Baseball and Direct Mail….

Last week I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who owns a direct mailhouse. It wasn’t long before we were talking about the “future of direct mail business” –  in fact based on his outlook I questioned why he did not sell now and get out.

I sat for almost a half hour listening to why post office rate increases are going to kill the industry followed closely by the demise of direct mail due to digital communications. (BLAH, BLAH, BLAH)

His jaw nearly dropped to the floor when I insinuated maybe it was his fault! What other industry can you boast of a 3-5% success rate (or a 95-97% failure rate if you are glass ½ empty person) and feel good about.  Even baseball players who strike out 70-80% of the time offer better percentages.

So what is going to happen to the direct mail industry?  Postal rates will impact direct mail but direct mailers have the opportunity to mail less and make more.

What are your thoughts?

Next blog: Mail less, make more and bat 300

Visionary or Visualist?

I am always amused when I hear someone use the word visionary, particularly since I believe that true visionaries are few and far between.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of VISIONARY is: 1: one whose ideas or projects are impractical: dreamer 2: one who sees visions : seer 3: one having unusual foresight and imagination.

The first visionary that comes to my mind is Jules Verne, he was a dreamer and his ideas were certainly impractical for the time.  Just one example of Jules Verne’s visionary capabilities: (and this is a bit spooky)

Taken from “How Jules Verne Invented NASA”

A hundred years ago, Jules Verne wrote a book about a voyage to the Moon. His spaceship, Columbia, took off from Florida and landed in the Pacific Ocean after completing a trip to the Moon.

  • Verne estimated that the mission would have cost his day’s equivalent to $12.1 billion. Surprisingly spot on–the Apollo program up through Apollo 8 (the first manned vehicle to circumnavigate the moon) cost $14.4 billion.
  • As with Verne’s book, that mission also had a crew of three astronauts. Verne’s were named Ardan, Barbicane, and Nicholl–Apollo 8’s were Anders, Borman and Lovell
  • The launch occurred 132 miles from the site of Verne’s prediction.

For more information visit here

We all can’t be visionaries but we can be visualists!

There is a great deal of latitude for us all to be visualists. Look visualist up, google it, look in the dictionary and your results will vary. And it really does not matter.  I have decided to put a stake in the ground and share with you MY idea of what a visualist is.

A visualist is a person who: 1.) assumes the natural evolution of something, 2.) draws conclusions and 3.) acts upon them

The evolution could be a variety of things such as technology, human behavior, government regulation, aging, you name it!

Just a few simple examples of natural evolutions and conclusions in the document space:

  • Postage rates will continue to increase, so mail volume will decrease.
  • Storage and archiving requirements will increase so more content will be stored and accessed on the web.
  • The next generation (Generation Z, born in the early 90’s) communicates mainly via text and mobile communications and most likely will never receive a printed bill.

None of this is rocket science and if each of you look at your businesses (or your personal lives) you can identify natural progressions or trends and draw conclusions. You may already have done it. The most important aspect of being a visualist is to act. Each one of the examples above represents opportunity.

If you print bills and statements, you can resolve yourself to the fact that mail volume will decrease due to postage costs and let your business shrink or you can offer ancillary services for mobile delivery and archiving and storage services OR increase the value of the mail piece so the postage cost is insignificant. (or both).

Every business has a natural evolution, conclusions that can be drawn that present opportunity. Close your eyes, visualize and enjoy the ride!

Next blog …. Can you make postage costs  insignificant!

Band of Entrepreneurs

In my last blog I indicated I would address the concept of visionary and visualist but I decided to write about a recent ING meeting I attended.

Last Saturday I had the privilege of meeting and addressing the Imaging Network Group (INg), a band of entrepreneurial service bureaus (print for pay) that grew from Xplor.

What is interesting about this group is they meet and openly discuss issues affecting their businesses and share their successes and failures in dealing with them. This despite the fact that they probably have become competitors due to the internet.

Their companies vary in size but most are considered small businesses. Their capabilities vary, but all print transactional documents and direct mail. They have  always pushed the envelope in terms of applications and driving new products.

These people get it. They know technology is changing how we communicate and look at these changes as an opportunity. They wrestle with new technology, find out how to apply it, offer it as a service.

The underlining theme I saw in the brief time that I was there listening to presentations was the importance of accurate data, delivery of relevant information and offering output in a variety of media.  Delivering the right message to the right person at the right time in a format that the recipient chooses to receive it.

These are “glass half full” people who do not subscribe to the demise of an industry but the opportunity to be part of a changing one.  This is what our industry needs to embrace.

Next blog … are you a visionary of visualist?

Printing is not dead, it is different

Yesterday I responded to someone on LinkedIN  who asked  “What do you think the future of production print is?” I shared my thoughts, which depending on how you read it, could be a glass half full / half empty scenario.

Let me clearly state “As an industry printing is alive and well and has a future.”  I am banking on it as still have two children at home (one being eight) and need to get them through college.

Two factors that will define the opportunity are:  technology and the changes in human behavior that technology drives.  What the industry is facing is no different than when the invention of the printing press occurred. Bibles were “copied” longhand by monks prior to the invention of the printing press.

In the 1450’s Johann Gensfleisch (Guttenberg’s birth name) invented the movable type
printing press and the first book reportedly  printed was the Latin bible in Mainz Germany. Other dialects were not printed until the early 1500’s due to politics. For more info visit:

So what when on?  I am sure the monks felt their “careers” in printing was over. Some may have embraced the” technology” and learn how to run a press. The rest, simply did something else, like make wine. Other dialects were delayed due to politics, a form of human behavior, in those days anyway. Technology and human behavior drove the mass distribution of the bible.

We all have the same option today, embrace the new technology, understand it and create new uses and applications. Or not.  There is a future. In my next blog posting I will go into this in more detail. Hint: Are you a visualist?


Has technology made us too accessible?

Technology like anything else, it can be a blessing and a curse.

Taking a look at technology advances in the last 20 or so years it has done a great deal to increase productivity. We can now receive and send email from anywhere in the world at any time. We can receive messages, as well as email, on a device that once was a “just a phone” but has become so much more.

Every day we communicate via email, text, social networks, facebook, twitter, just to name a few. In fact the average person has very few excuses for not being accessible.

But have we as individuals become too accessible?

Being able to get that last minute proposal out or helping solve a problem at work certainly qualifies as a blessing and is extremely helpful and productive. But I find more and more that the technology is consuming us and not only affecting us but the people around us.

Nothing grates me more than when I am sitting in a meeting that someone invited me to attend and they are constantly looking at their “smart phone” or asking to be excused to take a call. Is anyone or anything so important that they can’t focus and tune-in for a short period of time?

A few changes I have made:

1.) I have created “my time” each day. Turn off my phone, rid myself of outside distractions and do what I want or need to get done. Could be personal or business related.

2.) I never talk on my phone when I am in a line somewhere anymore. Believe me the cashier appreciates it.

3.) I make it a point to turn off my cell phone at meetings, in front of all. It shows them you value their time and they have your attention.

Try this and let me know how it goes. Next time you are in a meeting, try turning off your phone. If you are in line at a grocery store, smile and say hello to the cashier.

Is being accessible affecting who you are?

Information Overload?

Every day we are bombarded with information. Years ago it was mainly restricted to advertisements, billboards, direct mail and the annoying telemarketing calls that seem to come every evening at dinner time.

With the evolution of technology the amount of information we receive daily has become exponential. Most of us have several email accounts, Facebook, SMS on our phones, twitter, social networks, blogs, etc. etc.

This phenomena has driven a changes in human behavior. We all always sorted through information but due to the amount of information we now we received we have become “high speed” human sorting machines whereby we look at something and in a matter of 1-2 seconds determine if we continue or discard. If we continue, typically we dedicate another 5-10 seconds, before we make a final determination of the relevance of the information.

This presents challenges for companies trying to communicate with their customers (who will give you a bit more time) as well as  a broader audience of “prospects .” Their Question, “how do I get their attention?”  The answer, it is all relevant. The selection process is driven by relevance.

More in future posts.


What are they thinking?

Have you ever received a piece of direct mail or an offer in a bill or statement and ask “what were they thinking?”

I do. My mortgage company who offers me a higher rate than I am currently paying. My phone company offering me a deal on the same phone I  bought and paid more for the month before. The worst is my mortgage company sending the offer in a separate mail piece from my statement wasting money and really making me wonder if there is any communication within the organization.

We all have received some promotion that has made us wonder and chuckle.

And although humorous, at a certain level, you have to ask yourself “why don’t they know who I am?” The technology is available. There are plenty of studies that could support the investment in terms of cost savings and ROI. Is this a good company to do business with?

Might be just me, but I don’t think so. Do you know your customers?