Smartmail Marketing™: The Science of Direct Mail

You may have noticed recent posts in your Facebook feed or even a full-page ad in newspaper about a new marketing tool by Canada Post. While many people think that it is just flogging the ‘same old junk mail’ advertising mail, it is in fact a more intelligent way for businesses to engage with their most likely prospects and customers.

Smartmail Marketing

But before we look into more detail about this new marketing tool, we need to understand the power of direct mail and its place in the marketing world. While there will always be consumers who consider any kind of mail in their mailbox, other than personal letters from people they know, as “junk mail”, you may be surprised at the actual positive acceptance of advertising mail by the general population.

Did you know that 76% of Canadians read coupons and 59% save these coupons? 67% read advertising mail and 71% share their mail. In a study conducted in partnership with Harris/Decima examining how Canadians engage with different types of advertising mail, the highest percentage (72%) of engagement was mail with samples. Who doesn’t like a free sample? (more…)

And for those who think that ad mail is just for old folk, consider that of the 67% who read ad mail, the highest readership was in the millennial group (18-29 year olds) which comprises 33% of our population. Surprisingly, 73% of millennials read ad mail and 77% share it with friends.

What makes direct mail so effective? First, it is the only advertising medium that puts something tangible into the hands of the consumer and secondly, when properly executed, 43% of the targeted audience ordered a product online, 64% visited a website and 54% engaged with social media. When compared to digital media, 21% found direct mail easier to understand and had a 70% higher brand recall!

Canada Post’s new approach to direct mail marketing called Smartmail Marketing™: The Science of Activation is actually based on the study of neuroscience and how people react with direct mail. Smartmail Marketing encompasses three essentials elements – Physicality, Data and Connectivity.


smartmail marketing


  • Physicality – Increase your ability to drive action. Recent neuromarketing research has shown that activating multiple senses with a physical mail piece will generate a higher response rate, in this case 20% higher than digital media.
  • Data – Improve the effectiveness of your mail campaign through a combination of data mining and predictive analysis. You can tailor your message to more targeted consumers based on geography, demographics or psychographics. Using either your own customer lists or Canada Post’s own vast database Canada Complete™, you can make your message more relevant to your audience.
  • Connectivity – Maximize the success of your campaign by integrating direct mail with other popular mediums that your audience may be more comfortable with.

So now that we understand the power and importance of direct mail in your marketing mix, what are the options for creating a successful direct mail campaigns? In their revitalized marketing program, Canada Post supplies us with different solutions – Neighbourhood Mail™, Postal Code Targeting and Personalized Mail™. Let’s take a look at each one and explore the benefits of each.

  • Canada Post Neigbourhood Mail™ – Formerly called Unaddressed Admail, this format has been the workhorse for many businesses. It is what many consumers have labelled as ‘junk mail’, mostly because they have been wrongly targeted as potential customers. When properly targeted, your audience will view it as ‘opportunity mail’. This format reaches a preferred geographic profile in a broader neighbourhood by postal walk which normally consists of about 500 addresses per walk.
  • Postal Code Targeting – This is the newest addition to the Smartmail family and it is what you will probably see Canada Post advertising in your Facebook feeds. Using the profile of your own customer list, you are now able to leverage postal code data to reach prospects who share similar attributes. By applying geographic, demographic as well as lifestyle insights, you can pinpoint your target audience more precisely by postal code rather than postal walk. To avoid annoying current customers, you can have them suppressed from your new list. (We’ll talk more about this solution in another post.)
  • Canada Post Personalized Mail™ – If you wish to maximize customer loyalty and deepen your connection, you can use this solution to target individual customers and prospects. Formerly called Addressed Admail, this format is the most personal one-to-one direct mail communication using either your own list or Canada Complete™, again by selecting attributes similar to your current customer profile.

So why bother with direct mail as a marketing tool?

Direct mail has never gone away and has been around for a long time. However, it has never been easier to create and implement a direct mail campaign. With the science behind it, it has now been shown that its physical, tactile nature is more effective than other media.

With a creative approach, you can engage your customers and prospects and start to build a relationship. While mail gets noticed because of its physicality, it is never intrusive and your customers can engage with it at their own convenience. And integrating it with other popular digital media will maximize the success of your campaign.




Why Direct Mail Marketing Is Not Dead

With millions of people going online and communicating via email and text messages, you’d think that direct mail has gone the way of the dodo. However, a study conducted by the United States Postal Service (USPS) revealed that direct mail is still a very popular marketing technique.

direct mail still works

A Strong Direct Mail Offer Still Works

Direct mail has been around for centuries and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away soon. It’s a highly effective way to reach your target audience and call them to action regarding a product or service. You can also send coupons and other promotional materials by direct mail.

Why Direct Mail Marketing Works
• Cost Effective   Direct mail is cheap, and your marketing message will reach more people for less money. A direct mail marketing campaign can easily reach thousands of people, whereas a salesperson might only be able to get in touch with a few dozen people. As long as it’s well-designed and well-written, your direct mail can do the selling for you. Customers can order by phone or online. Your letter or flyer (more…)

can also pre-qualify prospects for your salespeople to contact.

Targeted Audience   Key marketing allows you to market to your target audience. Identify and know your audience, and focus all your marketing efforts on your prospects. Depending on your product or audience, you can identify your most likely customers based on occupation, home ownership, income, lifestyle, area, etc.

Quick Response   With direct mail, you can find out within a week or two whether or not your marketing campaign is working. Response or feedback typically varies depending on the quality of your mailing list, your offer, and the overall effectiveness of your campaign. Marketing experts recommend coding your mail pieces to determine the effectiveness of different variables.

Tangible   Unlike digital mail and text messages, direct mail materials are “real” and tangible. Your customer can see, touch and feel it. Direct mail provides a great opportunity to capture your prospect’s attention. Craft your message so that the recipient will want to open and read the message.

How to Make It Work
Grab their attention with the headline.   A great headline captures the reader’s interest and makes them want to read more, while a poorly written one will send your marketing materials straight to the circular file.

Get your letter opened and get it read.   Make your message personal by using your customer’s name. Keep the tone friendly and use simple words and short sentences. Use the words “you” and “your” often.

Focus on benefits, not features.   Your prospect wants to know how your product or service can benefit him/her. Identify your customer’s needs and wants and let them know how you can help them.

Make an offer.   Give your prospect something of value so they will keep reading. You can offer them a discount, tips, or amusement.

Call to action.   Ask your prospects to call, order or visit. Set a deadline and offer incentives for immediate action.

Keep in touch. Repeat mailing leads to increased response. By advertising regularly and staying in touch, prospects will come to recognize and trust you, and they’ll be more likely to take you up on your offer.

What Is Lead Generation?

Companies rely on leads to seek out potential customers. Leads are vital to the success of any company in the marketplace, especially in an online setting. If it wants to stay in business and prosper, a company must establish lead generation strategies that are cost-effective.

Lead generation is a marketing term for the process of generating consumer interest in a company’s products or services and collecting names and contact information. The primary purpose of generating leads is to build a list that salespeople can use to generate sales.

Lead generation

How Are Leads Generated?
Lead generation is nothing new. Traditionally, companies obtained leads at trade shows where they exhibited their wares in the hopes of attracting the attention of potential customers. Visitors at the company’s booth could leave a card filled out with their contact information. Later, the company’s salespeople would give them a call and hopefully make a sale.

Leads can also be obtained through (more…)

referrals from existing customers, and through direct response to advertising. With the growing importance of the internet, many companies now use their websites to help generate leads.

According to many marketing experts, businesses should use a wide variety of lead generation techniques so that they always have a good number of leads.

Quality vs. Quantity
Generating leads is the initial step in the sales process. Businesses should aim for quantity and quality in their lead generation efforts. Quality leads are those that are more likely to be converted into sales. Keep in mind that not every lead can turn into a sale. There will always be bad leads; that is, people who do not end up buying the product for one reason or another. Keeping the number of bad leads to a minimum helps ensure that salespeople will be wasting less time while processing the list.

On the other hand, quantity also plays an important factor in lead generation, because even a potentially good lead won’t necessarily convert into a sale. Out of a hundred good leads, a salesperson might succeed in setting up 10 appointments. Of these, only 4 might make a purchase. Therefore, in order to meet a quota of forty sales monthly, a salesperson will need at least a thousand good leads every month.

Lead generation methods are often a trade-off between quantity and quality. A technique that generates high quality leads probably won’t generate a lot of leads. A good example is a form that visitors to a company’s website can fill in with their contact information to request a call back. Visitors requesting a call back are interested enough to want to know more about the product or service. They are also very likely to buy.

On the other hand, a newsletter subscription list provided by another company may generate numerous leads, but they are not likely to be as interested or qualified.

This is one reason why businesses should use many different methods of lead generation.

Finally, bear in mind that lead generation is only the first step. Companies should make every effort to handle and nurture these leads the right way in order to convert them into sales.

7 Ways To Make A Direct Mail Campaign Successful

It may be junk mail to some people, but savvy business owners know that direct mail advertisement is money.  Direct mail marketing is making a comeback after spam legislation and spam filters caused many advertisers to shift away from email marketing.  These days, using direct mail for advertisement is regaining its popularity and marketers are studying how to use it successfully to gain new customers and increase revenues.

Direct mail refers to letters, flyers, postcards and the like sent by post to prospective customers.  It is a form of direct response advertising, wherein customers are provided a call to action such as placing an order or making a call.  When done the right way, direct mail is one of the most effective marketing tools around.  Let’s find out how to establish a successful direct mail advertisement campaign. (more…)

successful offer

Design A Strong Direct Mail Offer

1.  Determine What You Have To Offer

Advertising campaigns, regardless of method or strategy, starts with a product, service or concept.  Determine what you want your prospective customers to buy, and what you want them to do.

2.  Identify Your Target Market

The better you can identify your target audience, the higher the response rate.  Knowing who your prospective customers are enables you to focus your marketing efforts on their needs and wants.

3.  Choose The Format That Best Suits Your Needs

Depending on your product/service, your offer, and your target audience, you must choose the best format for your marketing campaign.  Postcards, flyers, catalogs, and envelopes are some of the choices to consider.

4.  Design Your Mail Piece

Visual appeal plays a big role in direct mail marketing.  It may be a good idea to hire a graphic designer who can create an attractive and compelling marketing piece.  Professionals know how to combine color, text and graphics that will catch the reader’s eye and interest.  Don’t forget that the copy – the text that tells about your product– is equally important.

Keep in mind that the paper used for your mail pieces will reflect on your product or services.  For bulk or discount items, you can get away with using lower quality paper.  However, you will want to use high quality paper when advertising high-end products.

5.  Focus On Benefits

Instead of describing what your company or product does, tell your prospective customers what benefits they can derive from it.  If you sell roofing materials, a headline that says, “We Provide the Best Types of Roofing Materials” is not as compelling as one that says, “Protect Your Investment with the Right Roofing System”.

6.  Make A Clear Offer

Your customers will want to know exactly what they can expect from your offer, so give them the details.  Instead of saying, “Big, big savings,” you can provide something more specific such as, “40% off all linens, this weekend only.”

Avoid using words like “amazing” or “unbelievable.”  They rarely get a positive reaction from prospects.

7.  Include A Call To Action

After making your sales pitch, go ahead and ask for sale.  A successful direct mail advertisement should include a call to action.  It’s not enough to just list your phone numbers, website or address.  Ask your reader to make the call, visit your website, or come to the store.


6 Mistakes to Avoid In Your Direct Mail Campaign

direct mail success

Avoid these mistakes to run a successful direct mail campaign.

Direct mail is an effective yet inexpensive marketing tool.  However, it takes careful planning and proper implementation if you want your marketing campaign to succeed.  Here are 6 common mistakes you want to avoid with your direct mail advertising campaign.

Mistake #1. Using the Wrong Mailing List

The mailing list is the most important component of your direct mail marketing efforts.  You may have the best mailing package with great copy and fabulous design but without the best list you will not get the response you were hoping for.

When it comes to direct mail advertising, the mailing list is your market. (more…)

The best list is your own “in-house” list of customers and prospects.  Unfortunately, not many companies capture and use customers names and addresses for mailing purposes.

Purchasing mailing lists from outside companies may not be very effective because many companies sell lists that are too broad.

Mistake #2. Superficial Ad Copy

Poor ad copy will kill the selling power of your marketing piece.

While your ad should be visually appealing, it also needs good content in order to have great selling power.  Visual presentation captures the initial interest of readers.  Once your reader is hooked, other elements in your ad come into play, such as powerful titles and compelling slogans or phrases.  Finally, your ad should provide facts and information to the reader.

If your ad is poorly written or contains poor grammar, misspelled words, or typographical errors, prospective customers will be less likely to respond.

Mistake #3. Failing to Test Each Piece

Business marketers who fail to track response or test different mailing pieces are bound to fail in their ad campaign.  You can’t expect to get everything right on your very first attempt at direct mail advertising.  There are many variables and variations to test, including different headlines and different marketing pieces (sales letters, brochures, etc.).

Unless you test to see what works and what doesn’t, you won’t be able to figure out what mail marketing package works best.  Keep testing and discover ways to improve response rates.

Mistake #4.  Not Using A Letter in Your Marketing Package

Tests show that an advertising package with a sales letter generates higher response rates than a postcard, brochure or ad without a letter.

A letter makes the ad more personal, and therefore more important to the reader.  Brochures, on the other hand, are viewed as pure advertising.

Mistake #5. Not Having An Offer

Readers will respond to a direct mail package if it contains an offer they find useful or relevant.  Without a clear offer, your package will simply go to the trashcan.

Marketing experts recommend that your advertising piece should sell the offer, not the product.  Some effective offers include coupons, discounts, free brochures, free demonstration, and free product sample.

Mistake #6. Not Having A Strong Call For Action

Successful direct mail marketing calls for a response in order to generate leads and sales.  A mail marketing piece without a clear and powerful call for action will not have a high response rate.

People need to be motivated and encouraged to take the next step.  If you fail to ask them to take action – buy something, call for free consultation, visit your website – they probably won’t.


Local Marketing and Direct Mail

Small business owners are always looking for ways to boost the flow of local clients into their store or office.  Local marketing focuses on promotional methods that target people who actually live in the community where the business operates.  While many small business owners are reluctant to advertise to local citizens, it’s the only way to spread the word and let people know about your great products or services.  Using direct mail is a convenient, inexpensive and effective way to get the word out.  Your business will benefit from the influx of local customers, and they will get great value and service from you.

direct mail delivery

Direct mail is delivered by Canada Post and the USPS.

Why You Need to Market Locally

Every business needs customers – the more, the better.  Brick and mortar shops and stores rely heavily on the patronage of local customers for their survival and growth.  People often think that advertising is only done on the national or international level.  Many small business owners feel it’s not “ethical” to market their goods or services to people in their community.

Nothing could be further from the truth. (more…)

Advertising is good for your business.  It’s also good for the local people who can benefit from your valuable products or services.

How Direct Mail Helps

As a small business owner, you may have heard of direct mail marketing and how it can help your business grow.  It’s a great way to contact prospective clients and establish a broader customer base.  Direct mail is delivered by Canada Post and the US Postal Service and provides an affordable way for businesses to market their products and services.

It’s easier for businesses to reach out to clients if they recognize you as a friendly neighbor.  Knowing that you are just around the corner or somewhere nearby is a huge plus when it comes to attracting customers.  Business owners should never underestimate the value of marketing locally.

Local area marketing or neighborhood marketing is a targeted way to reach your audience.  The best thing about it is that you don’t even need a website to advertise locally.  Simply gather a mailing list and send your marketing materials by mail.  It will only cost you a small amount of money per recipient.

Benefits of Direct Mail in Local Marketing

Mail is important in people’s lives.  According to the US Post Office, 75% of mail recipients are very likely to pay attention to the mail they receive.

Direct mail is valuable in local marketing because it can be targeted to a specific area or group of potential clients who are more likely to respond to your ad.  Ninety-five percent of customers of small businesses come from an area close to the business location.

Direct mail is cost effective and can be quickly delivered to the addressee.  It is also personal, which is a huge factor when marketing to residents in the neighborhood.  You’ll get a high response rate, which you can measure, if you include an offer, a discount, or a coupon.  Don’t forget to include a call to action and ask prospective customers to call or visit your store.

By this time, small business owners should realize that direct mail marketing is one of the best ways to give their local business a boost.


8 Direct Mail Marketing Tips

Advertising can be expensive, but a successful marketing campaign can help you generate more revenues and increase profits.  With proper planning, direct mail marketing can provide the best results possible.  Here are 8 simple tips that will bring a steady stream of new customers to your store or office.


dm tips

Tip #1. Get A List

Your mailing list is probably the most important factor for a successful direct mail marketing campaign.  The best list is your own in-house list, which contains your past and existing customers.  It’s cheaper and easier to sell to existing customers than to try and find new ones.

If you don’t have an in-house list, the next best thing is to purchase a targeted mailing list from a reputable company.  Getting the right list is the first step in your advertising efforts. (more…)

Tip #2.  Add Value to Your Promotion

Why should people respond to your promotional efforts?

The reason is simple.  By adding value to your direct mail marketing, people will be compelled to take positive action right away.  Your marketing efforts should include discounts, coupons, rebates, etc.  The idea is to give people a reason to act now or buy now, instead of later.  The offer should be time limited to maximize results and to make it easy to measure the results of the advertising campaign.

When making your offer, make it short and simple.  If the mechanics of the offer is more involved, include a summary that your audience can read through quickly.

Tip #3.  Personalize Your Mailer

Address the recipient by name for a personal touch.  A personalized letter tells the recipient that you took the time to get to know him or her better.  It also indicates that your promotional material could be relevant and important to the recipient.

Tip #4.  Make Your Ad Copy Easy to Read

Most people will simply scan a sales letter at first, and only read it further if they find something interesting.  Make your ad copy easy to read.  Indent all paragraphs and keep them short.

Tip #5.  Write Good Copy

When writing your advertising materials, focus on the benefits for your audience and not on the features of the product.  If you are selling energy-saving appliances, focus on how much people will be able to save on electricity bills.

Tip #6.  Choose the Right Marketing Medium

Your audience will have different responses to a postcard, brochure or sales letter.  Test your advertising package and determine the best medium for your message.  Paper quality should also be considered.  You will want to use good quality paper when marketing high-end products.

Tip #7.  Test Your Marketing Campaign

Test the effectiveness of your direct mail marketing strategy against a smaller market base before launching a full-blown campaign.  Tweak as necessary in order to get the best results possible.

Tip #8. Follow Up

Very often, business owners only need to follow up with their prospects in order to obtain more sales.  A personalized postcard or sales letter can be a gentle reminder for people to take action. A follow-up phone call is appropriate only if you have permission to do so.

2016 Internet Facts and Stats

Do you have a web presence? There are 966 million websites today, of which 76.5 million are WordPress-based.

Is your site mobile-friendly? Just a few years ago, it was predicted that the number of mobile users would outstrip desktop. In 2015, mobile users accounted for 52.7% of total users.

Any plans for e-commerce? The internet now contributes to over $2.2 trillion in annual retail sales, of which $1 trillion is mobile-influenced.

The first website was built in 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee (yes, he’s still alive to see what he has created) and the internet has now become an economic force that can no longer be ignored by businesses looking to grow. (more…)

Pump Life Into Your DM

While claims of direct mail being dead are ubiquitous, direct mail is far from being dead.

But not all direct mail is treated equal. Here are six methods for pumping life into direct mail campaigns.

Direct Mail Isn’t Dead: You Just Have to Make It Come to Life


Did This Really Happen?

The other day, I saw yet another course on how wonderful life can be as a print broker.

Yes, it’s true, with the right clients and great vendors, you can make a decent living, even without the hassle of staff or equipment.

Opps Button_14086935_printBut just like any other profession, brokers will tell you it’s not always that rosy. You can have decades of experience and yet details will fall through the cracks. Chalk it up to not enough time, complacency, whatever.

You can get seriously dinged. And as a broker, there is no big company backing you up.

One of the biggest reasons is relying on the reputation or your problem-free history with a vendor. (more…)

I’ve been doing this since 1980 and I am not immune. Thankfully, these situations are few and far between. However, here are several of the more memorable ones:

Overcooked Brochures

Several years ago, I did a run of over 500,000 4-color brochures on a coated stock. As usual, artwork was supplied at the last minute and so the job was run over a weekend when I was not available. However, it was a pretty straight-forward job and it was run by one of my regular vendors who specialized in color work.

The job was folded and delivered in a couple of days. When I received my samples, I was struck by the brittleness of the stock. My vendor agreed that it was not right and it appeared that the stock had spent too much time in the dryer as it came out of the press. Because of the lack of time, I had to let it go.

The vendor did however agree to a re-run if the client requested it. Luckily, it all went through with no complaint. On the other, it could’ve been a disaster. (The vendor did give me some credit on subsequent jobs.)

Bad Labels

A few years ago, we had to do a label job that required a special perforation. It was a special perf because it was only used so the labels could be fan-folded. It could not separate when running on the mail shop equipment. The first run of labels did not work and the vendor created custom perforation blades in order to get it to work.

Recently, the client wanted to re-run the particular program and we went back to the same vendor. After reviewing the first run from a few years back, what was done and what had to be duplicated this time, the job was left with the vendor. Again, time was of the essence and a press approval was not requested.

When the labels came in and to our surprise, a regular perforation had been applied to the stock, and not surprisingly, the perf came apart. The end result was that 50,000 labels had to be hand-applied and another 70,000 had to be re-run elsewhere. This was after carefully reviewing with the vendor on what was required. It was not like they hadn’t done it before.

Lost Stock

This was a recent situation and a broker’s worst nightmare.

As a broker, you are in the middle between vendor and client, and it’s your job to make sure that the client gets what they are paying for. If they don’t, it’s your responsibility to find out why not. And then correct it.

This becomes even more difficult when YOUR product is being sent to the CLIENT’S other vendor.

If something goes wrong, you may truly feel like you are trapped in a no-win situation. A little like being in The Twilight Zone.

On this job, I ordered 500,000 laser-friendly letters to be sent to the client’s mail shop.

Three weeks after delivery, I get a call late Friday afternoon (would it be any other time?) from the mail shop telling me they were 50,000 sheets short!


Are you kidding?

No kidding, they said.

5,000, okay, I can understand. But 50,000?

Well, that kind of a quantity must be sitting around somewhere and easy to find. It’s either been misplaced at the mail shop or still at the printer, in which case, it was missed by the shipper.

To make a long story short, neither the printer or the mail shop would would take responsibility for the missing stock.

And the whole job was on hold. Going to the client was definitely not an option.

The only choice was to go back on press – and pay for the additional stock.

I was able to get the additional stock back to the mail shop in a couple of days and the job was finished.

The missing stock was never found, at least not to MY knowledge.

Remind me again why I am a print broker.



  • “Professional, Successful Experience”
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    I use your services because of the quality of your printed products as well as the speed at which they are produced. Having worked together, I enjoy knowing you honour the dates you say you can deliver.
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  • “Looks Great”
    Rainer, it looks great. Thanks for catching that typo… our previous designer would NEVER have done that.
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  • “Production Excellence”
    Rainer knows direct response and his expertise ensures personalization and production excellence and healthy ROI.
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  • “Hits Deadlines”
    Rainer is very professional, providing excellent service and products. I appreciate his suggestions on how projects can be done more cost-effectively. I can also count on Rainer for hitting deadlines.
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  • “Follows Through”
    Rainer is a detail-oriented manager and he follows through on every detail.
    – Brian Petersen, BP Group, Ancaster, ON

  • “Maximizes Results”
    Rainer is a student of direct-response marketing. When you’re hiring Rainer to handle your campaign, you are getting much more than a “printer” or a “fulfillment house.”
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  • “Makes Me Look Good”
    Many suppliers claim they’ll truly be your “partner.” But very few get to know your business as well as Rainer does. Working with him makes me look good!
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  • “Remarkable Job”
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  • “THANKS”
    Rainer’s book filled with practical points , helped me apply many tips to a completely new area of Hotels and Restaurants that too in India where direct marketing is at a very infancy stage. THANKS, Rainer!!
    -Vikram Kamat, Marketing Manager, India

  • “Wrote The Book…”
    Rainer’s book contains countless valuable tips and tricks of the trade compiled by the man who, literally and figuratively, wrote the book on DM production.
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  • “Invaluable Tools”
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    – Debbie Major, Data Direct Group Inc., Mississauga, ON

  • “Sage Words and Practical Advice”
    The 10 Keys of Successful Direct Mail Printing is a very useful guide to making sure that your DM campaigns are properly executed and delivered on time. 
    – Michael Hofmann, Resource Mail Services, Toronto, ON

  • “Knows What He’s Talking About”
    Save yourself headaches and thousands of dollars, before you send out your next mailing. Rainer knows what he’s talking about, read this book today.
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