Archive for October, 2009

Intelligent Mail Barcode Deadline Changes but…

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

The Postal Service has pushed back the deadline for mandatory use of the Intelligent Mail barcode from May 2009 to May 2011. Just because it isn’t mandatory for a while doesn’t mean you can’t start using it now, and take advantage of all the benefits available today. If you don’t currently use endorsements, ACS, or PLANET codes, and simply use the POSTNET barcode for postage discounts, then it’s a breeze to switch over to the Intelligent Mail barcode. Just get a Mailer ID and the rest is easy!

If you do use endorsements, ACS or PLANET codes wouldn’t it be nice to clean up your address block? Let the Intelligent Mail barcode do it all!  Why print a POSTNET barcode, a participant code, and a PLANET code when you only need to print the Intelligent Mail barcode?  You can get started today by learning more about IMB at http://ribbs.usps.gov/index.cfm?page=intellmaillatestnews.

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USPS promises no rate increases in 2010

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

On October 15, Postmaster General Jack Potter issued a letter reassuring postal customers there would be no price increases in 2010 for dominant mail products.  These include First-Class Mail, Standard Mail and periodicals. For the average individual, this might sound like a mundane announcement, but for direct marketers and mailers across the county this has positive implications for the upcoming calendar year.

First, it will be easier to plan marketing budgets.  Potter stated: “as we begin the fiscal year and as many of you, our business clients, are preparing your 2010 operating budgets, we want to end all speculation.  The Postal Service will not increase prices for market dominant products in calendar year 2010.”

Companies that participate in direct mail now have a static number to calculate their postage expenses for all marketing activities.  This will also allow them to allocate any funds set aside for postage rate increases to other marketing activities which can drive sales in 2010.

Next, at minimum it should sustain current mail volumes, if not increase them for 2010.  According to Potter, “While increasing prices might have generated revenue for the Postal Service in the short term, the long term effect could drive additional mail out of the system.”  By not increasing prices, Potter shows he understands the current economic climate could drive people away from direct marketing based on cost.  Holding steady allows companies to continue the same flow into the mailing system, or even increase their units.

Third, it is an important forward looking statement from the USPS.  Historically, the perception is that the Postal Services has been run like a government bureaucracy.  With the recent summer sale, and now locking in 2010 prices in time for direct marketers to plan a 2010 budget, Potter is acting like a corporate executive and aligning the attitude of the USPS more with the mindset of businesses that use its services.

Finally, it is a bold move to support the direct mail industry by the USPS.  By locking in rates during a time of deflation in an attempt to keep revenue steady while looking at other cost cutting moves, the postal service is positioning itself to help direct marketers stabilize their businesses.

In essence, these moves not only help the United States Postal Service, but the move to retain the current volume of mail and revenue should encourage companies to continue their direct marketing campaigns, and potentially increase direct mail activities.

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A fresh look at Direct Mail

Friday, October 16th, 2009

I have completely lost my sense of coherency in regard to what I thought I knew about direct marketing.  Only thirty days ago, I would head out to the mailbox, and while on autopilot, rifle through my daily mail. While folks in the direct mail marketing industry call this the “mail moment,” I still think this describes an activity more consciously engaged than I practiced.  After shredding my monthly airline miles credit card offers, the wife and I would work our way through the rest of the mail.  Off the top of my head, we’ve found several excellent restaurants, our furnace inspection and repair company, and after judging the condition of my lawn this fall, our lawn care service for 2010.  I’ve been convinced to visit my favorite technology and hardware discount stores when I’ve not needed anything, and taken advantage of a myriad of other coupons and offers.  However, if you had asked me a month ago, I would have said something to the effect of, “I don’t really look at my junk mail.”  Evidently, I now realize this has never been true and I’ve learned not to call it junk mail.

That change happened after I joined the Lorton Data team in September.  In a month, I have received an intensive crash course in direct marketing and contact data management.  This has been enlightening after leaving an industry focused on brand awareness, long PowerPoint presentations, and complex rebate plans to drive sales.  Most importantly, I’ve also learned that direct mail is not dead.  While there has been a decline in the total annual volume of direct mail, a unique space has opened up for well thought out direct mail campaigns.  In other words, a good direct mail piece can get more attention with less mailbox competition.

As part of my training, I’ve been encouraged to read as much industry and marketing news as I can handle.  I came across an interesting discussion from January of this year: “A Message for the Post Office: Direct Mail Is Dying.” I call this a discussion rather than a post since the most engaging part is the commentary.  HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Team argues their marketing competition, direct mail, is dead and urges the USPS to get out of the direct mail business.  What is really interesting is the well thought out discussion in the comments section.  There are a lot of companies engaged in social media and internet marketing that aren’t ready to kick direct mail out of their marketing tool box.  Each aspect of marketing to your customers should be considered when planning a campaign.

As I continue to gain experience and knowledge of the direct marketing industry, I hope to provide actual insight on how to improve direct marketing experiences.  Or, at minimum, provide some entertainment as I struggle to develop coherence in a new-to-me method of marketing.

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There’s no such thing as junk mail – part two?

Friday, October 16th, 2009

As I was preparing to write the follow up to my earlier post There’s no such thing as junk mail, I learned that one of our recently hired Account Reps had drafted his own post on the topic. Previewing his forthcoming contribution, I decided to scrap my follow up and to let his “conversion story” drive home the point. Watch for Joel’s post.

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