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.