Grant Miller is global vice-president operations and product management at Pitney Bowes. The century-old company best known for postage meters now powers global e-commerce solutions, shipping and mailing products, location intelligence, and customer engagement and customer information management solutions.

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I invited Grant to Marketing Smarts to talk about the continued relevance of direct mail in the era of digital marketing. I also wanted to discuss the company's recent rebranding, and the powerful technology that Pitney Bowes has developed for verifying the physical location of online users.

The company's modern offerings make it a prominent behind-the-scenes player in modern-day e-commerce, powering location features for social media sites, such as Twitter, as well as facilitating transactions for sites, including that of Etsy.

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Grant:

Layer newer approaches (like personalized video) onto traditional channels (like printed billing statements) for major engagement (04:32): "When you talk about transpromo [adding marketing messages to bills, statements, contracts, and other transactional documents companies send to customers], I think that's one aspect that can be done to augment direct mail. What we're talking about at Pitney Bowes is how do we augment that and bring in the digital channels to increase the response rate and the hit rate of these mailings. For example, when you send out a direct mail piece—which is a push technology that lands in someone's mailbox, and they have to do something with that—when you couple that with personal, interactive video (which we've just recently launched: a new EngageOne video solution) that drives some real high response rates around interaction with the client.

"It does a couple things for you. One, it takes that piece that would have been a static piece to the consumer and allows you to layer on additional information into that.... So far, since we launched [EngageOne video], we've had about a 50% response rate of these personal, interactive videos that we've been sending out. And people on average have been spending four to six minutes engaging with the personal, interactive video. So you couple that with your bills and statements that are printed and have a two- to five-minute response rate and latency time, and it gives you two very powerful pieces that you can leverage against driving client interaction."

Don't just incorporate video—incorporate personalized video content that answers questions and drives results (06:08): "It's more than just a static 'congratulations on opening your bill, and please pay it on time.' It's gotten to the point now that it is multi-threaded. General engagement may have up to 300 different paths that a client could pursue down. It looks at what time of day you're at, so your greetings are...'good morning' or 'good afternoon' depending on the time of day. It uses actual data from your bill or from the direct mail piece, so it brings that direct mail piece that was printed to life and allows you to engage with it on a more effective basis. The other thing is that it allows you to answer a lot of questions beyond just the piece of mail. That allows you to reduce call center volume and other costs."

Focus on revenue, not glory (12:05): "We are investing heavily in the consumer space in the sense that...we are the white label and the engine behind the scenes for people to make sure that they have the right tools and capabilities.... That's a good business model for us, and we see that investment as being something that will give us a lot of leverage. We can use it with a number of clients. It comes down to the fact that brand marketers want to...brand-market and leverage the value of their brand, so it's perfectly OK for us to be the engine behind the scenes on a day-to-day basis, because it helps them build their brand, it drives volume and revenue for them, and ultimately it's beneficial for Pitney Bowes."

Learn more about Pitney Bowes at Grant and I talked about much more, including agile development, modern direct mail best-practices, and the impact of mobile, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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