What Value Do You REALLY Bring to the Table?

By | September 14, 2010

A recent LinkedIn discussion in the Direct Mail Group really shined a spotlight on the issue of value brought by mailing vendors. It asked, “What does your direct mail vendor do that makes you want to run the other way? How many strikes do you give them before they are out?”

With so many digital printers offering themselves as one-stop shops — creative to print to mail — the resulting conversation should make them sit up and take notice. (Check out the entire discussion here.) In the end, it boiled down to this: What value do they bring beyond just the mechanics?

Here are some suggestions gleaned from that conversation.

1. Don’t over-promise in order to get the sale. Be honest. Be realistic. Place more value on building the relationship with the customer than making a quick buck.

Too many are focused on making another sale just like a local used car salesman. Not long ago, the Direct Marketing Association did an extensive survey on the main reasons why direct mailers select the the vendors they do. 86% said the most important attribute was keeping the client “out of trouble.” Less than 9% said it was fitting the right equipment and the creativity of its use for the job at hand. — Steve Reynolds, president / owner at Harsonhill, Inc. (Las Vegas).

2. Go the extra mile (or encourage the customer to do so) to clean up your mailing list, de-dupe it, and run it through NCOA and CASS.

Don’t mail to people who don’t live there anymore. Don’t mail duplicates to the same house. If you just take the list and mail it out, you’re providing no value at all. If anything, you’re doing the client a disservice.

How much money is tied up in print and postage to reach an audience that’s not there? A Forrester Research study found that if the vendor is perceived as a trusted adviser, they will win the business 69% of the time. Yet they also found that only 7% of decision  [or any other client], there are tons of mailers who can put projects into the mail stream on time but how many are helping [them] increase their ROI? — Kate Dunn, president at Digital Innovations Group (Richmond, VA)

3. Make sure you can deliver on the 40/40/20 rule:

40% of your success is in the list, 40% in the offer, and 20% determined by the creative execution. In order to be able to deliver on this, you must understand lists, creative, and marketing. Not just printing!

4. Spend as much time on your list as you do everything else.

When preparing a direct mail campaign to develop new prospects or customers, why do people spend hours and even days on the creative message and graphics, and then they pick the mailing list in 10 minutes? Without the right mailing list, anything you do creatively will fail. — Joe Klein, president, Klein Direct (Cleveland/Akron area)

Agrees Travis Green, account executive at Strategic Marketing & Mailing (Urbana-Champaign, IL area):

A great offer sent to the wrong audience is still a failure.

Tom Spengler, account executive at Jessen Press (Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area) wraps it up nicely:

I worked for many years primarily providing mailing services. Most of those years were at a time when print providers didn’t have in-house mailing capabilities and outsourced those services. Therefore, a good percentage of my customers were printers.

There were times when they were ignorant (or worse—didn’t care) about USPS requirements and did not flag potential design flaws with direct mail pieces. They would come to me after the fact with printed pieces that were subject to postal surcharges, left no room for delivery point barcodes, out-of-aspect ratio etc.

These oversights resulted in wasted postage dollars that could have been avoided. This was frustrating to me as I was left trying to appeal to postal clerks for exceptions—often to no avail.

I’m in a great position now as a provider of print & mailing services to flag potential problems or ask questions and make alternative suggestions when discussing print specs with respect to direct mail—BEFORE anything is printed. This is one simple, yet important way I can demonstrate value to my prospects and customers. A provider of printing/direct mailing services that is not doing this will eventually burn you.

I don’t normally turn these posts into mini-articles, but I thought in light of this discussion, it was worth it.

So many digital printers these days are calling themselves “marketing services providers,” but as this discussion clearly demonstrates, in order to provide marketing services, you need to understand marketing. This is more than owning software for 1:1 printing, personalized URLs, email campaigns, and multi-channel campaign management. It’s understanding how and why to implement various types of campaigns and be able to do it successfully.

After all, your customers notice!

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2 thoughts on “What Value Do You REALLY Bring to the Table?

  1. Lindsay Gray

    All very good points Heidi. It is interesting to note the consistent emphasis on paying attention to your data. Also of interest is the value that comes from working with a vendor who has both the print production and mailing fulfillment in-house so that projects are well planned and coordinated from beginning to end.

  2. Nancy Scott

    Well done, Heidi.. and you beat me to it. I was going to write this one up myself. I thought the four points were a reassuring reminder that not all printers are the same. Over the years, I’ve worked with many, and once I got dry behind the ears, I knew “customer service” would drive my choices, not price. To me, that meant being able to rely on folks who could “save me from myself” before I got on press; or pros who would look at my specs and say, “You know what? You could do this cheaper and get the same effect.” No clients can really put a price on that and it doesn’t come with every relationship. When you find it, you stick.

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