Direct Mail - Still a Great Option

The world of business and personal communications continues to shift at a rapid, almost head-spinning, pace.

No longer is there a one-channel solution.
Businesses are increasingly reliant on the internet to promote themselves and deliver their message.
Website development and search optimization are in growth mode.
Email blasts are right behind.
Then there’s  social media – Facebook, Twitter and a host of additional applications are thriving though the business model is not always clear, nor advertising driven.

That in turns seems to be migrating to the hand held device – whether it a smart phone or a tablet.
The personal concierge has not yet become an all-singing advertising medium because most of us reject the spam and banners and interruptions associated with internet travel.
But the handheld will continue to grow in importance as a platform for businesses reaching their audience.

This has led to another notion. Much is being touted about integrated marketing – mixing media channels – print, signage, wide format, and digital messaging.
Each of these channels ties to another, leveraging each channel,  the message and the brand.  The simplest form of this might be the QR code – a quick scan of a print piece delivers you to an internet address.

Inherent in all of this is an inference that print is dying or is dead.  
Wrong. Dead wrong.

Print still comprises a third or more of the media buy and remains a pillar of the marketing  mix for many businesses.
Part of this is due to the technological advancements in print which allow for personalized messaging by utilizing variable date which now becomes possible on digital print platforms.
This technology speeds delivery and allows each piece to be personalized.

Research in the industry tells us a few interesting tidbits:

·         79% of households skim or read direct mail sent to their homes
·         73% of consumers prefer direct mail as the source of new products to 18% who  prefer email
·         Spam is discarded at a 50% rate, unopened mail at 30%
·         Nearly half of folks find direct mail to be less intrusive than email,and less pressuring to be opened
·         The corollary - many people find direct mail to be a better leisure option – i.e. I’ll read it when I get a chance, so I keep it on the counter a few days

The USPS Household Diary study says that 85% of direct mail is at least skimmed.

Coupled with the ability to target via mail lists or blanket specific neighborhoods at very low rates through newer programs like Every Door Direct Mail, direct mail remains a key part of the messaging platform. Coupled with email and/or web-based connections, it can be even more effective.

This is but one small example of our new world. Print is not going away. It is changing, and how it is done is changing all the time to become more real time, personal and cost effective.

Behaving Like Owners, and Opening the Books

I remember in my days at a great Indiana Fortune 500 company, one of the core values was to get employees thinking and acting like owners.
There are various ways to do this from distributing ownership to variable compensation plans to focused improvement efforts.

But any successful approach has a few common anchors.

1. All employees including the ownership must have a common understanding of what is important. That starts with a clear vision of where we want the company to go; what we value and what’s really important around here. In our case it’s serving customers excellently with a minimum of waste; and continuing to stay abreast of the innovations in our industry while creating an environment that is fun and challenging. That is our formula for sustainable success which allows for delighted customers, a return on capital invested, growing employees and future employment. The “what’s important around here” piece will work better if everyone has a hand in developing it and understanding it.  The more understanding the better.

2.There needs to be alignment. This is a simple concept, but absolutely critical.  It’s  the favorite song of most human beings. It’s station  WIIFM. “What’s in it for me.”  How does each employee’s actions not only affect the company but themselves. This is the magic of measures and alignment. Setting clear measures – collectively – and rewards and/or recognition for achieving them creates half of the equation – motivation.

3.Motivation alone is necessary but not sufficient. Each team member needs to understand how they affect the critical measures . Done well these result in all of us  acting on behalf of the customer, eliminating waste, taking the personal initiative to understand how we can improve not only in our own piece of the flow, but across all critical processes in the company. Liberating the knowledge of employees and creating energy for improvement adds an extra dimension of value for all.

Our approach here is something called Open Book Management – an approach championed by a company SRC – the Springfield Remanufacturing Business in a book and philosophy called the Great Game of Business. We’ve spent time gaining clarity collectively on what’s important – including our vision and our values; and we’ve educated ourselves by laying the books bare for all. That lets us know how we eliminate waste, how we make money, and where the opportunities to improve financially are.  And employees share in the enterprise value they help to create.

Open books will tell you the financials, not the full health of the company. The balance comes from listening to our customers and measuring what’s important to them, looking at the consistency of our internal processes,  and making sure that our team members have the tools and knowledge to perform effectively for the customer.

Clarity of what’s important, alignment systems, and capable and motivated employees are the foundation. Then we have to execute.
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