On Track for Smarter Mailing
In my talks with several direct marketing experts for this month's article on the benefits of a robust promotion history database ("Promotion History Databases Keep You on Track," page 20), I came away with a newfound appreciation for the direct marketing practice.
From the smallest mom-and-pop storefront to a Fortune 500 multichannel conglomerate, direct marketing allows each to create targeted campaigns that can be tracked for effectiveness at driving business. And when I say tracked, I mean down to the most minute details possible.
No wonder the line that used to separate the advertising and direct marketing worlds is becoming more blurry with each year of the country's economic struggles. When you're responsible for your company's sales, why wouldn't you look for methods of advertising and marketing that offer accountability?
Tracking your offers, creative approaches, lists, delivery method, response channel, etc., helps you determine what's working so you can funnel your marketing budget to the best ends. It also helps you be aware of what your customers like and don't like, so you can treat them accordingly in this era of privacy awareness. Surveys are great tools, but nothing speaks louder than actual behavior.
One of the ultimate tracking tools of use to direct marketers is in development at the USPS. For all the bad press the organization gets over its sponsorship of Lance Armstrong, you have to give it credit for working to advance its technology in support of direct marketers. The Intelligent Mail and Address Quality group headed by USPS Senior Vice President Charles Bravo plans to serve direct marketers' need for speed with the creation of a universal barcode called OneCode.
According to the April 2003 Memo to Mailers, a monthly newsletter for business customers of the USPS, OneCode will be a unique barcode for each piece of mail processed by the USPS; with individual barcodes, each mail piece would be trackable from the time the barcode is printed to when the mailing is received in the recipient's home or place of business. Further, it can be used on reply mail to track payments, renewals, orders, leads, etc., and it will be hooked up to the USPS' address change and postage-payment services. This means address updates make it back faster to marketers' databases and helps reduce the amount of undeliverable mail pieces.
The tracking portion of the Intelligent Mail program already has been made available to marketers, under the name CONFIRM. Enhancements to this service continue, and Bravo's group is tackling the other aspects of the Intelligent Mail program in stages.
With state-of-the-art tracking from the USPS, marketers are that much closer to the results of their direct mail campaignsa needed boost, when every campaign brings new patterns to be analyzed and interpreted.