Straight Talk: Neil Metviner's "Smarter" Approach to Marketing
Neil J.Metviner was named this year's B-to-B marketer of the year by the Direct Marketing Association. Metviner serves as president of Pitney Bowes Direct, a division of Pitney Bowes that supplies mailing solutions to small- and home-based businesses. Prior to joining Pitney Bowes, he held a number of senior executive positions at Cendant Co. and National Westminster Bank. He now reflects on declining response rates, multichannel integration, and his favorite travel marketer.
PB: What has been your most memorable moment as a B-to-B marketer at Pitney Bowes?
NM: Being able to beat our direct mail control piecea new-customer acquisition [package] that was in place for five yearsand replace it with five new controls. We had an unbeatable control before I joined the marketing team, and now we are able to have a strong rotation, which has really helped our direct mail business.
PB: What has been the most compelling trend in B-to-B direct mail in the last five years?
NM: The most compelling trend that we're facing now is a decline in response rates. We see that across all media, and what that means is that we have to become better marketers. We have to continue to reduce the costs of direct mail. [Marketers] need to take better advantage of postal-rate discounts and address cleansing. We need to do better modeling. And we just need to become smarter direct mailers. We just can't throw millions and millions of pieces out against the market because, as we all know, volume is up, direct mail [usage] is up, and response rates are down.
PB: In your estimation, which media offers the most opportunity for a successful B-to-B marketing campaign?
NM: I think you have to look at each medium separately because they do have their unique challenges, even though they kind of blend together at the end of the day. Direct mail, for starters. Direct mail is strong. It's one of [Pitney Bowe's] strongest mediums. We do a lot of direct mail, ranging from 40 million [to] 65 million piecesover the last two to three years, each year. But direct mail requires a lot of investment. We have a testing methodology that is very rigorous, and that has helped us, but direct mail is strong and growing and will be there. One thing direct mail does, though, is produce a very qualified customer. Our customers that respond to direct mail have some of the lowest cancel rates [among] any of our customers.
Telemarketing, on the other hand, is a very strong medium for us. The great thing about telemarketing, of course, is [that] you can turn it on and turn it off. If things aren't working, you [regroup] and move on. Telemarketing, however, produces a less qualified customer, who tends to have a higher cancel rate.
The Internet is a growing channel for us, no doubt about itboth on its own, in terms of finding a prospect and making a sale, and also on the back end, in terms of converting direct mail. It also produces qualified customers.
PB: Do you think B-to-B marketers will have much to worry about in terms of new marketing legislation such as do-not-call and Cam Spam? The commercial fax ban, for example, has garnered major headlines.
NM: I don't know if worry is the right word; I think we will have to deal with it. Even though we are B-to-B marketers, we at Pitney Bowes comply with the B-to-C Do-Not-Call Registry. I think that there are challenges, clearly, in the administration of that legislation. What does this mean? More direct mail. I
believe B-to-C marketers will be shifting more and more of their marketing spend to direct mail, and they are going to have to figure out how to integrate that medium.
But yes, privacy is an issue, and it's not going to go away. And we, as marketers, have to accept the fact that this is going to be part of our business model, and we're going to have to work with the legislation and not continue to oppose it.
PB: What was the last piece of direct mail you responded to?
NM: When companies are targeting me and speaking to me as an individual, I respond. For example, Starwood Preferred Guests does a tremendous job of speaking to me as a frequent traveler to Starwood. And when they ask me to respond to something, it's [directed at] me and relevant, and therefore I respond.