Lorton Data's Blog

USPS promises no rate increases in 2010

October 23rd, 2009 by Joel Ingersoll

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.

A fresh look at Direct Mail

October 16th, 2009 by Joel Ingersoll

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.

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

October 16th, 2009 by Ray Davey

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.

There’s no such thing as junk mail…

September 17th, 2009 by Ray Davey

Try this experiment. Walk up to any group of people who don’t work in the world of direct marketing and attempt to complete this sentence: “There is no such thing as junk mail, only misdirected information.” If you get past the comma’s pause in this phrase, without being interrupted, there’s a good chance that nobody’s listening to you. I’ve tried this myself. On the rare occasion that I’ve gotten the whole sentence out before being verbally accosted, I still had to contend with looks that conveyed something like “are you for real?”

More often I use this phrase to educate those outside our industry. It happens something like this. Attending a gathering where people are getting to know one another, business or otherwise, the inevitable question is asked: So, what do you do? I work with a company that supports the direct marketing industry by providing address hygiene, enhanced contact information, and other data management services. Huh? Well, our company helps anyone who wants to deliver a message to a particular audience reach that audience with greater accuracy and in the most cost effective manner possible. Hmmm… can you give me an example? Well, a simple example might be the postcard you receive for a $16.95 oil change special at the service station near your home. Oh – you send out junk mail! Not exactly, you see we believe that “there is no such thing as junk mail, only misdirected information.”

With all of the forces at play in direct mail marketing today, from the green movement to the cost of print and postage, there’s every reason to expect that smart direct mail campaigns will employ every possible means to reduce or eliminate so called “junk mail.”  In my next post I’ll write more about how we can influence the perception, and the experience, of consumers who bristle at the suggestion that there is no such thing as junk mail.

Welcome to the inaugural post of Lorton Data’s blog!

September 10th, 2009 by Ray Davey

I’m kicking off this effort, but others will be contributing regularly. We hope that this forum develops into a robust community of readers and contributors. Topics posted here will generally be related to Direct Marketing and Data Management.

We expect the personality of our company to be reflected in these pages as various members of our team contribute. Opinions expressed here may not always reflect the official position of the company, but that’s what blogs are for – a place to share news, ideas, and differing views on relevant topics.

I look forward to the dialogue that can develop here.

Regards!