Ashton Eaton. Do you know this name? My quick poll around the office seemed to indicate that most people do not.

Ashton Eaton is the best athlete on the planet. He recently set the world record for the decathlon and won the gold medal in last week's London Olympics. But you don't even know who he is.

What I'm getting at is, direct mail might just be the decathlete of marketing. Direct mail is the jack of all trades, but might not get the exposure and attention that the more glamorous or new technologies might have. Direct mail is the workhorse of your marketing campaign, and although not always flashy, it is reliable and efficient. Direct Mail can take home the gold medal in the marketing decathlon that every business faces to get their product/offering in front of consumers.

Let's say Usain Bolt is emerging technology. Fast, loud, bold and everybody wants on the bandwagon. He's in the spotlight and loving it. However, there is a problem with embracing every Usain Bolt that comes along... you can't run fast with the same technology forever. In short bursts, embracing the latest technology can lead to big rewards, but eventually can run out of steam. Direct mail is the marathon, the reliable partner that you always know arrives. 98% of people bring their mail in the day it is delivered, and 77% sort through it immediately. With every direct mail piece, there is an ability to track the mailing and an understanding that the piece arrived.

Let's say Michael Phelps is social media (with 1.2 million Twitter followers, this isn't too much of a stretch!) Social media has staying power, and is a crucial component to any team. Add social media into an already strong direct mail program, and the combination only becomes stronger. Gabby Douglas is the SMS component of your marketing strategy, and Misty Mae Traenor and Kerry Walsh are your QR code and email parts. All of these components are exciting, popular and fun to watch, but cannot be your entire marketing plan as a stand-alone.

And then you have Ashton Eaton. Sometimes direct mail is the least flamboyant component in a marketing strategy, but it is the one element that can do it all. Running, jumping throwing and succeeding! He's not shouting and demanding the spotlight, but diligently doing exactly what he is meant to do, to be reliable and to take all of the individual components (digital print, email, QR codes, social media, mobile, emerging technologies) and showcase them as a conglomerate effort.

Direct mail takes all of the elements of a successful marketing plan and allows you to pick the elements you want it to combine. Whether you have a heptathlon of a mailing with a QR code leading to a social media site with an SMS campaign, or whether you are utilizing a variable print, transpromotional direct mail piece with a mail-tracking tool to strengthen your database and Customer Intelligence efforts, direct mail can take any number of marketing initiatives and make them a gold-medal winning marketing campaign!

Congratulations to all of the Olympic athletes and to the nations involved in this year's competition, and we all look forward to Rio in 2016!