Ah, those were the days! One of my first DM jobs was at Greystone Press, a continuity publisher. We sold books in sets, one at a time, and billed customers monthly. Titles included the International Encyclopedia of Art, the International Illustrated Encyclopedia of Decorating. We also had gardening sets (that I wrote), and how-to handbooks.
And every day, the good ol’ USPS delivered mailbags filled with orders and, more important, checks. This was before normal everyday people had credit cards.
Orders and checks actually came right to our office in Manhattan and a bunch of people in the fulfillment area worked quickly to give us flash counts, daily, sometimes hourly.
It was exciting to hear that thousands of orders had come in, with checks, or that there were fewer cancellations than expected.
It was a joy to sit in the back room watching the fulfillment people outserting checks and writing up bank deposit slips. I loved finding out which of my programs was working best and which were lagging.
Now I call clients to ask how a mailing we did is faring out in the market and they often just don’t know yet… and maybe they’ll never know. “The data guy hasn’t put the numbers together, but there seems to be a lift, which may not be because of your mailing because so many responses are unidentifiable .” Which you wouldn’t think possible, would you?
We teach all this stuff at our Direct Marketing Boot Camps, and…
Our students are always amazed that we can figure out how much they can afford to pay to get a new customer (it’s called the direct marketing allowable). They’re astonished when we explain how to calculate what a program must do to be profitable (and how to recognize in advance when it’s not doable). Most of them tell us they thought it was a crap shoot and not a measurable science.
A lot of the magic of the old days of mailbags and checks is gone. Email and web results can be hard to track or source. Payments come in from PayPal, or they’re wire transferred into our business accounts. But it’s not all gone. Maybe we can’t feel the gold trickle through our fingers anymore but it’s fun when we heard the unmistakable cha-ching on a client’s program.
It’s the still the key to the Joy of Direct Marketing.