Canada Post And The End Of Mail
I love the simplicity of direct mail.
1. Have a product or service.
2. Identify an audience that would benefit from your product or service.
3. Craft a message that explains how your product or service can benefit the audience.
4. Mail a letter.
5. Help people with your product or service.
In theory, it’s almost too easy. The reality, of course, is a little harder. People are bombarded with mail that they don’t want. They’re so used to seeing bad offers that they ignore the good ones. But somehow, direct mail still proves to be a winner year after year. Sure, the response rate is low – but statistically it’s higher than banner ads, and we don’t see those going away any time soon. And when done right, they can be effective. If your product is priced accordingly even those low response rates can generate enough revenue to build an empire on. It’s no surprise that credit card companies mail millions of offers each year – every new customer makes them thousands in fees and interest rates.
Today, Canada Post made an announcement that they would be discontinuing home delivery in Canada over the next 5 years. That’s sad to me. I grew up in a home that the mailman would come to, and my current home still gets delivery right to the mailbox on my front step. The mailman is one of those touchstones in a community that links everyone together. Of course, millions of people live with community mailboxes – that in and of itself won’t end the mail service. Even the proliferation of online billing and email won’t kill the mail service. But the other announcement – that a single stamp would now cost one dollar Canadian ($1 CDN) – that frightens me.
Perhaps it’s the growing Grandpa Simpson in me, the getting-closer-to-40-everyday-be-frugal-how-can-this-cost-so-much adult that we all eventually become, but a dollar seems like an awful lot of money to mail a letter. Well, not for a REAL letter. To mail a REAL letter, like note to your child at university, a birthday card to your favorite aunt, or a thank you to someone who has done something really nice for you – for those letters a dollar is actually a really good deal. I mean consider all the work involved in taking an envelope from a box somewhere in one city and depositing it in a box in another city. It’s a LOT! No,what I mean is that a dollar seems like a lot of money to send a direct mail piece in the hopes of growing your business.
It won’t stop the credit card companies – they already know the value of direct mail, and they make enough off of it that a 50 or 75% increase in mailing costs won’t change their mind much. It’s the other guys – the small businesses who are looking for the most bang for their buck – those are the guys that I fear will stop looking at direct mail. And that’s sad.
The Potential For Abuse
More sad is how the growing number of digital scammers out there are going to take advantage of this. People who don’t truly understand the digital space and are selling products that they’re told to sell are out there walking the streets with stacks of paper talking about how digital marketing is going to save the world. Those people are going to fluorish in the new year, increasing the distrust of reputable digital marketers. That’s sad too.
The End is Near
I know that businesses get a discount when they run a direct mail campaign. I know that even private citizens will get a cut if they buy lots of stamps at one time. But I think this move sends a strong signal that times have changed. Deep down, I think we all know that the days of snail mail are numbered. It will become less and less common to receive mail, less common to send mail, and eventually it will become something of a novelty, like getting a telegram at your wedding (does that still happen?). It won’t happen in 5 years – it might not happen in 20 years. But it will happen. Whether the Amazon drone publicity stunt eventually becomes a reality (not likely), or the cost of sending an individual envelope just becomes so high that the convenience of UPS or FEDEX simply makes it redundant, I think that today will be looked back on as a major turning point in the history of our nation.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find a thank-you card for my mailman. He works awfully hard to put those envelopes in my mailbox, and I’m not always prompt when it comes to cleaning the snow off my sidewalk. Who knows when he might be replaced by a metal box at the corner – this might be my last chance to tell him that I appreciate what he does.