Monday, November 17, 2008

Should the USPS Change its Delivery Schedule?

I thoroughly enjoyed this article from DM News. It’s all about cost savings ideas for the US Postal Service, with the ultimate goal of keeping postage steady for direct marketers. The article cites two postal mail industry experts who have provided their comments on cost savings efforts.
Specifically, each expert discusses ramifications of the USPS cutting a day of mail service—cutting delivery from 6 times each week, to only 5.

Expert 1: C. Hamilton Davison, Executive director, American Cataloger Mailers' Association

Primary point
: Thinks that other options should be considered first—prior to cutting a day of mail delivery. For example, he suggests that the USPS look at closing some branches. He provides an interesting comparison of USPS facilities to McDonalds.

“Do you think McDonald's is everywhere? Well, McDonald's has 21,000 restaurants
worldwide; the USPS has 37,000 retail locations in the US alone. Isn't it
possible that we have too many post offices?”
Bottom Line: Mr. Davison recommends exploring any and all cost savings options if it means keeping the USPS competitive.

Expert 2: William Burrus, President, American Postal Workers Union

Primary point
: Mr. Burrus is adamantly opposed to a reduction of mail delivery days.
“If such a reduction leads to an increase in Priority, Registered, Certified,
FedEx, or UPS deliveries, customer costs would increase, and productivity
would decline.”
Bottom Line: He suggests that this change is too radical because it would delay mail significantly, especially in holiday schedules.
“This change would begin the process of dismantling the United States Postal
Service, which is the primary objective of those who advance this terrible

My take: I believe that the USPS needs to explore any cost-saving idea it can come up with. In this economy, every single business is exploring ways to save. The USPS shouldn’t be any different.

And, the solution clearly isn’t significant postage increases. I hate to see the direct marketing industry (which is a huge cash cow for the USPS) continually hit by rate increases that seem overwhelming and unfair. Further, taking away a day of mail delivery would not be the end of the world to most consumers who no longer rely on postal mail to receive important personal and business communication.

So, if a day must be cut to keep postal mail flowing, so be it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Search Engine Optimization - Free Webinar!

SEO continues to be more of an art than a science, don't you agree? When you find a search expert who delivers measurable results, consider yourself lucky.

That's how we felt when RRW found Daryl Clark of Internet Search Marketing. He not only helped RRW rank higher with Google and the others, but he's the one who encouraged us to start this blog. Now, when you search for Direct Marketing Blog, our tiny firm consistently ranks in the top 5. Pretty cool!

Daryl is doing some amazing work with large and small firms. And, even better, he's offering a free webinar next week to share some of his SEO expertise. Check out his blog for more details.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Case Study: Social Networking

Today's case study comes to us from Chief Marketer. It's an interesting discussion about how the Broadway musical, First Wives Club is using social networking to build a fan base, and an audience for the musical. What I learned? For the right target market, making the effort to build and manage a social network absolutely makes sense.

Below is the case study in its entirety.

First Wives Club Engages in Social Networking

When you're going through a tough time, you need friends more than ever. And if they an identify with your experiences, even better. recently debuted social networking features to help divorced and soon-to-be-single-again women do just that—and have laugh or two in the process..

The venture began when Jonas Neilson and his partner Paul Lambert acquired the rights to produce a Broadway musical based on the 1996 film "First Wives Club."

In the process of reinterpreting the movie for the stage, the duo ran a series of focus groups with divorced women. Unlike typical focus groups, champagne was served.

"It was really kind of interesting, because they were more like cocktail parties," says Neilson, it wasn't long into each session before the ladies were laughing, crying and exchanging business cards. "There was an unspoken bond between the women. They had a commonality which immediately created a sense of belonging to the group."

There was a real need there that wasn't being met online, says Neilson, for women to connect with other people who were going through the same experience.

Over time, the site morphed into a destination for divorced women to find networking, resources and entertainment, such as "Hot Flashes," a fictional blog by Mimi Schmir, a writer who has written for "Grey's Anatomy," that take a humorous look at failed marriages.

While some might think a site devoted to divorce would be maudlin, Neilson says with First Wives World that is most certainly not the case. He says most divorced women he's talked to say they were miserable in the marriage, and the divorce became a shot at a new life.

Neilson says he thinks that the next frontier for successful online communities is taking those relationships offline, into the "real" world.

As for the musical, it will premiere at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego in July 2009, with a goal of hitting Broadway in 2010. Getting the word out via the site is a natural fit since the profile of many users—women who are 40+—dovetails what who buys the majority of theater tickets.

The portal is generating about 100,000 page views per month. Right now, Neilson says is concentrating on building an audience, rather than measuring a hard ROI.

"We want to keep the network 'sacred' for women" who are gathering information on how to deal with their divorce, Neilson notes. "We don't want to inundate them with banners. We want them to feel this is their space."

Of course, he notes, that doesn't mean that the site isn't looking for unique ways for sponsors to integrate their marketing messages into the site. It's a good demographic, Neilson says, because at this point in their lives, these women are very open to changing things like brand loyalties.

Ultimately, Neilson says the site will help fund the musical. "Instead of creating the product and then trying to find an audience, we're building the audience first."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today, it's all about coffee

So, what's a direct marketing blog doing talking about coffee? Well, it was on my mind today and the more I browsed around, the more coffee news I came up with, and felt the compulsion to share with you.

You've probably all heard about Starbucks' offer to give everyone who votes today a cup of joe. For free. Without requiring any proof of voting. I love that! We've been faced with so much depressing economic news (and don't get me started about the overkill on the election coverage...), that news about getting anything for free, especially one of my favorite things, puts a grin on my face. Kudos for Starbucks for being good to their customers and encouraging us all to vote. Oh, and kudos to them for garnering all of this good press and building customer good-will at the same time.

While I'm on the topic of Starbucks, check out this DM News article about their launch of a new loyalty program. If you spend more than $5/week at Starbucks, you will definitely find value in this card, even though it's not free. You know my take on this, as a database marketer--I'm drooling over the opportunities to mine the customer data and figure out new ways to sell more things and grow customer loyalty.

Here's an overview of the program, straight from the article:
The new Gold program, which goes into wide release on November 4, offers a 10% discount on most in-store purchases. Gold membership costs $25 annually and offers its own card, which users are encouraged to register for additional benefits such as complimentary beverages on their birthdays. Starbucks Card Rewards, the program that launched earlier this year, provides members with free drink customizations and WiFi hours with the use of a pre-loaded Starbucks card.
And, if that wasn't enough coffee news, take a look at this item (also from DM News) that talks about Caribou Coffee's launch of a mobile marketing campaign. I can see how this channel could be ideal for retailers like Caribou--catch your demographic (in this case, they wanted to boost sales to 18-34 year olds) when they're out and about and shoot them a valuable coupon ($1 off a large drink). Nice application of mobile marketing, wouldn't you agree?

So, there you have it, an update on direct marketing of coffee--with some loyalty ideas thrown in at no extra charge!

Gotta go--need to drink my Venti!