Cost-efficient communications

27/07/2010 - 00:00
For many businesses in hospitality communicating with customers or prospects via mail is a necessary yet time-consuming process. Phil Hutchison, Tactical marketing director at Pitney Bowes, explains how Royal Mail's latest postage rate change could lead to significant cost- and time-savings for hoteliers and caterers that automate their mailings.

On April 6th, Royal Mail's postage rate change will mean that users of franking machine technology can save up to 7p on every mailed item (5p on first-class items) compared with using stamps. For small businesses there has never been a bigger incentive to reassess mailing practices. When it comes to communicating, many caterers and hotels still adopt time-consuming methods. Brochures, promotions, booking confirmations and enquiries are usually all painstakingly issued manually. Consider, for example, the time spent buying stamps, folding documents, even licking and sealing envelopes. Too often, the mailing function is overlooked when it comes to technology and investment. Small businesses regard time and money spent focusing on computer and IT support as essential. And yet, what business function could be more commonplace – or more critical – than customer communications? Technology is available to automate every step of the mailing cycle – from folding and inserting the document, to automatically adding postage through to accurately printing addresses. In this way, the customer communications process can transform from being regarded as a necessary burden, to become an efficient function that drives customer loyalty and business growth. Aside from freeing-up staff to focus on their core jobs, automating these mailing processes can deliver savings of at least 12% on postage costs – a compelling figure at a time when budgets continue to be squeezed. Further return on investment comes from producing accurate mailings. The latest address management tools and printers ensure the right message reaches the right person, eliminating wastage and increasing the selling opportunity. Today's analysts estimate that the typical consumer is exposed to between 1-4,000 marketing messages every day. This figure at first seems incredible. But messages are everywhere – on the cashpoint screen, on the side of coffee cups, on the floor of the station concourse, not to mention the obvious media channels. All this means that businesses face a very real challenge to make communications stick – to capture the attention of the recipient. Again, technology plays an important role here. Automatically folding and inserting documents means that they are always neat and crisply finished. Additionally, franking technology enables users to create their own advertising slogans and to print these onto the envelope exterior. This on-envelope advertising means that brand values and key messages can be conveyed before the communication is even opened. As the tried and tested mantra suggests – you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Consumers simply won't bother with inaccurate or unprofessional documents. Mail remains a convincing communication method. A recent Pitney Bowes survey amongst European consumers revealed that mail is the best medium for driving new visitors to websites. This fact emphasises the importance of using mail in harmony with digital communications such as email or the web. Consumers don't simply stick to one medium – they look at all. So – it is not a case of mail versus email, for example. However, this means that the timing of mail communications is critical. If businesses want to use mail to drive recipients to a promotion on the web, or to follow-up emailed promotions, the mail must reach the recipient at the right time. Undoubtedly, automating the process makes it far easier for businesses to guarantee that mail-outs will be fully prepared and ready to despatch at the required moment. Royal Mail's April rate change should serve as a major incentive for businesses not already automating the mail function to do so. The cost-savings alone are compelling – 5p for every first-class mailpiece, 7p if sent second-class. But the benefits of mailing automation extend far beyond. Businesses in hospitality can begin to produce customer communications that look sharp and professional, that carry the brand or core messa

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