The inbox trumps the mailbox

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I feel foolish.

You see I just bought some “forever stamps”, and while the stamps may be forever the post office may soon go the way of the Pony Express.

I'll miss the postal service for sentimental reasons. It conjures childhood memories of running to the mailbox to find a birthday card with a dollar bill tucked inside. It reminds me of how the post office saved Santa Clause from the rubber room in The Miracle on 34th Street. And who can resist all those sweet stories of errant love letters that finally reach their destination 50 years after having been sent?

But things change. As I grew older grandma stopped putting currency in my birthday cards, and I was more likely to find a water bill or a notice for jury duty in my mailbox.

Today, my mom sends e-greetings for my son's birthday and the customary cash bonus comes via “Pay Pal.” My direct deposit appears alongside Rolex offers and Facebook posts in my inbox.

So what's left in my mailbox? “Third-class” mail. (Postal employees are expressly forbidden to use the “J” word, but you and I know it by its other moniker … marketing materials!)

As a result, according to Senator Susan Collins (R, Maine), the Postal Service intends to raise the price of third-class mail more than five percent. She acknowledges this will, in turn, lead to a 15 to 20 percent decline in business. Why? Because BtoB marketers increasingly eschew third-class bulk mail postage rates, established in 1928, in favor of express couriers, thereby creating the illusion of urgency and importance.

But wait! How will those Mainers get their lobster trap catalogs?

The obvious answer is … online.

Via internet marketing, rich web content, PSAs, targeted advertising and a host of other tactics excluding direct mail, the Maine Lobster Council supports and enhances the brand positioning for Maine Lobster.

Yes, dear BtoB marketers, I believe direct mail ultimately will disappear from our quiver of tactics.

Thus, we must adapt or we too will perish.

Actually, that's a good thing. I doubt many of my fellow BtoB marketers know that you're breaking the law. That's right. It's a crime to send mail via a USPS competitor, think “overnight courier”, if the communication is not actually urgent. The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) — one of the country's oldest law enforcement agencies — is empowered to conduct search and seizure raids if it suspects citizens of contravening its monopoly. Lest you think I'm jesting, check out their litigious history: In 1993, armed agents of the USPIS raided the Atlanta offices of Equifax for their use of FedEx to deliver non-urgent communications … and collected a hefty $30,000 fine. Between 1991 and 1994, the USPS reportedly collected $521,000 in fines from 21 mailers.

So, what's a marketer to do? Lots!

249 US CMOs recently told CMI that they will increase spending on Social Media … investing 10% of their marketing spend.

Emails need a boost? Test! Test images, subject lines, landing pages. Test with and without social media and/or rich media banners.

Integrate! Give your PR department a heads-up so that they can provide air cover for your demand gen.

Get personal! In order for you message to resonate with business executives at work, at home and on the road in between, fine-tune your copy.

Content creation, mobile apps, media partnerships, search optimization … it's an exciting time to be in BtoB marketing.

Sorry, Senator Collins. I found a plethora of internet sites to purchase lobster traps. My favorite is, shipping is $80 — via UPS of course!

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