Royal Mail needs to vary DM message

A joint effort between all interested parties promoting the many benefits of direct mail is required.

Russell Parsons

Royal Mail’s decision to keep price increases for direct mail to a minimum is admirable, moves to extend already available discounts to a wider range of services equally so. The promotion, however, of direct mail should not be based on price alone and the postal operator needs to join forces with rivals to convince sceptical marketers that there is value in the channel.

The price of large letter DM is set to rise between 4 and 7% in April, Royal Mail said last week. The postal operator insists that most increases will be below 5% and some under 1%.

In a bid to placate marketers bristling over rising costs, Royal Mail has changed the conditions of its Advertising Mail service, which offers companies financial incentives to use DM, including introducing a packet format that would allow 3D mail to qualify for discounts.

This move should be applauded. Despite the pressure that Royal Mail is under from the operating losses that come from falling mail volumes, it recognises the need for give and take.

More, however, needs to be done. Direct mail has received a bump in fortunes during the age of austerity as companies cast their nets for value options wider. However, the general, long-term trend for advertising mail is downward.

It is not possible to reverse this, the shift to electronic communication is irrevocable, but in order to slow the decline the message must be about more than price.

Business-to-business marketing campaigns to extol the benefits of the channel need to be developed. And not just by Royal Mail.

The creative canvas provided, the impact it can have when integrated with other channels, the return on investment – all highly laudable traits that would catch a marketers’ eye.

A joint, or coordinated effort between Royal Mail , TNT Post and their like is required.

There has been collaboration in the past but the spotlight on the future of Royal Mail and the regulation of postal services and the self-interests that need to be addressed has relegated partnership to the sidelines.

As Tesco found over Christmas, a focus on price is not enough. All interested parties should take note and plan coordinated cheerleading with a varied message.

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