Data

Say Goodbye to Duplicates and Hello to Increased Campaign Success

As marketers, we do everything we can to streamline our campaigns to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. In the never-ending quest for peak performance, one of the most consistent frustrations we deal with is data quality.

We all know bad data is frustrating to deal with, but beyond that, the reality is that bad data represents wasted effort, and wasted effort represents a loss of money.

We have access to a ridiculous amount of data, and in many ways, that’s a good thing — more data translates to more targets, a better understanding of those targets, and more avenues by which we can interact with them.

The problem is that all data is not created equal. In addition to generally corrupt data, duplicate data is prevalent, including name and address, household, and family (if multiple families live at the same address). 

So, how do we ensure that in a world of abundance, we’re separating the wheat from the chaff?

Step 1: Educate Yourself with Regulative Processes

It’s worth doing some exploring and familiarizing yourself with postal address regulations and how they affect your deliverability rates. Luckily there are numerous services and mail management software that can help you through this.

For example, Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) is a USPS developed software that ensures mailing addresses are complete and accurate. In other words, it determines if an address actually exists. CASS also standardizes an address into a format the USPS prefers, which is an invaluable tool for creating easily comparable data points when checking for duplicates.

Another great resource is the National Change of Address (NCOA) registry. The NCOA is a dataset of permanent address changes filed by individuals, families and businesses, and can be important for weeding out which address to keep — and which to toss — in your datasets containing multiple addresses for the same customer.

Step 2: Double Check Mail List Data for Common Errors — By Hand

While it’s easy to be lulled into the convenient trap of relying too heavily on software solutions, it’s important to comb through your data — yes, manually — for common errors. Even the most advanced mail management software still requires human interaction and understanding for optimal outcomes.

How? It’s not uncommon for things like commas, missing spaces, or data simply entered in the wrong field to throw CASS off. Simple mistakes can cost you big when it comes to getting rid of duplicate data sets.

Once you’ve used software to get your data into a great starting point, it’s important to remember that that’s all it is — a great starting point. It’s up to you to do the manual work and ensure the data is uncorrupted beyond that.

Step 3: Remove Excess Info from Your Files

Since we’re solely talking about mailing, it’s important to remove as many variables as you can from your mailing lists, and that means dumping the excess information.

This excess information includes things like email addresses, phone numbers, revenue, years in business, etc., all of which aren’t pertinent to your direct mail vendor.

In short, avoid the clutter and dump the details for your mailings. Keep it simple and save that info for later.

Step 4: Choose Your Direct Mail Vendor Carefully

Much like data sets, not all vendors are created equal, and some will prove to be nightmares to work with. This speaks for itself. You want to consider attributes like experience, referrals, and knowledge of the postal regulations.

A good tip? Make sure you’re working with a vendor who proactively takes initiative when it comes to cleaning lists.

Step 5: Enjoy A Job Well Done

Cleaning and getting rid of the duplicates in your mailing list can be a process, but one that is well worth the effort. When it comes to direct mail campaigns, remember: the better the data you put in, the better the data you get out.

Need a hand with your direct mail marketing? We have the knowledge and experience to help you every step of the way. Contact us to see how we can help you design and execute and effective direct mail program.

How We Plan to Exceed Sustainable Business Standards


I spend a lot of time in the outdoors. I always have.

Whether it’s hiking, fishing, diving or something else, the outdoors has always been a defining presence in my life — a presence that has allowed me to see some of the best of what our natural world has to offer.

Unfortunately, I’ve also seen many ways in which we’re failing our environment. Regardless of one’s political and institutional beliefs, I think we all can agree that we only have one planet, and caring for it makes the same “sense” as caring for our homes or our children. In fact, for me, this is mostly about caring for our children.

I believe we’ve reached a tipping point, a crossroads — whatever you want to call it — where the choice is simple: take action to protect our planet now or accept a future of grave uncertainty and limited possibility.

Those of us in business are on the front lines of environmental impact, and now more than ever, we must act as leaders.

For too long, businesses have simply chalked up environmental activism to donations or the purchase of energy credits.

These are both fine things, but cutting a check and carrying on, “business as usual,” has become nothing short of insufficient.

Looking inward, sustainable business practices have always been somewhere on Strata’s agenda. We offer eco-friendly options, we’re careful with our byproduct disposal and make efforts to reduce waste wherever it’s created.

This too is not enough.

Going forward, effective immediately, Strata is implementing an aggressive eco-first strategy to not only meet widely recognized standards for sustainable business but exceed those criteria to the point of setting new industry benchmarks. We’re going to look carefully at the science and our environmental impact, and address each part of our operation to reach a goal of being carbon neutral by 2025 and environmentally neutral by 2030.

To start, we will develop, articulate and implement more responsible internal and external practices. We will allocate ten percent of company profits towards eliminating our footprint. We will participate through company-sponsored volunteerism in environmentally impactful ways, and together, see just how far these actions take us in attaining our goals. As these things come into being, we will re-evaluate and adjust.

We’re creating this blog series to lead by example, taking our readers along with us as we move towards new levels of sustainability. Throughout, we’ll be exploring what environmental responsibility means to our business and what kind of changes we’re making to see a real, measurable impact.

We are not certain where this journey will take us. Some of the concepts and technologies we will need to reach our ultimate goal are not even fully developed or available, yet. However, we have a chance to take adversity and channel it into opportunity. It is a challenge that we meet with optimism.

We’re excited to share our journey with you, and hope you’ll follow along, both as readers and business people committed to sustainability. We look forward to seeing what one small, for-profit business can accomplish.

Dissecting Data to Anticipate Marketing Trends

Data drives everything.

Whether you’re looking internally into your best practices and evaluating production cost/benefit, or looking externally to segmented messaging and customer acquisition, we are always sifting through data in order to gauge results, successes, and shortcomings.

In our current era of marketing, we have more data than ever to inform our business decisions.

Marketers as Data Scientists

There are two types of marketers: those who eagerly follow trends and those who anticipate them.

While simply keeping your finger on the pulse of the marketing world is a strategy that will yield consistent results, the true leaders of the industry have made it a habit to predict where marketing is heading, recognizing the future, and being at the forefront.

It may seem like sorcery to some, but the reality is that recognizing a diverse field of data points and subsequent careful market analysis can predict trends and position smart marketers for future success.

In line with all of this, the best marketers think of themselves not only as salespeople, but as data scientists, analyzing and understanding complex data to predict market trends.

Insight and Data Collection

Determining where to find this data is more than half of the battle.

Earlier in the series, we discussed the importance of going straight to the source and getting as much data from our customers (and potential customers) as possible. In the digital world, there are endless ways to collect this data, including:

  • Google Analytics
  • Cookies and Web Beacons
  • Social Media
  • Email Tracking
  • App Usage
  • Data Mining Companies

Whether you choose to acquire the data yourself or hire data companies to do it for you, the raw data is at your fingertips.

Make Your Data Useful

Large databases seem attractive — the more the merrier — but the reality is, unless they’re curated by trusted sources and expertly maintained, a big database can equal a big mess.

The solution to a major technical headache lies in prevention: it’s essential to make sure that the data you have is as far from corrupted as possible. Major sources of data corruption can be anything from improper formatting to old data.

Remember: always use trusted services for data acquisition and consider investing in data management software to mitigate human error in data handling.

Keep Data Up to Date

The market is evolving and customers are evolving with it. For the first time, we can track our customers in real time and evolve with them too.

It should go without saying that maintaining current data is crucial to ensuring your company is able to anticipate market trends and the needs of customers. Not only does up to date data inform more strategically sound campaigns, it also works to give your business the agility to make changes in messaging and customer approach on the fly.

Current data gives marketers the ability to double down on successful marketing efforts proving their return or cut their losses when a campaign has proven to yield weaker ROI than they had hoped for.

Use It

We’ve touched on using data to predict marketing trends and how marketers should think of themselves as data scientists, but it’s also important to remember that when push comes to shove, sales is still at the heart of what we do.

Data needs to be utilized effectively to be worth the effort it takes to harvest and process it, and that utilization goes far beyond market speculation. Data allows us to launch campaigns with more precise levels of customer targeting and, like we’ve outlined in our previous installment of this series, approach the goal of true one-to-one marketing.

It allows us to hyper-personalize, make impressions on high-value prospects, streamline the customer journey, and make major changes to our campaigns on the fly – with the end goal of increasing ROI across the board.

The bottom line is this: there’s a reason “data-driven marketing” makes an appearance in the tagline of so many successful marketing companies.

You don’t have to make it your slogan, but you should make it a priority.

Looking for a way to utilize your data in a tech-based marketing campaign? Contact us to see how we can help.

Understanding the Trends Shaping Today’s Marketing Landscape

Welcome to our future of marketing series.

As marketers in this new era, we are no longer selling products and services on a few superficial features, rather we focus on communicating the value of our products in the modern world.

In this four-part series, we’re going to be looking at the outlooks, technology, and some crucial techniques that will shape the way we market to tomorrow’s customer.

From customer outreach to fulfillment, MarTech to data and trends, let’s take a look at what that means for the future of marketing.

Pop the Bubble

With our noses to the grindstone, sometimes we forget to look up.

It’s important to keep tabs on the latest MarTech trends, including:

  • Blending traditional and digital tactics
  • Hyper-personalization
  • Minimalist efficiency
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Advanced access to data

Re-Think “Trend”

More importantly, we must shift our thinking about them. There are two ways to think of “trends”.

It’s tempting to use “trend”, as in something that occupies the cultural climate now but will soon fade into obscurity once the surface-level interest is gone. This sort of subconscious dismissal of new tech is damaging.

A better use of “trend” is the way statisticians use it — to describe a pattern or trajectory. We not only need to embrace trends in our businesses (when it makes sense for us) but make consistent efforts to inform ourselves about them. Think of trends as markers indicative of what may come next.

Identify and Embrace Evolution

Marketing fads used to come and go.

In the past, someone would have an idea, it would gain steam, but once the superficial sheen wore off, it would reveal itself as an empty marketing tactic and fade back into obscurity.

Today, most marketing tactics are heavily vetted by the industries they target — one can be relatively certain that most widely embraced marketing tactics have at least some pith to them.

Despite this, most marketing tactics have a limited shelf life. Why is that?

We’ve shifted towards evolution-based marketing, where techniques and strategies are overtaken consistently by more dominate strategies.

It’s important we look at the waning return as indicative of more powerful tactics when it comes to our marketing. It’s even more important that we seek out those tactics and embrace them as quickly as possible if we want to stay competitive.

And remember: We’re evolving faster than ever.

MarTech

Arguably the greatest success in contemporary marketing is operational efficiency. When your Marketing Director is forced to micro-manage, minutia ends up distracting from more profitable, big-picture thinking.

MarTech developments have automated many of these tedious processes through:

  • Marketing automation platforms
  • Social media platforms
  • Collaboration tools

All of these (and many others) work as great tools to help your team streamline the day-to-day functions that create drag for your business.

Customers and Personalization

Three things we know about customers and personalization:

  • Every customer is different
  • Every customer wants to feel different
  • Marketing is becoming more segmented and granular

Customers have always wanted this attention to detail. The only thing that has changed is our ability to deliver on that reality and desire. When we couple this desire with ease of execution, personalization now (more than ever before), should be at the crux of your marketing campaign.

The Era of Now

The above are just a few of the things we’ll touch on as the series continues.

The Era of Now is an exciting time, and we’re extremely lucky—right now. We’re collectively witnessing an evolution so remarkable, it will likely prove to be a singular event in the history of marketing.

Our thoughts are bigger than ever, and for the first time, we have the technologies to support them. Contact us today to learn more.

Utilizing a multitouch approach to connect with your top prospects

Take a moment and consider all of the tools you have at your disposal to connect with someone. Phones, text messaging, email, traditional mail, apps – the list goes on and on. So why does it seem like it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to actually connect with someone?

If you’re reading this, you can probably relate to this scenario. You’ve come across the right prospect for your product or service and you send an initial email making an introduction but on the other end all you hear is crickets. Rather than using all of the tools in your communication toolbox, you abandon the prospect just because he/she didn’t respond after your first attempt. Think of all of the missed opportunities.

But if you’re open to persistence, there’s a solution. Multiple touches make prospects feel special and you unforgettable. And in today’s increasingly crowded and competitive business environment they aren’t optional, they’re mandatory. Think about it – if you’re not actively connecting with them, someone else is.

So, how do you do this without being overbearing and for lack of a better word “pushy”?

Figuring Out the Magic Number

Surveys show that when it comes to products and services, 72% of consumers prefer an integrated, multitouch marketing approach. Think of this as starting with an email, followed up by a phone call, next an invitation to a webinar, and then a dimension mail swag box that links to a branded landing page. It may seem like a lot, but studies show that a typical customer accesses as many as 23 touch points before he/she is even ready to talk. Yes, TWENTY-THREE!

So, while timing between touches is key, don’t hold back when it comes to multiple touches. They may just be assessing your product and comparing it to your competitors.

However, keep in mind that the customer journey doesn’t stop after those initial touch points and the first conversation. As every good sales professional and marketer knows, after that first conversation it’s about presenting your value, engaging, nudging, closing, and then ultimately retaining. Try doing all of that with a one-touch and done approach – it’s impossible. And yet, there are still so many professionals using a single-touch approach.

This needs to change.

A Customized, Tailored Approach is Key

Every campaign, no matter the size, has influence, so consistency is key and an integrated, multitouch campaign can help. Each prospect that you’re trying to convert is different, meaning each campaign needs to be tailored accordingly. It’s important to take into account your messaging, what you’re sending, when you’re sending it, and how you’re following up. Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes and go from there.

Then, you can select touch points and channels that will have maximum impact, utilize resources and services that will help you execute on the highest levels, and track your ROI.

At the end of the day, it’s about using all of your marketing tools to take someone on a journey that’s compelling, authentic, and resonates.

Are you interested in utilizing a multitouch approach but unsure how to go about it? Contact us today to see how we can help you get started.

Why You Can’t Afford NOT to Automate

When it comes to customer communications, few industries escape the grasp of government regulations. Among the many benefits of automating processes surrounding customer communications is more reliable compliance assurance.

And in the not-so-distant future – indeed, present day for some organizations – is robotic process automation (RPA). The financial services industry is already tapping into the power of RPA in compliance monitoring and testing and improved process effectiveness and efficiency.

Organizations that don’t embrace process automation now risk being left behind competitively. And from a compliance standpoint, organizations without automation will increasingly struggle to keep up with constantly changing and emerging regulatory requirements.

Compliance Challenges Are Inherent in Communications

The risk of noncompliance looms for organizations undertaking mass customer communications – especially when they involve manual processes carried out by multiple employees across multiple departments.

  • Human error opens the door to many avenues of noncompliance – inaccurate information, for example, or communications being sent to incorrect recipients.
  • Meanwhile, slow, unwieldy processes strain staff resources and IT departments and can result in missed deadlines for time-sensitive regulatory updates.

How Automating the Customer Communication Processes Improves Compliance

Increases Accuracy of Data Output by Reducing Human Error

Process automation helps reduce the risk of human error by instantly processing complex data, preparing it for output into multiple forms of correspondence.

The source of the data and its hygiene are still underlying factors, of course. However, assuming the source data is accurate, robotics controls the integrity of that data and ensures it is intact as it passes through different process points.

For example, without a single central platform to store multiple data points, a customer service representative may have to navigate disparate systems to gather necessary information during a service call. Automated recording and transfer of data in a central location streamlines the entire process, eliminating possible entry points for errors.

Or consider a healthcare system that undertakes enterprise-wide physician announcement mailings. The time sensitive nature of such communications is prime territory for process automation. Or a call center responsible for setting appointments on behalf of hundreds of hospitals.

Increases Agility in Achieving Compliance with Regulatory Changes

Requirements under regulatory mandates can shift at any time, and businesses typically have a narrow window in which to adapt and ensure that business actions falling underneath it are compliant.

Process automation improves the speed and agility of compliance activity by:

  • Facilitating quick, easy document retrieval
  • Eliminating time-consuming hard file searches
  • Better equipping leadership during audits with compliance status reports

For Large Businesses: Unify and Streamline Compliance Efforts
In large businesses and enterprises or matrixed organizations with many stakeholders, adapting to meet regulatory changes can be can be a slow-moving beast. Automation can help implement changes quickly so that new required procedures/communications are executed with more immediacy.

For Mid-Size Businesses: Proactively Address Compliance
For mid-size businesses, automation can be well worth the investment too. In some cases, a lack of compliance can be the death knell for a newer or less established large business with deep pockets. Mid-size businesses skittish about moving to automation should review the integrity of their quality control measures and perform a cost-benefit analysis. They may be surprised to learn how affordable a customer communications management system could be.

Boosts Customer Satisfaction – And Lowers the Incidence of Complaints

Customer satisfaction goes hand in hand with improved compliance. For example, in the healthcare industry, process automation surrounding patient communications increases ease of contact; better access to accurate, up-to-date information; faster service by call centers – all factors that, in turn, increase patient satisfaction. More satisfied patients mean fewer complaints – and reduced risk of audits by agencies like CMS.

Make Process Automation Work for You

Automated compliance-enabling functions that cater to industry- and organization-specific needs can be built into CCM systems, and should be considered from the outset. Work with a process automation technology partner that will take a collaborative approach and has the expertise to design automated processes that will support proactive and complete compliance.

Plymouth Meeting, PA-based Strata Company provides CCM solutions to clients in regulated industries where compliance, accuracy and timeliness are a must. Our correspondence management systems integrate seamlessly with a variety of systems to allow for the secure, seamless transition of data and output. Contact us to learn how compliant communications technologies can benefit you, your business, and your customers.


From Insight to Strategic and Operational Excellence

The data efficacy debate is over; businesses recognize the vast well of knowledge it offers to improve a wide variety of functions. Yet such outcomes are not always realized. The good news is that with rapid advances in technology and education about how to best use the data, business leaders are better equipped to achieve them.

Here we touch on the role that reporting plays in extracting value from data. We’ve provided a brief overview of how reporting can unlock the secrets to better operations management and strategic decision-making in marketing, communications and sales functions.

Transparency to Strengthen Operations Management

Reporting operates as a mechanism of data delivery from which users gain insight into a variety of activities. Data can get as granular as:

  • Costs related to printing, postage and shipping
  • Locations/regions that are ordering the most materials
  • Progress – or lack thereof – of active orders
  • Campaign milestones such as dates for approvals, final printing and in-home
  • Shipment logistics, e.g., how many boxes are used, how many different locations do materials ship from

Whether it is the micro details provided by complete data output, or reporting dashboards serving up a macro view, professionals are enabled to make data-based decisions. Leaders will have better insight for cost-savings opportunities, such as vendor consolidation and inventory reduction – and can set achievable timelines and realistic project goals.

Performance Insight to Make Smarter Business Decisions

Reporting features not only provide immediate power to make operational improvements, they build a rock-solid foundation to move forward with sound decision-making.

For example, the marketing resource management system for a national pharmaceutical chain has built-in reporting capabilities that give administrators real-time visibility as to promotional pieces being ordered by specific stores. The company can track digital and printed orders – as well as campaign performance.

With this insight, managers can:

  • Identify trends regarding which items are in high demand – and those that are not
  • Discontinue underperforming campaigns
  • Continually improve the effectiveness and relevance of materials
  • Increase awareness of new items in the system
  • Perform a comparative analysis across stores and compare data to each to determine best practices for management processes

By using data to identify trends and evaluate needs, high-level managers can proceed with confidence.

The bottom line? Data alone cannot improve a business. By harnessing and transforming it into organized, intelligible outputs, businesses are positioned to unleash the full power of all that data.

Data-driven Technology Solutions

For 25 years, Strata Company, a Greater Philadelphia area marketing, communications and technology firm, has collaborated with clients to develop solutions that help take their business to new heights. We help them realize the full value of their data via cloud-based tools customized to their business goals and objectives. Through our applications they realize efficiency gains, reduce costs, improve the customer experience, and gain competitive advantage.

“Lean,” a concept with roots in the manufacturing industry, has become a bit of a buzzword in the business world. Start-ups, in particular, embrace this model, which seeks to maximize efficiency, minimize waste, and allow rapid changes according to customer feedback and preferences. In an article that appeared on Relevance.com, Strata Founder and President Jeff Sammak discusses goals and principles of lean business, how the marcom industry can apply lean thinking and the steps necessary to take action.

Read the full article here

For more than 20 years Strata has specialized in applying technology to solve mission-critical business challenges. Strata’s solutions increase efficiency through automation and business process improvement. Strata works with leading enterprise businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, to eliminate bottlenecks, redundancies and legacy systems that hold their organization back. Our cloud-based tools are used to streamline their workflows, seamlessly transfer data between disparate systems, centrally manage resources and more.

Drive Higher Response with the Right Mix of Creative, Data and Technology

Direct mail is just as relevant now as it was in the pre-digital era. Today’s most successful modern direct mailer goes beyond superior creative strategy and execution to get response. They succeed with sound data practices, efficient technology and a multi-channel strategy to maximize outreach and results.

Use these 12 tips, and banish the generic stand-alone mailer that gives recipients no reason to open or act.

Design and Copy: Creative Formats that Capture Attention

  1. Get Creative with Size, Shape, Color and Paper Selection
    Possibilities abound to help achieve strong visual presentation: textured paper, oversize mailers, bold colors, embossing, dye-cutting. The more the piece can pique curiosity, the more likely recipients are to open it. Formats such as the Iron Cross or a 3-dimensional “box” mailer are modern approaches that stand out. (Make sure your piece adheres to postal regulations, however.) While these elements might cost more up front, the investment often pays off in terms of a response.
  2. Include Elements that Add Perceived Value
    Give recipients something to keep – e.g., a magnet, sticker, wallet-size card – to keep your brand and URL within reach. And remember to tease the included item on the outer envelope.
  3. Create a Compelling Outer Envelope
    Make opening your mailer irresistible. Tease the offer, and also consider including copy that signals something of value is inside. For example, labeling a mailing as a “kit” or including a “Do not bend” line can result in higher open rates.
  4. Include a Strong Offer
    Promote an offer that entices recipients to connect with your brand. Maybe it’s the opportunity to obtain a free sample, discounted service or complimentary consultation, or an invitation to a private brand event. Remember, a direct mail piece alone may not be sufficient to sell your product or service … but if you can sell an offer, you’re a big step closer to winning a customer.

Data: Engage the Right Audience at the Right Time

  1. Segment and Target
    Analyze your data to identify niche segments among overarching demographics. For example, perhaps you’ve broken out a list by household income. Segment that audience into subsets based on life stage – e.g., single, household with young children, approaching retirement age – and hone your message and imagery accordingly to drive relevance.
  2. Personalize
    Create a more authentic connection with individual recipients. Tailor offers and coupons according to previous purchases, shopping habits (e.g., in store or online?), and anything else useful you can glean from your data. Personalization matters, and it works.
  3. Use Software for Purchasing Data and Managing Direct Mail Lists
    The degree of success among purchased lists varies widely. Software is out there that can help you make the best decision regarding the lists you purchase, and also to help you maintain clean lists – essential to direct mail success.

Technology and Digital: Streamline and Track Efforts

  1. Use Variable Data Printing (VDP) to Produce Highly Personalized Pieces
    If you’re going to create data-driven, personalized pieces, you’ll need a printer with VDP capabilities. With VDP, artwork and text can link to predetermined data points so you can tailor the printed piece to an individual recipient.
  2. Incorporate Landing Pages and PURLs
    Landing pages are a great tool to drive lead generation, and they also provide a way to track response. Personal URLs (PURLs) – personalizing the landing page address with the recipient’s name – can dramatically increase response rates.
  3. Achieve a Sleek-running Campaign with Marketing Resource Management (MRM) Software
    MRM provides a more streamlined way to create and distribute direct mail. With centralized storage of assets and automated workflow management, MRM increases consistency and efficiency. MRM helps speed time to market, standardizing campaigns and reducing costs.

Go Multichannel: Amplify Reach and Impact

  1. Carefully Select Additional Channels
    Direct mail should not be an isolated effort. Determine the channels that will be most effective for the campaign goals and your audience, and use them to complement your direct mail campaign.
  2. Incorporate Several Touch Points
    Remember that it can take more than 10 touches for your message to break through and inspire action and brand engagement. Use your direct mailer to encourage social media interaction, or to drive recipients online to learn more. Supplement with a series of email touches. Consider wrapping digital advertising into the media mix.

Need Help with Your Next Direct Mailer?

Plymouth Meeting, PA-based Strata Company specializes in data-driven direct marketing and technologies that help companies create more relevant, personalized marketing. A leader in direct mail marketing for nearly two decades, Strata has experience helping businesses create highly targeted multichannel marketing campaigns. Contact us to learn more.