Increasing client response rates in direct marketing

24 Jul 2014

Article by Tony Hodgson

Aarif Merali runs a small printing business in an apparently ordinary town called Watford on the outskirts of London. Yet Wikipedia boldly tells us that, “In the 1920’s … Watford was the biggest printing centre in the world and many advances in printing were made in Watford”.

Printers Avenue

This was due to a very large printer called Sun Engraving, which printed 70% of Britain’s weekly periodicals in the 1930s. But after years of gradual decline, the factory was closed and the site demolished to make way for a modern shopping and housing complex. This aptly named dead-end street into the complex, forlornly captured on Google Street View, is a feint reminder of what was once there before.

Meanwhile, another Printer Follows a Different Path

It’s across town at Aarif Merali’s business, where innovative advances in printing happen now. After 32 years as Watford’s local outlet of the UK quick-print franchise, Prontaprint, Aarif branched out three years ago as an independent and re-branded the business. Recognising that print must continue to advance to keep in tune with the multitude of new communications channels, Aarif decided to set his new store out on one key principle: how do we increase the response rate for our client? As he says, “In short, it’s all about response and we are dedicated to response”. And so Prontaprint Watford was reborn as d2rCrossMedia.

But as Aarif and his team have learned, being dedicated to the principle and re-branding accordingly is one thing, but to build the capability, confidence and credibility to convince his customers of the benefits of cross-media marketing can be quite a challenge. After three years of persistent effort and unwavering focus, d2rCrossMedia has now begun to deliver the results that Aarif has long envisaged.

So I asked Aarif what has changed – has it been the technology, their skills, the marketplace perhaps? His answer is a key lesson for anybody embarking on a similar journey:

“I think what changed for us was the shift in our thinking and, therefore, the perception of us with our clients. We stopped presenting ourselves as an innovative printer/marketing services provider and actually started having “marketing conversations” with clients. So the discussion is more about them and less about us.”

It’s worth repeating: the discussion is now about them, not us.

A few years ago, Rab Govil, President of PODi, gave a keynote presentation at a PODi AppForum called the “Anatomy of a Solution” in which he identified the five “mistakes of the would-be solution provider”.

Mistake #1: “Not understanding the customer’s business”.

And how do you avoid the pitfall? You have a conversation with them about their business.

It sounds simple, but as Aarif testifies, it’s not so easy to make the necessary shift in your own thinking in order to change how your customers perceive you.

How to Beat the Multiples with Cross-Media

The breakthrough project that d2rCrossMedia delivered earlier this year was for the Dunstable Eye Centre, an independent local optician. Aarif discovered from the owner that their key business challenge was dealing with the increasingly aggressive price-driven competition from “the multiples” – the four large optician brands in the UK who together have over 46% market share as well as the major supermarket chains with optician’s outlets in their stores. Dunstable Eye Centre wanted to ensure they kept existing clients and acquire new ones as well, but they needed to avoid competing on price and emphasise instead quality of service and the health benefits of regular eye care.

Dunstable Eye Centre

The cross-media campaign that dr2CrossMedia designed and executed used a simple, high impact postcard with a PURL. It linked to an interactive personalised landing page featuring an engaging video which extolled the benefits of good eye health and professional care. A strong offer incentivised those high-paying clients who would benefit most and a short online survey was used to gain insight to shape future marketing activity.

The owner of Dunstable Eye Centre was delighted with the results which achieved an ROI of 400% over the duration of the campaign. The full details of this “text-book” cross-media marketing campaign are available for PODi members in a recently published case study.

A Repeatable Solution

A particularly impressive aspect of Aarif Merali’s approach is how he has enabled a small business like d2rCrossMedia to deliver for a client on a tight budget by leveraging the support of major third-party vendors. Aarif found the video on YouTube and asked its creator, the eye-health product manufacturer, Bausch & Lomb, for permission to use it in the campaign, which they were only too pleased to give. Afterwards he approached Kodak, a supplier to independent opticians like Dunstable Eye Centre, to write a feature article in the Kodak Lens Vision Centre partner magazine. From this, d2rCrossMedia has already received several enquiries from other opticians and eye care organisations for similar marketing campaigns.

Mistake #3 in Rab Govil’s Anatomy of a Solution is to create solutions that can’t be replicated or scaled up. It’s by repeating proven strategies that marketing service providers can gain a credible track-record, build profitable relationships and deliver ongoing value to customers.

So Aarif is wasting no time in building on his success by creating a product with its own brand name called Beat The Multiples which he is now promoting to other independent opticians (using cross-media, of course!). d2rCrossMedia is certainly heading down the right track now by engaging its customers in marketing conversations to understand their businesses and create products which repeat the successes they are achieving from being dedicated to response. The Sun may have set for gravure printing in Watford, but across town, the sun is rising again for dr2CrossMedia.