Stand Up for Mail and Be Counted

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Are you as tired as I am of the press and broadcast media slamming direct mail to the point of even questioning the sensibility of using the medium? What nerve.


I don't suppose this has anything to do with their efforts to redirect direct mail dollars to shore up their advertising shortfalls. Well, it is time for us as direct mailers to take stock of our strengths, visibly support our industry and put into play the old adage, "The best defense is a good offense."


This industry is blessed with some of the greatest talent and energy in the entire workplace. Let's use our ingenuity to actively promote the power and value of direct mail. And, while we are at it, we should take a moment to greet our U.S. Postal Service letter carriers and thank them for staying the course.


Certainly, one way to stifle naysayers is to cite upbeat business news. There are many pearls worthy of mention in this economic mess that continues to plague us. For instance, an old friend and veteran list sales professional said his sales are up 13 percent year-to-date. That was just one of the many points of encouragement heard at the Direct Marketing Association's 84th Annual Conference & Exhibition last month. It is important to keep a balanced perspective and look at ways to build business rather than waste time ruminating the negative.


In developing a balanced perspective, let's recognize that advertising and sales promotion expenditures are down across all media. And yet, the DMA states that U.S. marketers will total $197 billion on direct response expenditures, a 3.6 percent increase over last year's spending. Furthermore, it recently surveyed 500 companies and found that 60 percent of respondents will increase prospect spending to offset lower sales.


This shows, once again, that businesses recognize the power of direct response advertising, with direct mail being the principal component and are willing to invest in it to climb out of their distressed situations. I doubt general advertising media, including those lambasting direct mail, have similar indicators.


It may be bad form to criticize our industry partners, but to be fully balanced in my finger-pointing the DMA and USPS need to be taken to task for their lack of support of direct mailers. For example, both entities should have cited that permit and metered mail is source-identified and known to the receiving USPS facility. This simple acknowledgment might provide a new level of awareness and a sense of security to the public.


The vulnerability of biological threat to commercial mail is of expressed concern to mailers and one that has been raised by the media. Notwithstanding the above criticism, postal inspectors and postmasters are addressing the issue of mailroom security in seminars nationwide. USPS representatives state the likelihood of commercial mail being contaminated is quite limited because of the separate handling procedures that are employed from that of First-Class mail.


Commercial mail enters the mail system in an entirely different manner from First-Class mail and continues in a separate stream to the point where it is prepared for letter carriers. This is important information and should be conveyed as broadly as possible. One venue, for example, should be through Postal Customer Councils.


The economic condition of the country has been unfavorable all year long, not just since September. However, we are resilient, and consumer confidence will revitalize, which, in turn, will cause the economy to recover. (My apologies to professors of economics for this simplified overview of a complex matter.)


Direct mailers can help stimulate this revival by promoting on-target list selection, quality mail piece design, pre-mail cleansing techniques and employment of USPS "days certain" delivery procedures. Our immediate task: do our collective best to bolster holiday sales.


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