Innovation and tech key to DM survival

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As the Winterberry Group reported recently, direct mail is a "channel in transformation," with profound changes taking place almost daily. Faced with unprecedented economic conditions, marketers have drastically reevaluated their reliance on traditional methods, and have stepped up demand for more precisely targeted, data-driven marketing and higher returns on every dollar spent. 

Direct mail still commands more than $50 billion in US marketer spending, ensuring its viability for the foreseeable future. Even so, 2009 promises to be both a trying and telling year in our industry as we wait for whole industries to regain their footing and focus on growing their businesses. 

That being said, even in the short- to mid-term, success stories are likely to emerge from companies that take bold action. A sharp reexamination of the marketing-channel mix is well underway for many marketers and their service providers. Campaigns that effectively integrate both on- and offline media will likely achieve maximum consumer impact and response. 

Thankfully, technology helps to address the fundamental shifts we see in our industry and will play a critical role in any direct marketer's success. Direct marketing has become more automated with the advent of ingenious new software and process solutions. With highly segmented data, digital printing, and precise measurement tools, we can now execute customized campaigns at a level of sophistication we never dreamed possible even 10 years ago. 

At the same time, cost control remains at the forefront. With postal costs at an all-time high (and only going higher), our industry is challenged to create new approaches that mitigate the impact of those costs. New technologies have enabled marketers to develop postal and campaign optimization techniques that significantly reduce the impact of postal costs and help eliminate postal waste. 

The time for innovation is now. We may face historic economic uncertainty, but we also have an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future of our industry.

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