Package insert mailers, list brokers and list managers, arise. Now is the time for all good insert users to rally to the cause of higher postal rates. If there ever was a more propitious time for the direct mail industry to acknowledge the efficiency and viability of inserts, it is now.
The alternative print medium has flourished over the years for many reasons. One of the mainstays and easiest to relate to is the constant rise in postage. It has motivated companies to seek lower cost in their fulfillment operations by accepting outside advertisers to ride with their product shipments. The increases in postage since I started in business with a 3-cent stamp for First-Class mail have provided incentive for mailers to seek better, which many interpret as cheaper, ways to reach their customers.
In the past 40 years, inserts have evolved from a catchall of deals to a highly competitive mini-industry with its own section in SRDS and mIn plus all of the list write-ups in trade papers. This mini-industry supports more than $1 billion in sales spread among firms with more than 300 personnel to one-person boutiques.
Why are we not even more successful? Why is the direct marketing industry emphasis shifting to the Internet when facts indicate that mailers need responsive and targeted media that is cost-efficient? Why are insert program owners, managers and brokers not fighting off the mailers?
Let’s look at the positives before answering these questions. During the evolution of the insert medium, other media have seemed poised to bury inserts. Telemarketing and direct TV commercials both long and short are just several before the Internet that distracted mailers from their use of inserts. Inserts survived and prospered. Each of the big-time insert users has spawned imitators and expanded the pie for all. Demand for distribution outlets has raised the number of program owners to 1,500.
Competition and supply and demand have kept pricing reasonable. Mailers know this, and brokers and managers all play the game. So how do we be more successful?
o Encourage more mailers to try inserts. Testing is the name of the direct mail game. Make testing inserts easy for more mailers, and we’ll all see the continuations.
o Talk about success. This is not a visible medium except to the recipient of the package, statement, catalog or other vehicle carrying inserts. We need to find the charisma in the medium and promote it.
o Use correct terminology. Package insert program, alternative print media and ride-along are among the many confusing terms to the uninitiated. We need to settle on mutually agreeable terminology, then spread the word.
o Support the Alternative Response Media Council. Why invent a new entity to represent the various interests when we have a fine start and the backing of the Direct Marketing Association? But why not expand membership to include the printers, letter shops and hopefully many more mailers and program owners so that critical mass gives us the influence that we need?
o Encourage new insert programs from new industries. Many categories of potential insert programs just need contact to consider accepting inserts. The larger the pie, the more for everyone to eat.
o Speak out. Your direct marketing trade papers are slanted toward the Internet. Successful users of inserts, their brokers and managers and the recipients of the revenue generated by the medium need to be more vocal.
o Have your favorite printer speak up. He or she is getting extra business that the insert mailer is driving.
o Use existing means of computing activity. Agreement among the brokerage and management community on what counts as the status of distribution, who pays for mistakes, what constitutes agreeable payment terms and other issues would make it easier for all parties to focus on selling more users.
Mailers have always needed what the insert medium provides: cost-effective, targeted customers and prospects for their products and services. Yet mailers need strong motivation to change or add new media to their marketing mix. Now is the time for the alternative print medium to shine.