What Valpak Can Learn From Email Marketers by Jessica Best @bestofjess

Every couple of weeks, I, like most Americans, get the ever-invasive package of coupons that is Valpak in my mailbox. Fifty colorful, magazine-ready coupons stuffed into a bright blue #10 envelope and labeled “To the Smart Shoppers at…”

Let me start by pointing out two important factors: (1) I love getting discounts to things and (2) I don’t for one second want to bag on direct mail. As an email marketer, I do tons of work with Variable Data Printers that do fantastic work in the arena of segmentation.

Now, let me clarify that I love getting discounts to things I can use. Discounts I can’t use on things that I don’t want or need are actually kind of annoying and make me feel guilty for the paper they’re printed on. Of my envelope of 50 offers, I kept 4. I used a total of 0. As many as 20 could have been relevant to me personally, i.e. blinds, air duct cleaning. The rest were clearly for home owners: garage doors, lawn care, siding, etc. Flipping through the coupons as I stood over the trash can recycle bin, I kept thinking: how much could ValPak have gained – or saved– if they had segmented their list simply by searching out any addresses that have an apartment number in them. They have the info they need to make that distinction and they don’t. Yet.

Conversely, Groupon (I admit they’re a bit of an email industry darling – sorry for the easy example) has now started personalizing my daily offer emails with what I’m most likely to purchase based on demographics like gender and zip code. Soon, if they aren’t doing this already, they will target based on what I actually click on or better yet, buy. So even if I’m a guy, if I buy a lot of spa packages for my wife, they’ll target me with spa offers, because I’m proven to buy that category. How crazy cool is that?

Yes, but – I hear you say – ValPak can’t track to purchase like Groupon can. True. But they can maximize what data they do have. ValPak has launched an email component to their deal-dishing services and they’ve got the name recognition to surpass other daily deal sites if they do it right. Here are a few ways Valpak can improve their offline efforts as they (hopefully) learn from email marketers:

#1 – SEGMENTATION

This one I mentioned already. When you have the full mailing address, you’d be surprised how much segmentation you can do. Sure they mostly send me deals in my neighborhood, and not across town. Point for them. But take another look at my address: I live in an apartment. I may be more likely to dine out or wash my car or even hire cleaning services than I would be to replace the roof, hire a lawn mower or install a garage door. That last one is especially unlikely.

Similarly, what if all you have is a subscriber’s email address? Hey, that’s a start! You can segment by domain, i.e. gmail.com, aol.com, acme.com, university.edu and start to make some educated assumptions on how and when to talk to those subs. You may want to send to consumer/personal email addresses like Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, etc, on a Saturday morning for your product and send Friday at 10a to any domains that seem like they’d be corporate/business addresses. If you have domain-level reporting on past emails, you also can watch for apparently sleepy domains – no opens or clicks reported – and try sending a Text Only version of your emails to those domains.

#2 – PERSONALIZATION

Sure, they’ll get it wrong sometimes, but if you have my address, you likely have my name. “To the Smart Shoppers in your household” is not really a great opening line these days. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing my name on the envelope goes a long way. In email, putting “Jessica, here is your super special offer” in the subject line may just look spammy. But you can use my name – or if you have past purchase data, better yet – in the email to catch my attention and let me know you’re really talking to me. Hey, I got a 10% off coupon for that lotion I like. Neat.

#3 – PREFERENCES CENTER

The whole packet drives me to ValPak.com for more savings. When I get there, what if I could update my account (like if you got my name wrong, I could correct it) and tell you which coupons I am most interested in and tell you if I prefer to get your mailed coupons, email daily deals or mobile deals. Maybe I want all three! In email marketing, we can ask subscribers which offers they want, when they want them and even how often (monthly vs. weekly vs. daily).

Takeaway: Be a good example for new(er) email marketers by making the most of email marketing. Segmentation, personalization and a way for users to manage preferences will go a long way in making your marketing more effective, both online and offline.

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  • Gina Danner
    December 2, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    As one of those “variable data printers” of which you speak… Yes Direct Mail is king in my world… Excuse me, carefully targeted relevant direct mail… the key in all DIRECT MARKETING (email or direct mail) is the offer presented must have value to the recipient and be presented in an unobtrusive manner. Carefully planned and executed Direct Marketing campaigns and/or programs can reap double digit response rates that drive significant revenue for companies. The more you can target, segment and make personal the higher the response rates no matter the channel.

    AND, if Val Pak can present offers based on requests, and user defined profiles… holy cow… AND, why they haven’t made that leap yet is beyond me.

    Great job Jessica in reinforcing keys to succes in direct marketing — no matter the channel.

    • Jessica Best
      January 18, 2011 at 11:38 am

      Thanks for the great comments, Gina! I know you guys rock these concepts and keep preachin the good word.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Gina Danner
    December 2, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    As one of those “variable data printers” of which you speak… Yes Direct Mail is king in my world… Excuse me, carefully targeted relevant direct mail… the key in all DIRECT MARKETING (email or direct mail) is the offer presented must have value to the recipient and be presented in an unobtrusive manner. Carefully planned and executed Direct Marketing campaigns and/or programs can reap double digit response rates that drive significant revenue for companies. The more you can target, segment and make personal the higher the response rates no matter the channel.

    AND, if Val Pak can present offers based on requests, and user defined profiles… holy cow… AND, why they haven’t made that leap yet is beyond me.

    Great job Jessica in reinforcing keys to succes in direct marketing — no matter the channel.

    • Jessica Best
      January 18, 2011 at 11:38 am

      Thanks for the great comments, Gina! I know you guys rock these concepts and keep preachin the good word.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Chief eMail Officer
    December 4, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Great article Jessica…

    Not sure if I should just agree that segmentation, personalization and preference centers are the way to go (of course they are).

    Or just chime in and say that Valpac is a beast, and companies like Groupon and all the other online deal of the day guys are going to begin to eat their lunch….to some extent.

    Valpak will always serve the door to door crowd, but that model will find it hard to sustain itself in the future. It’s kind of like newspaers and telephone books being delivered to your house. Online has eaten some of that market too.

    I wish the best of luck to Valpak in the future but please come up with a better product. After all, you competitors have one!!!

  • Chief eMail Officer
    December 4, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Great article Jessica…

    Not sure if I should just agree that segmentation, personalization and preference centers are the way to go (of course they are).

    Or just chime in and say that Valpac is a beast, and companies like Groupon and all the other online deal of the day guys are going to begin to eat their lunch….to some extent.

    Valpak will always serve the door to door crowd, but that model will find it hard to sustain itself in the future. It’s kind of like newspaers and telephone books being delivered to your house. Online has eaten some of that market too.

    I wish the best of luck to Valpak in the future but please come up with a better product. After all, you competitors have one!!!

  • Jessica Best
    January 18, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Exactly my thoughts, Jeff!

    Gotta keep up or these new guys with lots of room for self-definition and more ideas than limitations will beat you out simply based on inertia. I hope to see great things from the powerful name of ValPak.

  • Jessica Best
    January 18, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Exactly my thoughts, Jeff!

    Gotta keep up or these new guys with lots of room for self-definition and more ideas than limitations will beat you out simply based on inertia. I hope to see great things from the powerful name of ValPak.

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