DIRECT marketing and business communications specialist Action HQ has partnered Kiwi direct marketers for over 20 years.

Brenden Rolston took over the business from his mother in 2006. He oversees a team of 15 staff, all passionate about the power of data and personalisation, and about finding solutions which help their clients grow and retain their customer bases.

To help deliver the full engage-convert-acquire process, Action HQ employs a range of sophisticated print and finishing machinery number of Fuji Xerox solutions. Its relationship with Fuji Xerox New Zealand spans 20 years.

During the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, Rolston saw the direct mail sector take a massive hit. He says, “It was a defining time for many of us. Marketing managers struggled to produce the metrics to support their campaigns, so budgets were cut, and our whole industry suffered.”

After 2008, accountability and return on investment became increasingly important for these marketers. Rolston says this understanding led Action HQ to invest in Fuji Xerox’s XMPie cross-media print management system.

Fuji Xerox describes XMPie as a marketing-leading technology solution for engaging audiences with personalised communications across print, SMS, and digital media touchpoints (web and email). Rolston sees it as one of Action HQ’s most valuable tools. Late last year, he set out to showcase its power as a platform for direct marketing, in conjunction with a well-planned campaign.

Action HQ had used XMPie to run cross media campaigns for clients who had a focus on improving the outcomes of their campaigns. As the solution developed in leaps and bounds, so did Action HQ’s desire to demonstrate exactly how well it could use XMPie to deliver accountable and effective campaigns.

Engaging marketers

ACTION HQ started this with its own lead generation campaign, code named Yummy Mail.

Rolston had a range of business objectives for his campaign. He says, “We wanted to educate marketing executives about the capability of creative direct marketing and the power of personalisation. And we wanted to build up this part of the business, and naturally, create a good sustainable sales pipeline for ourselves.”

Aimed at 2000 influential marketing managers in and around Auckland, Action HQ designed the campaign to be engaging, fun, and yummy. It also had to prove its effectiveness to the target market by clearly showing the response rates (from engagement through to conversion and lead generation) throughout the duration of campaign.

Rolston says, “I wanted to demonstrate how you can use a physical mail piece to take someone into a digital environment, where you could collect valuable information and subsequently reward them.”

The initial mail piece, a postcard focused on the acquisition of data, became the first of a series of four themed mail pieces. Entering a personalised URL (PURL) found on the postcard, directed the prospects to their own landing page. Answering a few simple questions on the page and agreeing to meet with Action HQ, allowed them to select from a range of artisan chocolate blocks. Completing the e-form generated a thank you screen which showed a picture of their chosen chocolate block– reinforcing the sweet rewards of engagement.

Within two days, they received the chocolate block with the prospect’s name embossed on the surface, encased in a personalised gift box.

Subsequent mail pieces offered more marketing bite. As the campaign progressed, each new mailer updated the prospects on response metrics. At each stage of the campaign, prospects could see how many of them had visited the PURL (targeted web hit) and completed the e-form (web conversion), and the number of meetings booked with Action HQ. The content of the other three pieces covered off in turn: the value of great content, creative personalisation of print and URLs, and achieving a return on investment.

Detail added to the mailers included which flavour chocolate blocks were the most popular, and graphics showing how the receipt of the mail piece spiked visits to the landing page.

The prospect received all four of the mailers, regardless of whether they opted in for a meeting or not. The messaging on the mailer was personalised to acknowledge whether they had engaged with the campaign or not.

Each mail piece showed the power of using an integrated approach to direct marketing by validating the campaign at each step with accurate metrics.

Multiple touchpoints

THE Yummy Mail campaign had a 9.25 per cent print response and 43.5 per cent web conversion. This resulted in 80 qualified meetings where Brenden could discuss creative direct mail opportunities in detail. The postcard alone generated an initial 24 appointments.

All up, Action HQ spent $18,280 on their campaign. Rolston says, “The opportunity cost for each meeting was $228.50. “So, for a high-value meeting with a pre-qualified prospect, and the potential for realising future and long term engagement, that certainly seems like a good investment to me.”

The successful outcome of Yummy Mail reflects the thought put into its multi-touchpoint strategy. He says, “Despite the success of the postcard stage of our campaign, it’s only rarely that we see a one hit direct mail piece that seals the deal, particularly if it’s unsolicited. You really need to look at multiple touch points. It’s about sowing a seed in someone’s mind, and getting more and more creative and engaging until you get conversions.”

Action HQ’s campaign delivered a full sales pipeline and it educated marketing managers from all over Auckland. Having only expected to generate 50 leads, Rolston expresses delight in seeing the campaign vastly overachieve. He does regret not running the campaign years ago.

He says, “Overall, the campaign has opened up amazing opportunities. It was clear when the first Yummy Mail piece reached our prospective customers, because the meetings and phone calls started rolling in.”

Rolston praises the team at Fuji Xerox New Zealand, which supports the solution and manages transitions from one version to the next. He says, “They’ve always been leaders in digital print. They innovate, whereas others look at what Fuji Xerox do and try to copy them.”

He considers that Action HQ has helped future proof its business by investing in XMPie. Most recently, it became the first New Zealand company to upgrade to version eight, underpinning Rolston’s determination to stay ahead of the direct mail industry, regardless of the economic climate.

He adds, “Every time we do a campaign, it’s not just the results that count. It’s making sure we can help our clients turn those results into money. Then, next time we have a global financial collapse, they aren’t going to stop doing something that is proven to make them money. They are

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