History is littered with examples of sizeable companies which didn’t survive – Polaroid Cameras, Blockbuster Video to name just two.
It makes headlines when big business is affected but it’s a lesson for small business too. Gloucester-based print and mail specialists Alpha Response are one example of a company which has survived the threat. In their case, the threat of digital marketing to their business, as email marketing has become more popular.
How have they managed? By innovating. And also by embracing new technology to even enhance their own operation.
A typical example is as follows. Step one – use technology to distribute a digital marketing document to many thousands of recipients. Step two – monitor who has opened and responded to the email. Step three – send a personalised and printed version to those who haven’t.
It’s a method which depends on data management and print capability and it has actually differentiated them from other direct marketing companies in the area. The blend of print and digital services makes Alpha Response unique, according to sales director John Orchard.
“As far as I’m aware there aren’t any other companies in the area doing what we do,” he said. “We’re pretty much specialists at this blend of marketing services.
“And we’ve had to be. Digital has changed our industry greatly and the opening up of the postal market has created some challenges, and opportunities, as well.
“We’ve got some customers who were confused by the myriad of options that they’ve got – TNT, Royal Mail or UK Mail – so we can help them make the right choices for different types and volumes of mail.
“Overall, Royal Mail’s letter volumes have gone down. When we started, the increase was slowing to single figure percentages per year but now it’s between 10 and 15 per cent reduction per year on volumes of letters.
“There’s also a perception that postal services are much more expensive than they were, although actually it’s the difference between the stamp prices and the bulk prices which is the main change. Bulk prices haven’t risen nearly as much and can still be a cost-effective option.
“It just means that the delivered piece of mail has to do more work to justify the price. But because of the software that we use and the machinery we have, we can deliver that more personalised piece which is more likely to achieve the intended results.”
So rather than withering and dying, Alpha Response’s is tackling the threat to their livelihood head-on, self-investing more than £200,000 in aiming to hit the £1 million turnover mark within the next couple of years.
Mr Orchard is convinced that, despite the growth of digital marketing since the turn of the millennium, print and mail remains relevant and a key ingredient of the marketing mix.
As to future threats? “Mail services are continuously changing,” says Alpha Response managing director Craig Whiting.
“Before too long this country may be running a postbox system like they have in America, where your post is delivered to a location in a town or city and you collect it yourself.
“Or you might only get your letters when you receive a parcel. Either model will make it a challenge for direct marketeers because they won’t know exactly when a delivery is going to be made which could make the marketing messaging imprecise.
“But whatever happens, we’ll be doing our best to keep innovating and make sure our services remain relevant.”