What’s The Big Deal?

Have you noticed how everything is becoming “big”?  In a recent commentary (1), Dr. Joe Webb remarked, “…big mail will require big data and big automation to balance increasing costs of compliance and postage.”  Expiration of the exigent postage surcharge aside, I would say The Doctor’s comments are hard to deny.
It occurs to me that as things continue to get “bigger”, there are more reasons to view our marketing efforts as a process than ever before.  Increasingly, when we move from viewing our direct marketing strategy as disconnected efforts to satisfy a planning cycle, a channel, a news cycle, and begin to think in terms of a strategy that is not time bound, we can truly leverage the best that technology and automation have to offer.
The forces conspiring for us to work in this way as marketers are becoming irresistible.  The time and effort involved in ever more sophisticated methods for creative and offer development demand it.  The cost to collect and profile data, create buyer/donor personas and segments, and apply it all across multiple channels in a rapid and coordinated fashion is significant.
Another trend that is putting new focus on automation is the increasing complexity in both digital and physical channels.  Each is rapidly evolving, requiring increasing specialization and knowledge to execute effectively.  In this “big” world, results depend on deep knowledge of each channel, and applying sophisticated software and hardware to maximize automation in each and between them all.  Today’s high capacity digital print production platforms (e.g., full color production inkjet) offer outstanding value in managing highly segmented communications cost effectively.  This new class of equipment can eliminate production steps, and offer excellent reliability and repeatability within an automated workflow.
Automation often comes with up-front costs intended to be leveraged over repetitive cycles of activity to drive ongoing costs down, but other important benefits can and should result with good program design.  A well designed program will incorporate an engine to more effectively test, monitor, communicate results, and adapt program elements to changing metrics.  It will allow for rapidly deploying changes into a controlled environment, with predictable execution.  It will leverage the best performing components over time to deliver maximum results and value.
The bigger the program (there’s that word again) the more compelling the case for incurring the cost of automation.  I’ve blogged about the many automation opportunities in the physical mail process (2) and these span the entire end-to-end process.  Other opportunities lie in digital channels, sharing assets between channels, and unified reporting platforms.  Look for service providers that are skilled at “profiling” your program, and that have multiple workflows with varying levels of automation based on the characteristics of your project.  Additionally, expertise in core creative, offer, and list development and management, as well as a production platform to support high productivity execution of physical media are important indications of a partner that is prepared to walk with you on this journey to “big”.
(1)  Article “USPS, Shiny Objects, Recovery, and Recession” appearing April 11, 2016 in WhatTheyThink?  Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry’s best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink.com’s Economics and Research Center.
(2) Blog post “What Does Marketing Automation Have To Do With Paper?” appearing August 18, 2015 in this blog.

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