Janet Brearton and Mike Badour share the story behind Canada Post’s first new mail delivery product in 30 years

Janet Brearton is general manager, commercial mail line of business at Canada Post.

Mike Badour is general manager, business development, Smartmail Marketing at Canada Post.

DM: Congratulations on the launch of Postal Code Targeting (PCT)! What was the impetus for PCT?  How did you perceive the gap in the market and figure out what sort of new product might best fill that gap?

Badour: We found that customers were finding that the personalized mail, from an acquisition standpoint, was becoming a bit challenging on ROI. It was becoming a little bit challenged as well related to digital. We were seeing that becoming a bit of a hurdle in the marketplace for our customers to acquire new customers most effectively.

So what we were able to do thanks to a couple things—our technology, the fact that postal codes have been around forever and that people actually collect postal codes—was actually be able to simplify it for our customers. A lot of what we’re trying to do is make things easier for our customers.

When you talk to customers—they target, they acquire at the postal code level. They are trying to get an analysis of where their customers are coming from. But we didn’t really have a direct way to use that information. Customers either had to jerry rig it to a letter carrier walk or get it down to the personal address level.

What we realized too was that if we want to help our customers acquire, we want to allow them the opportunity to take their own customers out of it. So we allow customers to suppress their current customers and be very targeted about the right markets they want to go after.

That was the genesis: Can we help our customers acquire new customers much more effectively and efficiently?

DM: How much does mailing through PCT cost in comparison to Personalized Mail or Neighbourhood Mail?

Badour: It’s in between. Neighbourhood Mail is around a $0.15 price point, Personalized Mail is $.045, $0.46, and PCT is around the $0.30 mark. They way we looked at it was, we wanted to make sure our customers had an ROI that was working. It’s a very targeting tool at a price point that allows that ROI to get richer.

DM: Can you tell me a little bit about how the product evolved through the development stages? I know that there was a significant amount of consultation with industry experts—how did their feedback affect the final product?

Brearton: We actually engaged our customers as we worked through developing this product. We had this product out there in a smaller launch, in a beta launch, with customers that worked with us through the process of developing the product and learning more about how it helped their marketing objectives and what was working for them.

That process was really valuable. It was a process where the customers could test and learn and where we could get that feedback. We’ve got a strong relationship with our customers. We are very focused as an organization on, how do we innovate? How do we continue to evolve and meet the needs of customers and marketers today? Part of that process is having a very strong relationship with the stakeholders and the marketing community at large.

We’ve been sharing best practices openly as an industry. It’s a new technology for the partner, so them having best practices and having forums where they can share with one another what’s working for them has been a big part of the beta and ensuring people are ready when they go to do their first PCT mailing.

DM: What are the privacy considerations of PCT and how are potential privacy infringements circumvented?

Brearton: We ensure that we are amalgamating at the postal code level, at a level where it’s a group of houses. Anything about one particular individual would never be shared and the privacy of every given individual is respected. An average postal code is in the range of around 20 homes. You know when you’re targeting a particular postal code that you can understand the demographics, the psychographics, all of the targeting richness that we can do is there, but it’s there at that amalgamated level that will respect the privacy of the individual. We wanted to ensure we were adhering to all industry best practices and that all privacy considerations were factored in.

DM: I’ve noticed references to mini catalogues in the marketing materials for PCT. Can you tell me more about the niche role you see mini catalogues filling?

Badour: We love them! It’s part of our intent to helping customers become more cost effective in their acquisition. We know the power of catalogues. Our spec allowed for this mini catalogue, we just never communicated it.

A mini catalogue is just a smarter way to use our mail specs to actually get a catalogue in the mail for a lot less cost. I always tell our clients that a catalogue is an online portal sitting on your customer’s coffee table, waiting for them to transact when they are ready to transact.

Brearton: It drives them to retail, it drives them to web. Catalogues drive customers to take action. They have a life in the home that can last for months and so the mini catalogue ensures that someone can get their products and put them in front of a consumer without having to go with a full blown catalogue. Or they can go with a mini catalogue on a more frequent basis and supplement their full blown catalogue.

Badour: The intent was using the mini catalogue as an acquisition tool, to get new customers. They once they buy from you, you can invest in sending them the bigger book. That’s how we’re seeing customers use [mini catalouges], and they can actually travel in all three of our solutions—Personalized Mail, PCT or Neighbourhood Mail.

DM: Now that PCT has been in market for a few months (since launching in February 2017), what has the reaction been like?

Badour: The market overall that we’re talking to is very excited about how this could play into their mix. The next step, following the excitement, is then you have to think differently about how to incorporate it in the mix and how to test it and figure it out.

We’re still in the early days of the launch and of our customers using it. What I get excited about is how customers are coming to us, trying to use it differently, using it for different applications. I think we’re just seeing the start of the evolution of this and it’s going to take a bit for it to seed into the marketing plans of marketers going forward. We’re seeing some of the banks going back and fighting for some of the digital money they were spending to use on PCT and test it out. I think we’re in the early testing days of it, we’ve got some big customers using it and that’s great.

I’m proud of the fact that I can stand and talk to customers about PCT, and its pure intent is to help them get better at what they’re doing. It’s not about me going out there and pitching a new product in hopes of getting more mail.

Brearton: We’re excited that PCT is now part of the Smartmail suite of solutions and it all comes down to, what is the marketer looking to accomplish? What are their objectives that they need to hit and how does that suite of solutions that we bring to the table help them?

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.

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