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Two Mailboxes Are Better than One (688 words)

May 2001 By Diane March
By Diane March

The Charles Schwab TV commercial featuring Ringo Starr spouting off investment buzz words to the bewilderment of his rock 'n' roll cohorts really hits home for direct marketers in the aftermath of the Internet's implosion.

Investment principles hold up in the direct marketer's relentless need to refine, rethink and retool in order to capture the attention of the media-saturated consumer. The postal mailbox may be cluttered, but there's more than one mailbox, and more than one address that direct marketers must leverage.

In his commercial, Starr mentions "asset allocation." For direct marketers, this can be interpreted to mean the integration of different media—the destinations of which are the postal mailbox and the electronic mailbox.

Indeed, for a direct marketer, it used to be that the best way to find more customers was to uncover lists similar to its housefile. Then demographic overlays came along. RFM (response, frequency, monetary) followed. Then modeling, database marketing and lifetime value. Finally, enterprise-wide CRM (customer relationship management) solutions.

All of these milestones certainly are in play today, but they're directed toward the postal mailbox, and to a lesser extent the telephone. Direct marketers must now embrace the new reality of finding their best prospects in two completely different realms: the traditional physical world where a direct mail offer can be opened, read, discarded or acted upon, and the electronic virtual world where, with one keystroke, a targeted message can be deleted.

So in what realm does a marketer look for new customers? Are prospects still reading promotional mail, clicking on banner ads or religiously reading e-mailed marketing messages? In which medium are they being the most responsive? Can one medium support or segue to another?

Postal Mail & E-mail

Today, by using a directly sourced online household file, direct marketers can target Web-active consumers at the individual level. The premise that a direct mail piece can stimulate online consumers to respond via the Web has been proven by virtue of the overwhelming and continuous demand for online consumer lists.

Take venture capitalization. Wouldn't it be cost-effective to follow up on that targeted direct mailing with an e-mail message? Instead of a telemarketing follow-up, an e-mail impression may entice the consumer to respond. Or, direct marketers can try the list waters with e-mail tests, which are much less expensive than a direct mail package, and the results are immediate. A direct mail test then can be pursued using that very same list. Both campaigns can be evaluated independently, or multiple test cells can evaluate the effectiveness of one campaign supporting the other.

E-mail lists abound, yet how many of them allow for simultaneous messaging to both consumer mailboxes: traditional and e-mail? Direct marketers now can venture into the uncharted frontier of integrated precision-marketing solutions. Several examples come to mind.

Expired files historically have shown little ROI, no matter the amount of venture cash pumped into them. Try converting them to e-mail addresses. Postal address expires can be matched to e-mail append files.

As a result, a recapitalization has been achieved, suggesting that the segue from the postal mailbox to the electronic is a low investment and offers a high potential ROI.

If you're a Web marketer and have amassed buckets of e-mail addresses, but no postal addresses, allocation of your media dollar is limited. But if you match your e-mail file against a consumer data source that has e-mail and postal addresses, you're also in the pink, with two media channels to test.

Only 7 percent of Web pages are accessed through search engines, according to Standard Media International. Those left standing in the wake of the Internet implosion—click-and-mortar direct marketers and a few pure-plays—understood the limitations of search engines. They strategically invested in dual mailbox currency to acquire new customers.

The fluid conversion between two different mailboxes; the ability to measure response, retention and customer value; and the necessity to understand the profit potential of each address all speak to the investment opportunities now available to direct marketers.

Diane March is director of offline products for Naviant Marketing Solutions. You can reach her via e-mail at:

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