meeting with the operations manager and staff to gain their attention to the detail work you need.


Final analysis. Campaign results should provide gross sales, expenses, response rate and cost per sale for each insert version mailed. You would be amazed at the difference even a simple color or headline test can make. If the mailing underperformed, check to see if any operational problems occurred.


Ultimately, you want to track performance of each block of sales for enrollment persistency, revenue and profitability. Sometimes, creative that generates high rates of sales does not do a good enough job of presenting the product value, and customers cancel when billed.
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