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Ben Franklin’s Idea Is Still a Good One

What we all know today as the US Postal Service dates back to one of our most famous founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin.  He saw a need to help the original 13 colonies communicate with each other.  In 1775, the Second Continental Congress appointed him the first postmaster general.

In all the years that have followed, the basic premise has remained the same.  For just a few pennies, a message will be delivered to any entity with an address.

Electronic communications conveniences introduced over the last two decades have certainly brought a dramatic reduction in the volume of mail.  However, financial marketers still recognize the fact that as a communications medium, direct mail is still a very cost-effective way to reach both customers and prospects alike.

In fact, because mail volumes have declined significantly, it’s much easier to make an impression in anyone’s mailbox these days compared to just a few years ago.  And with the mail, messaging efforts won’t be thwarted by SPAM filters, easily ignored by web site clutter or the DVR, all of which can be formidable obstacles to success when using electronic media.

Using direct mail is simple.  There are only three variables: the offer, the list and the creative presentation.  Seasoned direct mail marketers recognize that chances of success are greatly enhanced if you get the first two correct.  A competitive offer to a targeted list will deliver good results.  Creative should be attractive and display the brand in a positive light however, it just doesn’t carry the same weight as the offer and the mailing list.

In recent years, there have been exciting advances in database technology that provide mailers with many new selection opportunities.  Demographic enhancements, transaction pattern analysis, credit profiles and predictive models are some of the tools that are available to both large volume and small volume mailers.  And that’s how cost-efficiencies are realized.  It’s all about getting the highest return for the smallest expense.  Modern targeting techniques help increase the odds that the message will reach motivated buyers without excess waste.

Technology has improved on the production side too.  Advances in the equipment used for printing and assembly of direct mail mean more flexibility.  Design ideas that could not be produced a few years ago are a reality today.

The most compelling reason to include direct mail in your marketing efforts is that every mailing can be tracked for effectiveness.  A thorough campaign analysis includes direct open rates (a count of openings for the actual product featured in the offer), indirect open rates (all the other things that the target audience opened), lift over control (when testing a new list, offer, or creative format), and an ROI calculation that shows if the project made money after all the expenses are tallied.

In today’s fast-paced environment, “snail mail” might seem as relevant as the telegraph.  But the post office isn’t going away any time soon.  Rock on, Ben Franklin!