Unite marketing and billing

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Every one of us is the recipient of thousands of marketing messages every week. Even if we are not paying attention to the radio or TV advertisements or scrutinizing print ads, we still absorb messages from the billboards we pass on the way to work or the posters in the company cafeteria. And, of course, we all have a mailing address that acts as a magnet for offers from local and national companies.

The challenge to us as marketers is the same as it has always been: cut through the clutter with our message. With today's media fragmentation, it requires a new approach. Progressive companies are finding that a tighter relationship between direct mail marketing campaigns and billing statements is one way to raise their profile in the eyes of their customers.

An industry measure special report, "Variable Data Printing/1:1 Print

Personalization: 2007," claimed 79 percent of digital printers working on variable data printing projects said those projects were primarily commercial, while 4 percent said those projects were primarily transactional. Eighteen percent of all digital printers said their VDP jobs were a mix.

When the direct mail campaigns and the billing statements use common branding elements and common messages, each acts as a catalyst. According to industry studies, people spend more time with their billing statements than any other form of communication. Bills are expected and reviewed, so they hold on to mindshare longer than most mail pieces.

Campaigns that use a mix of transactional and commercial techniques require planning and effort to coordinate. In many organizations, there is no current relationship between the owners of the direct mail campaigns and the owners of the billing statements. The first step is to bring together all of the parties who own pieces of the customer communication efforts. That first meeting will give everyone a chance to understand what customers actually see in their mailboxes.

Take a look at the brand images used in the direct mail campaigns and the branding used in the statements. Are they synchronized or is the billing statement still using older logos and older typefaces? Are you using new tag lines and brand imagery in your direct mail campaigns? Why not integrate them into the bills? It's a first step and an important one in strengthening the overall branding effort.

Your customer has a choice of who to do business with, so make it easy to recognize the products and services you have to offer. Take a close look at what you have learned about your customers through their spending patterns.

Take a look at the response rates you have to your current direct mail campaigns. Build offers that you can make through both channels. Start tracking the response rates and then keep adjusting and tuning. Now you have a conversation going with your customer, instead of disconnected communications.

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