You plan for offensive operations, while you prepare to play defense. You’ll find this concept in both warfare and sports, and it’s applicable in business as well.
I much prefer playing offense, because that’s where you score and generate revenues. A strong business offensive plan also limits the amount of places you’ll need to prepare to play defense, freeing up more resources for–you guessed it–playing more offense.
What’s an example of planning as opposed to preparations in a marketing context?
A great example can be found in the United States Postal Service and the annual postage increases. If you’re using direct mail as a marketing channel, you can be sure of two things:
If you’re mailing Standard Rate, you’ve got until Friday to present your material for entry at the USPS at the current rates. I hope you’ve been getting ready to mail at the old rates.
Is there anything you shouldn’t try to get in the mail at this point?
I can think of a couple things. While it’s temping to get your billing out under the current postage rates (typically by accelerating a few bill cycles from next week to this week), my test results have shown that it’s not usually worth it.
For every cycle you push into this week (using an example of daily billing cycles and 6 day-a-week payment processing) you reduce the time for the customer’s last payment to get into the billing run.
Believe it or not, a lot of customers wait for the last minute to send in payments and they have a very good sense of the time it takes for a payment to work through the USPS. Customers have a sixth sense about their payment cycles and changes to that timing tends to create problems.
A quick reminder that U.S. postage rates are going up on May 12th, with First Class postage going up by one cent to $0.42. The new rate schedule is available here.
Drop your mail before May 12th, if possible, but please don’t rush. Never is the phrase “penny wise, pound foolish” more appropriate than when dealing with rate increases. A rush to mail and save a few dollars per thousand should never take precedence over ensuring your promotion is strategically sound and with clearly-defined objectives.
My recommendation is that you always have both an employee on staff who’s familiar with the domestic mail manual (DMM) and have a trusted consultant or vendor available with whom to review upcoming changes in rates and specifications. Creative thinking from a couple of different points of view can often be helpful when working with the DMM. And please don’t hesitate to contact the USPS and work with your local rep. Their business, after all, is to help you use more of their services and I’ve found my account reps to be very helpful in many areas. (Alas, rescinding rate increases was one where they couldn’t help, despite my pleading.)
Given the timelines associated with direct mail testing, you should be working right now to get ahead of the round of changes, so you’re ready to roll out lighter, more machinable or cheaper mail based on tested results.
And sometimes I just shake my head. My apparently never-ending stream of poorly executed direct mail continues, with the latest effort being a shockingly bad example from Marriott’s Fairfield Inn and Visa. It appears to be the result of a co-op promotion, which may account for the execution; nobody at either Marriott or Visa felt they were responsible for the results of the effort, and it shows.
For the record, the family and I are fans of Fairfield Inns and signed up for Marriott’s Rewards program as the result of numerous stays at their Hazelton, PA location. The staff is always great, the rooms clean and cookies and DVD movies are always enthusiastically offered to us when we check in at 9 or 10 pm the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving.
Now, if only those responsible for their direct response efforts could feel the same enthusiasm. Rather than rant and rave, here’s a PDF file of the quick analysis I’ve sent to Marriott’s marketing team.
After lashing out at Verizon and Vonage a little while ago, I thought I’d move on to other topics.
But Verizon can’t help but make simple mistakes in their direct mail efforts. On Friday, I received yet another first-class mailing, this time promoting Verizon’s FiOS Internet service.
Since I’ve now been a triple-play customer for two months and paid two bills for the service, this mailing is slightly redundant. Unlike the last promotion, this one has doesn’t even include a letter signed by an identifiable person. I guess they knew this was so poorly done that nobody wanted to sign it?
Of interest is the fact that the return address for the FiOS Internet service is Annapolis MD, while the TV promotion came out of Irving, TX. This confirms my suspicion that the FiOS product is multiple business units hammered together.
Summary and takeaways
Share your internal customer lists across multiple business units and suppress against those customer files when you are undertaking a promotion.
Always suppress against your transactional/payment database. Your internal marketing databases might not be updated, due to either sloth or neglect, but the department that counts the money always knows who’s paying and who’s not.
For the first time in a long time I took a few minutes to run through the Valpak co-op mailing I received last week.
After a few minutes of looking at the offers, I came up with a short list of things to consider if you’re using Valpak (or other co-ops) as a marketing channel. The short list is powered by my own past experience and might stimulate you to think of some other ideas.
Before I get started, here’s a rundown of what I found inside. There was a total of 43 inserts inside the envelope (which featured, bizarrely, a promotion for the television program CSI: NY on the OE and which distracted me from the 1:50,000 possibility that there might be a check for $100 inside). I sorted the inserts into three categories:
National advertisers (19, 44% of the total). These included Netflix, DirecTV, Verizon, Omaha Steaks and others. Of those, 4 (27%) of the inserts did not use the standard 8 1/4″ x 3 1/2″ format and instead paid additional for a heavier and/or different stock insert.
Regional/franchise (8, 19% of the total). Included here were ads for the local Gold’s Gym, Kaiser Permanente and Molly Maids. Of these, only 1 (12%) of the inserts deviated from the standard insert.
Local advertisers (15, 35% of the total). These ranged from local dentists to home improvement providers to Anthony’s, a restaurant down the street–which included some coupons that might finally get me to take the family there!. Only 1 insert (7%) strayed from the Valpak standard format.
Valpak ran one house insert, promoting an offer of $350 to target 10,000 homes for new advertisers, a CPM of $35.
We can immediately see some ideas, just from this basic sort.
The site build is progressing well today. The CMS platform is up and stable, although page load times aren’t acceptable yet and a few things are being examined on the server side.
We’ve installed a number of plugins to give us more flexibility when adding content. One we’re experimenting with now allows easy addition of YouTube and other videos. And who would be more appropriate to test this with than the immortal David Ogilvy?
This video looks to be from the 80′s when Mr. Ogilvy was serving as the chairman of O&M in India. If you happen to know the audience this was filmed for, I’d appreciate your feedback.I’ll have more on Mr. Ogilvy and others in the future, but for now I bring you David Ogilvy in his own words, on the differences between general advertising and direct response and his advice to general advertising agencies.