How Precision merges online & offline for COVID-19 e-commerce – a Q&A

Digital Transformation has been an ambition for many businesses leading up to the COVID-19 crisis but for most, the route to true transformation has been through baby steps. That is absolutely the case in the print industry but now, COVID-19 has made digital transformation an absolute priority. We asked Precision to share how they go about, connecting brands and people, online and offline. From QR to doorstep print, Gary Howard, Chief Digital Officer at Precision Marketing, offers you the answers on how to initiate an online commitment and turn it into an offline engagement.

"The world has changed for good; we will not come back to the way of working that we enjoyed (or some may say endured) in the same way. The work-from-home culture which many a grey-haired, grey-suited management team insisted on, no longer makes sense both economically and practically. This offers a different challenge to advertisers, one that will see a renaissance in print and in particular, direct mail."- Gary Howard, Chief Digital Officer at Precision Marketing

These questions, when answered effectively, lead directly to opportunity.

1. With more of us working from home, the terms B2B and B2C have merged ever closer together. So how do we reach and influence our B2B customers if they are no longer in the office but working from home?

2. Digital advertising is the obvious medium, but this has now become crowded and in the case of PPC, expensive. **How do we cut through the white noise of digital ad placements? **

3. We know that “-isation”(Personalisation, Localisation and Customisation) is a key influence when grabbing attention and starting a conversation that could lead to a sale or an endorsement. **How do we apply data and customer profiling to increase the relevance and the value of your advertising? **

4. The meeting, the rep visit is no longer encouraged in a no-touch economy. The telephone call has become intrusive to your day so **how do we make that initial, all important, break through? **

5. We want to trade digitally. Have you ever thought of your business as an e-commerce business? Taking your business online is a lot easier said than done, especially if you are starting from a standing position. “Build it and they shall come” may work for a man building a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield but how do I transform my business, draw traffic to my site and apply the same principle for my customers? (Extra point if you can name the film reference)

6. We are human and we are ruled by our behavior. Behavioral Science has helped governments change how we comply with rules and advice, from losing weight, giving up smoking and staying home at a time of a global pandemic. **How do we apply “Nudge Theory” as a key influence when fishing for a response? **

Nobody has planned for a global pandemic and the impact it would have on our businesses. The choices we have are stark but there is a silver lining for both the advertising sector and print industry.

The following answers to the questions above outlines how Precision, traditionally a mailing house of 25 years based in rural Suffolk, is striking forward.

1. Winning New Business is a priority for you and your customers.

Your customers are going to need to find new customers to enable them to grow business back to the levels they enjoyed pre-Corona. Their first instinct is to save their way through a crisis and that is understandable. That, however, is a short-term plan and ultimately destructive. You strike-forward by helping them strike-forward. New prospect data is key and in a post-GDPR world not always easy to access. The added complication is that many will continue to work remotely. This is actually an opportunity as accurately profiled consumer data is easier to access than business data and more like to be accurate through the likes of CACI and Experian.

2. The Postbox is an open, uncrowded, advertising channel.

Yes, printed direct mail is cool again and remains highly effective but only if you can apply the following disciplines (please read on) and apply smart data, automation and downstream postal discounts to make the ROI easier to achieve and the ability to measure. PPC is under scrutiny, especially in the financial sector where a keyword could cost a small fortune. Suddenly a printed Direct Mail piece hand delivered becomes extremely cost efficient.

3. Make it personal, add “-isation”.

Data-generated files using CHILI publisher to create files that are personalised to the target, localised to street level and customised based on the audience segmentation grabs immediate attention. We talk about “Nudge Theory” later, but human nature will always draw attention to a message that appears to be all about them or better still their neighbours!

4. Can’t pay a visit? Send a post card and take the conversation online.

They are back and they are potent especially in a no-touch world. Yes, I am talking about unique, dynamic QR Codes! They had a false dawn as the friction involved in using them meant that the take-up was small. Now, for both Apple and Android devices, all you need is a camera and the R code becomes a gift. Can’t get to visit? Send them a postcard linked to anything from an e-commerce site, landing page, Video or LinkedIn profile.

For political parties, where door-knocking is part of the campaign process, a unique barcode will enable a survey to happen and have that survey attributed to the resident. is a great example.

5. Recently The Royal Mail joined the UK Labour Party and a white label user of Precision Connects.

Royal Mail AdMailer will be aimed at small to medium-sized business across the UK to provide a free-to-use, up until the point of purchase, online direct marketing tool that will provide access to data on 27 million households in the UK. In essence it will make sometimes hard-to-reach Royal Mail marketing and postal services available online. This will include the ability to edit pre-designed templates using CHILI publisher or through simply uploading own artwork. On launch, the solution will include direct mail and partially addressed services with door drops and street level marketing following on shortly after, including the ability to generate unique QR codes. This could be the route to take any business online.

How does Precision advertise AdMailer?

We are running an offline campaign that covers all the key points to draw users to an online solution.

Page three of the gift card will have a clear call-to-action, prompting the target to scan a QR code that will link the user to the home page and the chance to win their marketing free for a month. Build it and they probably will not come but an incentivised prompt may help them on their way.

6. Nudge them into action:

We love to know what is going on, we are nosey, we love a deal and we often operate in packs following the social norm. **Nudge has four simple rules (E.A.S.T.) that can easily apply to direct marketing; **

  • E - Easy – Make sure that it is easy for your contact to engage. Make this engagement via their mobile, better still. Using a QR code makes life easy.
  • A - Attractive – There simply has to be a value exchange, make it worthwhile and attractive, spend time on your message.
  • S – Social – By applying “-isation” you make it about them and where they live and through Streel Level Marketing you can focus on the street where you already have customers.
  • T – Timely – Through automation, using engines like CHILI publisher, we can have any campaign landing on doorsteps within hours of being devised.

In Summary

To attract new customers in a locked-down economy we must be able to apply both offline and online techniques. To be relevant as a supplier or partner, we must focus on what we can deliver for customers over what we can produce. To be attractive we must apply clever to what we do for them so that we can: **match them to the right customer, influence the right customer, start a conversation with the right customer and report on everything we do. **

What’s your game plan?

Guest Blog,


Gary Howard

Nov 25, 2020

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