Archive for the ‘Direct Mail’ Category

Count Von Count’s Guide To Marketing

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

In an undisclosed location, a wrinkly old tuxedo clad man in his underground bunker turns away from his technologically impossible command center and with a twinkle in his eye cackles to the heavens, “MORE MAIL! WE MUST SEND THEM MORE MAIL! BWAHAHAHAHA!”

That is probably the likely Hollywood perception most people have about how advertising mail gets to their door. The reality is much different. Most marketers aren’t interested in spending money to reach you if there isn’t any potential opportunity for you to buy. Even with a decline of twenty percent in mail volumes over the last five years, direct mail is still an effective method of reaching customers, and during the holiday season, most people do expect to see a spike in the amount of direct mail they receive.

However, sometimes there’s a real head scratcher of a campaign.

Since the first day of November, someone who hasn’t lived in our house for at least a decade, my wife, and I have all received the following mail from a single retail organization:

One Fall Sales Catalogue
Three $10 off In-Store Offers
Three Oversized Postcards
Two Black Friday Sneak Peek Offers

For those fans of Count Von Count it’s, “One! Two! Nine! Nine pieces of mail in fourteen days!” That’s a LOT of “pennies” if you get my meaning.

I suspect that the individual who doesn’t live with us (unless we have a secret room that I don’t know about which would be super cool!), is either a store card holder or former good customer based on the offers she has been receiving, while my wife and I are coming from a consumer list rental.

If you are curious as to why we’d be getting all these pieces, it’s probably not coming from an underground lair, but rather a company not thinking through the data aspects of their direct mail process. In other words, having good data is as important to the return on investment of a marketing campaign as a good offer and festive creative design.

One way to save money is to make sure you aren’t sending multiple copies of the same offer to one house through a process called duplicate elimination. When removing duplicates from a data file or set of files you really have three options. You can eliminate duplicates per person (first name, last name and address), by household, (last name and address) or simply by address. As you might guess, those different levels of matching will provide different results. In this instance, if our mysterious retail organization is even doing duplicate elimination between files, they are likely using per person or household matching. Since my wife and I have different last names and our secretive stranger has a different surname too, those two match levels would not identify us as duplicate records ensuring that we get each piece of mail multiple times.

Any organization doing direct mail needs to consider if they really want to send multiple mail pieces with the same offer to the same address. Sometimes I’m sure it makes sense, but in this instance it’s just annoying. It’s also expensive. Even at an average of fifty cents a piece for printing and postage, the retailer spent seven dollars to send us these nine pieces when they should have sent us only three. If they made the same mistake with only 20,000 households nationally, that’s $110,000 spent to inundate us with extra mail. That’s enough to make any bean counter looking at the bottom line cringe. An organization can spend all the time in the world creating the perfect offer but if they don’t do their due diligence managing their data, they are wasting money and decreasing their return on investment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a couple of names at my address on some beer mailing lists.

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Someone Blogged about Direct Mail *Gasp*

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

“It just makes cents to save a few bucks.” A quick Google search tells me no one has said this before, but I find it hard to believe a pun this good has been passed up. Anyway, you don’t have to get an A in accounting to know that the two ways to increase your profit is either sell more, or spend less while generating the same revenue. It’s important to spend your sales and marketing money wisely to get the best return on your investment. Despite what you may have heard from social media or electronic marketers telling you that direct mail has little value, getting something in the mail is still a great way to reach prospects or introduce existing customers to new services. Or, if you are Delta Airlines and American Express, introduce current customers to services they already have.

Yes, I said that correctly.

It seems that about every six weeks, I get a really shiny fancy-pants offer in the mail co-signed by bigwig marketers from Delta and Amex about all the benefits of signing up for the Delta SkyMiles American Express card. It’s a great offer, provides plenty of features, and, as Rick Vaughn in Major League says, “it keeps us from getting shut out at our favorite hotels and restaurant-type places.” I’d be all for getting this card, except I already have one. It’s been nearly two years since the wife signed us up and we use the card religiously at all of those restaurant-type places.

But Joel, why don’t you just drop it in the recycling bin and be quiet about it? Because direct mail can be expensive and sending out pieces to people who already have your product doesn’t make good business sense.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that between design, printing, materials, labor, and postage that it costs about one dollar to mail each piece (maybe that’s a little high or low, but it makes the math easier). If they send out 250,000 pieces, and even if 5% are people who already have the card, they’re wasting $12,500 per mailing. If they mail eight times a year their marketing departments are spending $100,000 to reach customers that already have their product. Maybe the lifetime value of an American Express customer more than makes up for those marketing losses, but I’m guessing no company gets to that level of success by wasting $100,000 annually without trying to fix the problem.

Since my wife doesn’t get the same offers, my guess is that American Express and Delta match two files. One is the universe of people with SkyMiles numbers and the other is a file of SkyMiles numbers that are associated with an Amex card. Any records that don’t match and reach a credit score threshold get a mailer. However, this process fails to recognize joint-card accounts like my wife and I enjoy. Given the annual fee associated with this card, I’m assuming that many households similarly have joint cardholders. Given this fact, it would probably be much more effective for them to do their matching at the address level rather than at the name or SkyMiles level, which they are presently doing. Soliciting present joint-account holders is very unlikely to lead to new customers.

As with many examples, it’s easy to shrug off the “big company problem.” But if you are a small non-profit and have a correspondingly small marketing budget, you probably don’t want to waste a penny of your marketing dollars sending multiple mailers to one household. There are many ways to look at your customer list and determine the most effective way to reach the people you want, and it’s significantly cheaper to scrub your list for duplicates than it is to send them mail.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go call a guy about trademarking that “cents” intro.

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Ten Things I Think I Think I Think

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I was perusing the social media thinkers on the wide-wide-world-of-web and learned that I’ve been blogging all wrong. My rambling stories that take at least eighteen hours to get to the point are not the way to engage readers (I know right!). I need to use little words, short sentences, small ideas, and lists. We must have lists! Lists are shareable. Long-winded stories are what you tell over a beer while everyone at the table furtively hides their stifled yawns. Let’s make everything easily consumable, requiring minimal thought and be so bland that it will be forgotten tomorrow when we read the next vanilla article on the same topic. I’m going to give this a try.

Here’s my list and it doesn’t have anything at all do to with my introduction.

1. While short daily blog posts are certainly one way to engage your audience, it isn’t the only way. Please stop telling us that it is. It’s clear that many people, regardless of the industry, feel the need to write something daily and their quality of work suffers significantly. I’d like to think I have a decent idea weekly, a good idea once a month and a great idea rarely—all those bad ideas I have each day, I don’t need to share.

2. Use the medium in question or don’t bother. If your organization’s Twitter strategy is only to send people to Facebook or your blog, then you are missing the point. Tailor your message to the tool you are using and stop asking us to go three different places to get some information.

3. Direct Mail is still a great way to reach your customers. However, if you’d like people to drop a couple of grand on some computer gear, you might want to make sure that letter arrives more than six hours before the deal expires. I’m guessing people like to think about these things before pulling the trigger. Direct Mail requires a lot more planning than simply emailing out today’s deals. Think through your offer before you slap on a stamp.

4. Three social media gurus walk into a bar. The bartender asks, “What’ll you have?” The three ignore him, just talk to each other for an hour, and call the night a successful engagement.

5. If you blog about the value of using Twitter and the only people who read it already use Twitter, did you really have a point? I understand pandering to your base audience, but if you want to be influential, you need to influence people beyond getting some folks to nod in agreement.

6. I still really like Google+. It’s so quiet and peaceful there because no one is using it.

7. I love Peter Shankman’s article I Will Never Hire a “Social Media Expert,” and Neither Should You. Any human being who includes this sentence, “BAD WRITING IS KILLING AMERICA,” is a hero in my book.

8. Hyperbole has become mundane. Bump the excitement down a notch and give us more analysis and less hype.

9. Social Media gives you the opportunity to develop your “Personal Brand.” However, this doesn’t mean you are required to link all of your accounts to work, although you certainly can. But remember it is called Social Media and not Work Media.

10. I really don’t believe your organization is out of business if you don’t email me EVERY SINGLE DAY (unless your company is named Borders). How about giving me (your customer) an option to get daily, weekly, monthly, or holiday-only emails? It’s not that I don’t want you to market to me; it’s that I don’t want you to market to me so much.

Whew! Apparently I can’t even write a short article using lists.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be busy thinking about how to turn this list up to eleven.

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I already bought. I already bought.

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

A coworker sent me an article about collaboration between Google and SAP that allows SAP customers to overlay Google Earth and Google Maps information to manage “big data.” It’s a really interesting concept and if you are curious you can read about it on TechCrunch. It seems like every day we get a groovy new analytics tool or new social media platform to connect businesses with other businesses or businesses with consumers or Twitter with my cat, but a lot of organizations seem to be missing out on some of the basics when it comes to marketing. In other words, as people get new toys, organizations may appear to overlook the basic tools that helped make them successful in the first place. I have quite a number of examples, but the two below are a great illustration of how applying the most basic in-house information tools can help to reduce waste and better target your customer or donor base before using advanced analytics tools to improve your reach within a specific market.

It’s only taken us three years (a long time in married years) to finally consolidate my car insurance with my wife’s insurance. Yes, we should have done it a long time ago, but in our defense we were really busy with not doing it. Within two weeks of the new plan, I received a mailer offering to lower my rates by switching to the exact same insurance company. Although I brought it in and set it next to the refund check for my new insurance (an additional $20 discount!), it’ll be going straight into the recycling bin. I just got your insurance, I suppose I could up my coverage to protect my amazing sports-themed gnome collection, but I’ve got nothing to switch.

In the same vein, my wife and I have a credit card with an airline rewards program. We’ve had this card for quite a while now and use it fastidiously for frequent flier furlongs (1/8 of a mile if you are scoring at home). The rub however is at least twice a month I get fancy mail pieces offering a free checked bag if I get the credit card that I already have along with a couple of emails with the same offer. And the emails link to the website where I often purchase plane tickets with this same credit card in question. Actually, if I combined the mail pieces with printed copies of the emails I get with the same offer, I’d have enough paper to fill my free checked bag.

I’d assume that a large insurance company and a major credit card company and airline would leverage some of the most powerful tools in the technology world to ensure they wouldn’t make the mistake of sending me offers for products I already have. Turns out they don’t. Instead, they could save a few bucks by doing a duplicate elimination between their customer databases and the prospects they are trying to target. It would cost them a heck of a lot less money to clean their customers from a prospect list than it costs in printing and postage in an attempt to convert people already using their products and services.

It’s often the simple things to eliminate waste and create good interactions with clients and prospects that make the biggest impact. While it is super-cool and really useful to be able to drill down on your business data with Google Maps, it’s probably more valuable to be able to identify those who are already using your service—then ensure you are talking with them in a way they prefer and are more receptive. You need technology to accomplish those things, but it doesn’t have to be bleeding edge. Make sure you are getting the easy stuff right, and then move on to the cool toys.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my underground lair to invent a cat with laser beam whiskers.

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I See Dead Puppies

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Actually I don’t, but apparently I do talk to them on Twitter.

Yesterday, I was reading about the forever stamps being released this year by the USPS and came across the story of Owney the dog–who will be featured on a stamp in July. Owney was the unofficial mascot of the Railway Mail service from 1888 to 1897 where he rode the rails with postal workers. He even traveled around the world in 1895. You can learn more about Owney’s fascinating story at the National Postal Museum website. Today, Owney is stuffed and residing at the Postal Museum as a representative from that era of mail service.

After reading about Owney, I was compelled to post the following (somewhat humorous) remark on Twitter, “There’s a stuffed dog at the Smithsonian’s Postal Museum which is all the motivation my cat needs to do something noteworthy before death.”

Yes, I do tweet about my cat a little too much.

Much to my surprise, I received the following response just a little bit later.

Somewhere out in the interwebs an employee for the Postal Museum or the Smithsonian, is tracking these types of comments in Twitter. Looking for key words like “Smithsonian” or “Postal Museum” and commenting where appropriate. So a random joke like mine actually got the attention of an employee of the museum who responded as @OwneytheDog. It’s brilliant marketing if you think about it. A tiny gesture of goodwill from a stranger helps ensure that I’ll be looking for these stamps in July when they are released. For once, I’m not joking.

You read a lot about how to market on Twitter. Social Media Gurus use terms like “generating brand awareness” to sell the value of Twitter to their clients – or just to fill blog space. Either way, you don’t need a massive campaign to be successful at social media; it’s really the little things that count. The minimum required to be “good” at social media is to respond to customer inquiries and complaints, or seek out people to help generate interest. Yesterday, when the folks operating Owney’s Twitter account came across my silly little tweet and took thirty seconds to respond with two words, I doubt they anticipated a corporate blog from me in response.

Honestly though, isn’t that what people really want from Twitter? To know someone is listening to them and is willing to engage in a conversation.

This was so much more successful than the individuals that send you a message with cryptic text and a link to www.ifyouclickthislinkyourcomputerwillexplode.com.

Before I wrap this up, getting a tweet from a stuffed dog isn’t the strangest marketing I’ve received. Months ago I tweeted about throwing away single socks. I received a reply from an individual selling socks in packs of three. In other words, it ensured that if I lost a sock, I’d always have a backup. I replied asking how I’d know to buy an extra right or left sock. I never heard back.

To summarize, you can build a lot of goodwill with Twitter or Facebook by doing the little things right. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to impress people and get them on your side. It can be as simple as using the tools provided for the application you are working with, monitoring those tools and responding when appropriate. So if you find yourself at the Postal Museum, say hi to Owney for me. If you don’t find yourself there anytime soon, be sure to pick up his stamps in July.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make my cat a YouTube viral sensation.

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Trying to be Young Again

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

If I don’t put my shopping lists into an Excel spreadsheet, I find myself mumbling at the store about not remembering what I went there to buy. I have not yet reached a point where I am telling hooligans to get off my lawn, but I have shifted ungracefully out of the 25-34 marketing age demographic. However, after looking at the results of a recent Epsilon marketing survey, I find that I may have more in common with today’s whippersnappers than I expected. Just like the college kid at the dinner table, I am tied to my Blackberry 24/7/365 looking at Twitter updates and reading my email. However, I am like the younger generation in a more unexpected way; like them, I am much more likely to read my monthly Microcenter paper advertisement than I am my daily TigerDirect email. Interestingly, last week a survey came out that might have explained why.

The survey, from Epsilon’s ICOM division, discovered that “fifty-three percent of all respondents say they pay closer attention to information they receive by postal mail, compared with email.” The study also suggests consumers in the 18-34 demographic prefer to receive and trust postal and newspaper marketing over online messages in the US and Canada by a 2-1 or whopping 3-1 margin based on various criteria in the study.

After sharing this information with my coworkers, quite a few of them were taken aback. I know that I too was surprised by these results. I’ve worked on some very successful email campaigns, and our organization is looking to social media as an avenue for future revenue growth. I’d have thought individuals who had something more technologically advanced than a Commodore 64 as their first computer would be more open to electronic communication as their primary source of receiving marketing information. Based on this study, I would have been wrong. It was then actually a conversation with The Wife that got me thinking about this and I have a couple of reasons I think this might be the case.

Too Much Email

Epsilon learned that “consumers are receiving more email than ever, and in many cases not opening it at all.” It didn’t occur to me, but this is absolutely true—especially for businesses where I have an existing relationship. This may be excessive but I have four email accounts: my work email, Gmail for personal use, Hotmail for paying the bills, and Yahoo for signing up for things. Without exaggeration I get hundreds of emails on a daily basis and I know I am not the only one. If all four of these accounts were synched to my Blackberry, that little red light of doom would never stop blinking at me. I check my Yahoo account roughly once a week and I always find at least seven emails each from TigerDirect, Borders, Amazon, Delta, Continental Airlines, Papa John’s and multiple Las Vegas casinos. Not to mention the emails about taking online courses, selling my valuable metals and government grants. Much like the historical perspective that all postal solicitations are junk mail, it’s really easy to bucket all email offers as spam.

This isn’t always the case though. Email can be a very successful avenue for marketing products and services. The key is to properly target your message, have a good offer, etc… Professional marketing managers know all of this already, but I think that sometimes gets forgotten when it comes to email campaigns. Timely isn’t a synonym for daily. Also, Delta Airlines, I already have your Amex (and you know it), stop asking me to sign up for one weekly.

Don’t Click This Link

The study also brought the following information to light regarding the reliability of information received through electronic communication, “blogs, Facebook and online forums each ranked with 8 percent, while YouTube, Twitter and other social media outlets had 7 and 6 percent, respectively. Email attracted 12 percent.” Email at 12 percent is rather low, and while I do think it is a very effective avenue for marketing when the message is accurate, it still has it challenges. When you consider the historical concerns of people in regard to phishing scams and other scamming techniques used in electronic communication, it can be a challenge to differentiate between a legitimate offer and an attempt to collect your personal information for nefarious purposes.

To do it right, social media marketing is a real challenge. Engaging your community while being entertaining and interesting is difficult. However, there are so many sources just pushing out the next white paper link to improve your business, make thousands of dollars from the comfort of your own home, or in the instance where I received an unsolicited offer to buy socks in threes instead of pairs, we are surrounded by the noise of inappropriate or unprofessional attempts to get us to click. Postal mail doesn’t have the same sense of noise. Since the cost of postal mail is consistently going up, we do get less marketing mail daily, so it gets more attention. Other than Discover, I don’t get weekly credit card solicitations anymore. Most of my mail now advertises local companies or unique services and typically people do take the time to look and examine the offers because quite simply, there are fewer of them.

Interestingly, “consumers who earn an annual income of less than $60,000, as well as shoppers aged 18-34, are more likely to say receiving direct mail from a company makes them feel like a valued customer.” There is a perceived effort involved in direct mail that may not have been apparent before the proliferation of online marketing and advertising. Beyond interesting copy and a good offer, the piece has to be printed and someone has to deliver it. With this sense of work involved (imagined or real), direct mail subconsciously gets priority over electronic communications.

Finally, the study proposes two things. The first being that “good relationships are built on trust, so it is not surprising that most consumers depend on flesh and blood over modems and monitors.” While I agree with this statement, organizations like Comcast have done an excellent job developing trust using platforms like Twitter and if an organization is utilizing social media effectively online, trust can be developed with a user community. The second is essential for any organization to understand. “The upshot is that regardless of the demographic, marketers need to employ a multichannel campaign for topmost customer engagement. Social media, like many forms of communication, should be incorporated as one component of a broader strategy.” In other words, email can be successful, social media can be successful, but without postal marketing you are probably missing out on your full audience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to head out to Denny’s for a Grand Slam breakfast for dinner.

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What do Rockets, Missiles and Cloud Services have in common?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The answer is that they have each played a part in the history of the mailing industry.

February 23, 1936 – two rockets were launched in an attempt to transport mail 2,000 feet across a frozen lake. These rockets crash-landed on the ice and the postmaster had to drag the bags of mail across the frozen lake to the post office.

On June 8, 1959 – a navy submarine fired a guided missile carrying 3,000 letters towards a naval air station in Mayport, FL. At that time the postmaster general stated, “Before man reaches the moon mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California by guided missile.”

On January 7, 2010 – Lorton Data announced the release of “Aqua-Mailer”, a complete, on-demand suite of direct mail services. These “in the cloud” services enable direct mailers to streamline their processes and save on software costs therefore increasing their bottom line profit.

Mailing technology has come a long way………..the sky’s the limit!

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On Demand Pineapple

Monday, January 18th, 2010

We’ve been throwing out lots of words around the office lately: Distributed Computing, Software as a Service (SaaS), Pineapple, Cloud Computing, On Demand. To many people, those are just words. They float around with little bits of meaning, but they are not really concrete ideas associated with a current technology environment. Most people want to turn on their computer, generate emails and spreadsheets, check Facebook and have everything work. We don’t really want to think about what’s behind the scenes. So when a company like mine releases an on demand direct mail solution called A-Qua Mailer, many people are just hearing words and not getting the point of how cool this A-Qua Mailer “thingy” really is.

Let’s try to demystify the concept of cloud computing. If I suggested that you close your eyes and imagine for a second, it probably won’t be good for productivity, so keep them open and pretend that you run a small business. We will call it I Need Pants, Inc. and you provide Pant Solutions to a myriad of verticals in the bodily attire market (wait a minute, I think I just delved too heavily into marketing speak). So you make pants and every time a customer orders pants you put them in a box, and send them off for delivery. It doesn’t matter if your customer is down the road or across the country. Maybe you have ten deliveries a day, maybe a hundred, but you have a fleet of drivers to deliver each package. That seems pretty silly, doesn’t it? A driver and a vehicle for each package? Do you have any idea how much it costs to park a car in downtown Minneapolis? In reality you’d call UPS and a dude in brown shorts and socks (even in winter, this is Minnesota) will come pick up all your packages, and your products will “automagically” arrive at your customer’s location. Pretty cool, right?

Scenario one is a simplistic explanation of what actually happens in a typical IT infrastructure. At the enterprise level, a different server controls each function of the business. Maybe one runs your CRM, another controls your invoicing system, a third ensures you have email, a fourth gives you access to the interwebs, and server five controls inventory, and so on and so forth. It’s like having a fleet of cars and a bunch of grizzled mechanics trying to keep them on the highway so you can deliver each box of pants separately. It’s not efficient and it’s not cheap. And if you’ve ever been in an overcrowded data center, you know it is hot enough to bake fresh cookies.

Internally we use a UPS driver to power our CRM. Actually, we use a pretty cool SaaS solution called SugarCRM. SugarCRM gives us all the flexibility of having an in-house CRM tool, without having to pay for all the equipment and maintenance needed to implement and run it ourselves. Our IT team is busy enough and this keeps them from getting too cranky. The best part for us, is that we actually only pay for what we use. We don’t have to pay for software to maintain, and we don’t pay a king’s ransom for an enterprise license. Instead, every time we add a sales rep we add an additional user (or seat) license to access the application. We don’t have those large infrastructure and deployment costs associated with housing the application in our datacenter. To use the metaphor, I want to pay to ship each box of pants, instead of paying for the potential need to ship pants. Having our CRM application in the cloud and hosted by the vendor and available on demand allows us to do just that.

To bring this to a desktop comparison, Gmail and other email applications are the perfect examples of services that replace desktop software much like Lorton Data’s A-Qua Mailer does for mailing applications. Outlook is a great email client for work, especially when you have someone else in charge of making it work for you. If you used it at home for personal email, it would be a pain to get it initially set up and then you’d only be able to check it on that machine. Unless you wanted to install Outlook on other computers, or constantly change settings when you are on a new PC, Outlook isn’t really convenient for personal e-mail. It is much easier to start up Firefox or Internet Explorer, head to the website of your email service and log in. No additional software required. No obnoxious updates that try to reboot your system when you are in the middle of something. All the maintenance is done for you by the service provider. Using a third-party provider like Gmail (or UPS in my earlier example) allows for both increased efficiency and ease of access.

Our A-Qua Mailer provides the same ease of use. As long as you have a formatted file and a web browser, you can get your mailing list processed for the deepest levels of USPS discounting available to you. Without having to buy software, or update it, or make sure you have the latest and greatest USPS requirements up to date on the system or pay for modules you don’t use because some day you might. Instead we take care of all that for you. All you do is pay for your processing. And that is pretty cool.

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A Clean Database is a Happy Customer

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Regardless of how you are contacting your customers, you have to have a clean database!  Huzzah!  It feels good to get that off my chest.  Today, a lot of legacy systems (and their legacy data) are interconnected in a loosely fit collective of databases and the customer/donor /constituent/friend information is probably incomplete or out of date.  I want to share a story that illustrates the importance of updating your customer information.

My large car insurance company scared the absolute dickens out of me about a month ago.  You see I had a three month period, after the (now) wife got me to capitulate and move from the “Best Location in the Nation”* to the Twin Cities, where I didn’t have a real home.  My apartment lease was up, but it wasn’t time to flee the Cleve.  I crashed with some friends, and changed my billing address to my parent’s house before I forwarded it to Minnesota.  Since I pay my bills online, this seemed like the easiest solution while I was living a Boxcar Willie lifestyle.

How did they scare me?  I received a call from my dad, “your insurance company just sent you some mail to our house with a time sensitive stamp on the front, and we’ll send it out to you now.”  I handle everything on line, so I was a little concerned.  I have a squeaky clean driving record, until this post goes live and that is jinxed, so I wondered what in the world they wanted and why it didn’t come to my current address.

Two days later, I opened the letter.  “WHY DID YOU CANCEL YOUR POLICY, YOU ARE AN IGNORANT FOOL TO GO TO ANOTHER INSURANCE COMPANY!”  Okay, that’s probably not what was written, but it is what I read.  I thought, “Holy Crow! They canceled my policy, or I forgot to pay my bill, or someone used my personal information in an accident and I am being booted and may have to defend myself from a life in jail when the police catch me.”  I was just a hair frantic.  I ran to my computer, which was off because I just got home from work.  Fifteen minutes later, after every company who had a hand in making a component to my PC and some companies who even just thought about it, had announced they were in working order, I launched Firefox and logged into my account.  Everything was fine.  My policy had not been canceled.  Whew!

After my outrage had subsided, I thought about what just happened.  Clearly my insurance friends had a database of lapsed customers that did not properly communicate with their current policy holders list.  Apparently, my few months of getting mail at the parent’s house ended up getting me on the lapse list and nearly put me on another lapsed list again when I expired from the stress.  This company has my name, date of birth, vehicle registration number, knows if my eyes change color on a Thursday, my social security number, what pants I am wearing and a myriad of other personal information that would allow them to match my Cleveland residence with my Minnesota residence.  But they could not pull that off.  My guess is they have multiple databases but no way to tie the pertinent information together to really know and understand who their customers are.

It is rare that I am going to directly hustle our services on the Lorton Data Blog.  The Social [Media] contract tells us it isn’t really appropriate, but in this instance to disguise my pitch as a marketing help or discussion would feel a tad false.  So here it goes:

While, this was specifically a direct mail experience, the problem isn’t unique to direct mail.  If you want to contact your customers in any way, it is essential to have a clean list before you contact them.  Phone, email, address, really anything you want to use when you talk to them should be scrubbed.  Be prepared to know your customers.  They like that kind of thing.  This doesn’t just mean bouncing your file against the National Change of Address Database.  This means pulling the data from your CRM, and your invoicing tool, your leads spreadsheet that is still in Excel 95 and getting them matched, consolidated and processed for updated information.  I can absolutely help you with that.  In full disclosure, it won’t be me personally, but we have some people that are absolute experts at this stuff.  Email me and we’ll get you sorted out before you begin your campaign.  You can save money, increase revenue, or if you play your cards right, you’ll do both!

I’ve run a little long today, so in the near future I’ll talk about another campaign where marketing from a transaction database gave up the ghost and how the program failed to generate the level of revenue expected.

*Cleveland, Ohio!

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Intelligent Mail Barcode Deadline Changes but…

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

The Postal Service has pushed back the deadline for mandatory use of the Intelligent Mail barcode from May 2009 to May 2011. Just because it isn’t mandatory for a while doesn’t mean you can’t start using it now, and take advantage of all the benefits available today. If you don’t currently use endorsements, ACS, or PLANET codes, and simply use the POSTNET barcode for postage discounts, then it’s a breeze to switch over to the Intelligent Mail barcode. Just get a Mailer ID and the rest is easy!

If you do use endorsements, ACS or PLANET codes wouldn’t it be nice to clean up your address block? Let the Intelligent Mail barcode do it all!  Why print a POSTNET barcode, a participant code, and a PLANET code when you only need to print the Intelligent Mail barcode?  You can get started today by learning more about IMB at http://ribbs.usps.gov/index.cfm?page=intellmaillatestnews.

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