Why "Customer Service" Is Not On the DM Bill of Rights
This article contains my version of the services that comprise the 2010 "Direct Marketer's Bill of Rights" — those "inalienables" that you have a right to expect from every direct marketing production vendor with whom you do business.
But guess what? Customer service isn't even on the list. Read on and you'll see why.
1. Package Ideas Galore
Your DM production vendor should offer you years of experience and tons of ideas. With that experience should come the ability to not only evaluate your campaign concept and strategy, but offer concrete suggestions on how to improve it — I mean real, workable, creative suggestions.
2. Package Efficiency Obsession
Just like you, a direct marketing production vendor is in the game to make money — but not at your expense. In fact, if the company has been in business awhile, it's stayed solvent by actually saving you money. It knows how to make every job that comes in the shop more cost-effective and optimally time-efficient. It's simply what the vendor does.
3. Follow-Up Compulsion
After your package has dropped, the results come in. That's when you (and your boss) learn whether or not the campaign was effective. A seasoned direct mail vendor is just as interested in those results as you are.
If the results are good, you'll be back. If not, you'll want to know the reason why. By including your direct marketing vendor when you are studying and tracking what's happened, it will be able to help you interpret the results.
4. The Big Picture View
The direct mail campaign you're planning or the one you've just completed are important, but they're only one part of the overall effort, right? To do the best job for you — and advise accordingly — provide your direct marketing production vendor with the details on how each direct mail event fits into the bigger campaign picture.
5. List Advice
It's a DM rule of thumb that the list(s) you select spell the single most important component of your campaign's success. If your DM production vendor knows its way around a list enterprise and how to export and import data with your database, you've just found a direct marketing production partner who will make your life easier.
6. Postal Expertise
Anybody who's been in this business a year knows enough not to "go it alone" with the U.S. Postal Service. Even people who've been around since forever sometimes get confounded by the bureaucracy, change and technology that comprise mail delivery. Your DM production vendor absolutely, positively must be expert in postal matters.
7. Education that Never Quits
Who would quibble that this 21st century is proving to be a bruiser for folks deeply into the DM business? Only constant education tempered by experience can stand up to this consumer-driven market mix that calls for creativity; technology; metrics; database design and management; market demographics and shifts; the USPS; paper on ink; and human psychology — all on a tight, no-mistakes production schedule.
Bottom line: Your direct marketing production partner is not your father's (or even your older brother's) "printer." This is DM; this is BIG.
8. Online Tools
Today, time demands that you conduct much of your direct marketing work online. You're just too busy to do otherwise. Your DM production vendor should have every current online tool available so that you can upload files electronically, check proofs online, execute efficient Web-to-print strategies, make intelligent data and list selections from your office, retrieve job status updates in real time, and manage your inventory remotely.
9. Customer Service — A Gimme!
OK, I put it here. But it's not really part of the DM Bill of Rights because it IS the DM Bill of Rights. Customer service is the foundation from which the other eight — and all else — build. A direct marketing production company that emulates this bill of rights can be a steadfast partner that shares responsibility for the success of your direct marketing program.
Crystal Uppercue is the marketing manager for EU Services, a 330-employee direct marketing production facility based in Rockville, MD. Download EU's free white paper, "A Marketing Manager's Guide to VDP Project Management," at www.euservices.com.