Shifting Demographics and Incorrect Assumptions Can Lead to Bad Mailings

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March 12, 2013

The demographic profile of America is vastly different today than it was in 1980 and certainly 1960. So much so that the shifting demographics of our nation, and many of the traditional assumptions, we often make as marketers lead to off target mailings and results.  I don’t know of a time when this reality was ever more evident than in the results of the 2012 Presidential election.

As of 2010 the state of California had minority populations that exceeded 57% and Texas, Hawaii, New Mexico and District of Columbia had minority populations of 50%.

What does this mean to you and your product marketing? It means you need to have a true understanding of who is using your product vs. who has used it in the past. Marketers looking to restart or enhance their prospecting efforts will find changes in customer behavior that make traditional methods for identifying audiences less effective.

SOURCE: Deliver Magazine Case Study Statistical Modeling and U.S. Census Bureau, Pew Research Center

Facts That Can Skew Your Prospect Mailings

  1. Diversity is Booming. Minorities now make up about 35% of the U.S. population and well over 50% in certain regions.
  2. Married Couples Aren’t the Ones Having Children. A record 41% of births were to unmarried women in 2008, up from 28% in 1900.
  3. Head of Households are Changing. Only 21% of households were headed by a married couple who had children under 18 living at home in 2010. Now 27% of households had just one resident, a rise of 13% from 1960.
  4. Retirement Isn’t a Given.About 15% of people over 65 or older are still working. This number is projected to rise to 19.7% in 2014.
  5. The Person Receiving the Product Isn’t the One Actually Paying the Bill(i.e., healthcare and public education). Sometimes this requires removing the middleman and sometimes it requires inserting a new middleman.
  6. Women Are the New Brains. Of young adults 25-29, women represent 58% of those who hold an advanced degree.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Pew Research Center

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics

SOURCE:, A New Business Model for a New Generation of Consumers

How to Refine Your Data Search

Many marketers are using new criteria and more robust data to redefine their existing customers and build a more accurate and statistically sound customer model. Among data and tools being used to flesh out existing models:

  • Purchasing Behavior.More than age and income, actual purchasing behavior is more predictive.
  • Social Media Engagement.Knowing about the number of friends a person has on a social networking platform is a very predictive variable to take into account for certain businesses.

SOURCE: Brad Rukstales, president and founder of CAC Group, analytic consulting

  • Data Appending. Data appending services range from simple postal, phone and/or email appends to sophisticated services like appending geographic, demographic, psychographic, lifestyle, interest, behavioral and syncographic data from a combination of on-line and off line resources. One credit union achieved a 10% lift on auto loans after appending its “in-the-market” data.

SOURCE: Deliver Magazine Case Study Statistical Modeling

  • Marketing Maps.Turn to demographic marketing maps or companies who can provide map overlays to show you the races, ethnicities, and languages of customers in your area so you can communicate directly with them in the languages they speak and according to the cultural backgrounds that influences them.
  • Purchase More Data.You already know a lot about your customers, but you can strengthen a customer profile by adding other lifestyle or demographic information into the mix.
  • Employ ZIP+4. The first five digits of the ZIP code indicate the geographic area, but the last four help you pinpoint prospects within that specific location. It can also help you identify who lives in an apartment and who lives in a house.  Many data models allow you to analyze to “block groups” for more accurate targeting.
  • Study Your Customer Database.Analyze every interaction and you’ll likely learn new opportunities such as who really responds to buy-one-get-one-free offers.  Or perhaps those who shop infrequently but spend huge amounts on your products might respond to a different offer.
  • Personalize Your Mailer.Go beyond printing your prospect’s or customer’s first name on the marketing piece. Show them that you understand their needs, interests, and position in the buying process. Variable data printing lets you do this by greeting them by name and creating offers you know they’ll respond to because they have in the past and including messages and images that address their specific needs.

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