As published on Biznik

An open letter to Uncle Sam

Dear Uncle Sam,

I am a direct marketer, and as such I rely on direct mail to meet the business and marketing objectives of my clients.  When done right, there are few more effective channels.  And I have you to thank for that, with your reliable postal army completing the last leg of our meticulously-crafted marketing campaigns – whether snow, hail or ill-tempered Jack Russell.

So it should come as no surprise that my clients and I are concerned about the troubles we hear of at the USPS.  But unlike many in my position, I have a different request for you: PLEASE RAISE POSTAGE.  Yes, I said it.  Please do us all a favor and raise the price of US postage.  Allow me to make my case for more expensive mail.

Mail was once rare, special and intimate.  Like many once-cherished vestiges of society (airline travel, motion pictures, customer service), direct mail fell prey to the evolution towards an insufferable commodity. Somewhere along the line it became acceptable to abuse the personal space of one’s mailbox.  It was in the interest of the agency and the print shop to flood the market with their clients’ budget, littering doorsteps at random with coupon fliers and envelopes fat with coupons for cat grooming.

Lead aggregators, shared mailers, printers with idle machines and less sophisticated marketers, who care more about selling quantity than quality, have given the industry a bad name.  To them, direct marketing is little more than placing a billboard on a postcard – or as we like say in the industry “spray and pray.”

So why should us honest marketers care about such purveyors of bad marketing?

  • Industry Perception – if your mail only included brands you use or like, the term “junk mail” would not exist
  • Industry Averages – when it can be tracked, poorly-executed mail redeems at <1%, where as our targeted campaigns reach well into double digit returns
  • Mailbox Clutter – well-constructed marketing campaigns can get lost in the sea of the poorly-targeted ~3K marketing impressions the average customer receives every day
  • Client Conditioning – junior clients are easily sold on cost, while return on investment seems more complex and often seen as “NMP”
  • Client Budgets – per previous point, there’s only so much budget to go around, so little is left after clients load up on the cheap “empty calories” of bad marketing
  • Client Trust – misled list companies and shared mailers harm client trust of the channel with the empty promise of “impressions”

The list goes on.  So what is one on the right side of the direct marketing quality divide to do?  I say, raise postage – price bad marketing out of the market.  Make ineffective marketers scramble to justify their damaged goods.  If this is what it takes for clients to finally realize quantity will never outperform quality, then so be it.

There’s a reason BMWs cost more than jalopies, a reason that Guinness costs more than lawnmower beer, a reason that there are far more seats in Coach than Business Class.  Value, performance and return on investment are obvious in all other industries – why should marketing be any different?

So, Uncle Sam, I beg of you: raise postage.  It’s time for casual marketers to take stock of what they’re getting for their money.


Sam Sample

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