Alan Rosenspan's "Improve Your Response"
"The mail and our employees have become the target of terrorism"
John E. Potter
"U.S. Postal Service officials yesterday
said they are considering sanitizing equipment similar to that used in
the food processing industry, which uses radiation beams to kill bacteria.
"Postal officials announced new safety
measures even urging people at home to "wash their hands"
after opening letters."
"I assume youre working on a
newsletter that will help direct mail companies cope during these trying
One of our subscribers
I spent two days this week with Navy Federal Credit
Union, based just outside of Washington D.C.
Like every other company, they are concerned about
the problems with direct mail right now, but not just with their outbound
Theyve received a number of telephone calls
from their members who dont want to mail in their payments, their
mortgage applications or other important papers because they are
afraid they will be delayed, or just not delivered.
This is a very real fear. Several of our
clients have been experiencing two or three week delays in the mail.
And it will probably get worse before it gets better.
The U.S. Postal Service is delivering a postcard
to every household in America with a warning checklist for suspicious
direct mail. The checklist warns people to beware of mail that is:
Addressed to someone no longer at your address.
Handwritten and has no return address, or has
one that you cant confirm is legitimate.
Lopsided or lumpy mail.
Marked with restrictive endorsements.
Unexpected or from someone you dont know.
This list includes at least three of the techniques
we recommend using in our seminars. But theyre not going to work
Is This the End of Direct Mail?
No, it is not. Are most people over-reacting? Yes.
However, there are a number of smart and prudent things that you can and
First and foremost, you
might want to postpone your next direct mail campaign.
With delivery being delayed, or even at risk,
it just doesnt make sense to use the mail right now.
Consumers will be much less willing to open things
from companies they dont already use. They may even be afraid
And the same is also true of business-to-business.
Many companies are simply discarding their third-class mail. It used
to be called "Corporate Dumping." Today, its more serious than
that. A recent story in the Wall Street Journal talked about how companies
were hiring other companies to open their mail.
All this means now may not be the best
time to launch your new product or your new campaign. January has always
been one of the best months to mail. I recommend waiting until then,
if you can.
If you must mail, pay
attention to these guidelines:
These include recommendations from the Direct
Marketing Association, as well as my own thinking.
Clean and update your list now. This has
always been important, but it may become critical going forward.
You lose a great deal of credibility with customers and prospects
if you dont have their correct name and address. Today, theyll
probably just throw out your mail.
No "stealth" envelopes, please. Ive
always recommended them, and theyve almost always worked.
However, in this environment, you will need to put your company
name, logo and address in a prominent place on the envelope.
If your company is endorsed by any reputable and recognizable organization
(for example, the DMA) you may want to include their logo on the
outside as well.
Test a "see-through" envelope. One of my
clients is testing a vellum envelope for the first time. Its
more expensive, but we want to make sure that people can see whats
inside. You may want to test this idea.
Beware of boxes. If you must use them, make
sure your box is clearly identified and looks slick, expensive and
professional. Not something that someone could have put together
in their kitchen.
You should put your name and logo on the outside, and even tell
people whats inside.
Self-mailers may work better now. Ive
always argued against them, but theres a time and place for
everything. A mailing piece that doesnt have to be opened
may be more welcome now.
Dont fool people. This is a time you
should be trying to create confidence and build trust with your
customers and prospects. The techniques to "trick" people into opening
the envelope will probably backfire right now.
Make your 800 number bigger. Some people
may feel more comfortable responding by phone or mail.
Finally, take a closer look at e-mail. If
your company already uses e-mail, you have an important advantage.
If you dont, I believe you should make every attempt to capture
the e-mail addresses of your customers and your prospects at every
Theres never been a computer virus as bad as anthrax.
One company I work with is sending out an e-mail to tell customers
that they will be sending them direct mail so they know to
What's the Real Danger
Your chances of actually getting anthrax are 100
million-to-one, but there are two very real dangers that every direct
marketer faces right now.
will feel even worse about direct mail.
Theyve never really liked it. Theyve
always believed they get too much of it. But most people have never
been actively against direct mail. That may change.
One of the important things you can do right
now is to try and add value every time you mail. Try to be extra helpful
to your customers. Try to understand how they feel.
Many companies have sent special letters to their
customers during these difficult times. That may be something you want
2. The Government may
In other countries mainly in Europe
there are severe restrictions on both direct mail and database marketing.
So far, that hasnt really happened in the U.S.
One reason may be because politicians are one
of the biggest users of direct mail. But that may change. Im not
sure what we can do about this one, besides supporting the DMA. and
honoring their privacy protection guidelines.
Are You Doing?
We want to know how your company is responding
to these challenges so we can share your ideas with our subscribers.
Please let us know: how youre coping; what
youre doing about it; what youve been hearing from your customers;
and well do our best to spread the word.
Thank you and good luck in the difficult
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