Monday, January 12, 2009

Small Businesses Concerned with Economy...

For some reason, this article really brought home today's economic reality. The article presents results of a recent survey of small businesses. Essentially, it talks about how concerned small businesses are with the state of the economy. It reiterates how the economy has had a huge impact on this sector, in particular.
The survey found that 66.4% of small business owners have been affected for
the worse by the recession -- and that a full 80% see the economic crisis as the
primary mandate for the new government.

Small business is the backbone of the U.S. economy representing 99.7% of all employer firms, and generating 60 to 80% of new jobs annually over the past decade, according to the Small Business Administration.

Perhaps this news, in particular, resonates because my small business has also been negatively impacted by these trying times. RRW has a focus on providing direct marketing solutions to financial services firms--an industry definitely hit hard by this economy. Our business has suffered.

You know what? I'm mad. I'm sad that I lost a business partner and feel for some clients who've either had their marketing budgets cut dramatically, have laid off a good portion of their staff, or (in the extreme) have gone out of business entirely.

Yet, I cannot even imagine thinking that someone out there will magically appear and throw money at RRW. As much as I'd like to, I cannot think that there my fairy godmother will show up with her magic wand and a purse full of clients with huge budgets.

So, hearing about huge companies looking for their fairy godmother in the form of our tax money simply irks me.

OK, I'll get off of my soap box and start the day. I'll get back to work and come up with a value proposition, a direct marketing idea that one of my smart clients will pay for. Isn't that the way this country works?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More US Postal Service News

I can't believe that my first blog of the new year ends up being about the US Postal Service. Gee, I guess I AM a direct marketing geek.

In November, I posted on a similar topic--ways the USPS may be able to save money through cost-savings initiatives (such as cutting out delivery days).

Today's slightly depressing postal news comes to us from National Public Radio: Postal Service Sees Less Mail In Slumping Economy. The article cites the serious decline in mail and revenues the USPS is currently experiencing.
The recession is reaching well beyond the automotive industry or the mall.

It's even hitting the U.S. Postal Service, the nation's third-largest employer. From holiday cards to credit card offers, mail volume is down. And the Postal Service is losing money.

I guess it's no surprise that companies (and even consumers) are mailing less. In the hey day of the mortgage boom, tiny mortgage companies were mailing millions of pieces a month. And the giant financial services firms were in the multi-million volumes (I remember one company, in particular, who mailed upwards of 10 million pieces each month--that's a lot of paper...).

What brought the postal decline home to me was this quote from the article:

Stephen Kearney, senior vice president of customer relations for the Postal
Service, says the drop in mail volume "accelerated throughout the year. ... Our
mail volume had its greatest decline since the Great Depression."

In the fiscal year that ended in September, mail carriers delivered 9.5 billion fewer letters and packages than the year before. Kearney says the Postal Service made aggressive cuts and still lost $2.8 billion. Fiscal year 2009, which started Oct. 1, isn't looking any better, he says.

My take on this: I do believe that direct mail will remain a viable channel for some marketers. However, I think that the trend of cutting mail volume is here to stay. Gone are the days of super-duper high volume direct mail, blanketing anyone who seems close to the target audience. DM will be used judiciously and only where it makes sense.