How can SMEs best use their investment in CRM technology to optimise the influence of their direct mail? A new paper published by Pitney Bowes highlights the main concerns and their solutions.
For SME marketers in particular, budgetary restraints necessitate a clever and efficient approach to campaign management if brand presence is to be established and sustained. However, it is not just at the SME level that marketers are feeling the pinch. There is a general shift away from budget-draining activities such as media advertising and a focus on less costly sales promotion and direct mail campaigns.
According to the paper's author, Vikki Lomas, Head of Communications, Pitney Bowes EMEA, direct mail has long represented a cost-efficient means of generating response for astute SMEs. But until now, the technique has not been recognised for its brand-building qualities. However, Pitney Bowes research indicates that marketers are quickly realising the potential of direct mail to deliver more than response. Cleverly targeted, professionally presented direct mail will generate response whilst also creating a favourable brand image. Undoubtedly, available print and mail technology has played an important role in boosting the status of this marketing technique.
At the SME level, folding, inserting and franking technology continues to move on apace. The best technology is developing in line with today's increasingly liberalised postal market to offer users choice, convenience and professionalism. Undoubtedly, automation of the mail operation has enabled many businesses to cut costs, eliminate errors and free staff to focus on core activities. But equally, forward-thinking businesses are demanding that this automation is coupled with the functionality to allow them to capitalise on the cost-efficient reach and influence of direct mail. Professional presentation of the mail-piece is every bit as important as mailroom convenience.
Changing rates and legislation
The ability to adapt to the changing postal climate is key. With postal rates frequently changing, marketers are turning to the latest intelligent franking machines which link to the web to provide downloadable postal rates and software rates. Now, at the touch of a button, marketers can ensure that their campaigns are being despatched at the best possible price, whilst available software enhancements provide a future-proof upgrade path.
In turn, downloadable advertising slogans serve to transform standard mail shots into eye-catching marketing communications. Here, businesses can gain an important head start over competitors through ensuring that any direct mail carries the brand message on the outside of the envelope, as well as inside. The communication does not even need to be opened by the recipient in order for brand value to be conveyed.
Technology must be able to adapt to changing legislation such as Royal Mail's recent requirement on returned post. Since October, when businesses require direct mail to be returned to sender in case of failed delivery, envelopes must be marked with a return address. Again, marketers using the most advanced franking machines will benefit from the ability to print this return address neatly on the front of the envelope, positioned alongside the indicia and ad plate to maintain presentation standards.
No need to compromise
While the scale of investment into CRM technology will obviously be lower amongst SMEs, businesses at this level are certainly adopting the principles. Nowadays, data lists can be bought in smaller volumes or metered, database solutions are available off the shelf and barcode intelligence can be used to track responses. Data can be analysed and segmented, and messages personalised to a fine degree. The important point is that, with today's mail technology � even at the lower-volume level - no compromise is necessary when it comes to delivering personalised mailings.
Targeting a priority
However, a word of caution. Any marketer using this technology to despatch clumsy bulk mailings � in the understanding that brand influence will benefit � will quickly come unstuck. Recipients expect direct mail to be relevant and marketers must realise that the power of the medium to build the brand is also the power to damage the brand through misdirected communications. Indeed, companies should be quick to ensure that targeting becomes even more of a priority. Yes, direct mail is becoming recognised as a significant brand influencer but poorly targeted campaigns will only ever influence in a negative fashion.
Ultimately, when it comes to outgoing mail, SMEs are concerned about three things: cost per piece; predictability of delivery; and 'are we doing everything we can to cross-sell and up-sell to our customers'? It is only in recent times that the last concern has become a realistic goal for businesses of this size. With today's mail technology, dynamic direct mail is available to businesses of every size.