6 Helpful Tips for Working with List Brokers

Finding the right mailing list for your direct mail campaign can spell the difference between success or failure. If you’re looking to acquire new customers, working with a mailing list broker is key. List owners are individuals who own mailing lists with valuable contact information. List brokers are individuals who connect list owners with companies looking to rent their mailing list. Consider the following tips when working with these professionals to create the best mailing list for your needs.

  1. 1

    Know your target audience.

    It’s crucial to know what persona you want to reach with your campaign. Consider the age, gender, household income and hobbies of the customers you want to acquire. This information will help your list broker find the most applicable list for your purposes.

  2. 2

    Know what type of mailing list you need.

    There are two types of mailing lists your broker could show you: a response list and a compiled list. A response list is comprised of individuals who have made purchases or responded to marketing efforts in the past. A compiled list is comprised of contact information pulled from various public domains like credit files and county tax assessor files; it includes individuals who fit a certain demographic, but haven’t made any purchases. Naturally, since responders have shown interest in the products you’re selling or made similar purchases in the past, response lists are more expensive and should produce better response rates.

  3. 3

    Know the size of your mailing.

    The size of your mailing will dictate the ultimate price of renting a list, so consider how many people you want to reach. Is it important for you to reach a wide swath of individuals through a compiled list or reach a smaller group of responders who have made similar purchases in the past? Collaborate with your list broker to decide which kind of list would work best for you.

  4. 4

    Know the timing of your campaign.

    Finding a list broker and a mailing list takes time. When deciding direct mail campaign deadlines, bake in time for list exploration. That way, if you’re aiming to mail your piece before a popular shopping season like the holidays, you won’t miss your time window searching for a list. Have your deadlines in mind when you reach out to your list broker. This will keep you both on track.

  5. 5

    Understand the terms of your list agreement.

    List agreements are contracts that state the limits of your rental agreement. Typically, they say that your company can only use the contact information one time. However, if you convert some of the contacts on the list into customers, their information becomes yours, and they technically become part of your house list.

  6. 6

    Understand the cost of renting your list.

    Mailing lists are usually priced by every 1,000 contacts, with a minimum charge for use. Lists also typically have no services fees, as they are included in the cost. When deciding which mailing list is right for you consider the price and quality of contact information. If the contact list fits your target audience and the price is within budget, you’ve found the list for you.

In Summary

Working with a list broker is a time-sensitive, time-intensive process, but it’s an important part of a direct mail campaign. Do your research and come prepared with your persona, campaign timeline, budget and more. The more information you have ready for your list broker, the easier and more successful your list exploration process will be.

How Local Marketing and Direct Mail Can Help Your Business Grow

As a business owner, you might find yourself overwhelmed by marketing options. Sometimes the answer in our mobile-first, always-on digital world is to consider the tried-and-true basics. In a world where consumers are inundated with advertising, it’s important to consider all marketing channels, including traditional direct mail.

Direct mail offers a strong response rate and comparable customer acquisition cost (CAC) to other marketing channels, making it a popular tactic for many businesses.1 Additionally, direct mail boasts a strong return on investment, on par with social media.2

“CAC can be calculated by dividing all the costs spent on acquiring customers by the number of customers acquired3.”

Reaching new customers while measuring and managing CAC can help your business succeed. Discover how to use direct mail to improve your local marketing efforts.

Leveraging Location-Based Targeting

Location-based targeting is a marketing technique that allows you to reach an audience by its geographic area. This is particularly well-suited for businesses like:4

  • Retail Stores
  • Restaurants
  • Medical Professionals
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Gyms
  • Home Services
  • Non-profit Organizations
  • Contractors
  • Realtors
  • Auto Sales and Services
  • Movers
  • Nurseries and Landscaping
  • Churches
  • Political Campaigns
  • Coffee Shops
  • Legal and Financial Services
  • Galleries

With location-based targeting, you can increase your rate of customer acquisition by building community awareness and finding potential customers near your business.5 Moreover, you can likely improve customer retention by targeting current customers in your geographic area with promotions, events and more.

Target Marketing Magazine found 58% of businesses surveyed use direct mail as part of their customer acquisition efforts in 2016.6

Popular Local Marketing Methods

There is a wide variety of local marketing tactics that businesses can employ via direct mail.

If you are looking for an easy and cost-effective method, consider Every Door Direct Mail® Service (EDDM® Service) from USPS. EDDM® allows businesses to target a ZIP Code™ without having to buy a list of addresses. Owners can either do it themselves and set-up mailings using available self-service tools or work with USPS® affiliates that specialize in creating memorable EDDM® campaigns.

If you are working with a substantial budget, you might consider working with a marketing agency or print shop to handle the creation and distribution of direct mail marketing materials. Though it may cost more, working with marketing professionals is likely to yield strong results.

Some organizations have also found success in partnering with complementary companies in their areas to reach consumers. For example, a specialty grocer might work with a cookware store to offer discounts to each other’s customers. Another frequently used approach is sponsoring local events, schools or worthy causes.7

In Summary

Finding the right marketing mix takes time and experience. Locally-targeted direct mail can be a key to unlocking your company’s success. By using this insider knowledge, you may help your small or medium-sized business grow and succeed.

Q&A: PebblePost® Executive Adam Solomon Talks Customer Acquisition

Mail has the power to drive business and convert customers in different stages of the marketing life cycle. It’s an especially effective medium when it comes to acquisition. Countless companies are leveraging mail and working with USPS in new and exciting ways to do just that. Since finding new customers is a major goal for any business in any industry, we decided to sit down with Adam Solomon, Chief Product Officer at PebblePost, to get a better understanding of acquisition marketing and the role mail plays in that equation.

PebblePost is the inventor of Programmatic Direct Mail™, which transforms real-time online activity into dynamically rendered, personalized direct mail that’s sent out every 12-24 hours. The company leverages data, proprietary advertising technology and mail to win new business and drive their digital marketing partners’ ROI. Though their solution is a digital platform, mail plays a crucial part in their campaigns’ success. Read on as Solomon talks in-depth about how technology, messaging, and personalization help convert new customers.

From your perspective, what are the benefits for using mail for programmatic advertising and customer acquisition?

At PebblePost, we solved a very interesting problem for both brands on the one hand and for consumers on the other. From the brand side, there’s been a lot of innovation when it comes to using data and programmatic technology to understand what consumers are doing in real time on their websites.

The challenge in digital has been the delivery vehicle, whether it’s desktop sites, mobile sites or mobile apps. It’s become a very busy Times Square experience, where ads are just jumping up in your face and really aggravating consumers. This has been proven out by the rise in consumers using ad blockers and all the news we see about consumers getting frustrated with advertising.

Not only is the digital ad experience lacking, there’s also a challenge over whether consumers are in the right frame of mind and in the right modality to receive those messages. Are they ready to transact and take action at the moment that the digital ad or technology is delivered?

Tangible media sent to home is a very polite, respectful and effective vehicle. Consumers check their mail maybe once a day. There’s some ceremony they go through to collect the mail and sort the mail. And if it’s a relevant and compelling offer, they’ll act on it on their own time. So the combination of using a strong real-time signal, which is a digital action that shows consumer intent, and other capabilities of digital and programmatic, in addition to the effectiveness of sending tangible media to home—literally delivering digital with feeling—that’s something that we brought together. We’ve found it in practice, in the last year, to be highly effective.

How does PebblePost leverage its technology to acquire customers?

In Q4 2016, we launched what we called our Website Prospect Remarketing solution. These are prospects already visiting the marketer’s site, but the marketer doesn’t know who they are. They’re not logged in; they’re not existing customers, but they’ve already raised their hand in some manner. There’s some call to action somewhere that has brought them to the site. So they’re already moving in the right direction as far as the brand is concerned, but the brand still needs to seal the deal.

We pick up on that signal. We recognize the fact that someone is not a customer, but a prospect or “new to file”. We have the same ability to use a strong real-time digital signal to qualify a user for a campaign. Then we leverage the power of the proprietary technology on our side that allows us to create connections between an individual visiting a website via a cookie and where to send the mail and find their postal address.

We’ve seen a lot of success with that solution, because this is a prospect that’s already moving down the funnel and we use this very effective tangible media vehicle to push them over the finish line and convert them into a customer.

You mentioned 3 things that I think are important to touch on: messaging, personalization and behavior. Let’s start with behavior. What kind of online behavior are you looking for when you’re seeking out new customers for acquisition?

We have a set way that we think about a user journey on a marketer’s website. If you think about book ends, on one continuum, someone visits the homepage. On the other end of the continuum, someone puts something in their shopping cart. That’s one step towards conversion.

Since we’re mostly focused right now on retail and ecommerce, the in-between pieces are when a user searches for something, maybe goes on a category page. Then they go a little deeper, they’re on a product detail page, then they put something into their carts and they convert. We have a set methodology that we go through, in terms of using a human effort and also machine learning and technology. The deeper someone goes, the more qualified they are.

However, even if someone is going deep and looking in a shoes category and looking at a particular pair of shoes, it doesn’t mean that they want to get a postcard or catalog in the mail just with that pair of shoes. They may just be in the shoe category in general or that might be completely wrong. You may want to promote a cross-sell. If they’re looking at shoes, you may want to promote belts, for example.

When it comes to customer acquisition, would you say that your messaging typically includes offers or is that just one tactic you take?

It really depends on the brands we’re working with and what their goals are. If a brand’s goal is customer acquisition, then we highly recommend as best practice that they have a very strong call to action and a very attractive offer. If it’s a Programmatic Postcard™, the offer should be displayed on the front and back. It should be perceived by the consumer as something being highly valuable, whether it’s the offer itself, or it’s the inclusion of a promotion code or a custom promotion code just for them. “Summer30” is clearly to a consumer a promotion everyone gets, but if it’s a specific number, they know, “Hey, it’s just for me.”

Another interesting thing about creative and the messaging of the offer is we can drive individuals from online to home back to online. We can also drive individuals from online to home to store. This is something you cannot do with a banner ad. People are not printing banner ads, putting them on their fridge and walking them to a store. That’s just not consumer behavior.

When it comes to mail, or what you’re referring to as tangible media, consumer behavior is completely different.

Right. If you get a card in the mail that’s a special offer that you can walk into a physical location that you can hand to a cashier and you get your $15 off or a certain percentage off, that is being perceived as very valuable to the consumer. It also affects behavior in a way that traditional digital cannot. We think PebblePost has a unique opportunity here, because over 90% of strong digital signals picked up today comes from online as people are surfing around websites, searching and taking action. All this signal is being generated.

About 90% plus of all purchase decisions are made in the home. And, though ecommerce is growing, about 90% of all commerce occurs in the real world, in physical store locations. So PebblePost connects through Programmatic Direct Mail™, the strong signal which comes from online, the purchase decisions which are made in home, and then we have the opportunity to drive back to digital, but most interestingly drive individuals to physical stores and complete that loop which is very compelling to marketers.

Final Thoughts

As PebblePost has shown, mail can be a powerful tool for customer acquisition. Though the company is a digital solution with data-driven decisioning and programmatic principles, it uses mail to get segmented, personalized messaging into customers’ homes. Leverage these principles to acquire more customers than ever before.1

10 KPIs That Can Help Improve Your Inventory Management Process

Inventory can play a substantial role in the health of a business—having too much can cause problems, as can having too little. Possible troubles can include increased costs, missed sales and frustrated customers who can’t get their orders filled. By using key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and manage inventory, businesses can improve purchasing and production processes, cash flow and profitability. Moreover, KPIs enable companies of all sizes to measure the impact of business operations.

“…KPIs enable companies of all sizes to measure the impact of business operations.”

When it comes to inventory management, there are several metrics worth considering. Since every company is different, the key is to determine which make the most sense for you. Here are 10 popular inventory management KPIs to consider:

  1. Inventory Turnover or Days on Hand

    This KPI examines how many times inventory has been sold and replaced in a given time period. If the turnover is low, the company either has too much stock or too few sales. This is calculated in one of two ways, either: Cost of Goods Sold ÷ Average Inventory or Sales ÷ Inventory.1

  2. Average Days to Sell Inventory (DSI)

    This KPI is a measure of how long it takes your company to turn its inventory into sales. This KPI varies from industry to industry depending on what you’re selling. Typically, large ticket items move slower than small ticket items or perishables, so make sure to take that into consideration if using this KPI. The formula for calculating DSI is: (Inventory/Cost of Sales) x 365.2

  3. Average Inventory

    This KPI is used to estimate the amount of inventory your company has on hand during a particular time frame. The goal here is to avoid spikes or unanticipated drops in inventory, and to keep a relatively constant flow of inventory in and out, based on the needs of the business. To calculate Average Inventory for a single month, the formula looks like this: (Beginning Inventory + Ending Inventory) ÷ 2.3

  4. Holding Costs

    This KPI measures the costs related to storing unsold inventory. This includes the cost of damaged and spoiled goods, as well as the cost of storage space, labor and insurance. To reduce holding costs, designate a reorder point.4

  5. Stock-out

    This KPI represents the amount of times demand cannot be met due to the absence of required inventory, which can incur lost sales, missed opportunities, and frustrated clients. It provides a big picture view of how effective a business is at purchasing and production.

  6. Service Level

    This KPI is used to compute the amount of stock required to avoid a stock-out (see above). Service level denotes a compromise between the cost of inventory and the cost of a stock-out.5

  7. Lead Time

    This KPI is an important element of supply chain management and the inventory control process. To calculate lead time, take the sum of the time it takes a supplier to deliver once an order is placed (the delay), plus the time that transpires between the need to order again (the reordering delay).6

  8. Rate of Return

    This KPI tracks and rates the percentage of orders that are returned and need to be restocked. Equally important is tracking the reason for the returns so that you can address any problems in the supply chain. This will also help identify key trends that might prevent future costly returns.

  9. Inventory Accuracy

    If what’s on your shelves doesn’t match what’s in your books—or, more likely, databases—you’ll experience poor order accuracy rates and higher costs. Inventory accuracy helps prevent this scenario by requiring the performance of an inventory headcount to verify that your internal data is accurate.

  10. Perfect Order Rate

    This KPI is the ratio of orders that fulfill the following: The right delivery place, the right product, the right package, the right quantity, and the right documentation. A high perfect order rate can lead to increased customer satisfaction.

In Summary

The list of 10 KPIs above may seem daunting, but remember to choose the ones that make the most sense for your business and know that you don’t need to implement all 10 at once. If you’re new to this, consider starting with tracking inventory turnover, a relatively simple calculation that will allow you to measure how well your inventory is performing against your cost of sales. By choosing the KPIs that fit your business’ needs and tracking them over time, you may begin to recognize patterns that will help you figure out how to improve your inventory management processes, and ultimately transform your business into a highly efficient organization.

Considerations for Picking Inventory Management Software

Growing businesses have growing pains. As you ramp up your shipping operations, it’s important to keep a firm grasp on your inventory; poor inventory control can negatively affect your customer experience—and your sales. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by manual inventory management, using a spreadsheet or pen and paper, or you’ve outgrown an old system or software, it’s time to consider a new solution. Using inventory management software (IMS), you can streamline multiple processes with a single software program. We’ve created this checklist to help you find the perfect software for your company.

Set a Budget

Like any business decision, choosing an IMS will have a financial impact on your company. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • Research the top IMS for your industry to gauge a price range.
  • Determine how much money an IMS could save your company.
  • Set a limit on how much you’re willing to spend.
  • Create a list of 5-10 IMS in your price range.

Pick Software Tailored to Your Needs

There are countless IMS on the market, many of which are industry-specific. An e-commerce IMS, for example, will have different features from a retail IMS. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • List the problems you’re trying to solve. Possible examples include overstocking/understocking, incorrect inventory levels, disorganized reporting and using incompatible platforms.
  • Schedule a call with the IMS vendors on your list and request a one-on-one demo of their software.
  • Ask the vendors about features that will help you address your biggest issues. Possible issues include: monitoring current stock levels, running restocking and sales reports, allowing multiple users to access the IMS, establishing a barcode system, creating invoices and sales orders, integrating multiple platforms, etc.

Find Software That Will Grow with Your Business

When vetting your IMS options, it’s crucial to find a system that can scale. Why spend the money on an expensive software, if it won’t be able to service your needs as your business expands? Consider the following when talking to your vendors:

  • Ask if the software allows you to add new store locations, product lines and new sales channels, like e-commerce.

  • Ask them about the limitations of their IMS and what features they’re working to add in the future.
  • Narrow your list to three IMS vendors that would suit your business for years to come.

Decide on a Level of Customizability

Some IMS have a static number of features, while others are configurable and can be fit to your company’s needs. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • List the modules and features each IMS comes with. Note how configurable each IMS is and whether you can add any modules at a later time.
  • Rank your three top vendors by configurability, i.e., which IMS offers the most flexibility when creating your inventory reports, invoices and more.

Establish Compatibility

Many businesses use different kinds of software programs for their packaging, accounting, returns and logistics needs. Make your job easier by choosing a system that can sync with these programs and work in unison. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • Ask your vendors to list which software programs and devices they can integrate with their IMS.
  • List all the programs and devices you use, then cross-check which IMS can integrate with some or all of them.
  • If you’re having difficulty deciding on one IMS over another, take customer service into account. Not all companies are created equally.

In Summary

Finding the right IMS takes time but the pay-off, financially and operationally, can be significant. Do your due diligence when searching for the perfect system. Keep an eye on your shipping needs, today and in the future, and use our checklist to guide you through the process.


5 Best Practices for Managing Your Inventory

While strong sales are the backbone of a retail or ecommerce business, inventory management can mean the difference between success or failure. Mismanaging your inventory can lead to errors in stock levels, poor quality control and wasted storage space. These problems can quickly percolate and affect your shipping operations; they can slow picking and packing, even allow you to ship incorrect or damaged goods. Keep your business on track by implementing a few important practices.

  1. 1

    Categorize Your Inventory

    Bring order to your warehouse and add efficiency to your picking process by choosing a way to categorize your products. This will make it easier and faster for you to locate and pull items from your shelves. There are a few common systems companies use. One is called ABC, which groups products by their value, with A being the most valuable items and C being the least valuable. A numerical system takes a different approach by allotting numbers for product classes, individual products and their location in the storage facility.

  2. 2

    Establish Minimum Stock Threshold Limits

    The minimum stock threshold is the least amount of inventory you need on your shelves at all times. By determining your threshold limits, you can ensure you have safety stock ready to answer a sudden influx of sales. This allows you to meet demand and curb lengthy fulfillment times, which would only upset customers. Use this formula to calculate your limits:

    Minimum stock threshold = (Average daily product sales/# working days in the month) x average product delivery time1

    Please note: average product delivery time should be calculated in days.

  3. 3

    Implement Frequent Quality Control Checks

    Keeping an eye on your product quality can help prevent customer satisfaction issues and lower return rates. By keeping returns down, your company can maintain its margins. Do routine checks of your inventory to search for signs of damage. Look for discrepancies in prices and product descriptions; products sizes, colors and styles should be accurate. That way you catch any issues before they hit your customer’s front step.

  4. 4

    Implement Stock Check Cycles

    Cycle counting programs help you gauge the accuracy of your inventory levels by auditing a small sample of products on a routine basis. That way, you don’t need to spend time checking all your inventory all the time. Decide how often you’d like to do cycle counts. Some businesses take a periodic weekly or monthly approach, others do it at random throughout the year. Stay vigilant about your inventory counts to maintain stock visibility. Without accurate stock information, your customers could place orders that can’t be filled.

  5. 5

    Liquidate Slow-Moving Stock

    By doing routine checks of your inventory, you can stay abreast of product sell-through rates. Save your company dollars and storage space, by liquidating the products that aren’t moving off the shelves. Bring new products into the fold that share similar characteristics with your biggest sellers.

In Conclusion

With a few simple steps, any size business can elevate its inventory process. By categorizing your inventory, deciding minimum threshold limits, keeping an eye on quality control and more, your business could see a wide range of positive effects. With a well-run management process, you could add efficiencies to your shipping operations, shorten fulfillment times, lower return rates, improve your customer service, and, of course, boost your bottom line.