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Editor’s Notes : Busting Out of the Bunkers

May 2011 By Thorin McGee
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Not many small businesses appreciated when—hot on the heels of the recession—the USPS began requiring companies to run National Change of Address (NCOA) updates more frequently. Marketers weren't putting off NCOA because it's got a goofy acronym—data cleansing costs money, and when budgets are tight the janitorial fund is easy to squeeze.

However, as Chicago's Blind Service Association (BSA), found out, sometimes being forced to do something helps a company find a better way to do it that yields returns far greater than the costs.

Under fire, it's too easy for any department in any company to hunker down in its own bunker and try to wait out the barrage of bad news while doing nothing. Limited time and resources are great excuses for declining results, and who wants to face the big, scary market anyway? It's easier to blame the tough times and stop trying than to find opportunities and ways to take advantage of them even with limited resources.

In the case of BSA, the small nonprofit found a much cheaper way to do NCOA updates on its very intimate—read: small—database, and running the update has helped the company keep in touch with some big donors it would have lost to poor address hygiene in years past. Once it was forced to act, BSA learned something in meeting the USPS's challenge that is now helping it beat the greater challenge—the nonprofit-crushing recession.

The last few years have been terrible for many companies. But I'll say this: Direct marketers have responded not by hiding in their bunkers, but by changing practices and figuring out ways to get 21st Century, digitally enabled, cash-strapped consumers to listen, engage and eventually open their wallets. New ways to market—and new ways to make traditional direct marketing, such as direct mail, even more effective—are our hottest topics right now.

If "new" is what you're looking for, you're reading the right magazine. How about regionally-targeted, individually trackable, personalized direct marketing in the newspaper? "Start the Presses!" shows how to take newspaper inserts and space ads into the space age via new ways to integrate print campaigns into your digital marketing and transaction platforms.

Or, on the customer-service side, take a look at "Robo Reps" to see how advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) can let you put some of your customer service into the hands of "intelligent virtual agent solutions," without them running amok.

The market continues to evolve, even when your department feels so battered it just wants to keep its head down. But when you break out of those bunkers, good things happen.


 

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