Turning bills into marketing

Only a small percentage of the firms that generate transactional messages take advantages of new technology that allows custom, contextualised communication of marketing with each individual.

e4m by Gopal Sathe
Updated: Apr 4, 2011 9:23 AM
Turning bills into marketing

Consumer facing organisations generate crores of transactional documents that go to customers, but according to mail and document management firm Pitney Bowes, while this enables companies to reach millions of users in their home, with a wealth of personal information in their hands, few are taking advantage of this additional channel for communication.

H Sivaramakrishnan, Director, Marketing, Pitney Bowes, India, said, “For banks, credit card companies, or telecom firms, it's not unusual to print millions of copies of bills and promotional documents which go to the clients. You have to send bills, statements and these are marketing opportunities. It's easy to print an ad promoting another service the company offers, or make people aware of special offers available to them.”

This in itself is not new, but it's possible today, through gradual advances in printing and packaging technology to automatically sort tens of thousands of letters every hour, which can enable something that time constraints and cost would have made impossible before – highly targeted and customised mailers sent to each individual in that list of crores of clients.

Sivaramakrishnan said, “We can print very high quality envelopes, each of which has a customised ad on it, and that ad can be matched against the user data a company has about their clients, which means that the right person sees the right ad, at the right time. In comparison, a print ad in a newspaper is something we're so inured to that people don't even take it in anymore.”

The company, which works with several government departments and also corporates in telecom and BFSI, says that there is a great growth opportunity in document management in India. As these industries in particular, continue to grow at a great rate, services which support their function can also only grow, argues Sivaramakrishnan. He said, “People want to see a physical bill or notification before they take action. So even in a post-digital age, there is a great demand for actual documents, which is where a specialised company like ours has to come in. If you're in the telecom business, then you don't want to lose focus and enter into the documents business as well, when you can instead work with a company like ours, which has decades of experience.”

He added, “On the operations side, we're well connected with most companies now. There was significant growth in the last two to three years, and we're moving along nicely now. However, we want to show the CMOs that working with a company like us isn't just beneficial for the bottom line, but can also be a great marketing opportunity to talk to your customers. You're sending the bill anyway, and we can make it deliver so much more value, but people don't think about how bills are printed, people don't think about the process behind it. And as a result, they miss out on these opportunities.”

With the development in technology, it's possible for companies with huge printing and logistical requirements to make use of these systems (a top end machine from Pitney Bowes costs crores itself) but the company also has smaller, cheaper offerings to allow companies to handle their mailing in house, to protect data integrity. The impact of the post-digital age on the company is less obvious here in India at least, and Sivaramakrishnan is confident that it will be a many years before transactional printing starts to decline in India.

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