Digital Communications and Print Are Here to Stay

USPS to Close

What if that was an actual news headline? Can something in as much trouble as the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) continue in the way we know it today?

  • Check your mailbox. Can or should it continue to exist as primarily a receptacle for direct mail?
  • Should taxpayers be footing the bill for direct mail?
  • Could the Postal Service be privatized and made more efficient?
  • If it is significantly downsized or closed, what would happen to direct mail marketing?

When it’s been reported that the USPS is considering cutting as many as 180,000 jobs, these are all interesting and relevant questions to ponder.

As sellers of printing and marketing services with a heavy emphasis on direct mail, we need to be sure we have and can deliver a balanced message to our customers, if they start to ask us these types of questions. Direct mail may not have the buzz of social media, but it is still considered an important marketing channel.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, spending on direct mail is forecasted to rise 3.6 percent annually between 2010 and 2014. And, of the 1,000-plus business-to-business marketing professionals surveyed recently by Marketing Sherpa, 79 percent called direct mail “effective” or “very effective.”

I think there’s little for us to worry about as long as we, in the graphic arts community, get better at understanding and selling more cross-channel ways for delivering marketing messages…and can make money doing it. Digital alternatives to “snail mail” have proven to be effective for certain types of campaigns and are a necessary piece in this New Age of marketing. Even social media, although often misunderstood, is finding its way into many marketing plans.

What happens to the Postal Service isn’t in our control. But, embracing and using the tools at our disposal to help our customers do a better job of delivering marketing messages is. As printers, we too often hang on to old ways of doing things. Read the headlines, but know direct mail still works. Get educated about digital marketing channels so that you can adapt and grow. And, be ready for whatever is to come.

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

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