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I recently attended a US Postal Service's Postal Customer Council (PCC) meeting where the focus was on direct mail. The interesting takeaway for me was how the use of direct mail in concert with email leads to dramatically improved results.

They spoke about the increased response rate when email and direct mail campaigns are coordinated. For example, a recent InfoTrends study found that response rates increase 45% when you combine direct mail with a landing page, email address and mobile marketing.

While I listened to the merits of this approach for marketing purposes, I could not help but wonder if the concept doesn’t also apply to transaction mail. Certainly, marketers are trying to reach customers to make them aware of new products and services, increase sales and, just as importantly, maximize customer retention, so why not maximize the marketing value of transaction mail (statements, invoices, confirms, etc.)?

Questioning a company’s e-delivery strategy
Since the financial crisis, companies have had a serious focus on cost reduction. Switching a customer from paper to e-delivery can save three dollars, five dollars or even $10 a year per customer, depending on the industry and mix/frequency of mailings.

Getting a customer to make the switch can be problematic, as clients object to saving the business money while adding an extra burden on themselves (the "What’s in it for me?" problem). Furthermore, many clients who do add e-delivery and e-billing still receive their paper versions in order to keep a hard copy for their records and, often, as a reminder to pay their bills. Companies lament about the large group of customers who decide to add e-delivery and e-billing rather than simply replacing paper completely. These “double dippers” actually cost more than if they had stayed with only paper delivery.

The cost difference between acquiring a new customer versus retaining an existing one is enormous, and cross-selling to existing (satisfied) clients is the most profitable path to growing revenue.

The $64,000 question: Is double dipping so bad?
Certainly from a cost perspective, absolutely, it is awful. Not only is the mailer not saving the cost of printing and postage, there is also the cost to deliver an e-bill and the high chance that these double dippers won’t pay electronically, thereby, losing the cost savings and cash flow benefits of a completely electronic customer.

However, from a corporate view, maybe it’s ok. Taking a multi-channel approach to communicating with these “double dippers,” the marketing department can leverage both channels (just like in the direct mail scenario) to deliver targeted messaging, which improves customer satisfaction, promotes new products and services and, most importantly, gives customers one less reason to do business elsewhere. The cost difference between acquiring a new customer versus retaining an existing one is enormous, and cross-selling to existing (satisfied) clients is the most profitable path to growing revenue.

Certainly, there are noncompetitive industries, such as gas or electric companies, that may not have to worry about customer retention, but a happier, well-informed customer will also translate into lower support costs and fewer hassles and complaints.

The answer is not the same for everyone. It all depends on the business you’re in and the goals of the corporation. I do know this: Adding electronic delivery to a paper customer is only marginally more expensive than just sending the paper, and an electronic customer is more profitable than a paper-based customer.

My instinct tells me that if the silos separating mailing operations and marketing were to blur—and have common shared objectives—then your department head might say, "Let’s embrace 'double dippers' by providing them a wonderful buying experience," turning them into long-term (growing) customers and, perhaps, your most profitable customers. Yes, transactionally, they will be more costly, but the benefits from retention, revenue growth and lower support costs may far outweigh the extra communications cost. It may be worth a look.

Richard Rosen is the chief executive officer of The RH Rosen Group, a firm that provides solutions to help businesses improve processes and customer communications with the intent to create real, recurring benefits in: cost reduction, electronic payment, shipment tracking and printing/mailing. Contact him at or visit

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