Mailing Systems Technology Mar/Apr 2018

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DEPARTMENTS 05 Editor's Note

Striving for Greatness By Amanda Armendariz

06 Real-Life Management The Power of Positive Leadership By Wes Friesen

08 Connecting Point



What’s in a Name? A Potential Decline in Response Rates By Chris Lien

09 Direct Mail Evolution

Direct Mail + Digital Marketing…. All the Ways I Love Thee! By Brad Kugler


10 The Trenches


Is Document Production a Cost or an Investment? By Mike Porter

FEATURES 20 Optimizing Your Mailing Equipment: The Right Partner Is Vital

A look at some of the solutions providers available in this industry space — which one is right for you?

22 Anatomy of a Great Mailer

In our industry, all mailers should be striving for greatness. Here are some tactics you can implement to make sure you — and your mail operation — stand out from the rest.

12 Software Byte overlook these factors in your contract that will separate a good vendor from a great one.

By Mark M. Fallon

28 How the New December, 2018 FASB Lease Accounting Standards Will Impact Every Mailing Agreement Don’t let these changes take you by surprise; it’s important to begin preparing now.

By Adam Lewenberg

Outsourcing some of your print and mail operations can be a valuable time-saver, but don’t



By Jeff Peoples

14 Inkjet Info

High-Speed Inkjet Is Enhancing the Role of Transactional Documents By Lisa Cross

16 Postal Affairs

Is the Mailing Industry Fully Utilizing Informed Visibility Data? By Bob Schimek

18 Guest Column: Cost-Cutting Measures

By Mark Rheaume

26 The Top Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Contract with a Print Service Provider

Causes and Prevention of Undocumented Mail Pieces


Top Tips to Achieving Control of Office Shipping and Mailing By Aaron Videtto

17 DQ Business Builds On Success Firstlogic Solutions

19 Say What?

EDITOR’S NOTE VOLUME 31, ISSUE 2 MAGAZINE STAFF President Chad Griepentrog Publisher Ken Waddell Editor Amanda Armendariz Editorial Director Allison Lloyd Editorial interns Catherine Sbeglia Kristyn Sommers Contributing Writers Lisa Cross, Mark M. Fallon, Wes Friesen, Brad Kugler, Adam Lewenberg, Chris Lien, Jeff Peoples, Mike Porter, Mark Rheaume, Bob Schimek, Aaron Videtto Audience Development Manager Rachel Chapman Advertising Ken Waddell 608.235.2212 Design Kelli Cooke RB Publishing Inc. PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098 Tel: 608.241.8777 Fax: 608.241.8666 Email: SUBSCIRBE Subscribe online at Subscriptions are free to qualified recipients: $20 per year to all others in the United States. Subscription rate for Canada or Mexico is $40 per year, and for elsewhere outside of the United States is $45. Back issue rate is $5. SEND SUBSCRIPTIONS TO: Mailing Systems Technology, PO Box 259098, Madison WI 53725-9098 Call 608.241.8777 Fax 608.241.8666 E-mail Online at REPRINT SALES ReprintPro 949.702.5390 All material in this magazine is copyrighted ©2018 by RB Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Any correspondence sent to Mailing Systems Technology, RB Publishing Inc. or its staff becomes property of RB Publishing Inc. The articles in this magazine represent the views of the authors and not those of RB Publishing Inc. or Mailing Systems Technology. RB Publishing Inc. and/or Mailing Systems Technology expressly disclaim any liability for the products or services sold or otherwise endorsed by advertisers or authors included in this magazine. MAILING SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY (ISSN 1088-2677) [Volume 31 Issue 2] is published six times per year, (January/February, Annual Industry Buyer’s Guide, March/April, May/June, September/October, November/December) by RB Publishing Inc.,PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098, 608-241-8777. Periodical postage paid at Madison WI and additional offices. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: Mailing Systems Technology PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098



ith the 2018 Olympics just having finished, now seems to be an appropriate time to talk about the concept of greatness. Obviously, no one is handing out medals to mailers who excel at reducing their Undeliverable-as-Addressed mail or increasing customer engagement (although perhaps someone should be — after all, these are not easy tasks!), but this concept of greatness is still something we can all subscribe to as we go about our daily professional lives. The mailing industry may not be the most exciting to outsiders, but it is a vital communications avenue for our customers. And while no one is handing out awards, the great mailers absolutely do stand out — make no mistake about that. But for some, the concept of becoming a great mailer may seem overwhelming at first. It’s kind of like the vague resolutions that many Americans make at the start of the new year: “I want to lose weight;” “I want to save money,” etc. These are all worthy resolutions, but without a specific set of steps in mind, these people will

have a hard time achieving these goals. The same goes for mailers. We can say, “I want to be a great mailer” all day long, but until we understand exactly what that entails and how we get there, we are going to be floundering. I urge you to take a look at Mark Rheaume’s article on page 22; he gives a wonderfully concrete set of suggestions for those who want to take their mail operations to the next level. Not surprisingly, many of these steps focus on education, so you’re already well on your way just by reading our publication! But there are other factors at play, as well, so if you feel like you’re performing your job but not necessarily excelling, his suggestions are a great place to start. And speaking of education, the National Postal Forum is coming up soon, so we hope to see you there! As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology. | MARCH-APRIL 2018





esearch in recent years is demonstrating the most effective leadership approach is positive leadership. What is positive leadership? Professor and author Kim Cameron summarizes, “Positive leadership refers to the implementation of multiple positive practices that help individuals and organizations achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy, and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise.” Key Strategies of Positive Leaders Positive Leaders Embrace the Servant Leadership Philosophy The most effective and positive leaders are those that understand and practice the philosophy of “servant leadership.” Servant leaders feel their role is to serve others — employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. If you think about the most respected and effective leaders you know, chances are they saw themselves as “serving leaders,” not “self-serving leaders.” Servant leadership has been championed by the most prolific leadership and management authors of our time (e.g. John Maxwell, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey). Many of the top-performing organizations across all industries embrace the servant leadership philosophy and are enjoying the benefits. Positive Leaders Lead with Optimism and Positivity The challenge we face is that negativity is rampant. Gallup estimates negativity



costs the economy $250-$300 billion a year and hurts the morale, performance, and productivity of teams. In contrast, a number of studies have demonstrated numerous benefits of optimism and positivity. For example, optimistic and positive people: } Work harder, get paid more, are elected to office more often, and win at sports more regularly } Perform better as salespeople } More likely to see bigger picture, build relationships, and thrive in their work and careers } Positive teams are more productive and outperform negative teams Disney CEO Bob Iger suggests, “The most important characteristic of a leader is optimism.” Respected general and statesman Colin Powell emphasizes, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” We need to consider the concept of “shadow of a leader,” which says the people on our teams tend to shadow or follow our emotions, attitudes, and behaviors (a humbling and scary thought!). Positive leaders cultivate their personal optimism and positivity and project it to people around them. How do we cultivate more optimism and positivity? One tip is to start your day with focusing on information that motivates and inspires you. Another tip is to carefully choose our closest friends — people that are positive, competent, and of good character. Jim Rohn advices, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” A final tip is to invest time reading from good books that will grow, develop, and inspire you.

Positive Leaders Provide Meaning and Purpose People want to know the “why” behind their work and feel what they do has real meaning and a higher purpose. CEO and leadership expert Frances Hesselbein wisely observed, “People want to feel that what they do makes a difference.” German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche emphasized, “He who has a why can endure any how.” It is up to us in leadership roles to explain why the work individuals and our teams do makes a difference. I suggest that during the Great Recession organizations eliminated teams that did not add value and kept those that did — so all remaining teams add value. And it’s up to us as leaders to explain to our teams the value we add for stakeholders. Research shows true motivation is primarily driven by meaning and purpose rather than extrinsic rewards, numbers, and goals (which do have their place, though!). For example, a study of West Point alumni showed those who had intrinsic rewards such as, “I want to serve my country and make a difference” outperformed those with extrinsic rewards like, “I want to rise in the ranks and become an officer because it’s prestigious.” Studies have shown that work is considered having meaning and worthwhile purpose when it possesses one or more of these key attributes: 1) The work has an important positive impact on the well-being of individuals. 2) The work is associated with an important virtue or a personal value. 3) The work has an impact that extends beyond the immediate time frame or creates a positive ripple effect. 4) The work builds supportive relationships or a sense of community in people. It is well worth our efforts to provide meaning and purpose, as studies have shown that when people feel they are engaging in meaningful work that serves a positive purpose, significant benefits result. Positive Leaders Are Trustworthy and Ethical Multiple surveys show that people respect and want leaders that are trustworthy and ethical. The core of being ethical is doing the right thing — which often is not the easiest thing. Knowing what is

“right” becomes easier when we have developed and internalized our personal value system and beliefs. Many of us look to respected “moral codes” derived from worthy sources. Values such as following the Golden Rule (treat people positively like we would like to be treated) and “loving our neighbor” can guide us in those situations where the right thing to do is not obvious. In addition to defining relevant moral codes we ascribe to, there are a variety of “informal” ethical questions (tests) we can use, such as: “Would I feel comfortable if my decision or action was on the front page of the newspaper?” “What would my parents and/or my children think if they know about this action/decision?” “Will my conscience be clear and can I sleep well at night with this action/decision?” “What would the most respected people in my life (e.g. a spouse, parent, mentor, counselor, or pastor) do?” Ethical organizational leaders have a positive impact on their staff. Studies show that employees who consider their leaders to be ethical are more satisfied with their jobs and perform better. Ethical leadership enhances people’s sense their work is meaningful and “good.” People are very sensitive to what is fair, just, and right. Not surprisingly, employees with ethical leaders are far less likely to engage in unethical behavior like discrimination, and this further adds to a positive work environment. The leader is important because others see them as role models whose good behavior they want to copy. There’s also human reciprocity at play: when employees are treated well by their leaders, they reciprocate by treating others well too. Positive Leaders Deal with Poor Performance Positive leaders are optimists and, at the same time, they are realists. Positive leaders strive for great results and high performance for themselves and their teams. At the same time, they realize poor performance happens and needs to be dealt with. Researchers from the Positive Organizational Scholarship found the need for both/and attributes throughout organizational culture. For example, we need to both allow some creativity and have strong controls in our processes where neces-

sary. We need to be both supportive and challenging to help people grow. Bob Quinn has used the metaphor of a positive leader having one hand on her teammate’s back to push her along faster than she thought possible; the other is under her arm to break her fall if needed. Giving someone endless free passes for poor performance is not being a positive leader. In fact, it is not being a leader at all. Positive Leaders Demonstrate Love An increasing number of leadership experts and scholars — and accomplished leaders in organizations — are embracing and promoting the concept of “leading with love.” Talking about “love” in business makes some people squirm. Part of the problem is that out English language has only one word for love — while our friends the ancient Greeks had four, one of which is “agape” love, which is the one that is most relevant for business settings. Agape love is not about feelings and is not emotion-based. Agape love is unconditional and is behavior-based — it’s about choosing to care and following up with actions. When we look at love in

action, love works — at work. And it can be a powerful tool to help us strengthen our teams and improve the value we add to our stakeholders. Positive Leaders Build Positive Relationships Let me leave you with a final quote from Kim Cameron: “Positive leadership is often interpreted as touchy-feely. But the evidence over the last 10 years is clear: if you implement it, performance and customer satisfaction go up. The duty of a leader is to create an organization where it is easy to practice kindness.”  Wes Friesen is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams. He is also an accomplished university instructor and speaker and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management and team building training. His book, Your Team Can Soar! Powerful Lessons to Help You Lead and Develop High Performing Teams, has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you and give you practical pointers to help you — and your team — soar to new heights of performance. Wes can be contacted at or at 971.806.0812. | MARCH-APRIL 2018



What’s the Path Forward?



hile the mailing industry has weathered, and sometimes embraced, many direct communication innovations over the years, direct mail is still the most influential marketing tactic, boasting significantly higher response rates than digital advertising alone. In fact, according to the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), direct mail sees a 5.1% response rate for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, while all digital counterparts combined only have a two percent response rate. So, it goes without saying that any changes that could adversely affect direct mail response rates would be a sensitive subject for all mailers. That’s why when the USPS proposed changing the name from Standard Mail (STD) to Marketing Mail (MKT) on the indicia of every mail piece, there was serious trepidation from the industry. Fortunately, a few companies recently took the time to quantitatively test what this name change could mean for their response rates. With encouragement from the Postal Service, based on input from the Mailers’ 8


Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) work group, two major mailers — an insurance company and a large financial institution — conducted a study using an example of the new Marketing Mail indicia. What they found was concerning and seemed to validate fears from the industry: } An 8.3% drop in response rates when the indicia displayed “MKT” (instead of STD) from the insurance mailing, and a five percent drop in response rates from the financial mailing } A 10.9% drop in response rates when the indicia displayed “Marketing” (instead of STD) from the insurance mailing

So, What Does This Mean? Simply put, this helps prove that consumers are looking at their mail — especially direct mail. It’s another figure to point to as an example of how the high-touch nature of direct mail supplemented with the high-tech nature of digital components creates the most effective campaigns. But, messing with the foundation of these campaigns causes disruptions that would impact thousands of companies.

This meaningful drop in response rates begs the question, what is the future of the indicia? Is it even necessary anymore? With the innovations in the Intelligent Mail barcode, it seems that an indicia could become a thing of the past, and this entire potential issue of changing the label of mail would be a moot point. Aside from a QR barcode, most consumers likely ignore the Intelligent Mail barcode and the data that is baked in it — data that is basically duplicated in the indicia.

This meaningful drop in response rates begs the question, what is the future of the indicia? Is it even necessary anymore? As the USPS and the mailing industry continue to discuss the future of the indicia and the Intelligent Mail barcode, we will continue to stay involved. These conversations will undoubtedly continue throughout the industry, but it is clear, based on this initial test, mailers will be hesitant to change the indicia on mail pieces unless or until it becomes mandatory. ¾ Chris Lien is the president of BCC Software and has been active in the mailing industry for over 25 years. During that time, he authored several software solutions utilizing Mail.dat for electronic auditing, distribution and logistics planning, palletization, and electronic postage payment. He has been heavily involved in industry associations such as the Association for Postal Commerce, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, Idealliance, and has previously served as industry Chair of the Postmaster General’s Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC).




ynergistic marketing in both the physical world and digital world is going to soon be as necessary as having a website and a social media presence. Today, a business wouldn’t be considered legitimate if it didn’t have a social media presence, just like 10 years ago, you were definitely missing out if you didn’t have a website. Things are certainly moving in that direction when it comes to bridging offline and online marketing efforts. They have to be done together, kind of like hot dogs and mustard, apple pie and ice cream... you get the point. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you are going to have to very soon. Google and Facebook as standalone marketing initiatives have value; there’s no doubt about it. However, just as with the evolution of mail to email, the noise level on these platforms has reached the pitch of a constant roar and is rapidly approaching the status of background noise. By contrast, the postal mailbox has become less crowded, therefore making it a great place for promotions to get noticed. Millennials are finding physical mail a new and shiny item after having grown up looking at LCD screens since birth. Consumers are 77% more likely to remember what they read in print over what they see on a screen. This leaves the million dollar question: If direct mail is an effective offline marketing tool, what is the best online marketing vertical to combine with direct mail?

Some methods to consider include: 1. Landing Pages, QR Codes, and Personalized URLs (PURLs) These tracking methods will work to a degree and are more effective in specific industries such as financial, real estate, healthcare, and auto. As far as QR codes, although a good idea, they have never gained wide acceptance (although that may be changing). When using these tracking methods, just be aware that most respondents will navigate to your main website, thus muddying the results. 2. Retargeting on FB, Google, etc. It’s all about impressions and repeat messages that reinforce the printed materials. Get more bang for the buck and help sear that printed image into the minds of the consumers. Eighty percent of sales are made between the eighth and 12th contact. Retargeting interested people will ensure that no money is left on the table and those interested people are driven back to your website to convert…. which is trackable. 3. Cookie-less Targeting, IP Appends, and Other Cutting-Edge Technology I am an early adopter by nature and think these technologies are going to develop and mature. They aren’t cheap, but it’s looking like they can actually have some real value to targeting the same people as the mailings online. Keep your eye on these as they are exciting possibilities.

4. Call-Tracking/SMS Response This is another effective way to capture responses coming in and leveraging the investment of the direct mail campaign. Tracking the calls, capturing identities, and allowing your prospects to respond via SMS is well worth the investment — and it is cheap to boot! 5. Hyper-Personalized Direct Mail This, too, I would call an emerging technology to be watched and tried. It’s direct mail… in reverse! This takes the anonymous visitors to your website and through some magic of IP Appends and data merges drops a personalized piece of direct mail into their street mailbox. The piece is specifically designed to prompt the visitor to buy or take some action based on personalized information obtained from their visit to the site. Some might consider it wizardry and cool, while others might consider it kind of creepy. Either way, it’s becoming more mainstream and is proving its effectiveness with groundbreaking stats. 6. Informed Delivery by USPS This is probably the only real integration between offline and online, and it’s controlled by the USPS. See your snail mail on your mobile device or computer before it arrives, and click on the offer! Right now, there are fewer than 10,000,000 subscribers to this service, but I love it. Sign up at 7. Email – Oh, email… the least expensive marketing vehicle around and one of the most complained about. The bottom line is, you have to email; however, there is a time and a place to make it effective. Combining email with a direct mail strategy can increase its effectiveness and enhance its relevancy. Basically, you have to integrate. I know it’s confusing and I know it’s a lot to learn, but like most things new and complicated, we have the opportunity to outsource it to someone who knows what they’re doing. There is no magic bullet for any marketing effort — it’s all trial and error! ¾ Brad Kugler is the CEO of DirectMail2.0, a fully integrated marketing solution for the clients of printers/mailers that combines the proven success of direct mail with in-demand features like online advertising and automated campaign tracking. Visit or call 800.956.4129 for more information. | MARCH-APRIL 2018





ost organizations view the effort to produce and distribute transactional documents as a necessary cost of doing business. Money spent on paper, printers, inserting equipment, postage, and production staffs are costs they must trim wherever possible. This attitude is short-sighted. Transactional documents are not single-purpose communications. They shouldn’t exist only because they bring in money for bill payments or satisfy regulatory obligations. Transactional documents are economic opportunities to communicate with customers as individuals. Chances like these are rare. Customer communications treated as investments focus more on customer value and less on production costs. Such documents would yield loyalty and higher sales per customer and result in more effective and relevant bills, statements, and notices. Lowering document production costs by improving efficiency will always be important. When austerity trumps effectiveness, though, we’re on the wrong track. Transactional documents can 10


improve customer retention through positive customer experiences. They can educate and inform customers or present upsell offers in personally relevant ways. It’s a shame to disregard those openings month after month and ignore the advantages of connecting with customers through transactional documents. Progress Is Made, but Room for Improvement If the mail I get at home is a sign, companies are attempting to communicate more effectively with customers through their monthly communications. I applaud the efforts, but the results are disappointing. My latest cable bill, for instance, features a message informing me about the company’s new retail location. This sort of information is worthwhile and welcome, but the new store is an hour away. I am unlikely to visit when another store (which they didn’t mention) is less than five miles from my home. For three straight months, onserts in my cell phone bills promoted a music downloading service. Kudos to the company for abandoning pre-printed inserts, but they get poor marks for targeted messaging

— one of the greatest benefits of printing promotional messages inline. In over two decades as a customer, I’ve never downloaded any music. My subscription to the carrier’s lowest volume data plan is a good indicator of my disinterest in accessing entertainment media with my phone. They’d be better off promoting aspects of their service I’m more likely to use. Both of these organizations collect a lot of data about equipment I own and how I use their services. Yet they have not used that information to add relevant messaging or ads to their bills. As a result, receiving the bills is a mostly negative experience. Like 98% of consumers, I open and view these documents every month. I see my bills twice — once when the bills arrive and again when I pay them. It disappoints me the companies are neglecting to use their transactional messages to make a positive impression.

Organizations make investments to improve products, service, and sales all the time. If they recognized the potential value of their transactional documents as ways to influence customers in positive ways, we’d see more progress in this area.

I ignore online ads and marketing emails from the phone and cable companies. The monthly bills are the best way for them to get my attention — and they are squandering the opportunity. Use Known Data to Make Customer Connections What could my vendors do to make their documents more interesting and relevant? I would have appreciated a message from the cable company suggesting ways to improve my internet speed, since I am paying for upgraded service. Instead, I scheduled a service call to address my sluggish data transmission performance. My service technician told me my modem was out of date. This method of disseminating information

was much more expensive for the cable company than utilizing the transactional documents they were already producing. In place of worthless ads for music services, the cell phone company might have used their bills to tell me their repair site moved. When they closed one repair facility in my area and opened another, they should have notified me of the change. When I needed repairs, I wasted time driving my broken phone to the wrong place — a negative customer experience. Ironically, the cell phone bill layout includes an area reserved for news and notices — a perfect place for personalized or segmented messages. In practice, the information in this area is rarely news and always generic. Most months, the messages are exactly the same boilerplate text.

Organizations make investments to improve products, service, and sales all the time. If they recognized the potential value of their transactional documents as ways to influence customers in positive ways, we’d see more progress in this area. As long as organizations regard transactional documents as expenses which they must constantly reduce, customer communications will not get better.  Mike Porter uses his experience and knowledge of customer communications to create custom improvement plans for his clients. No two situations are alike. As President of Print/Mail Consultants, Mike works with in-plants and service providers to help them reap the greatest benefits from their unique document operations. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter or contact Mike directly at | MARCH-APRIL 2018





s more mailers participate in the United States Postal Service (USPS) Seamless Acceptance program, the topic of undocumented mail pieces is worthy of review. For many mailers, any assessments for undocumented pieces could be the most expensive ones they face. Unlike some of the other assessments that are passed onto the respective mail owners, assessments for undocumented pieces will usually come right out the mail preparer’s pockets. What Is an Undocumented Mail Piece? An undocumented piece is one with an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) that has been scanned by USPS mail processing equipment (MPE), but it can’t be associated with any eDoc. For validation purposes, the USPS checks against the eDoc submitter customer registration ID (CRID) and submissions within the last 45 days. The current error threshold is .3%; however, mail preparers must explain any errors over the .1% level. The mail piece barcode data is populated in your eDoc during the presort process, whether you’re using presort software or a multi-line optical character reader (MLOCR). So, what causes these undoc-



umented mail pieces, and how can mail preparers prevent this issue? Causes One common reason is that many mailers have small jobs, usually single piece-rate First-Class Mail that have been printed with IMbs and metered but not be presorted in any way. By definition, these pieces will be undocumented since no eDoc was provided. The resolution is to presort these small mailings. Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) 604.5.1.2 allows for presort of these small jobs that are less than the minimum for a bulk mailing. The Mail.dat files for these small jobs may be merged using post-presort software, so that there is a single submission to PostalOne! rather than numerous small submissions. Another common cause is use of an incorrect mailer identification (MID), either in the barcode on the mail piece, or in the piece detail record (PDR) or piece barcode record (PBC) of the Mail.dat file. To prevent this, it is important to implement quality assurance (QA) steps in your workflow to provide a checkpoint to ensure that this data matches between the physical mail piece and the eDoc. Regenerating Mail.dat files after the barcodes have been printed on the mail

pieces is another common cause of undocumented pieces. While this may be necessary for a variety of reasons, it is critical to make sure that when these files are regenerated, new IMbs are not being generated. Again, having QA procedures in place to verify that the barcode data in the newly generated file matches the barcode data printed on the pieces is vital. Another very common culprit is a mailing submitted using a hard copy statement during a PostalOne! outage. This is not a problem when mailers follow the PostalOne! Contingency Plan, which calls for a daily log from the mailer of the jobs getting submitted, followed by uploading the files to PostalOne! once it becomes operational. It is when mailers do NOT follow this contingency plan (submitting a hard copy postage statement) that it becomes a problem. When no files are submitted to PostalOne!, that means the USPS can’t link the mail piece barcodes back to your eDoc, and voila! There are your undocumented pieces! Unauthorized use of MIDs by another mail service provider or mail owner can also cause issues. Likewise, removing physical pieces from the mailing due to production issues, such as spoilage, can also cause issues. If those pieces are removed from the eDoc but inadvertently get left in the physical mailing, the USPS won’t be able to match up the scanned barcode. Again, solid QA procedures to validate MIDs and ensure physical removal of spoiled or pulled pieces helps prevent undocumented piece issues. MLOCR environments can have their own issues that potentially lead to undocumented pieces: double feeds of pre-barcoded mail, one-pass mail, improperly fed rejects, and Move Update pieces culled from the mailing are some common examples. Here, too, QA procedures can help to minimize these occurrences. There can also be USPS-caused issues that create the illusion of undocumented pieces, when in fact they can be documented. Examples of this are “loop” mail that loops through automated processes multiple times, or technical/maintenance issues with MPE that cause mis-reads. There are numerous causes for undocumented pieces, so it is a good idea to start identifying why you are seeing undocu-

mented pieces on your Mailer Scorecard and then develop plans to eliminate those issues and be able to provide the USPS with the information required to successfully challenge an incorrect assessment. Contesting an Assessment There is only so much you can do to avoid undocumented pieces on your Scorecard because sometimes — even though you’ve done everything right — the USPS can’t locate the barcodes in your eDoc. When this happens, the burden is on you to prove that these mail pieces were, indeed, paid for. You can download the barcode data of your undocumented pieces from the USPS. The next step is to determine if you mailed these barcodes and, if so, when. To contest an assessment, you will need to supply the USPS with the submission date, Job ID, and either the file name or the “historical header sequence number” of the Mail.dat file that contained these

“undocumented” barcodes. You will also need to supply the USPS with the Postage Statement ID(s) generated by PostalOne! for that submission. While this research can be tedious, it behooves you to put a plan in place to provide for this process now, since high undocumented scores will keep you out of Seamless Acceptance (for a while). Oftentimes, reducing this count requires considerable process change as described above. Another good idea is to establish a logging system for your system of generating, printing, and submitting barcode data. Keeping a daily log of IMbs may seem like overkill, but if you are hit with an assessment, this log will be an invaluable resource for the research process. This can also serve as a great foundation for your QA procedures. Resources The USPS provides information regarding your undocumented pieces on your Mailer

Scorecard, available on the Business Customer Gateway. The USPS Guide to Mailer Scorecard includes instructions for drilling down into the error reports to locate the details of undocumented piece errors. Some software and other mailing services vendors have solutions to help you with reducing your undocumented pieces or to help with the research and documentation for contesting the assessments. Now is the time to develop an understanding of the issues you may be facing and work with your vendors to implement a cost-effective solution.  Jeff Peoples is President, Founder, and CEO of Window Book. With over 20+ years of innovative solutions that make using the Postal Service easier and more profitable for mailers and shippers, he has done presentations at industry events, GraphExpo, MAILCOM, the National Postal Forum, Postal Customer Council meetings, Harvard Business Expert Forum, and other industry and direct marketing events. | MARCH-APRIL 2018





nnovations in high-speed inkjet printing are expanding the role of statements and transactional documents in delivering marketing messages. Transactional messaging is a native personalized customer communication. Each bill, statement, invoice, check, or explanation of benefits is already designed with content unique to its recipient. Today, savvy organizations are seeking better ways to leverage the natural advantage of printed transactional communications. The commercialization and implementation of inkjet printing is enabling the production of affordable full-color work and personalization with faster turnaround times. Moving forward, ongoing innovations in inkjet will drive substantial growth in digital page volumes. InfoTrends estimates that inkjet devices produced more than 122 billion impressions in the United States in 2016, and that number is predicted to reach 246 billion impressions by 2021 — 14


a 14.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) (Figure 1). InfoTrends’ most recent US Application Forecast projects that an increase in online access for bills and statements will drive down overall page volume. While overall page count is expected to decline, the number of pages per bill/statement will increase as businesses work with print service providers to deliver more information on each bill. In a similar way, although overall transactional pages are declining, those with marketing messages are on the rise. The combination of more (and better) consumer data, the drive for personalization, and the increasing affordability of inkjet are all enhancing the marketing role of transactional documents. Enhanced workflow solutions and the affordability of digital color inkjet technology are also accelerating the use of color in basic bill/statement printing. Color has proven critical in business communications, with its use increasing

brand recognition and boosting response rates. By uniting customer-specific data with full-color personalized messages, bills, statements, and purchase orders can be transformed into attentiongrabbing marketing tools that reinforce branding and create a dialogue with customers to cross-sell and up-sell products and services. Printed transactional communications have not lost their luster. According to the USPS, in 2016, US households received more than 26.3 billion bills and statements in the mail. Despite banks, credit card companies, and other businesses aggressively pushing their customers to “go paperless,” consumers still value and demand physical documents, and they are beginning to push back. InfoTrends’ 2017 Annual State of Transactional Communications study found that over 88% of the 2,000 consumers surveyed still receive paper versions of their transactional communications. Their top reasons for retaining paper statements include: } Wanting a hard copy for records (47%) } Paper statements serve as a reminder to pay (37%) } Paper statements are a security precaution (23%)

According to the USPS, in 2016, US households received more than 26.3 billion bills and statements in the mail. In addition, InfoTrends’ consumer research studies offer key insights into ways organizations can enhance printed communications. Recipients of transactional communications advise statement senders to:

Figure 1: U.S. Annual Inkjet Impressions: 2016-2021

Annual Impressions (Billions)

250 200 150


14.9% CAGR


215 188 143


100 50 0







Source: U.S. Production Printing and Copying Market Forecast: 2016-2021; InfoTrends 2017

1. Make communications relevant to the recipient 2. Make them easier to understand and personalize the content 3. Put multiple communications in a single envelope

4. Use color to emphasize important information Knowing your clients’ customers and adjusting your approach to meet their needs and accommodate their communication

preferences is essential to winning work. There are a growing number of communication channels, but print remains an important pipeline to consumers of all ages. Transactional documents are delivered to customers every day — enriching them with marketing content makes good business sense in a market where consumers are demanding colorful, data-rich, personalized communications. High-speed inkjet and full-color communications provide value to customers and service providers. Continued success depends on delivering enhanced communications through affordable digital color and its associated improvements in response rates, time-to-market, and cost.  Lisa Cross, Associate Director of InfoTrends’ Business Development Strategies Consulting Service, is responsible for conducting market research, managing consulting projects, and assisting companies in developing multi-channel communication, marketing, and content strategies. | MARCH-APRIL 2018





he decision to do mail tracking back in the early days required a deliberate decision for marketers and mail owners because it required placing a second barcode on the mail pieces. The PLANET barcode, which was an inverted POSTNET barcode, was how mail piece tracking was performed. Decisions had to be made on how that second barcode would impact the look of the mail piece. Would it impact open rates? What effect would it have on response rates? Some marketers and mail owners made decisions to only track a small subset of a mailing, sometimes referred to as seed pieces. Many of the barriers and concerns were removed with the migration to the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) and the retirement of both the POSTNET barcode and the PLANET barcode. Leveraging the IMb, the decision to perform mail tracking simply required using the correct Service Type ID (STID) in the IMb to request that mail tracking be performed. Now, with the barriers to mail tracking removed and the new capabilities of the Informed Visibility (IV) platform in place, is the mailing industry taking full advantage of all the mail tracking capabilities? In the early days of mail tracking, there were a handful of common scenarios. Mail owners working with mail service providers (MSPs) would use the mail tracking data as proof of mailing. Some used the seed records noted above to track delivery performance and consistency. Some of the more



advanced uses would include historical mail tracking data to tweak and tune mail entry dates to better hit targeted in-home delivery windows. Granted, this was often a challenge with the status and mail volume at postal facilities constantly changing. Some mail owners and MSPs would leverage the data to diagnose reported delivery problems after complaints of missing or delayed pieces had been reported. As the mailing industry made the migration to the new IV platform, one of the options available was to continue to receive the same scanning events at the same frequency through the new platform. Many took this approach to minimize the impact of required changes. Benefits of the New Platform First of all, the legacy tracking system would require up to 48 hours before tracking events would be provisioned back to the mail industry. The new IV platform has the ability to provision that same data in near real time. So, within 15 to 20 minutes of a scan event occurring, the data is available. To fully leverage this data, it would require your business to pull the data from the Postal Service more frequently. The IV platform has also added new logical delivery scan events. The Postal Service has geo-fenced every mailbox in the United States. It has also equipped every mail carrier with a geo-enabled device. These two pieces of data are what drive the new logical delivery events. Mailers now know with a much greater

depth of precision when the mail piece was actually delivered to the mailbox. This capability creates the ability to allow marketers to combine the delivery of the physical mail piece with a digital touch to build additional anticipation around the mail moment. When the logical delivery event is received, it can be used to trigger an email to the recipient. For example, “When you get home today, check out your mailbox; we have a special offer waiting for you!” The legacy tracking system only supported piece-level tracking. The new IV platform expands tracking to include container and bundle-level tracking as well. This creates expanded visibility into mailings as they flow through the Postal Service. Previously, there was little visibility into mailings until containers and bundles were broken open and the pieces were processed on automated equipment that generated the piece-level scans. IV has the ability to capture container scans as pallets are unloaded at postal facilities; these scans can be associated with the electronic documentation for the mailing and correlate the container scans to the pieces on those specific containers. This provides additional visibility, such as when the Postal Service has taken possession of drop ship mailings. The Postal Service is also implementing bundle-level scanning in IV as well to provide increased visibility into flat mailings. Flat mailings have historically had limited scan events outside of ZIP Codes that are processed by the Flats Sequence Sorter (FSS). Using these new scan events enables more proactive tracking of mail. The Postal Service is already using this data to identify containers at risk of missing service standards. Mailers can use this same data to better align marketing resources to when the mail pieces are being delivered and more aggressively track when service issues are occurring. These are just a few examples where the new capabilities can increase the value of mail. If your business is still using mail tracking the same way it was a year ago, now would be a good time to look at the added value that Informed Visibility can provide. ¾ Bob Schimek is Senior Director of Postal Affairs at Quadient. He is a member of PostCom, Idealliance, and the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC). Contact him at



Much has changed in how companies communicate with customers and prospects since Peachtree Data opened their Duluth, Georgia data quality and address cleansing business in 1994. One thing that hasn’t altered in all that time is the software solution the company relies upon to run their operation. For the past twenty years, Peachtree Data has tapped the technology provided today by Firstlogic Solutions to meet the developing needs of their customers. About half the company’s customers are organizations using contact lists for their own communication projects after Peachtree Data has standardized, deduped, and enhanced their data files. The other half of their business is supporting list brokers, agencies, and other service providers that use the cleansed data for their customer’s direct mail or multi-channel marketing efforts. “Regardless of the customer, every data record we process today runs through Firstlogic’s DQ10 software suite,” says Peachtree Data President Richard West. Multi-Threaded Performance DQ10 allows Peachtree Data to handle job sizes varying from a few hundred records to 60 million. “The system uses more processor power and memory when the job needs it,” says West, “Our large jobs now run three to four times faster.” Speedy processing is essential to meet Peachtree Data’s customer expectations

for fast turnaround. Marketers need their files returned swiftly, and Peachtree Data delivers. When customers submit files online, the company processes 100,000 records in five minutes or less with Firstlogic DQ10. A Steady and Reliable Partnership Though Peachtree Data has remained a loyal user of Firstlogic tools, they have certainly had opportunities to switch software vendors over the years. “We were thrilled to see that Firstlogic Solutions made significant functional improvements to the time-tested platform. We looked at alternatives, but nothing else really stacked up,” West explained. Peachtree Data compared the address parsing routines of various software vendors and found the algorithms in the Firstlogic products to be the best on the market. Mr. West notes some of their job files developed with their original Firstlogic software (known as Postalsoft at the time) are still running today, with no developer intervention required. Each new software release scans existing job set-up scripts and automatically makes any necessary adjustments. Manual editing is rarely necessary.

expand the capabilities of customer communications. Today, the company is helping their customers with data enhancement features such as appending email addresses or cell phone numbers to data files, enabling their customers to communicate electronically through email and text messages. “Just because a message isn’t printed and mailed, doesn’t mean the recipient’s physical mailing address is less important,” notes West. Accurate mailing addresses allow Peachtree Data to append relevant demographic information to customer files. This additional data controls images and photos marketers place in electronic communications, modifies the offers, adjusts language preferences, and improves campaign performance by targeting the prospects most likely to respond. Analysts agree that data will be the most important element in determining the success of future customer communications. Bad data or incomplete information can damage relationships with present and prospective customers. Get Firstlogic’s new eBook on Address Quality HERE With customer experience expected to replace price as the most important distinguishing factor among competitors, companies must make the investments necessary to ensure the data on which they base their customer messaging is accurate. Companies like Peachtree Data are using software from Firstlogic to help their customers achieve enhanced response and conversion rates today and in the future. Whether Peachtree Data’s customers communicate by mail or electronically, the company will continue to rely on Firstlogic Solutions as a key partner in the company’s growth and evolution.

“We’ve been using the software for twenty years and it just keeps working” Richard West | President | Peachtree Data Firstlogic Helps Prepare for the Future Peachtree Data has changed with the times as technological advancements (678) 256-2900




perating in multiple locations, either in different states, offices, or parts of a campus, can create challenges when it comes to managing an organization’s shipping and mailing processes. Beyond the mail center, desktop and remote shippers add complexity, making it hard to capture spend totals and create efficiencies. Consider, for example, the university with thousands of faculty members, some of which use the school’s mail center to send, while others handle their mailing and shipping needs remotely. Or what about the multi-location law firm, with dozens of attorneys managing client needs, and the medical center that processes significant volumes of ship requests on a daily basis? A digital enterprise-wide solution can bring clear visibility into the breadth of sending needs and spending habits. Here are some of the obstacles organizations face without one. Using Multiple Carrier Accounts Remote senders may use their own carrier accounts or visit retail locations 18


to process shipments, paying above and beyond an organization’s established carrier rates. Often times, related costs appear on individual expense reports. In these instances: } Organizations miss out on the benefits of established rates; } Shipping expenses may be reported differently, depending on department or location; } Businesses lack a complete view and control of carrier spend, which is vital data when it comes time to negotiate rates. Understanding Workflow Disparate processes and silos leave organizations in the dark when it comes to establishing best practices and understanding the full impact of shipping on the bottom line. Without clear sight into mailing and shipping behavior — who is sending what, when, and how — businesses struggle to define workflows and create efficiencies. You can’t drive new, costeffective processes if you don’t know what behaviors are currently in practice.

Knowing Your Choices The ability to easily compare shipping options helps ensure you are using the right carrier at the right rate at the right time. Without a solution that offers this to all senders, organizations can miss out on opportunities to save. Cloud-Based Solutions Make the Difference Cloud-based, multi-carrier solutions can help organizations achieve complete control, visibility, and accuracy over shipping and mailing operations. They bring mail centers, desktop users, and remote shippers alike onboard one application, giving a simple, complete view to organizations. This has several benefits: } All sending activity and costs are captured on one platform } Workflows are standardized, which helps minimize errors and curtail expensive sending habits } All shipments benefit from negotiated carrier rates, helping to reduce overspend } A view of multi-carrier options help employees make smart choices each time they send Plus, cloud-based shipping solutions offer an alternative for organizations that do not want an on-premise product with IT dependency and related costs. Plus, their streamlined analytics and reporting create efficiencies for accounting teams who previously may have been tasked with reconciling bills from multiple sources. Resolve to Take Control in the New Year For enterprises looking to harness all shipping and mailing, consider the benefits of cloud-based, multi-carrier solutions. Offering clarity and control, they’ll help you make smart sending choices every time, from every location, for parcels, flats, and mail. ¾ Aaron Videtto, Director of Office Shipping Solutions at Pitney Bowes, has extensive experience designing, building and delivering global, user friendly, enterprise-class sending and receiving solutions for mobile, SaaS, and on-premise needs.



In short, great mailers give back. They know that knowledge is not power. Knowledge is only powerful when it is shared. Great mailers train others and build cultures within their operations where learning and training are expected, encouraged, and rewarded.

This meaningful drop in response rates begs the question, what is the future of the indicia? Is it even necessary anymore? With the innovations in the Intelligent Mail barcode, it seems that an indicia could become a thing of the past. — CHRIS LIEN


The Informed Visibility platform has also added new logical delivery scan events. The Postal Service has geo-

fenced every mailbox in the United


Google and Facebook as standalone marketing initiatives have value; there’s no doubt about it. However, just as with the evolution of mail to email, the noise level on these platforms has reached the pitch of a constant roar and is rapidly approaching the status of background noise. By contrast, the postal mailbox has become less crowded, therefore making it a great place for promotions to get noticed.



States. It has also equipped every mail carrier with a geo-enabled device.

was actually delivered to the mailbox.

There are new Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) lease accounting standards taking effect December 15, 2018 that will impact the way companies account for their leases. Since most mailing equipment is leased and few organizations have a firm grasp on all their agreements and terms, it’s important to understand what you need in order to comply with these changes.



These two pieces of data are what

drives the new logical delivery events.

Mailers now know with a much greater depth of precision when the mail piece | MARCH-APRIL 2018






very mailer knows that the right equipment can make a huge impact and save your mail operation some muchneeded funds, and the wrong equipment can cost you time, money, and frustration. And it can sometimes be hard to decipher which partner or solution is the best for your operation. In this special sponsored content issue, we showcase some of the leading solution providers. If one of these solutions stands out to you, it could be the beginning of improved quality, a more efficient operation, and overall better mail — and, after all, isn’t that what makes us successful?



Since 2006, Engineering Innovation, Inc. (Eii) has established itself as a leader in the development of automated equipment for pre-sort mailing applications inside the likes of commercial mail houses and parcel-handling businesses. Eii offers manifesting solutions for letters, flats, and parcels. Eii has acquired a unique exper20


tise in postal regulations, along with a depth of experience in site-specific process evaluation to optimize each client’s mail throughput and destination accuracy. Eii is best known as the creator of the EZ-Flats™ System that simplifies presorting USPS First Class Flats for “bundle-based” discounts. Using the patented Dynamic Sort™ Mail Sorting Process, the EZ-Flats™ Premium can significantly reduce the time and cost associated with sorting and processing flats. Engineering Innovation has also developed solutions that meet the USPS requirements for IMpb (Intelligent Mail Package Barcode) and handle key parcel related mail classes, including both “single-piece” and presorted. Eii equipment solutions also include: The Champ™ Tabletop Manifesting System for generating postal savings on a variety of parcel mail classes; EZ-Letters, which optimizes letter sorting in a very small footprint; and the EZ-WorkDesk™ and Chameleon™ Parcel Sortation platforms for high speed processing of parcels for induction into both shipping and postal distribution networks.



Fluence Automation, LLC (Fluence) is a new company with a long history of providing innovative technologies to the mail distribution, logistics, and parcel automation markets. As the former Sorting and Parcels division of Bell and Howell, we pioneered the use of multi-line optical character recognition (MLOCR) applied to high-speed sorting. Over the last 30+ years, we developed deep technical roots in systems design and integration, vision, imaging and software, applied to mail and parcels automation. We cover applications as diverse as outgoing sorting, incoming sorting, mail ballot envelope automation (Vote by Mail), and also take up various custom projects. Over the last several years, we have expanded our focus to include certain areas of parcels processing. Our products are supported 24 X 7 by one of the best service teams in the industry, to ensure that our customers get the most value from our equipment. As a new company, we are bringing forward the best of what we did before, while leveraging our

compact multi-format system, with the fastest changeovers available, and its ease of operation is so easy, a caveman could do it. As the interest in the card industry grows, Kern also offers solutions in the card application processing industry with the K90/91. Whatever mailing needs you have, whether hardware or software, Kern will be the quality solution provider.


robust platforms to grow into new areas. Visit us at to learn more!



When looking at solutions in the mailing and production industry, one company has been quietly taking down the competition one bid at a time. With over 70 years of experience, Kern has always been a player in the game, and now Kern has become the star. Swiss precision has created quality unmatched by others helping machines last longer and run stronger. The support given by Kern service provides customers with excellent service and solutions, as our customer’s success is the most vital part of our partnership. Kern inserting systems have continued to be leaders in the industry with our flagship K3600 high speed inserting system with 27,000 mail pieces an hour by using superior quality materials, the newest drive and sensor technologies, and sophisticated control systems and technology. Our newest machine, the K1600 has been sweeping through mailing rooms as a highly flexible


When it comes to industry standards, Kirk-Rudy pioneered them. Founded over half a century ago, Kirk-Rudy, Inc. has been providing the world with printing and mailing equipment that stands the test of time. Starting with raw materials in-house, every piece of machinery is handmade here at our warehouse located just north of Atlanta, Georgia. Built from the ground up, the process by which every machine is crafted ensures that a client will never need to find another solution. With the highly inventive founder and CEO Harry Kirk and his mantra that a good machine will sell itself, Kirk-Rudy has been the birthplace of truly remarkable, patented machines. One such product is the unique KR545T Mail Tabber. Unlike any other machine in the world, the KR545T is the only one of its kind that can seal three sides of any specified media in a single pass. This technology is renowned for saving time and money for our clients in the mailing industry. Meeting any range of required standards, this and every other machine produced by Kirk-Rudy, Inc. is guaranteed to be the most durable and profitable investment for any client. Nothing is built like a Kirk-Rudy due to the craftsmanship that our clients rely on. For more information, visit


that are equipped with the most current technology. NPI’s diverse customer base includes post offices to print shops, banks to insurance companies. Whatever the application, letters, flats, parcels, incoming or outgoing, NPI is able to offer you a solution. Please visit our website at or email You can also give us a call at 214.634.2288.



Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI) is a global technology company powering billions of transactions — physical and digital — in the connected and borderless world of commerce. Clients around the world, including 90% of the Fortune 500, rely on products, solutions, services, and data from Pitney Bowes in the areas of customer information management, location intelligence, customer engagement, shipping, mailing, and global e-commerce. And with the innovative Pitney Bowes Commerce Cloud, clients can access the broad range of Pitney Bowes solutions, analytics, and APIs to drive commerce. Pitney Bowes is uniquely positioned to help clients simplify their parcel and mail sortation — both inbound and outbound — and enhance their customer experience by connecting physical and digital processes. For additional information on the latest innovative solutions for letter sortation and parcel sortation, visit Pitney Bowes, the Craftsmen of Commerce, at



NPI… Efficiency through Innovation. It is this commitment that has made NPI a prominent figure in the mail and parcel automation industry since 1977. NPI dominates in the field with leading-edge sorter technology, which is shown in the products they offer to their customers. NPI’s “Customer First” policy has resulted in sorter installations throughout the world. Each year, NPI continues to expand its visibility in the market with progressive, efficiently designed sorters. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, they manufacture high-quality, affordable sorters



ANATOMY OF A GREAT MAILER In our industry, all mailers should be striving for greatness. Here are some tactics you can implement to make sure you

— and your mail operation — stand out from the rest.

By Mark Rheaume


he mailing industry is exciting, challenging, and rewarding to those who have chosen it as a career. It is interesting to learn about all the factors that enable a mail piece to travel from one location to another in days for literal pennies. Personally, as someone who knows about all the “moving parts” within the industry, it amazes me that this efficient mail delivery happens each day for hundreds of millions of pieces. With all due respect to the United States Postal Service (USPS), the brilliant people who produce and manage the mail the USPS processes deserve a great deal of credit for the effective and efficient movement of mail.



I have been in this industry for a long time. Throughout my career, there have been successes and failures that have taught me a great deal. Recently, I have been pondering what the great mailers do differently in order to make their operations and organizations so successful. Mailing is not rocket science, but in my experience, there are disciplines and features the “great ones” share that set them apart from the rest. GREAT MAILERS ENSURE THAT MAIL PIECES MEET USPS REQUIREMENTS Great mailers work closely with the USPS and understand the regulations for the mail classes and types of mail they produce. They openly share this information across

their organizations and expect their peers to produce designs and campaigns that are compliant with the regulations while allowing adequate time for them to be delivered to meet the needs of the organization within the appropriate USPS service standards. Great mailers expect their internal customers to learn about mail; after all, it wasn’t so long ago that the USPS was the only choice for delivery, so people did their jobs on time rather than relying on expedited delivery options or unnecessary transportation of mail to the USPS. I understand that transporting mail in some mail classes is a standard practice in our industry. It has a place and, in most instances, it is an acceptable standard

practice. I will point out that there are mailers who will transport First-Class mail to USPS facilities across the country in order to expedite delivery, which, in most cases, is wasteful for organizations. Great mailers plan adequately for the mail to be delivered as cost-effectively as possible. Except in rare instances, where delivery mandates are imposed unexpectedly, these mailers turn their mail over to the USPS locally and trust it will be delivered within the appropriate service standards. This is effective, efficient, and controls cost for their organizations. GREAT MAILERS CLEANSE THEIR DATA FILES How can mail pieces get delivered without a correct address? Someone I respect a great deal in our industry once asked a room full of mailers: “When you dial a phone, do you expect to be connected properly with the person you are calling if you dial the wrong number?” This is a great analogy, and it has stuck with me for years. The USPS needs accurate data to deliver the mail efficiently. It provides and maintains tools we all know about (CASS and NCOA among them) and

are mandated to use. Great mailers use these tools for every data file they touch. This allows their data to have all extraneous information removed before the mail pieces are produced, addressed, and presented to the USPS. Data is key to every mailer and organization. The great mailers in our industry use the data to incorporate any changes into the mail file for the project and coordinate the system of record updates for their organization or the organizations they provide service for. It is easy to skip this last step, but it is lazy. It does not serve the customer, mailing organization, USPS, or end recipient well. Everyone loses! Great mailers use this step to distinguish their services and know that because they do such good work, they will be getting data for the next project from the databases they are working to cleanse. The better the job they do the first time, the easier any future work will be. Their customers (internal or external) deserve the best and value the great mailer’s philosophy: “Help me help you.” This makes the great mailers stand out, and often they become the only option their customers use and recommend to others. | MARCH-APRIL 2018


GREAT MAILERS PLAN ADEQUATE TIME FOR ALL THE PRODUCTION PROCESSES/ REQUIREMENTS I personally spent a portion of my career as a productions scheduler. Tremendous discipline is required to do this effectively in any organization. Great mailers know this and never shortchange their operations of time to do the work perfectly. There are many options that make this possible, but involving others and trusting your team are the most important levers we should all enact to schedule and plan projects. Capacity is one factor considered, but without proper staffing or well-planned schedules, it is nothing. Great mailers rarely talk about capacity alone. The know what their operations are capable of at their current staffing levels. They rely more on simple tools like calendars to make sure that their processes can be properly utilized to ensure quality work while meeting client deadlines and requirements. Great mailers are fantastic schedulers. They know how to account for work across

their organizations and include all work in their plans rather than treating each job as a “one off” that is magically independent of all constraints placed on all organizations by time, space, and reality. We would all like to think that our organizations can do anything, and, in some cases, they can. Great mailers know how to realistically look at all factors and account for the impact of each to provide great service. This sometimes means that they must educate customers to understand differences in their original request to more realistic expectations. These can be difficult conversations to have, but they are nothing compared to the conversation required when you have failed to meet deliverables promised unrealistically because of poor planning. GREAT MAILERS CONSULT WITH THEIR SERVICE PROVIDERS IN THE PLANNING STAGES Great mailers know they do not survive or succeed alone. None of us operate in

a vacuum. Utilizing service providers is nothing to be ashamed of. They can close gaps in your production capabilities that enable you to grow your business and offer more services. Involving these partners in your daily planning as appropriate shows wisdom and maturity. These people are resources that great mailers learn both with and from. They can offer support and knowledge that is invaluable; after all, none of us can know everything. I often say I am not young enough to know everything anymore. Planning work is essential, and involving these resources makes the great mailers in our industry nimble and proactive for their organizations. These traits are attractive and valuable to their customers. If you are perceived as limited or unable to provide the services needed, you will not get work from many customers. There is nothing attractive about mailers who limit the options their customers have available to them. Great mailers know this and work with


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other service providers to present these options seamlessly. They do not bore their customers with the minutia around this effort. The great mailer tells the customer that the answer is yes, now what is the question? They volunteer to be the “one throat to choke” and relish the role and all it entails because of the strong partnerships they have developed with these service partners. GREAT MAILERS PROACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE MAILING INDUSTRY AS EDUCATED CONSUMERS In short, great mailers give back. They know that knowledge is not power. Knowledge is only powerful when it is shared. Great mailers train others and build cultures within their operations where learning and training are expected, encouraged, and rewarded. They do not settle for anything less and understand that nothing about the mailing industry is “natural.” No one is born with this knowledge, but great mailers surround

themselves with people who want to learn and actively do so as a part of their daily routines. The great mailers know that in the right environment, people can learn the right processes and practices to contribute to a successful operation. There is no danger of tripping on “atom particles,” which is not a knock on our industry. It is just a way to illustrate what great mailers know: Willing learners can and will be successful. Great mailers serve the industry. They are active in their local mailing organizations (Postal Customer Councils (PCCs), the Mail Systems Management Association (MSMA), etc.). They present educational sessions within their organizations and at industry events like the National Postal Forum. They participate in the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC), Idealliance, and other industry organizations (often in leadership roles) because they know it is best for their organizations and customers. They value the professional development, but it goes way beyond that.

The time commitments to do this are large. It is all on a volunteer basis, but the personal and professional fulfillment of giving back and making a difference is all the reward these people need. These great mailers are great people, and in closing, I will offer this last thought. Being a great mailer is something all of us can achieve. It is a choice that everyone can make and a goal we can all attain. All we need is discipline, and the ones listed in this article can guide you as you begin your journey to become a great mailer.  Mark Rheaume serves as a Postal Solution Architect at Novitex Enterprise Solutions. He has over 30 years of experience developing, designing, and implementing mailing solutions for the companies he has worked for. Mark is and has been active in several postal industry associations, such as MTAC, Idealliance, NPOA, PCC, MSMA, and Printing Industries of America. He can be contacted at Mark. Visit for more information. | MARCH-APRIL 2018



Outsourcing some of your print and mail operations can be a valuable time-saver, but don’t overlook these factors in your contract that will separate a good vendor from a great one.


hen you sort the pieces that arrived in your mailbox today, take a good look at the return addresses. Some of the mail you received wasn’t printed by the company whose name appears in the upper left-hand corner. Instead, it was manufactured — and probably mailed — by a print service provider (PSP). Granted, there are still many successful in-plants faithfully producing high-quality and cost-effective mail for their organizations. However, even they may outsource components or entire mailings, such as glossy buck slip inserts, one-time bound books, or sporting event tickets that require special ink for a holographic logo, to a PSP. Even some PSPs outsource their marketing mail. Smart companies use the request for proposals (RFP) process to select the best vendors. A team develops a list of criteria and compares proposals. After careful vetting, one lucky company is awarded the bid. Now begins the contracting process.

While competent lawyers and skilled purchasing staff will protect your company’s interests from a legal point of view, they may not be knowledgeable about the print and mail industry. Hopefully, they’ve brought in internal or external experts to help with the process. When negotiating the contract, it’s critical to avoid these five pitfalls: 1. Vague service level agreements 2. No penalties for lateness or other errors 3. Testing only from PDFs or samples mailed to the client 4. Absence of audit clause 5. Mandatory minimum volumes The goal of the contract and a service level agreement (SLA) is to ensure that the PSP produces: } the correct piece } with the correct address } in the correct envelope } at the correct time } at the correct cost

ACHIEVING THESE GOALS The SLA should define what constitutes an error on the part of the PSP. This will include print defects, mailing defects, privacy breaches, material errors, and timeliness. For example, a “print defect” could be defined as: “an improperly printed document. Examples include but are not limited to: (i) incorrectly printed fields, (ii) omitted fields, (iii) transposed fields, (iv) smudges, smears, or damaged paper that causes any field in the print output to be illegible, (v) incorrect document orientation, or (vi) printing documents on the wrong form or letterhead.” On the timeliness, the SLA will usually clarify what time the client will submit files and when the PSP will complete the mailing. For example, “Files received by 11:00 PM will be completed by the next business day.” Of course, what’s most important is when the mail is presented to the United States Postal Service (USPS). If the PSP uses a presort bureau, the mail may be delayed a day. So, a better SLA would be: “Files received by 11:00 PM

will be inducted into the USPS by the next business day.” There must be consequences if the vendor doesn’t adhere to the SLA, and that’s best accomplished through penalties. For timeliness, the most common standard is that the PSP will meet the stated goal almost all of the time, usually between 95% and 98%. Reprints and unexpected machine downtime make the 100% goal almost impossible to achieve. However, no errors should be allowed in the rest of the process. Quality control procedures — supplemented by software, barcodes, and cameras — should prevent the other defects. There should be a penalty attached to every piece that doesn’t meet the standard. Part of quality control is proper testing — by the vendor and the client. For many documents, the client may accept PDFs of the output or samples shipped to their office. Sign-offs, physical or digital, are required at each phase. When moving work to a new PSP or introducing a new type of document, the client should conduct final testing on the vendor’s production floor. A sample run, consisting of an average day’s work, should be printed, inserted, and reviewed by the client’s representative. This is especially important for merged mailstreams and householded documents. Most contracts include a quarterly performance review, either in-person or via web conferencing. The PSP and the client examine key metrics for the last 90 days and the year to date. These reviews are important and should be taken seriously. It’s just as important to add a “right to audit” clause to the contract. An audit is more than a visit or quarterly performance review. It usually requires a multi-day site visit by the client or their representative to monitor operations at times with significant volumes of print, mail, and fulfillment. During the visit, the auditors examine documentation, review software and workflow, inspect security controls, and interview select employees and management. If possible, the auditor will follow a production file from receipt, to print, to insert and presort. The audit report will note any deficiencies, associated risks, and recommended remedies. The PSP should be asked to formally respond to the audit, with written explanations on how — and when — they

will implement changes to overcome the deficiencies. A follow-up meeting is scheduled to review the vendor’s progress. For decades, it’s been a standard practice that vendors include “mandatory minimum volumes” to guarantee pricing. From their point of view, it makes sense. The PSP needs to invest in the right staff, equipment, and material to produce their clients’ work. They want to know that they can pay off the investment. THE CHANGING FACE OF COMMUNICATION We live in a time of technological shifts that change the way we communicate. Since 2012, the volumes for presort letters have dropped 12% — that’s the mail companies send to their customers. Some of that is due to electronic diversion, but there have also been other reasons. Companies have developed ways to lower volumes — decreasing the frequencies of mailings, householding across business lines, and combining different documents into a single mailing. For example, healthcare companies used to send out explanations of benefits (EOBs) daily. That moved to weekly, allowing for the householding of notices to the same insureds. Some payers are considering bi-weekly or monthly mailings. The same companies used to send out one envelope with identification cards and another with a booklet summarizing benefits. Today, those documents are either merged in the print stream or on the inserter to go out in a single envelope. Predictability is a thing of the past. It’s nearly impossible for managers to forecast what technologies or policy shifts will impact their mailings. Vendors will need to become more flexible in their pricing schedules. Print and physical mail are an important part of customer communications. Some of this work will remain with in-plants, and some companies will choose to partner with reputable PSPs. An equitable contract — with well-defined SLAs, penalties, testing, audits, and pricing — will benefit the vendor and the client. ¾ Mark M. Fallon is President & CEO, The Berkshire Company. You can contact him at, or visit his blogs at or | MARCH-APRIL 2018





Don’t let these changes take you by surprise; it’s important to begin preparing now.


here are new Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) lease accounting standards taking effect December 15, 2018 that will impact the way companies account for their leases. Since most mailing equipment is leased and few organizations have a firm grasp on all their agreements and terms, it’s important to understand what you need in order to comply with these changes. The biggest part of the change is that all leases will need to be listed on the balance sheet as a liability instead of only being recorded on the income statement as an expense. This will require every company to know the specific terms of their agreements — most organizations, especially those with multiple locations, unfortunately lack this knowledge. OVERVIEW OF CHANGES There are two core types of leases for mailing equipment: Finance Leases are leases with fixed buyout amounts or where the asset is assumed to be acquired at the end of the term. This had been recognized on the balance sheet in the past and will continue. Operating Leases are leases that do not have a buyout clearly defined and with the potential for a future useful life of the asset after the termination of the lease. Most mailing equipment leases fit this category. In the past, only the expense of the lease payment was listed on the income statement. With the new standards, the future value of all lease payments needs to

be put onto the balance sheet as a liability. See Figure 1 below. These new lease accounting standards are going into effect on December 15, 2018 for public companies and December 15, 2019 for non-public. They apply to any agreement over 12 months in term, and specific longer-term rentals may need to be considered. WHY THIS MATTERS This change will concern companies for two main reasons. First, organizations will need increased oversight on their current and future leases to make sure the liabilities they have or are entering make the most sense for their organization’s financial picture that will be shown on the balance sheet. Secondly, they will need to have a much higher level of visibility than they had in the past, which will require new processes to develop and maintain. It continues to be very difficult to get full visibility to the mailing category because of the following: 1. The mailing vendors have not offered consistent asset reporting. 2. Even if you have copies of all your original agreements, the date a lease was signed is typically different from when the agreement commences. It could be one to 12 months after the date of signature. 3. The end-of-lease date is not shown on any invoice from the mailing equipment suppliers.

Example: Mailing equipment lease at $200 per month with a 48-month term. 36 months are remaining. Income Statement – $200 per month X 12 months = $2400 of annual expense (New) Balance Sheet – 36 months remaining @ $200 per month = $7200 as a liability (this can be reduced based on the company’s discount rate.) Figure 1 | MARCH-APRIL 2018


4. There have been some questionable mailing equipment vendor lease renewal practices that extend obligations, such as the following: } Trying to get locations to renew early without properly disclosing the end-oflease terms. } Offering special incentives to renew early by clicking on an email, offering gift cards, or to extend agreements by paying an invoice at a discounted rate without properly disclosing end-of-lease dates. } Reaching out to location level contacts (vs. headquarter decision makers) and getting them to renew leases when they may not be properly authorized to do so. } Automatic evergreen extensions if new agreements are not put in place 30-90 days prior to the end of term. 5. Decentralized purchasing processes where the locations, divisions, or regions act independently of their mailing agreements. 6. Keeping track of mergers, acquisitions, or divestitures. 7. There may be multiple vendors used throughout the locations, increasing the difficulty of full visibility.


DATA YOU WILL NEED REGARDING YOUR AGREEMENTS In the past, the issues above were not a huge concern because the lease costs were only being recognized on the income statement as an expense, which all flowed through accounts payable directly to the financial statements. With these new standards, any agreement greater than 12 months needs to be identified, tracked, and reported on. You will need to know the following details for all your leases: 30


} Lease number } Location address } Term/lease period } Monthly amount } Commencement date } End-of-lease date } Items included in the agreement We are finding many of our clients are investing in spend management systems to help them manage and maintain this data. They are coming to us to provide the information above, so they can keep these systems maintained. WHAT YOU CAN DO TO GAIN VISIBILITY If you only have a few locations, this may not be a hardship, but we work with organizations that can have hundreds or thousands of locations, which makes collecting this information a huge challenge. Here are the steps that we do to help our clients that you can do on your own: Reach out to your vendors – In our experience, only a small percentage of companies have any current equipment reporting from the vendors, and they may have had difficulty getting this information in the past. Your vendors may be able to provide equipment inventory reports that have this detail. The question is, do they have all your locations linked to a central identifier? If not, could there be acquired locations or ones that initiated agreements on their own that the vendor never knew were linked to your organization? Go to Accounts Payable – We find this is the best place to go because it shows everything that is being paid, which should capture every active lease. Request an export of all invoices that were paid to the main mailing equipment vendors for the past 18 months. This will show you the vendor names, invoice numbers, dates, and amounts paid. From this data, try to select one or a few invoices from each location to have a PDF pulled of the actual invoice. You will need this to capture the contract number, model, serial number, and specific location address. Validate if you have these contract numbers on any reports the vendors may have provided or if there are additional non-identified locations. Set up logins on the mailing vendor’s website – All of the mailing vendors let you create a login on their website where

you can link your agreements to get more visibility. This will show you higher level details of the agreements as well as postage usage to see if the equipment is still being used. Reach out to the vendors to validate end-of-lease dates – This is key item that you will need to validate with the vendor, and only one of the main vendors will provide this information through the website login mentioned above. Keep this information updated with contract changes – Make sure that as new agreements are implemented and old equipment is returned that this information is reflected in your reporting. BEST PRACTICES FOR THE FUTURE: With these new standards, best-in-class organizations will look at their leases much more closely. Here are strategies that you can use to help optimize these changes: 1. Have leases reviewed centrally instead of being approved throughout your locations. This ensures visibility and oversight. 2. Ask about rental and purchase options before committing to a lease. 3. Work with your finance department to make sure leases comply with company standards. 4. Review the terms and conditions of your agreements to understand end-of-lease options and financing fees. 5. Set up a process to manage the portfolio to make sure you are capturing the most up-to-date information. The best part of these changes is that they will force organizations to have a deeper level of visibility into their mailing spends. The key is maintaining the data, and you can do this on your own with the right process to ensure that you are making the best financial decisions for the future. ¾ Adam Lewenberg, CMDSS, MDC, President of Postal Advocate Inc., runs the largest Mail Audit and Recovery firm in the United States and Canada. They manage the biggest mail equipment fleet in the world, and their mission is to help organizations with multiple locations reduce mail-related expenses, recover lost postage funds, and simplify visibility and oversight. Since 2013, they have helped their clients save an average of 60% and over $38 million on equipment, avoidable fees, and lost postage. Adam can be reached at 617.372.6853 or

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