Turn your customer bills into engaging marketing tools

Your customers might not be paying attention to your marketing, but there is one document your company sends them they read every time, writes Jean-Pierre Deruddere.

Marketers in Australia are always looking for new ways to reach customers and improve brand experiences while delivering the greatest possible return on investment and achieving business goals.

But what if I told you that a department in your company is beating your marketing team in terms of customer engagement? In fact, their communications are viewed by 97% of your existing customers for an average of two to five minutes at a time. Think about that for a minute. Your marketing team has never created a Facebook post or even a television spot that attracted that level of customer engagement. No marketing team ever has.

So what is it and who created it? Your customer bills and statements generated by your company’s mail operation.

While there is nothing new about using statements to promote special offers, the rules of the game have changed. Australian consumers simply don’t respond to offers they don’t find relevant. Marketers need to turn statements into highly personalised experiences with customised formats, more compelling offers and true self-service convenience.

If you are leading an omnichannel marketing campaign and you haven’t talked to the person running your mail operation in a while, now may be the time.

Consider these facts:

  • While Australian banks, utilities, telecommunications companies and other service providers offer paperless bills and statements, the majority of Australian consumers want to keep the option to receive paper bills and statements, with business and government mail accounting for 95% of total letters volume in Australia.
  • The reasons why so many consumers continue to depend on paper bills and statements vary, but are usually related to one of four reasons. Some want a hardcopy for their records, while some simply want the mail piece as a reminder to pay their bill. Others find information difficult to access and read online, and a growing number of consumers have privacy and security concerns about online transactions.
  • With the price of postage stamps set to rise to $1 in Australia, businesses need to harness their current mail channels and take advantage of every interaction to create efficiencies and drive business value.
  • The cost to produce more attractive, personalised and effective mail is cheaper than ever before. It is likely that your mail operation has the necessary hardware and software to make it possible today.

You don’t have to look further than your own mailbox to see which businesses are using bills and statements as effective marketing tools and which are not. Open today’s mail and compare your best and worst mail pieces. Are your billing statements in full colour or black and white? Is the important information easy to find and understand? Does the mail piece include a personalised message, relevant coupon or offer that interests you? Does it include a PURL or QR code and entice you to link to a mobile app, a personalised interactive video or website for more information?

Now, compare the best of those pieces to the mail your company is sending to your customers. How do you stack up?

Design your bills to include marketing

Are your bills and statements designed to allow for additional marketing messages? And are you making effective use of colour?

The content and design of your bills and statements is critical to reducing customer confusion, which in turn lowers call centre expenses and, more importantly, helps to ensure your business is paid on time. Document design is also critical if you want to maximise the impact of your transactional mail piece and use it to deliver timely, relevant and personalised marketing messages. White space is important, as is the use of colour and shading to highlight key information.

Think about the outside envelope as well. Print a personalised marketing message on the envelope, and your open and response rates will be even better. Studies show that seven out of 10 people are more likely to open a mail piece with colour text and graphics on the front before opening mail pieces without these attributes.

Personalise the messaging

Are you working with your data insights team to target and personalise individual mailings? And do you have the capability to print personalised messaging on statements and envelopes?

More than 90% of the data the world has created has been generated in just the last five years and the pace of acceleration is only getting faster. Successful marketers are using this data to create a more complete 360-degree view of their customers and tailoring the customer experience according to their customers’ preferences and tendencies. This includes all touch points including mailings.

For example, leading mobile telecom companies are monitoring their customers’ phone and internet usage to provide more competitive rates and relevant offers. To help mitigate the impact of ‘bill shock’ – a motivating factor that leads many consumers to switch carriers – these companies are using their data centres to warn consumers via text messages when they have exceeded their calling and data limitations.

In the same billing cycle, they then use that information to print relevant offers directly on the bill, or billing envelope to encourage the consumer to move to a more suitable plan. In some cases our customers such as Telstra now include on the statement a link to a personalised interactive video (PIV) that uses real-time data to highlight an opportunity.

Today forward-looking companies, such as Telstra, combine video technology with real-time data to deliver customers’ billing statements, and provide a sound and motion experience with the physical statement.

Integrate your mail with digital

Are all of your physical mailings fully integrated with digital channels, including websites, customer emails, mobile applications and social media?

A consistent, personalised communications strategy across the entire customer experience is the goal of most marketers today. However, many companies still underuse their physical mailings to deliver and reinforce the key messages for each customer.

Combining digital and physical communications increases response rates and ROI. In fact, the more channels you add, the better the results. A recent InfoTrends study found that response rates increase 45% when you combine direct mail with a landing page, email address and mobile marketing.

Turning statements into a personalised experience

By updating formats based on your customers’ preferences, promoting more compelling offers and delivering true self-service convenience, customer engaged billing can cut costs, boost revenue and increase the lifetime value of every customer. By using this approach customers can increase products per customer and reduce call-centre volume.

Australian customers read their statements more often and more closely than any other communications. Now that you have their attention, what do you want them to do?


Jean-Pierre Deruddere is managing director Australia and New Zealand at Pitney Bowes.