DM centre connects

With the opening this month of Connexions, a prototype direct marketing resource centre in Winnipeg, Canada Post is hoping to stimulate growth of the Canadian direct marketing sector by providing companies much-needed information and contacts, says a senior executive with the...

With the opening this month of Connexions, a prototype direct marketing resource centre in Winnipeg, Canada Post is hoping to stimulate growth of the Canadian direct marketing sector by providing companies much-needed information and contacts, says a senior executive with the crown corporation.

‘We are trying to provide a connecting source to a person who is being exposed to (direct marketing) for the first time,’ says Bill Kennedy, group vice-president at Canada Post. ‘It can be quite complicated, versus placing a want ad in the newspaper,’ he says.

Extensive library

A 1,700 sq. ft. facility tucked into Winnipeg’s Graham Street postal station, Connexions features an extensive direct marketing library, three interactive video stations and a collection of direct marketing video tapes, in both official languages, that can be screened on site.

Many of the books and tapes are also available for purchase.

One of the centre’s most impressive features, says Kennedy, is its geo-postal unit.

Staff use the computer to demonstrate to clients how they can target potential customers by layering postal codes, letter carrier walks and publicly available demographic information from Statistics Canada.

As well, Connexions will soon host a series of lectures by direct marketing experts (American direct marketing consultant ‘Rocket’ Ray Jutkins is scheduled April 6-9) and offer an ongoing program of direct marketing seminars, both introductory and specialized.

The idea is to provide businesses with information on every element of direct marketing, says Kennedy, from planning and creative, to database management, to printing, letter shops, mailing and fulfilment.

And for those clients who require referrals, centre staff can also provide the names of suppliers.

While direct marketing is already big business in Canada (the Canadian Direct Marketing Association estimates the market is worth about $8 billion and employs approximately 200,000 Canadians), Kennedy says there is lots of room for growth.

‘We are aware that in the u.s., the industry has probably, on a per capita basis, at least double or triple the impact on society,’ he says, adding the direct marketing sector south of the border is worth approximately $200 billion.

‘Even accounting for the population difference, there are all kinds of comparisons that would suggest they are much better developed down there,’ he says.

‘Just to give you one example, in one segment of the industry, we have 1,000 lists in Canada. There are 20,000 in the u.s.

‘They have 10,000 people attend their direct marketing conferences. Here, we get between 300 and 500 (delegates).

‘Business-to-business direct marketing is very big in the States, as is business-to-consumer marketing. We are not so much shop-at-homers as they are down there,’ says Kennedy.

Of the 9.958 billion pieces of mail processed last year by Canada Post, approximately 47% consisted of addressed and unaddressed ad mail.

Revenue

Revenue from total operations was $3.804 billion. Of that, addressed ad mail generated $310 million and unaddressed ad mail a further $204 million, for a total of $514 million, or 13% of total revenues.

By doing what it can to bolster the Canadian direct marketing industry, Canada Post stands to boost its own business.

‘From our point of view, we are straight up front,’ says Kennedy. ‘Every dollar spent on advertising in direct mail has a $4 impact on our total business, because of the back-and-forth flow between suppliers and buyers.

‘There’s a multiplier effect that’s good for our business, but I would also suggest it’s good for a lot of people’s business,’ says Kennedy.

Asked why Canada Post chose Winnipeg as the site, Kennedy says apart from the fact that it is in the centre of the country and a transportation hub, it is also an underdeveloped direct mail market ‘where you could know whether you were making an impact or not’.

About 70% of direct mail originates from the Toronto-Windsor corridor, says Kennedy. The other 30% is spread across the country.

‘Our objective is to see quickly whether we are on the right track, and if we are, have five or six of these centres up as quickly as we can across the country, in places like Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and a number of other markets — wherever there is a demonstrable need that this (type of facility) might satisfy,’ says Kennedy.

Support

The project has received marketing and promotional support from Manitoba Telephone Systems, says Kennedy, who adds mts is thinking of opening a telemarketing resource centre in the same building.

‘It could potentially be a multi-faceted direct marketing centre,’ says Kennedy.

Response to the centre has been positive, says Connexions executive director Bettie Johnston, a Winnipeg native with a background in direct marketing.

‘We’re run off our feet right now, but it’s a good kind of busy,’ says Johnston. She says the centre’s three staff are handling an average of 30-50 mail, telephone and in-person enquiries a day.

Adds Kennedy: ‘We’re on the right track. I haven’t seen anything yet to discourage us.’