Carpe DM!

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By Alan Rosenspan, President, Alan Rosenspan & Associates
Remember how much direct mail you used to receive?
How much time it took you to sort through it, see what was interesting or relevant, and select the envelopes you wanted to open?
Not anymore.
Direct mail volume is down significantly in the last quarter of 2008, and the first two quarters of 2009 – and it doesn’t look to improve any time soon.
The USPS® admits that volume is down 20% – but I think it’s much, much higher. Plus it seems very few companies are investing in larger size or dimensional packages.
Which means now is a great time to send out direct mail for your company!
There’s less competition, less clutter in the mailbox, and less likely for your direct mail to be lost in the shuffle.
In a recent article in The New Yorker, James Suroweicki wrote about the real recession.
“In the late nineteen twenties, two companies – Kellogg and Post – dominated the market for packaged cereal. When the Depression hit, no one knew what would happen to consumer demand.
“Post did the predictable thing: it reigned in expenses and cut back on advertising. But Kellogg doubled its ad budget, moved aggressively into radio advertising, and heavily pushed its new cereal, Rice Krispies.
“By 1933, even as the economy cratered, Kellogg’s profits had risen almost thirty percent and it had become what it remains today: the industry’s dominant player.”
As you know, Carpe Diem is Latin for “Seize the Day.” Today, it’s “Carpe DM!”
You can take advantage of this historic opportunity – to use direct mail to reach more prospects, gain more customers, and get a better response than ever before.
Now is the time to increase your direct marketing initiatives with a fresh, targeted mailing list. Click here for a FREE list count!
—Source: Alan Rosenspan is an internationally renowned direct marketing expert and president of Alan Rosenspan & Associates. He has written over 100 articles for direct marketing publications around the world, which can be found at www.alanrosenspan.com. Email him at ARosenspan@aol.com.

How to Deal with “Do Not Mail” Mania

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By PostCom, Association for Postal Commerce
These days in the mailing industry undoubtedly are not the best of times. They may not be the worst either, but they certainly are challenging. For the past three years, those who use mail for business communication and commerce have had to deal with unrelenting attacks by self-styled critics of our industry and practices who are relentlessly pursuing state and federal legislation that would stringently limit your ability to use mail within your business.
These critics come in various guises. The most common centers on their “concern” over the environmental impact of mail. According to the stories they tell, anyone who uses mail within their business is guilty of destroying the world’s forests, polluting our air and water, overfilling our landfills, and just about every other nasty behavior one can imagine.
In making their claims, they claim to offer “facts.” What they offer instead are lies, myths, and the sharing of a general ignorance of who uses mail, the purposes for which it is used, the environmentally sound aspects of doing business by mail, and just about every other of the common sense and good economic reasons why the establishment and maintenance of a universal mail delivery system has been a hallmark of every country around the world.
Below are a set of links to help your business and foster our common goals of preserving and promoting the use of the mail for business communication and commerce.
The materials include model letters you can revise as you see fit to tell your employees and advertisers about the value of the mail and your response to junk mail attacks. There are also letters to the media and any group that is out to destroy your business by funding or supporting antimail legislation or negative consumer attitudes. There are fact sheets you can use on your company website, or otherwise, about the benefits of mail, and the real impact of ad mail on the environment.
Links to Important Information You Can Use
Start By Doing Homework At Home (Getting your employees informed and involved. A sample letter.)
Communicating With Those Who Advertise and Market by Mail (A sample letter.)
Taking The Lies Head On (A sample letter.)
People In Glass Houses Should Never Throw Stones (Educate Your Environmental Colleagues. A sample letter.)
Mail, Public Policy And The Law
Truthful Messages You Can Use
Some Interesting Facts That Belie The Myths
Other Useful Goodies You Can Use
Q & A On Paper, Ad Mail, Landfills, & Recycling
Some Facts About Trees and Common Sense
Facts About America’s Landfills
Recovery And Reuse of Mail And Paper
How To Make Your Case
Working Effectively And Honestly With The Media (An excellent guide produced by media consultant Peter Miller.)
—Source: PostCom (http://postcom.org/eco/do.not.mail.mania.htm).

5 Tips for Efficient Holiday Shipping

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By Rick Rover, senior vp of operations, Streamlite
When customers open their holiday purchases this year, most won’t think about the supply chains that produced and delivered their gifts. But, those of us in logistics know that the impact of efficient product flow and management–from manufacturing to delivery–is more important than ever during the holiday season.
The cost of satisfying an unhappy customer is far more expensive than the original product cost or associated shipping cost. Failing to deliver on a promise can lead to a loss in consumer loyalty, and the chatter of disappointed customers via social media and other channels can be damaging to your brand. 
What’s more, satisfying a customer whose shipment has been lost or damaged often means reshipping the item. Having to reship an order in June means added costs; in December, it can mean survival. Simply put, it costs less to do the job right the first time.
With that in mind, here are five tips to prepare for an efficient holiday shipping season:

1. Look for delivery partners that can customize services.
The holidays stress the system: Increases in order volume; unpredictable consumer spending; reactionary inventory strategies; inclement weather; and, sometimes complex end-consumer delivery, all have the potential to diminish efficiency. Keep things running smoothly by partnering with your providers to customize service offerings. 
For instance, you can increase efficiency by sharing processes and eliminating redundancies. If you weigh packages prior to shipping and your delivery partners weigh the packages again, unnecessary work results. Integrate with your carriers to ensure labeling, weighing, and other processes are being done by just one party.
You may also want to customize physical pick-ups to increase efficiency. Consider asking your delivery partners: Can we schedule extra shifts? Implement weekend pick-ups? Stage trailers on our docks? A good delivery partner should have the flexibility to customize procedures that meet your company’s needs.
2. Talk to your delivery partners early and often.
Capacity becomes a real issue during the holidays, and with the capacity reductions resulting from the recession, this year could be even tougher. Carriers will often protect capacity for their regular high-volume customers. 
For this reason, many companies begin projecting holiday volumes as early as the third quarter so they can reserve space with their delivery partners. The sooner companies reserve their projected volumes, the better.
Beyond confirming capacity, be sure to leave the dialog open throughout the shipping process. Schedule weekly calls with your delivery partners, and increase frequency to daily calls toward the end of November and beginning of December. Conversations must continue–even after orders are placed and shipped. 
Communicate with your partners when things are going well, and especially if you encounter delivery problems. Merchants and their delivery partners must work seamlessly for customers’ interests to prevent a loss in consumer loyalty and the associated revenue. 
3. Make sure the box fits the product.
As simple as it sounds, we often see retailers become so busy during the holidays that they grab the nearest box available instead of the right box for a given product. We’ve seen a flash drive in a box large enough to fit a basketball, and one pair of shoes placed in a box that could fit four. 
This is a costly mistake, as big boxes may ship at the dimensional weight rate instead of the actual weight, adding unnecessary costs to the transportation and delivery end of the supply chain. (And, with both FedEx and UPS changing the dimensional weight factor early next year, you can’t afford to be careless here.) Monitor your production line, and quality check along the way to ensure the product/package combinations are appropriate. 

4. Work with your delivery providers to ensure the shipping process is transparent.
Supply chain visibility is key–especially for retailers and their customers during the holidays. If merchandise is out of stock, knowing when additional inventory is expected to arrive enables retailers to tell shoppers when to return. 
Visibility also lets consumers to track the delivery progress of packages, limiting the number of customer service concerns and reshipments. Select delivery partners that provide tracking and visibility to reduce costs and increase customer service scores and perceptions.
5. More equipment doesn’t necessarily mean higher efficiency.
During the holiday season, retailers can run behind on production schedules and request more trucks to be staged on their docks. But, more trucks on your dock mean fewer trucks on the road. 
It’s best to work with the number of trucks you originally requested rather than asking for more. Unnecessarily increasing equipment needs strains the system and slows delivery.
With these tips in mind, let’s kick off a happy, healthy, and efficient holiday shipping season.
—Source: MCM Weekly Nov. 8, 2010 (www.multichannelmerchant.com). Rick Rover is senior vice president of operations for lightweight package delivery provider Streamlite and cofounder/designer of Streamlite’s national distribution network.

4 List Hygiene Best Practices

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By Karen J. Bannan, freelance writer & editor
List hygiene has been a concern as long as email marketing has been around, and the basics are just that–basic. Opt-outs and opt-ins should be processed quickly, while internal lists should be synchronized so you don’t miss anyone and risk a spam complaint. Inactive addresses or those that are hard or soft bounces, should be suppressed and possibly appended, while risky addresses–for example, sales@domain.com or spam@domain.com–should be removed immediately. But, there’s more to list management than the basics, said Bryce Marshall, director of strategic services for direct digital marketing company marketing firm Knotice. Here are four often-overlooked list hygiene tips to incorporate into your existing best practices. 
1. Don’t overlook the new employee. Salespeople often bring their own contacts and email lists to a new job, which is a good thing, of course. However, unless you integrate a new employee’s list with your own, you may end up inadvertently contacting someone who has opted-out, or emailing a contact the same marketing message more than once.
“You need to treat it like any other data source,” Marshall said. “It’s incumbent on any organization to review [a new employee’s] list, and make sure [there are] no conflicts or overlaps with internal data. You don’t want that salesperson to be firing off to his list when a mass campaign is going out to the same data source.”
Of course, let that salesperson make contact first, letting his or her sources know that he or she has moved, and they will be receiving messages from your brand or company, Marshall said.
2. Do due diligence on a rented list. Any company that rents you a list should check your house list against their rented list to make sure they won’t be emailing someone who has already opted out. Even if that person has given the list rental service permission to email, you’ll want to respect their wishes when it comes to your brand or company, Marshall said. “The process should be part of the cost, and any good provider will do this automatically.”
3. Mesh sales cycles with list hygiene efforts. How often do you refresh data and perform list maintenance? While once a month is probably best for most companies, Marshall said, data and list management should reflect your sales cycle. “If your sales cycle is every 12 months, the data refresh isn’t going to have to happen as often as a company that has customers with needs that change frequently,” he said. “Your data should always reflect the current state of the customer relationship, so you should update your lists as often as you update your products.”

4. Bring every employee and department into the hygiene process. Companies–especially those that use outsourced customer service or contract salespeople–must scrub lists often, making sure changes and requests, as well as customer additions that happen externally, show up on internal marketing lists. This is why a formal CRM program can often save time and money. “You should have a centralized process to manage email opt-outs and additions, and make sure every contract and on-staff employee understands that it’s their responsibility to interact with the CRM application, and make changes as they happen,” Marshall said. “It’s all about having a global, as well as a local view of the customer.”
—Source: BtoB Marketing Magazine June 17, 2010 (www.btobonline.com). Karen J. Bannan is a full time freelance writer and editor. Reach her at kb@karenwriter.com.

Direct Mail Gains New Potency as Online Marketing Evolves

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Andy Cutler, chief strategy officer, Mercury121
In the early days of Web marketing, the promise of the new channel’s potential was over-the-top. In fact, many optimists argued that, in the future, the Web and e-mail were going to make direct mail obsolete. 
A funny thing happened on the way to the Web. Not surprisingly, the reality did not live up to the hype. When it was time to measure campaign successes, these marketing pioneers’ lack of online direct marketing experience added up to some pretty disappointing results. How were they to know it would be better to target their messages? 
If this idea is news to any online marketers today, beware, history has shown that sending generalized mass e-mails is not the approach for maximum results. Marketers have also discovered that traditional direct mail is still a viable tool. 
No doubt, the rush to the Web has had a significant effect on direct mail: Volumes have dropped dramatically over the last decade. This has been painful for those of us on the service side of the business–not to mention for the US Postal Service®–but, it has created an opportunity for our clients. Because each mail piece is not competing with as many other pieces in the mailbox, response rates are climbing. At the same time, e-mail response rates are declining, due to overuse.
A retail client of ours just finished analyzing marketing performance of direct mail, e-mail, and in-store promotions. Direct mail is the best performer: Up 150 percent vs. last year, with no significant changes in strategy. So, the so-called obsolete channel is now outperforming the cheaper, digital channels, including social media.
Direct mail continues to be a very viable channel, but only if the direct marketing fundamentals are applied. Improving the levels of both personalization and relevance is the only way to increase response rates. Targeting needs to be at the core of each effort. The technology exists, and it is up to marketers to use their know-how and the technology tools available to their advantage. It would be a mistake for marketers to give up on direct mail. Instead, they should analyze data to learn how and when to use direct mail in combination with digital. Those who keep it in the mix and ramp up the relevancy will be pleasantly surprised by the results.
—Source: DMNews Nov. 1, 2010 (www.dmnews.com).