Profitable Programs INSIGHTS




We’re continuing down our list of simplifying complex strategies by breaking them down into bite-sized prioritization twosome’s: 


  1. Return on Investment (ROI) vs Revenues
  2. Revenues vs Budget
  3. Direct Mail vs Email
  4. Retention vs Acquisition
  5. Generic vs Targeted
  6. Triggered vs Dynamic
  7. Real-time vs Scheduled

Marketers are often looking for ways to stretch the budget. One way is to reserve your direct mail budget for customers who cannot receive email. You lose the one-two punch of the combined impact, but extending the reach of your marketing may be more important.


Marketers often manage direct mail separately from email. But a lot of insight and optimization can result if you manage these 2 communication streams as 1 strategy. Even if you don’t have systems and data feeds to make this turn-key and ongoing, it’s worth the effort to at least do some one-off analysis to get an idea of the impact that the two media have in concert.


Here are some ideas:


  • When you analyze your next direct mail campaign, do an extra layer of analysis, splitting your mailed and control groups based on email subscription status.
    • The variances may be correlative or causative; you won’t know.
    • But if the variance between customers who receive both email and direct mail is big, you’ll want to find out if subscribers are just better customers… or if the combination of media can supercharge their response. To do that…
  • Pick a direct mail campaign and hold out an emailable control. If emailed recipients of your direct mail piece outperform their control (of emailable but not emailed) you’ll know the power of orchestrating combined media.

Of course, you’d never actually withhold email (except once to measure the value), so here are some ideas for orchestrating the two media.


  • Avoid sending pricey direct mail pieces that carry offers less impressive than emails you’re sending the same person
  • Give email subscribers a little something extra on their direct mail piece
    • A note in the address (no extra cost to you) that email subscribers also get free shipping
    • A dot-whack on the mail piece that the offer is good a day earlier for email subscribers only
    • Send an email extending the direct mail campaign an extra day for email subscribers only (great for on-the-fly offer extensions)
    • Anything you do exclusively for email subscribers will give people a reason to get on – and stay on – your email list
  • Send an email about the campaign a day or two before the mail piece should hit homes
    • "Watch for it in your mailbox"
    • "Click here if it doesn’t arrive in your mailbox"
      The address corrections will prevent future wasted direct mail budget

  • Send an email about the campaign several days before the offer ends as a reminder
  • Use similar creative between the direct mail and the email for double reinforcement

Next time, we’ll look at retention vs acquisition.



Very complex strategies can be crystal clear when you think in terms of “this or that.”


According to the McKinsey Way (the book and the methodology), everything can and should be broken into 3 or fewer points (4 if you must). Database Marketers have a naturally easy time thinking in terms of 3 or 4 mutually-exclusive, all-inclusive segments. Breaking things down that way can really help to prioritize your objectives and crystallize your tactics.



So we're continuing down our list of bite-sized prioritization twosome’s:


  1. Return on Investment (ROI) vs Revenues
  2. Revenues vs Budget
  3. Direct Mail vs Email
  4. Retention vs Acquisition
  5. Generic vs Targeted
  6. Triggered vs Dynamic
  7. Real-time vs Scheduled

Last week we looked at Return on Investment vs Revenues (Insight #26).

  • We’re NOT aiming to maximize ROI
  • We ARE aiming for maximum incremental revenues at an acceptable ROI
  • It’s not about “maximum” ROI but “optimal” ROI


This week, we’re looking at Revenues vs Budget. If you’re facing budget cuts despite YOY increases in incremental revenues alongside decent ROI, you’re always in good company. So where do marketers cut? Here are some ideas that may be helpful:


Instead of losing a campaign, tighten your target audience.


Instead of forfeiting a sweepstakes, rein in the prizes.


Instead of killing a program, reinvent it.


Consider which programs are sucking the life out of your staff. That’s a great place for a budget cut. Reinvent those programs & re-energize your workforce.


A program you began years ago could have a newer, less expensive, more productive platform, infrastructure or approach. Now is the time to challenge your vendors and prospective partners to do more for less.




Developing a hierarchy of prioritized direct marketing efforts is crucial to top-line and bottom-line revenues. There is an almost infinite number of great ways to do it, so it can seem overwhelming. But don’t let that bog you down


For the next 7 weeks or so, let’s divi up this topic into some bite-sized twosome’s:

  1. Return on Investment (ROI) vs Revenues
  2. Revenues vs Budget
  3. Direct Mail vs Email
  4. Retention vs Acquisition
  5. Generic vs Targeted
  6. Triggered vs Dynamic
  7. Real-time vs Scheduled


Today’s topic: ROI vs Revenues


Best ROI should never be your ultimate focus. Why? Because if your focus is maximizing ROI, you’ll spin your wheels on programs with great ROI that generate mediocre revenues.


Your company should set a minimum acceptable ROI. Then you should go after maximizing incremental revenues that meet that minimum ROI standard.


Remember, the win is NOT in the greatest ROI, but in the greatest incremental revenues that meet acceptable ROI.


On the other hand, don’t be afraid to focus on programs with great ROI and small revenues. You may discover a program with fantastic ROI that starts small. That’s OK... if you can figure out ways to grow it into something bigger.


And remember, it's not about greatest revenues, but greatest incremental revenues - which means you must put controlled tests in place to prove incrementality.


Your priority: Optimizing programs with the biggest incremental revenues while developing smaller programs that can grow into something bigger.


Next time: Revenues vs Budget.



Coming to you (a rested week after the fact) from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta - where a little hot air would have been a good thing.


Do you ever feel like you’re full of hot air? As marketers, we struggle to find relevant, fresh, meaningful content every day. New ways to describe old offers, new twists on tired subject lines. Honest attempts to surprise and delight our customers.


Sometimes we pull off brilliantly creative campaigns and our spirits soar as we watch record-breaking revenues roll in. Chi-ching!


And sometimes it feels like we’re just a lot of hot air.


But every day, we give it our best shot. We aim to soar. We try. We show up.


The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is the biggest in the world. People come from all over America, even all over the world to see 600 hot air balloons rise in the Mass Ascension that occurs shortly after dawn every day for a week. But shortly before dawn, minutes before my pilot was to take me soaring, the Mass Ascension was cancelled. It was too windy. Can’t really complain about the weather. It is what it is. But here’s the thing. I never saw a single balloon. Not one!


Wouldn’t you think they could do some tethered rides. Or maybe some of the balloons could have been cold-air inflated. Maybe some Plan B demonstrations could have been interesting. Shoot some fireworks. Something! Right?


That empty sky was a reminder to me – that even on our worst days as marketers, we show up. And if one plan doesn’t fly, we have a lot of alternative plans up our sleeve, ready to wing it.


Maybe I’m just full of hot air thinking there should have been a Plan B for the Balloon Fiesta.




We’re on Part 4 of a 4-part mini-series.

  1. Reactivation
  2. Drive to Second Purchase
  3. Welcome Onboarding
  4. Dynamic & Triggered Conversations


Today, we’ll graze the surface of Dynamic & Triggered Conversations as part of a Lifecycle Marketing program.


There is an infinite number of ways to approach this and the only WRONG approach is to skip it altogether. Why? Because:


  • You DO have targetable data.
    Maybe you don’t have the data you WANT, or maybe it’s not as timely as you’d like, or maybe your data is incomplete. But no excuses. You DO have data that CAN be used to trigger a campaign or dynamically insert something of greater relevance, even if it’s just once a month to some portion of your list.

  • Triggered campaigns and campaigns with dynamic data WILL outperform other campaigns, enough to make it worth your while.


Here are some Dynamic & Triggered Conversations to consider.



  • Dynamic content based on source of sign-up
    In-Store, Online Checkout, Other On-Site, Online but Off-Site such as Co-Reg
  • Triggered in Real-Time where possible (much greater response than scheduled next day)
  • Try a SERIES instead of just 1 campaign
  • Consider a lower frequency at the start
    This is when your subscriber is most engaged & therefore most apt to unsubscribe
    So start slow and ramp up
    You’ll reduce your unsub rate by starting slow; but increase revenues by ramping up



  • Hasn’t opened in X days, try an eye-catching subject line and special offer



  • Sources of the data:
    Explicit preference from a sign-up form
    Email click behavior
    Site browsing behavior
    Purchase behavior

  • Dynamic banners are much easier to manage vs dedicated triggered campaigns
    You don’t have to pre-empt your normal campaign
    Banner creative can live for a whole year

  • Examples: Gender, Hardware platform, Size... Just think of a "conversation"
  • This will ensure that virtually every campaign you send will have something of relevance



  • Try to reactivate along the lapsed lifecycle at X months, Y months, Z months, etc.
  • Thank your customer for a recent purchase
  • Target or insert dynamic content based on categories of purchase
  • Birthday


These will feel more like “conversations” with your customers because you’re responding to their action/inaction rather than just peddling your wares.




We’re on Part 3 of a mini-series on Lifecycle Marketing. Two weeks ago was Drive to Second Purchase. Last week I was enjoying the Napa Valley and not even thinking about this week’s insight. So now we’re on Welcome Onboarding.


  1. Reactivation
  2. Drive to Second Purchase
  3. Welcome Onboarding
  4. Dynamic & Triggered Conversations


There are several key considerations in successfully onboarding new customers or new subscribers.


The first one is:


Not every new customer is a subscriber, and not every new subscriber is a customer.

Your job is to change that!

  • You want to encourage EVERY new customer to subscribe to your email. More on that in an upcoming blog.
  • And you want to encourage EVERY new subscriber who has not yet purchased from you to go on and convert. More on that in an upcoming blog.




  1. First step is to get them subscribed to email if they aren’t already.
  2. Also, use a First Purchase Analysis to determine how best to drive to second purchase. Some things you’ll want to consider:
    • Timing – The typical time between 1st and 2nd purchase)
    • Category – For people whose 1st purchase was Category A, what OTHER category is most likely to convert? Or was that 1st a purchase a category that’s hard to convert to a 2nd category? Driving cross-category buyer behavior generates increased customer value.
    • Channel – For people whose 1st purchase was in store, how can you encourage them to explore your website? And for people whose 1st purchase was online, can you encourage them to also shop your stores? Driving cross-category buyer behavior generates increased customer value.
    • Price Point – If her 1st purchase was full-price, don’t hit her immediately with bargain basement sale items. If her 1st purchase was lowest-ticket on sale, don’t hit her immediately with your high-end new arrivals.



  1. Timing – A real-time welcome campaign will drive many times the response vs a next-day campaign. Get anyone who subscribed offline (for example, in store) welcomed asap. It's worth figuring out how to get your Facebook and store sign-ups subscribed and welcomed in real-time.
  2. Frequency – Optimize long-term subscriber value based on your frequency tests. See Insight # 12. New subs are the most engaged segment; don’t miss this important opportunity to deepen the relationship. But emailing too frequently at the start of a new subscription (while they’re more aware than ever of your presence in their inbox) can cause people to unsubscribe early on, cutting off your chances of long-term impact.
  3. Series – A series of welcome campaigns can be very effective during this very engaged period.
    • Collect name and street address. If you’re a multi-channel retailer this is critical because it’s what enables you to tie transaction history to the customer.
    • Collect other customer preferences. This lets future emails be more relevant.
    • Emphasize the customer benefits of being and staying subscribed.
    • Make sure there ARE benefits to being and staying subscribed.

Next week: Dynamic and Triggered Conversations in Lifecycle Marketing.





We’re on Part 2 of a mini-series on Lifecycle Marketing. Last week was Reactivation. This week is Drive to Second Purchase.


  1. Reactivation
  2. Drive to Second Purchase
  3. Welcome Onboarding
  4. Dynamic & Triggered Conversations


There are several key considerations in a Drive to Second Purchase Campaign.


First, mine your customer base to establish the Second Purchase time span; that is the average number of days between the first and second transaction date. Limit the analysis to people with two or more transactions. Ideally, you would do this for various customer segments and use a different time-span for each segment (see the Segmentation paragraph below).


Also, you’ll need to inform your email database of the first and last transaction dates for each subscriber. If you’re multi-channel, this could be a big challenge, but it’s absolutely critical.


Now schedule a recurring campaign targeted to anyone whose first and last transaction date was the same number of days ago as the Second purchase time span.


Watch out because this Drive to Second Purchase campaign might occur during your welcome onboarding. Prioritize the campaigns so that this Drive to Second Purchase campaign takes precedence over any campaign in your welcome series.


To get started, just develop a single creative and offer, and establish a single average time span for the total customer base.

When you're ready, consider these possible segmentations:

  • Version the Drive to Second Purchase Campaign content based on the first purchase (channel or category or price point or offer, etc.)
  • Or use a different time span based on the first purchase (channel or category or price point or offer, etc.)


Next week’s lifecycle: Welcome onboarding.




I’m starting a mini-series on Lifecycle Marketing:

  • Reactivation
  • Drive to 2nd Purchase
  • Welcome Onboarding
  • Dynamic & Triggered Conversations


There are several key considerations for any Reactivation program.


What percent of your list is inactive? If you know your competitive landscape and you think it’s more than it should be, consider why.


Have you been aggressive about acquisition and it’s mainly just inactive prospects? So then, do the math. Maybe you got your ROI out of the ones that activated and it’s time to purge the inactives and move on to new prospects. If not, maybe it’s time to reconsider your acquisition methods. Either way, analyze what percent typically activate at various stages (1, 3, 6, 9, 12 months) and determine a cut-off point for purging prospects that never really got in gear.


On the other hand, if it’s previously active customers gone inactive, don’t be too quick to purge, if ever.


Before trying to design a reactivation program, define “inactive.” Are we talking about buyer behavior, open/click/browse behavior, other interactions, or some combination of all of these? If you’re multi-channel , consider offline purchases that your systems are just not capturing.


Put your reactivation program into overall perspective. How important is reactivation? What’s your capacity to grow the list with new customers? A more mature and saturated brand may need to focus on reactivation more so than a newer, less saturated brand whose prospects for new customers are easier to come by.


How big is your inactive population and what’s your anticipated response rate? Remember this: every other type of lifecycle marketing will likely drive a bigger lift per customer vs. reactivation. So consider keeping your reactivation strategy simple enough to allow you to focus resources on engaged customers where your response rates will be much higher.



As marketing campaigns go, I’ve never seen anything to compare with the power of this campaign in the many years since I first used it.


This campaign requires a great deal of coordinated effort throughout your organization, and it may seem complex at first. But for the customer, it’s very straightforward and easy.


Here goes:

  • Lead with free shipping for email subscribers > click here to sign up or confirm your subscription.
  • That banner lands on a simple subscribe page > submit.
  • Confirmation page is a form page offering free gift if you forward to a friend > forward.
  • By this time, you’ve created a very strong intent to purchase.
  • In the cart:
  1. Prepopulate the free shipping based on the subscribe page being submitted and the minimum spending threshold being met.
  2. Prepopulate the free gift based on the forward page being submitted.
  3. Add dynamic messaging if the user did not sign-up or forward.
  4. Add dynamic messaging about how much more the user needs to add to cart to achieve the free shipping.
  5. Add dynamic recommendations of items that will meet the spending threshold.
    Hint: Some people won’t mind buying more stuff. But recommend small-ticket (high-margin) items to ensure that A LOT of people hit the threshold. Consider making a special merchandise buy just for this purpose.

  6. And at holiday, evolve from free shipping to free upgrade for expedited shipping (buy yourself a few extra days of holiday revenues)!

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Increased average order value (AOV)
  • Increased conversion rate
  • Increased margin
  • Re-engaged existing email subscribers
  • Substantial list growth from people who will be very high-performing customers
  • Increased retention of subscribers because it's very clear that email subscribers receive exclusive benefits not available to anyone else.


If your cart doesn’t have all this functionality yet, it’s worth building!



Last week we talked triggered campaigns; now for the dance partner, dynamic content.


What’s the difference? Both are based on some kind of “trigger.” But beyond that, they’re night and day, ying and yang.


A triggered campaign is a dedicated campaign – totally dedicated to whatever topic triggered the campaign.

^ Whereas dynamic content just rides right along with whatever else you were delivering.


A triggered campaign lends itself to a series of messages – something triggers a series of 3 or 4 (or more) dedicated campaigns.

^ Whereas dynamic content displays some relevant piece of messaging and it may or may not continue to appear on an ongoing basis.


A triggered campaign will cause a pile up in the recipient’s mail box unless you take masterful care to pre-empt the normal campaign with the triggered one.

^ Whereas dynamic content makes its way into the one campaign that was getting delivered anyway.


For a triggered campaign, you’ll need to force an either/or decision if you want to avoid a pileup in the mail box – either we send this or that.

^ Whereas dynamic content can stash all the relevant content you want into the one campaign that was getting delivered anyway.


A triggered campaign requires dedicated creative.

^ Whereas dynamic content might simply be a word or phrase or an extra or a replacement link or landing page.


Let's look at some examples:

Triggered Dynamic
Customer orders something Online - dedicated triggered confirmation In Store - dynamic banner inserted in today's campaign that says "Thank you for shopping at our Madison Avenue Store"

Customer/Prospect indicates

a semi-permanent type of


(say like double wide shoes)


Main image features shoes that come in double wide


Start including two links: shop all shoes and shop double wide shoes (don't fence her into her preference)

Customer/Prospect does

something that indicates a

brief NEW interest (say like wedding, maternity, new pet)

Start a scheduled seriesof triggered campaigns about

the interest (see

Insight #13 below)

Customer's last purchase was X months ago

You might start a

reactivation series

Or start personalizing her subject line and include a reactivation banner in all campaigns until she reactivates



Insight #6 (see blog entry below this one) was “Trigger-Happy Campaigns” and I’d like to pick back up where we left off there.


Recall I talked about two types of trigger campaigns:

  • One type just fires off a real-time response to something a user did online (like an order confirmation)
  • The other type is scheduled to deploy shortly after someone does or does not do something


Today, let’s look at my favorite, the SCHEDULED type of trigger campaign. Let me set the stage with some examples:

  • An email subscriber to an electronics retailer browsed 20 pages of cameras but didn’t buy one; trigger a 4-part series of informative campaigns about cameras
  • An email subscriber to a fashion retailer purchased a maternity dress; trigger a 3-part series showing maternity casual, sport and dressy
  • An email subscriber to a book retailer updated a preferences page with an interest in travel; trigger a 10-part series
  • An email subscriber just hit 60 days since she last clicked on one of your email campaigns; trigger an email with her name in the subject line and an offer that is email-exclusive (remind her that she can't get these offers any other way)


Let’s talk about LOGISTICS.

  • Selecting the triggers. Start with 1 or 2. Pick a category that already represents huge volume, and one that uniquely represents the beginning of a new interest for the consumer.
  • Creative. You may only have to refresh these creatives 3 to 4 times a year, if that.
  • Targeting the campaigns. Find a way to write the consumer action to a date field in your email database, especially labeled for this particular trigger campaign. Set up this date field so it does not get overwritten or updated (this ensures the campaign series won’t get interrupted or repeated). For a 3-part series, set up 3 segments, each based on number of days from that date field. For the first campaign: CameraBrowseDate=yesterday. For the second campaign: CameraBrowseDate=2 days ago. And so on.
  • Don’t double-up.
    • You want these campaigns to pre-empt whatever email the subscriber would have received that particular day, so just exclude these segments from ALL your regular campaigns. On the days when the subscriber gets his camera campaign, he won’t get the normal campaign.
    • Also, you don’t want your subscriber to get more than one of these triggered campaigns. When you only have a few of these set up, that’s easy. Just schedule the campaigns for a different days of the week. The camera campaign can be for Mon, Wed, Fri. The computer campaign can be for Tue, Thu, Sat.   And in that case, your targeting would be CameraBrowseDate=1 or 2 days ago, CameraBrowseDate=3 or 4 days ago, and so on.

Now let’s talk RESULTS. Count on these campaigns to generate many times the revenue-per-email-sent vs your normal campaigns. Take every opportunity to pre-empt your normal campaigns with these. And if you develop scheduled trigger campaigns that represent significant product volumes, the overall impact on your profitability will be significant.



Triggered campaigns fall into two main categories:

  1. Real-time
  2. Scheduled


Real-time triggered campaigns deploy the moment a customer does something. I call these “trigger-happy” because they’re locked, loaded and cocked to fire off no matter what other marketing you may have already spent on the customer. They can cause pile-up’s in your customer’s mail box and inbox, and also in your budget. So you want to use these where your customer just really expects it.


In Retail, I think these 3 real-time triggered campaigns are no-brainers.

  • Welcome campaign (17 times the response of a next-day welcome campaign)
  • Order confirmation (for an online order)
  • E-Receipt (for an in-store order)


But real wins come when you SCHEDULE trigger-based campaigns. You can control the prioritization of messaging to prevent pile-ups, and you can achieve some critical volume. You can replace whatever message you were going to spend on a customer with a scheduled trigger-based message that will uniquely surprise and delight while driving significantly higher response on critical volume at virtually no extra cost.


Scheduled trigger-based campaigns deploy shortly after a customer does or does not do something. For example:

  • Send an earned Reward
  • Say “thank you” via email for an in-store purchase
  • Reactivate lapsed buyer, lapsed use of credit card, lapsed purchase, lapsed open or click, etc.
  • Congratulate and delight on a birthday or anniversary
  • Request a product review (delay the request until shipment)
  • Abandoned Cart reminder
  • Category-appropriate message for an abandoned browsing session


Remember, since these are scheduled, you can pre-empt whatever lackluster message you would have otherwise sent.


Scheduled trigger-based campaigns =

No Extra Cost +

Better Response +

Critical Volume +

Surprise & Delight =

Big Profitability

Learn more about Insight Outcomes LLC:


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