Jan. 29 2007 01:38 PM

When the Internet took off five years ago, prognosticators said it was the death of the Postal Service. Just as computers would result in the "paperless office," these people said e-mail, online transactions and Internet Web advertising would end the need for hard copy delivery. Of course, that was before there were three billion Web pages to search through and the proliferation of spam.


The prognosticators, not known for their expertise in direct marketing, never explained how we would differentiate between one e-mail address and a million others. They still have not been able to tell us who specifically might be interested in golf equipment, fine china or professional wrestling.


The spammers have figured it out. They, and e-mail marketers like them, seem to think that every e-mail address in the world is interested in sex aids and quick fixes. We were told e-mail advertising would be cheap and judging by the flood of spam and its associated viruses, this prediction has come true. Anyone can (and does) send millions of e-mails a day promoting anything and everything.


The Internet brought not only e-mail marketing but also an online presence for our businesses. We built Web sites to sell our products and services and to communicate with existing and potential customers. We were told that in our Web-centric society, if we would build them (Web sites), they (customers) would come. And we all built a lot of Web sites.


Our Web sites are available 24/7... if customers can find us. Although search engines sort through the clutter of the Internet and deliver our Web sites, they also lead to our closest competitors. And, with the slips of a click, they are purchasing products from our competitor's disgusting, inferior, overpriced Internet Web page and book-marking it for future purchases. There are even companies selling advertising that pops up when a customer mistypes your Web address. So when your print advertising pays off and a customer actually enters "thepaintscore.com" instead of "thepaintstore.com," the new service will take him to the largest paint retailer in the world, as if he needed help to pirate your customer.


However, the Internet has shown us what marketing can be like using multimedia. By using the Internet, we can splash colors, motion and sound across computer screens. It's possible to deliver full motion video (sort of) on demand. We can provide connectivity and interactivity with customers when and where they want and to the level they want. Ink on paper with its static message cannot compete with the Internet's ability to deliver customers your company's multimedia experience.


But this does not have to be a death knell for hard copy advertising and delivery. In fact, hard copy delivery of your marketing messages can beat all forms of Internet advertising. It can be dynamic, connected and interactive. It can have motion, colors as well as sound. It can do all the cool Internet stuff that the wired, video game generation expects and the rest of us enjoy. And, best of all, it can do it better!


How? Multimedia Mail

Direct mail can help you deliver just your sliver of the Internet to customers with no mention of your competitors. Multimedia mail is the utilization of enhanced CDs for the marketing of products and services. CDs come in the standard five-and-one-fourth inch size, a three-inch mini round or can be manufactured in a variety of custom shapes. Enhanced CDs can contain animation, music, text, video and hot links and, they lead your customer only to your site. Its real mail, just like traditional ink on paper, but with a whole lot more sizzle.


Mailboxes can be dead ends. They can also be super highways to the Internet. Multimedia mail is the utilization of much of what the direct mail industry has learned about target marketing and hard copy delivery and combines it with much of what is possible on the Internet. Multimedia mail is a mailbox to Web marketing tools that provides the best qualities of hard copy delivery with the connectivity and interactivity of the Web.


Multimedia mail targets an audience, acts as a personal search engine (where you are the only "Sponsored Link"), delivers video that is actually viewable, provides one click access to wherever you want your customers to go and easily differentiates you from your competitors. It allows for cross-selling of your entire line of products with one click access to the section of your Web site that is relative to a customer's current interest.


Multimedia mail can bring new meaning to cooperative marketing with multiple departments, divisions or even companies sharing production and postage costs in delivering their messages. It can target your audience and with one click deliver customers to your Web site. Multimedia mail turns the "Mail Moment" into the "Internet Hour." It puts you, your message and your Web site in front of your customer.


Todd Butler is president of Butler Mailing Services. For more information about multimedia mail go to www.ekeymailer.com or e-mail him at toddb@butlermail.com.