Marketing Challenge: Defending Direct

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The new CEO wants to cut direct mail because of postal increases—even though DM is great for ROI. What would you do? Email your answers to by June 30 for the chance to win $100.

It was a not-so-perfect storm: new CEO, postal increase, major direct mail initiative in play. When building out Summit Industries' marketing plan for the year, CMO Miranda Bell decided to push the envelope with the company's direct mail, which was always a solid performer in terms of lead generation—consistently with response rates of about 25% and conversions from those leads typically in the low double digits. Bell's team created a series of pieces, each of which had digital integration elements such as QR codes, personal URLs, and even one with augmented reality. Each built on the previous to move prospects through the funnel and to build repeat business from current customers.

As much as it aimed to drive sales, the year-long program was designed around building or solidifying relationships, so prospects and customers would receive all of the mailers intended for their segment.

The pieces ranged from post cards to magalogs to boxes containing themed promotional items—much of which was printed in advance as a cost-saving measure. Only the magalogs (mini catalogs with magazine-style content) would be printed on-demand to ensure that the content, products, and pricing were current and relevant to each segment.

Bell wasn't too concerned about the then-looming USPS exigent increase when doing her planning late last year, because much of the initiative would be complete before the pricing would have an impact. But CEO Dasha Atwala, new to the company, became concerned when reviewing the company's financials that the recent exigent increase in postal rates would push marketing's costs well over-budget for the year. He asked Bell to kill or cut the program, but she knew it would pay off despite the postal rate increase. She just needed the right data and approach to sell Atwala on keeping the initiative as is.

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