Direct Marketing Resolutions for the Millennium

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Year in and year out, we all make personal and professional resolutions for the New Year. We vow to treat our mothers with more respect, to recycle our newspapers, to go to the gym, to pay our parking tickets on time and, of course, to be more organized.


While we can't help you put down the potato chips and put on the running shoes, we can offer some advice on how your company can use direct mail to its fullest capacity in the future. So, in the spirit of the new millennium, the following are direct marketing resolutions for the new year.


1. Lose Weight. Or purge waste from your mailing lists. Find a company that can dedupe your lists on the fly. Why send your mailing piece to both Joe Jones at One Merchant Place and Joseph Jones at 1 Merchant Place? Especially when you can have your lists deduped, and cleaned up, in one pass-through? Why waste money in printing and postage, when just mailing once is more effective? Deduplication is only the beginning. Depending on locale, between 1 percent and 2 percent of all addressees may move annually. Using FastForward or NCOA can reclaim between 12 percent and 24 percent of addresses, depending on the situation. Find a company that can help you mail to a clean list of potential customers.


2. Be Kind to Your customers. "Customer Relationship Management" is the one of the big buzz-phrases for the new year. But treating customers and clients with respect and giving them attention has always been important. Today, however, in the age of the Internet, instant information, instant service and treating customers well are primary to the success of any business. Today, mailers can get information about the status of their fulfillment program by pulling their order up on the Internet. They have the ability to see their merge/purge reports on the Internet, as well. With this information being available at the click of a mouse, companies need to keep up with technology to make sure they are not behind the times. Direct marketing companies have to offer their clients the most information, and as quickly as possible.


3. Be Efficient. Time is money and turn-around-time will be even more important in the new year, especially when trying to get out financial statements. When producing statements is concerned, or utility bills, there are three factors that cannot be overlooked: accuracy, punctuality and privacy. Vow to make sure you are getting all three from the lettershop that produces and mails your company's invoices and statements. Where managing leads is concerned, utilize the services of a vendor that collects leads via web, BRC, fax and e-mail. They should further qualify them, if necessary, via telephone, and instantly distribute them over the web to the appropriate sales person or office. Finally, they should be able to provide sales status in real time. Time will always be money.


4. Set and Meet Goals. In the new year, perhaps your company will focus on its core business, and stop wasting time and resources trying to do it all. Instead, a company may want to consider outsourcing billing, printing and personalization to a firm that concentrates all of its energy on these functions. You can't be all things to all people, and should focus on your strengths and leave the paperwork to others.


5. Stop Procrastinating. Complacency will not survive in the fast pace of information technology in the new millennium. Companies should vow to use the Internet to its fullest capacity. This includes using e-mail for direct marketing. Opt-in e-mail lists are one of the fastest growing ways to target potential clients. But like anything new, it takes time for people to trust its value. E-mail list brokerage will be one of the most efficient ways to get information to your clients, and potential clients.


6. Kick the Habit. Vow to give up the old habit of using your standard vendors without seeking information from their competition. If your current vendors are really as good as you think they are, they will stand up to the test of comparison. This year, make sure you are using the right people for the job at hand, instead of habitually calling on the same people because they are there and you are used to them. Don't be shortsighted, addressing just your immediate needs or crises. Seek out vendors who can offer long-term marketing solutions. Choose vendors that are active with industry associations, and who promote user-group interaction among the users of their products and services and offer enhancements as a result.


7. Think and Act Globally. The world is getting smaller and smaller as technology brings us all closer together. Business-to-business and business-to-consumer lists are available. Take advantage of them in the new year. List brokers and managers can help your company expand into the international market, which is the way the future is headed. Vow to bring your company into the 21st century by researching how the international market can help you profit.


8. Exercise my Mailing Options. This year, make sure you are taking advantage of the postal options that can help save the company money. By drop shipping, or designing mailing pieces to meet postal codes and standards, your company can save money in postage. Make sure you are maximizing your discounts by having a postal expert analyze your mailing pieces. Strive to think out-of-the-box to continually improve on the results of all your marketing efforts.


9. Plan Ahead. The adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," may be old fashioned, but it is even more important in our high-tech world. Make sure accidents don't mean an end to business as you know it. Research the best disaster recovery company for your needs. Back up data and have a system in place that will make sure your customers are billed, even if your plant is under water. Disaster recovery and contingency planning companies are as necessary as insurance plans for the businesses of the future.


10. Respect Others. Be responsible for your role in the direct marketing industry. We all must work together to make the direct marketing industry credible and respected. Be a part of the direct response marketing community - direct mail, telemarketing, e-mail, and broadcast fax marketing - that respects privacy, and provides efficient service and knowledge to all your clients. In the new millennium, the direct mail businesses that succeed will be those that use honor and technology to help other businesses grow.


Mitch Goldklank is senior vice president of marketing and sales at Communication Concepts Inc., Ivyland, PA.
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