While sitting in a session on mobile marketing at MFSA's annual conference, I had an epiphany that finally made the connection as to how my company could benefit (profit) from mobile advertising. Struggling for the last year with the concept of print and mailing service providers becoming marketing service providers, I could not see how my small company was going to be able to provide the sophisticated services necessary to make this transition. I also could not see how the small and medium sized business customers I market to (big customers want big suppliers) could afford or utilize an expanded suite of services even if I did provide them.

My epiphany was that mobile advertising is dependent on direct mail!

Until that session I had shunned the concept of offering mobile marketing because I thought it was too costly (thinking apps here), complicated, and difficult for my business to implement. What I finally realized was:
1. The easiest and most popular form of mobile advertising uses QR codes to display information on smart phones.
2. QR codes must be printed on something physical for distribution and use by consumers.
3. If a marketer wants mass distribution of their mobile messaging, the most economical method of putting QR codes in the hands of consumers is through the use of direct mail.
4. How inexpensive it is to provide the landing pages and or mobile websites to which QR codes are linked.

I also realized that direct mail is dependent on mobile advertising!

Direct mail needs a reason for being, a mission, a marketing niche. It has to be able to compete with digital marketing products based on its functionality and price1. At the same time, we as an industry need a vehicle that allows us to leverage our skills and experiences to once again dominate the advertising world. Mobile advertising can leverage the knowledge and resources of the direct mail industry, providing us a path to sell integrated direct marketing services to our customers.

One of our industry's core competencies is our ability to work with and handle data. We take these skills and our technology for granted, even as our on-line competitors are oblivious to the concept or need. Our ability to collect, merge, purge, correct, update, cleanse, and manage customer data in a usable format is what differentiates us from on-line competitors.

The fact is that accurate address information is the foundation of any marketing database. Add a person's name to address information and we can track that customer and ship purchases to them as they move about the country. Add their email address and we can provide a low cost method of marketing to them until they change their email provider. At which time we are able to send a direct mail piece to their new home address asking for their new email address, collecting this and other bits of data through the use of mobile technology.
Good marketing is all about the data we are able to collect and retain for our customers. Typically on-line advertisers see data as being a name and email address, but a few are starting to understand the value of having more customer information. Of course the data on-line advertisers need to collect and retain is different than the information direct mail marketers have been managing for years. Their data is BIG DATA!

So why is direct mail dependent on mobile? Mobile provides easy entry into becoming a marketing services provider for small print and mailing service companies such as mine. Mobile turns a physical mail piece into an interactive link to the (mobile) Internet. It turns a postcard into a direct competitor to email, with the same functionality. It provides instant feedback to a direct mailing and provides for the collection of consumer supplied data for future marketing efforts.

Since MFSA's annual conference, we have been transforming our business and putting in place a new marketing plan that will grow our sales. The biggest change we made to our business and marketing model is that we will no longer sell print or mail production services. Period! We will be selling integrated direct marketing services that concentrate on message delivery and data collection.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are not actively marketing their products and services to consumers because they have no usable data about current or future customers. They do not have current name and address information nor do they have email addresses. As for overhyped social marketing, small business owners do not have time to waste on Facebook. One of the reasons EDDM has taken off in the SMB market is because the USPS is providing data about local consumers and a channel for delivering marketing messages to them.

The lack of customer data is our starting point in the transition of our businesses into an integrated direct marketer. Utilizing direct mail and leveraging the data available to our industry, we can buy the information the SMB market needs to start marketing its products and services. Through the integration of direct mail and mobile marketing, any data we cannot buy (such as email addresses) can be collected from consumers moved to our mobile platform through the utilization of personalized (unique) QR codes.

Once we work with a SMB and have built their marketing database with names, addresses, email addresses, and other pertinent consumer information, we can provide message delivery services through multiple channels. By tracking future mailings, we will be able to trigger an email blast soon after delivery of the physical mail piece. The mail piece can carry a physical coupon or special offer to drive foot traffic, delivering immediate value to both the consumer and retailer.

A unique QR code printed on the mail piece will move recipients to personalized mobile landing pages. These landing pages will provide a second, greater value coupon for verifying the accuracy of information listed in a prefilled form. The information in the prefilled form is from data provided by the marketing database and mirrors the name and address information printed on the mail piece. While on this or other landing pages, the mobile user could link to a mobile website for more information and or downloads about the business.

In the scenario above we will be providing: the printing, mailing services, postage, postal tracking, triggered email blast, mobile landing pages and tracking, mobile website and tracking, and collection of all the data along with continued maintenance and management of the marketing database. If you want to compete with me you will have to do better than give away your mailing services just to get the print order.

The most amazing part of this transformation is that all of the pieces needed to provide integrated direct marketing services to our customers are currently available in the market place. Through third party vendors, who white label their offerings, we are able to provide sophisticated message delivery services for a low, on demand cost. Our primary job as a marketing service provider is to coordinate all of the moving parts and manage the data that is the engine of integrated direct marketing.

1) With Acquisition Marketing Direct mail is less expensive, more effective than email

Todd Butler, Butler Mailing Services, eKEY Technologies can be reached at 513-870-5060, toddb@butlermail.com or www.ekeymailer.com.