IT IS TIME FOR NEW PRINT-MAIL EQUIPMENT! PAGE 14 MARCH - APRIL 2021
ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE US POSTAL REFORM: A REALISTIC GOAL? PAGE 18
10 REASONS YOUR MAIL PRODUCTION NUMBERS CAN SLIP PAGE 10
DEVELOPING A DIRECT MAIL CAMPAIGN IN 2021 PAGE 20
INFORMED DELIVERY: THE NUMBERS TELL THE STORY PAGE 22
TABLE OF CONTENTS
MARCH-APRIL 2021 | VOLUME 34 ISSUE 2
05 Editor's Note
Balancing the New Normal By Amanda Armendariz
06 Real-Life Management Leading with Empathy! By Wes Friesen
08 Inkjet Info
Inkjet and the Speed of Business By Karen Kimerer
10 The Trenches
10 Reasons Your Mail Production Numbers Can Slip
By Mike Porter
11 Software Byte
Seamless Acceptance: Don’t Procrastinate! By Jeff Peoples
12 Guest Column
Color Management: The Key to Operational Excellence and Profitability
FEATURES 18 A Roadmap to Achieving Sustainable US Postal Reform By Merry Law
20 Developing a Direct Mail Campaign in 2021 By Gary A. Seitz
22 Informed Delivery: The Numbers Tell the Story By Leo Raymond
24 Strategies to Link Physical Direct Mail with Digital Communication By Kurt Ruppel
26 Checklists: How to Integrate in a Print-Mail Operation By Mark M. Fallon
28 The Largest Mail Savings Opportunity: Outsourced Print and Mail Services By Adam Lewenberg
By Roland Campa
13 Culture & Strategy Connection Is Your “Real” Culture Killing Growth? By Bruce Gresham
SPONSORED CONTENT 14 Is It It Is Time for New Print-Mail Equipment! 2021 EVENTS National Postal Forum (virtual) May 3-4 Inkjet Summit July 26-28 PRINTING United October 6-8
MARCH-APRIL 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
EDITOR’S NOTE VOLUME 34, ISSUE 2 MAGAZINE STAFF President Chad Griepentrog Publisher Ken Waddell Editor Amanda Armendariz email@example.com Contributing Writers Roland Campa, Mark M. Fallon, Wes Friesen, Bruce Gresham, Karen Kimerer, Merry Law, Adam Lewenberg, Jeff Peoples, Mike Porter, Leo Raymond, Kurt Ruppel, Gary A. Seitz Audience Development Manager Rachel Chapman firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Ken Waddell 608.235.2212 email@example.com
BALANCING THE NEW NORMAL BY AMANDA ARMENDARIZ
Design Kelli Cooke
MadMen3 PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098 Tel: 608.241.8777 Fax: 608.241.8666 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SUBSCIRBE Subscribe online at MailingSystemsTechnology.com. 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 email@example.com Online at MailingSystemsTechnology.com. REPRINT SALES ReprintPro 949.702.5390 www.ReprintPros.com All material in this magazine is copyrighted ©2021 by MadMen3 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, MadMen3 or its staff becomes property of MadMen3. The articles in this magazine represent the views of the authors and not those of MadMen3 or Mailing Systems Technology. MadMen3 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 34 Issue 2] is published six times per year (January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October, November/December) by MadMen3, 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
t’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year now that the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country (and, indeed, the world), causing officials in many places to quickly implement stayat-home orders in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. Now, 12 months later, there is a sense of hope that was missing from this time in 2020, as vaccination numbers continue to increase and there is the cautious expectation that life will be able to return to normal (more or less) by this fall. Many in the mailing industry are therefore switching their mindsets from survival mode (which is really all one could expect in 2020, given the abrupt shift to work-from-home, workplace modifications, and declines in mail volumes) to growth mode. What, exactly, does this shift mean? One of the most major concerns mailers have is the viability of the US Postal Service as it currently exists. Many of the same problems that have been plaguing the industry continue to follow us into the new year. First-quarter results from FY2021 show the expected volume declines once again; Marketing Mail revenue decreased by $246 million, or 5.6% (a volume decline of 788 million pieces), and First-Class Mail revenue decreased by $177 million, or 4.1% (a volume decline of 594 million pieces). On the other hand, the USPS’s sales from Shipping and Packages increased by approximately $2.8 billion (42.1%) on a volume increase
of 435 million pieces (25%). Postal Service executives believe this is largely due to the increase in e-commerce volumes in the wake of the pandemic, but there is the expectation that some of this growth will continue even after more of the economy reopens. All told, the USPS reported total revenue of $21.5 billion for Q1 of FY2021, an increase of $2.1 billion (11.1%) compared to the same quarter last year — a significant positive in the wake of an otherwise challenging year. President Biden has also announced three nominees to fill most of the vacancies on the US Postal Service Board of Governors: Ron Stroman, Anton Hajjar, and Amber McReynolds. If confirmed by the Senate, it will be interesting to see how these nominees contribute to sustainable US postal reform so that the mail industry can not just survive, but thrive. As we all know, despite the volume declines of First-Class and Marketing Mail, hard copy mail is one of the most trusted communication methods an organization has with its customers, and it’s critical that we find a way to ensure that mail remains viable and relevant. As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
LEADING WITH EMPATHY! BY WES FRIESEN
hat the great philosopher Plato said many years ago is especially relevant today: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” What the people we work with need is kindness, expressing itself via empathy. According to studies carried out by Development Dimensions International (DDI), empathy is the single most important leadership skill that outshines all others. What is empathy? Top selling author Daniel Pink defines, “Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes.” A similar perspective comes from Daniel Goleman, who is perhaps the world’s leading expert on emotional and social intelligence. Goleman defines empathy in three ways: knowing (understanding) what others are feeling; feeling (experiencing) what others are feeling; and responding compassionately (acting) to another’s distress. He sums it up this way: “I notice you, I feel with you, and so I act to help you.” Developing and demonstrating empathy has many benefits, including: We build better relationships with those we lead and work with. We gain a greater awareness of the needs and problems of people. We create an environment of open communication and more effective feedback. Research by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) found that empathy is positively related to job performance 6
MARCH-APRIL 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
(i.e., the higher the empathy, higher the performance). Psychologists say that empathy is essentially a human trait or quality, and some have a greater propensity for empathy than others. However, the good news is that we can all increase our empathy levels. 12 Tips to Increase Empathy 1. Promote a culture that embraces empathy. Empathy is an appealing value that all of us appreciate, so why not openly promote and embrace it for your team? We can model empathy, provide training and support, and reinforce desired behaviors. When we spend time identifying key values for our team, consider adding empathy to the list. 2. Humanize yourself. We can model transparency and admit our own challenges, shortcomings, and concerns. We can work at being genuinely humble, admit when we mess up, and throw in some self-deprecating humor and show the ability to laugh at ourselves. By doing so, we show we are human and will build trust with people. 3. Prioritize self-care and model well-being. We all need to take care of ourselves to avoid burnout and bring our best selves to work and life. We can model this by blocking time in our schedules for self-care, including time for exercise, rest breaks, and
taking periodic vacations and other days off. Winston Churchill embraced this concept when, in the darkest days of World War II, he often took an afternoon nap. Some criticized him for his disappearing acts, yet by prioritizing his own energy management, he was able to bring his sharpest thinking to the crisis he faced. 4. Nurture hope and spread optimism. Napoleon once said, “Great leaders are dealers in hope.” A study by Gallup identified four core needs people look for leaders to meet in challenging times: trust, compassion, stability, and hope. We can nurture hope and optimism by helping people see that even though we are going through a tough time now, we have each other and we can overcome and see better days. 5. Ask yourself, “What’s it like to be this person?” At its core, empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. The tricky part is to assess how they feel in their shoes, not how you would feel in their shoes. We can get better at this by spending time to get to know and understand another person and learning what their life is about. 6. Become an empathetic listener. To listen empathically, we need to work at paying attention to both the verbal and non-verbal cues that are a part of everyday communication. Practical pointers to be a better listener include: maintaining eye contact and supportive body language, eliminating distractions, asking clarifying questions, and repeating back key thoughts to make sure we understand. 7. Show compassion when a person discloses a personal loss. Life happens, and we’ve all experienced personal loss in its various forms. So even if we can’t relate to the specific loss our team member is experiencing, we can show compassion and let them know they’re supported. 8. Say, “That sounds like a real challenge” when people explain difficulties and obstacles. Before jumping to helping a person find
solutions, start with recognizing and understanding the problem at hand. I like Stephen Covey’s principle of “seeking first to understand, then to be understood.”
us to make the time to be relationship-oriented. Taking the time to listen and understand concerns creates a psychologically safe environment and builds trust in the relationship.
9. Demonstrate a willingness to help an employee with a personal problem. Empathetic managers understand that their team members are human beings trying to shoulder personal problems while having to maintain their professional responsibilities. There are obviously some personal problems we should stay away from, but showing support for team members when they need it most is a part of showing empathy.
11). Acknowledge emotions, “I can see how you might feel this way.” We are all created with a variety of emotions. When a person expresses an emotion (e.g., frustration about something that happened at work), the empathetic response is to acknowledge the emotion and understand why the person feels that way. Once we first show we care and understand, we can then pursue helping the person move forward as appropriate.
10. Invest time understanding concerns – spoken and unspoken. Being fully present for people is a very important component of showing empathy (the principle of “Be here now”). So even though there are constant pressures to be task-oriented, it is important for
12. Show sincere interest in the needs, hopes, and dreams of others. Part of leading with empathy involves working to understand the unique needs and goals of each team member. When we follow up our understanding with relevant work assignments, training,
and other support, we foster greater engagement and motivate people to go the extra mile. Here is a relevant and inspiring quote from Oprah Winfrey: “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Let’s go and lead with empathy — the people we work with will benefit and so will we! Wes Friesen (MBA, EMCM, CMDSM, MCOM, MDC, OSPC, CCE, CBF, CBA, ICP, CMA, CFM, CM, APP, PHR, CTP) is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development. Wes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 971.806.0812. His book, Your Team Can Soar!, can be ordered from Xulonpress.com/bookstore, wesfriesen.com, or an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
INKJET AND THE SPEED OF BUSINESS BY KAREN KIMERER
he pace of business continues to accelerate. Even when the pandemic put a governor on the gas pedal, the speed with which enterprises needed to communicate with customers and prospects was unrelenting. Responsiveness helps shape a business’s reputation, and it clearly demonstrates a company’s understanding (or lack thereof!) of its customers’ needs. The concept is simple: the faster you can get your messages, offers, and advertisements into the hands of your customers, the sooner they can make decisions. Information is the key to making this happen. Bill Gates once stated, “Information flow is your lifeblood. The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition, and the best way to put distance between you and the crowd, is to do an outstanding job with information.” Reaching Customers at the Speed of NOW! Marketers continue to traverse today’s wide variety of communication channels as they attempt to understand which method — or methods — will have the greatest impact on their targeted audience. Online digital platforms are experiencing rapid growth, yet research confirms that direct mail remains a relevant and effective means for engaging your customers and prospects. Over the past few years, many experts have argued that using both channels may be the best strategy to improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. At the same time, however, combining these channels is sometimes easier 8
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said than done. The biggest roadblock to an omnichannel marketing approach is the time and resources that are often required to create a relevant, affordable, and timely direct mail piece to accompany online marketing. Until recently, the technology for effectively combining the channels simply wasn’t available. The speed at which business is conducted inherently affects bottomline results. Managing mountains of information, doing an outstanding job, and processing everything quickly is not for the faint of heart. As such, it should come as no surprise that agile marketing — much like agile software development — has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. That said, this article is not intended to provide insight on agile marketing strategies. Instead, it focuses on the need for adaptive marketing, on-time delivery, and continual improvements. With an agile approach, marketers become more flexible as they respond to changing market conditions. Thanks to ongoing advancements in print technology, printed communications can be delivered with the same swiftness as digital marketing messages. Some marketers may have already implemented digital print technology without realizing it due to the similarities in appearance between a digital press and an offset device. Even so, many may not fully understand the dexterity that inkjet technology offers and why it is such a strong contender for the production of direct mail. Not all marketers understand (or even care) about the steps required to prepare, print, finish, and deliver a postcard. They do, however, understand the speed of business and the importance
of time-to-market. With so many choices out there, print buyers are often left to their own devices when deciding which print technology or print provider to use. So how can you stand out from the crowd and differentiate yourself? Try speaking the customer’s language and align the value of inkjet technology with their specific needs. This strategy will give you a better opportunity to earn their business. It is well-known that today’s production inkjet devices are fast and capable of producing an everwidening array of applications. This means that there are more options than ever for printed communications, which is particularly compelling during a time when many consumers are experiencing digital fatigue. According to Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent application forecast, direct mail and catalogs are expected to experience the most growth. The traditional mailbox has become more effective due to digital overload (see Figure 1). Although charts and data can be compelling, they are not enough. Sharing how inkjet technology has changed and why it is prime for direct mail may not provide a persuasive argument either. Improvements to inkjet heads, drying time, substrate expansion, waste reduction, labor costs, and productivity are critical to the adaption of inkjet utilization. Unquestionably, these advancements are essential when considering an inkjet investment or partner. On the other hand, understanding the direct mail piece’s purpose is where the conversation begins when speaking with print buyers or marketers. Before you offer a print solution, it is imperative that you uncover the meaning of the direct mail efforts. Obtaining answers to the questions below can help you effectively communicate the value proposition that inkjet can deliver. Does the direct mail campaign have a shelf life? Is there a possibility the messaging or offer will need to quickly adjust to current market conditions? Would the intended audience respond better to messaging that speaks to their specific needs, or is it okay to send out the same images and messages to everyone? Does the direct mail piece serve a premium product or service? In other
improve brand visibility, and better align the timeliness of their printed communications with other marketing channels. When it comes to production inkjet printing, consider how it can impact the environments of a marketer’s operations. The speed of business continues to accelerate, and traditional practices can put your company at risk. Make sure you’re equipped to lead the charge rather than following the pack!
words, does the quality of the communication represent the value of the product or service? Is the call-to-action aligned to the date of delivery? The Bottom Line The COVID-19 pandemic changed the
business world as we know it and revealed the shortcomings of following a process because “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” Speed is a marketer’s scarcest commodity, yet marketers are continually tasked with shortening cycle times. With inkjet technology, marketers can accelerate the delivery of campaigns,
Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
10 REASONS YOUR MAIL PRODUCTION NUMBERS CAN SLIP BY MIKE PORTER
ll kinds of things can affect the productivity in a mail center, including equipment, materials, procedures, and schedules. Managers will notice if productivity drops, but they won’t always be aware of the root causes. Hectic days spent trying to get the work done can prevent you from digging into your document production workflow to uncover what’s really preventing your operation from reaching optimal performance. Here are a few things to consider should your print and mail facility’s numbers begin to decline. 1. Equipment Failures – Let’s start with the obvious. If your machines break down, the work won’t get done. If you experience repeated problems with certain equipment, it’s time to step away from the immediate goal of just getting the machines back in operation. Analyze the operation and find out why the machines are failing. Issues could include excessive duty, insufficient periodic maintenance, or low-quality repairs or replacement parts. 2. Materials – Jams and misfeeds always impact production. Time spent clearing those mishaps is time you’re not running a machine. But it’s not always the equipment’s fault. Take a close look at the material. Make sure your paper, inserts, and envelopes meet the equipment manufacturer’s specifications for paper weight, grain, smoothness, rigidity, etc. 3. Job Change-Over – Idle time between jobs can be a productivity-killer. With high-speed equipment, every extra
MARCH-APRIL 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
minute spent logging totals, staging material, loading and unloading material, and adjusting the machine affects your daily output totals. These add up over the course of a month. Find ways to improve scheduling, streamline endof-job tasks, or combine jobs to reduce the number of changeovers and the time each one takes to complete. 4. Load Balancing – Running a large job on one machine while others sit idle limits how much you can produce. Consider splitting jobs among multiple machines, but use piece-tracking software to ensure you don’t miss a batch or accidentally process the same batch twice. 5. Excess Pages – Generating more pages than necessary adds time in printing operations, folding, and inserting. It also consumes more material, which affects supply inventory and staging. Look for ways to reduce document page counts without compromising quality. Slight adjustments like fonts, line spacing, or margin modifications can make a difference. 6. Insert Stations – As organizations move to white paper workflows, the need for pre-printed inserts has dwindled. Do you really need those 12-station inserters anymore? Paper must move down the track past all those unused insert feeders, which means extra time on the inserter for every mail piece. Consider shortening the travel distance by removing some of the insert feeders. 7. Operator Duties – I’ve been in shops where printer or inserter operators
retrieved materials from the warehouse, moved pallets around their work area, or transported empty boxes to recycling bins. In my experience, these activities tend to segue into smoke breaks, snacking, chatting with co-workers, or checking phones for social network activity. A machine operator’s time is most valuable when they are running the machine. If possible, limit the non-production duties of these valuable resources. 8. Postage Application – In many cases, the postage meter is the slowest component of a mail inserting process. The speed at which envelopes pass under the print heads is limited. Changing to permit imprint for postage payment may allow you to run your inserting machines faster. 9. Stock Shortages – Running out of material means pulling a job off a machine until the supply is replenished. White paper workflows have reduced this problem, but insufficient supplies of pre-printed inserts can still cause issues. Get customers to agree in advance about what to do if you run out of inserts for their job. Verify the quantity of inserts on hand before you schedule the job so more inserts can be ordered if necessary. 10. Cutoff Times – Some shops cease production in the afternoon and concentrate on preparing mail for the US Postal Service or a presort vendor. Use automation to shorten the time required for day-end activities so you can run later in the day and include more mail pieces in daily shipments. Every print/mail operation is different. A remedy for improving productivity in one instance won’t have an effect in another. It’s important, though, to take a highlevel view of your production operation periodically. Job mix changes over time. So does hardware and software. Search for activities in your shop that prevent equipment from running at full speed and then adjust. Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at email@example.com.
SEAMLESS ACCEPTANCE: DON’T PROCRASTINATE!
BY JEFF PEOPLES
f you think there is plenty of time before the mandatory Seamless Acceptance deadlines, think again. Back in June 2020, the United States Postal Service (USPS) activated all Detached Mail Unit (DMU) CRIDs to Seamless Parallel if they were not already in Seamless Acceptance. Starting in May 2021, the USPS will move all remaining Seamless Parallel CRIDs to full Seamless. Then in July 2021, the USPS will perform Seamless Acceptance verifications for all Full-Service mailings. While these deadlines may seem far away, in reality they are just months away, and many mailers have yet to even take a look at their Mailer Scorecard data. In conjunction with the 2021 USPS price changes, the USPS introduced a financial incentive of $1.00 per thousand for qualifying mailings submitted under Full Seamless Acceptance. There are other benefits to mailers of embracing Seamless Acceptance, so there is no better time than now to move forward. What Should You Do? If you are already participating in Full Seamless and your processes are work-
ing smoothly, great, keep up the great work! If you are in Seamless Parallel: Monitor your Mailer Scorecard daily! Access the Informed Visibility Mail Quality Data (IV-MTR) (https://postalpro.usps.com/informedvisibility) for your operation. This can be accessed through the Business Customer Gateway. o Set up the IV-MTR data feeds now; don’t wait until May or June! o Set up internal processes to download and save this data using internal databases so you have the data you need to research issues or dispute assessments. Research any issues that show up, even if they are below the thresholds.
Use this information proactively to improve your processes. Work with your Mail.dat file providers, presort software vendors, and internal teams to pinpoint areas where your processes need improvement. o Many vendors have solutions that can help you manage your Seamless Acceptance processes and data. Document procedures and implement routine audits to ensure procedures are being followed and improved when necessary. Put a process into place to research and provide documentation to the USPS in case you need to dispute assessments. Keep in mind that this will be an ongoing process — it won’t stop when the Seamless deadlines have passed. Any mailer can have errors at any time, so you need to plan to continue these efforts. Mail service providers should enroll for the Seamless Acceptance Incentive. This enrollment can be done on the Business Customer Gateway.
If you have not yet looked at your Mailer Scorecard, you need to start doing this as soon as possible! Contact the PostalOne! Help Desk (https://www.usps.com/ postalone/contact.htm) to ask for help in accessing and understanding your Mailer Scorecard.
Jeff Peoples is founder, president, and CEO at Window Book. With over 30 years of innovative postal solutions that make using the Postal Service easier and more profitable for mailers and shippers, he has done presentations at many industry events, including GraphExpo, the National Postal Forum, Postal Customer Council meetings, and more.
Resources: The USPS has numerous resources available on the PostalPro website (https://postalpro.usps.com/mailing/seamless-acceptance), including the Seamless Acceptance Mailer Fact Sheet (https://postalpro.usps. com/seamlessacceptactfactsheet), Seamless Acceptance Incentive (https://postalpro.usps.com/seamless-incentive), and Publication for Streamlined Acceptance for Letter and Flats (https://postalpro.usps. com/node/581). Your mailing software providers are also good resources for tools and information, as are the various mailing industry associations. Take advantage of the expertise available from those providers and associations. And most of all — don’t wait until the last minute!
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
COLOR MANAGEMENT: THE KEY TO OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE AND PROFITABILITY BY ROLAND CAMPA
hen we think about color management, we often think about its operational impact — how does color management help us turn out quality print — and that’s certainly important. But the impact of color management goes beyond operational excellence and can have a significant influence on profitability as well as customer acquisition and retention. Let’s face it, without our customers, we have nothing. And the same can be said for them and their customers. So part of the color management proposition is to be able to deliver real value to our customers. Especially these days, with everything that is going on, your customers are looking for ways to stand out and to drive interest in their products or services, and their customers are increasingly receptive to messages and offers they receive via direct mail. The Value of Color in Direct Mail In 2017, Canon Solutions America reported that color printing is 55% more likely to be read than black & white, and response time is 30% better. They noted that color could even drive actual
MARCH-APRIL 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
purchasing, with promotions in full color increasing the likelihood of a purchase by 80%. And according to PANTONE, brand identification is 70% higher thanks to color. These are powerful statistics to share with your customers and can easily justify any additional cost associated with migrating communications from monochrome to full color. But, for your customers to achieve those benefits, color must be accurate. You want your colors to be under control with no color deviation or randomness that can harm perception by your customers and their customers! It’s also worth noting that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of direct mail has increased; during the second quarter of 2020, for example, it saw an average increase of 11% in terms of interaction numbers, year-on-year. People are home and they are even more likely to pay attention to the mail than ever before. And in terms of your profitability, across all print applications, Keypoint Intelligence reported in January 2020 that 2.7% of the print jobs in North America and 4.5% of the print jobs in Europe, on average, are rejected by print
buyers because of inconsistent, inaccurate color, leading to lost revenue in the hundreds of thousands of $/€ per year. Worse yet, too many of these rejected print jobs lead to fleeing customers and bad reviews. Color Management Must Be Flexible and Easy to Implement How colors are reproduced has a massive influence on how the quality of a printed product is perceived. And it can be even more complex to achieve than in the past. Why? Because not only do you need to manage traditional CMYK and how colors appear on different substrates, but now you also must consider the effect of white ink, varnish, metallics, fluorescents, and gamut-extending colors such as orange, green, pink, or violet! On top of that, most shops have a higher volume of small jobs that must be processed quickly, and there isn’t the time and resources to devote to tweaking color on every job. It is essential to be able to achieve the most impactful color possible for direct mail that you can get out of your printer/media/toner/ink combination for the piece to act as an attention catcher. However, if you boost color, for example, you also need to make sure that you do not oversaturate critical areas like neutral grays and skin tones and that you reproduce brand colors as precisely as possible. Therefore, you need a color management solution and process that will give you the best possible color results and saturation with the least amount of human intervention, while also protecting critical areas. That not only gives you quality to be proud of, but it keeps costs down due to minimizing rejects and rework and binds customers to your print shop as they know they are in good hands. There are a variety of solutions on the market today that can help you achieve these goals of boosting your color management, operational excellence, and profitability, and there’s no better time to invest in them than now. Roland Campa is a senior product line manager at EFI responsible for color in EFI’s Fiery digital print technology product line. Fiery products include Color Profiler Suite, Fiery Spot-On, Spot Pro, EFI Color Guard, Fiery Edge, and Intensify. For more information, visit www.efi.com/cps.
STRATEGY & CULTURE CONNECTION
Service: Having the client’s best interest in mind could have stopped the incorrect order at any one of several stages, saving the mail service provider money in the remake process. The incorrect order impacted employee’s quarterly bonus and led the client to change vendors for some of their work.
IS YOUR “REAL” CULTURE KILLING GROWTH? BY BRUCE GRESHAM
uring an action session with a mailing service provider company’s leadership team, one of their executives asked his teammates: “What is our ‘real culture?’” The company culture had made positive strides over the past nine months, with initiatives that gained real results: Employee engagement was up about 11%. Net promoter scores from clients increased 14%. The purpose of the action session was to determine how their culture could reach even greater heights. The result of the executive’s question was the identification of two challenges: The company’s real culture, not their ideal culture, was still the driving force. Until they acted, worked, and achieved in line with their ideal culture, their full potential would not be reached. Ideal vs. Real Culture Ideal culture is the values and norms a company claims to have, while the real
culture is the values and norms actually followed by company employees and teams. Buy-in of the new ideal culture of teamship, service, and innovation had occurred from some key employees at the mail service provider. However, the long-standing real culture of “Because we have always done it this way” and “I know what’s best, not our clients or my fellow employees” still remained. While the initial two company metrics of employee engagement and net promoter score had improved, the third metric of profit margins had stayed flat as a direct result of the competing cultures. An example of the real culture winning over the ideal culture (and costing the company money in the short and long term), was when a near half-million dollar order was sent incorrectly. The issue with the order was identified at several steps, but two aspects of the new ideal culture failed: Teamship: Employees were working as high-performance individuals instead of a true team, and figured someone else would correct the error.
Making the Ideal Culture Real Culture transformations within a business take real time, energy, and effort. The payoff is when the ideal culture becomes more real, your business strategy and financial goals become much easier to capture. What the mail service provider leadership team decided to do during the next 30 days was: Each leader would share the ideal culture in conversations with five employees. They would share the story of the incorrect order as well as its impact on the client, company, and employees. These conversations were in addition to any team huddles or monthly culture reinforcing activities. Each leader would then ask those five employees to each tell three more employees about the company’s ideal culture and the story of the incorrect order. The outcome of these culture conversations was immediate. Employee engagement and net promoter score continue to improve, while profit margins are up over four percent as more and more employees buy in. More importantly for long term success, the company is on the path to making their ideal culture nearly identical to their real culture.
Bruce Gresham and the team at Applied Vision Works (www.appliedvisionworks.com) use practical methods to help business owners, leaders, and teams reach their goals faster. Connect via 704.726.6728, bgresham@ appliedvisionworks.com or via LinkedIn by scanning the QR code at left with your smartphone camera. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
IS IT IT IS TIME FOR NEW PRINT-MAIL EQUIPMENT! 8 companies that can help solve your problems.
For many of you reading this section, the question isn’t, “Do we need new equipment for our printing and mailing?” but more likely, “Who has the new equipment that we need?” It continues to be a challenge to produce the kind of direct mail and customer communications that will deliver your message just the way you want it, but the answer could be as simple as updating your equipment. However, with new equipment comes questions of cost and compatibility with your current operation. With all these challenges and questions, we wanted to help, so on the following pages are 8 companies, 1 or more of which could have the exact pieces of equipment you need. Read through their quick details and give them a call to get the answers you need.
Overall system control, smooth transport and personalization integrity are essential keys to print mail success. Buskro has a proven track record supplying the mailing industry for over 40 years with an extensive choice of print technologies and transport systems for any budget. Buskro offers a suite of inks to meet your high-speed VDP inkjet requirements, in both monochrome and color, on the widest range of materials. Choose from entry-level TIJ to piezo-DOD to design your print system and should your needs change, easily upgrade to the print technology you desire. Buskro print systems can be configured as stand-alone solutions, or integrated with 3rd party equipment such as attaching and inserting equipment. With the cost of individual mailings becoming more expensive, the need to account for every mail piece requires print functionality but also the abil-
ity to track and monitor every piece produced. Advanced functions supported by Buskro’s Compose software for read/print, duplex, print inspection/rejection, and product remake have become essential requirements. The ability to add incrementally to upgrade/expand our systems protects the customer’s initial investment while providing system flexibility for evolving printing jobs. The printing on your mail piece reflects your image, and can make a real difference for you and your customers. With Buskro’s range of inkjet printers you get the highest quality print at top production speeds to meet customer expectations. www.buskro.com 905.839.6018 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 expertise 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. Our newest addition to the EZ-Flats line-up is the EZ-Flats Autofeed Mail Sorting System. This solution includes an automatic feeding system that standardizes the average throughput to over 3,000 flats per hour. 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; and the EZ-WorkDesk™ and Chameleon™ Parcel Sortation platforms for high speed processing of parcels for induction into both shipping and postal distribution networks. email@example.com www.eii-online.com 800.350.6450
Passion for innovation is evident in everything we do at Fluence Automation. We call that passion “Fire in the Belly,” and it is the core principle that drives our teams. What do we do at Fluence Automation? We solve problems in the mailing and material handling industries. In the field of postal automation, we have the largest commercial installation base of sorting hardware and software in the United States and throughout Europe and South America. Our customers are banks, financial services providers, mailers, printers, and entrepreneurs looking to move mail and parcels through the postal systems quickly, accurately, and with efficiency. We are also the trusted partner for companies looking to automate handling of parcels. We design, manufacture, and integrate our material-handling solutions to meet diverse customer applications.
Since 1967 Kirk-Rudy has manufactured innovative solutions for the mailing and printing industries. From their state of the art 100,000 sq. ft. factory just north of Atlanta, GA, a complete product line of feeders, transport bases, conveyors, inkjet printers, inserters, labelers, tabbers, sorting, stacking, tip-on, pick-n-place, folders, bump turns, drying, and camera vision systems are engineered and produced with the highest standards of quality and value. Modular in design, all of Kirk-Rudy’s equipment can be combined to form complete system solutions from end to end. Their team of mechanical engineers can custom configure any machine to exact specifications providing equipment that will produce the greatest ROI. Harry Kirk’s principle of “Build a better machine, and it will sell itself” has been Kirk-Rudy’s mission since day
Our parcels sorters are used daily to handle a wide variety of both outgoing and incoming packages. At the core of our solutions is our industry-leading reading technology. As the leader in data capture, recognition, and verification software, our customers read, track, and verify mail and packages daily. And tying our technologies together is our suite of software for machine control and postal submission. Customers entering mail and parcels into the postal streams take advantage of our NetSort software daily to aggregate and report piece and volume data. www.fluenceautomation.com firstname.lastname@example.org 888.832.4902
one. A highly experienced and dedicated team work together every day designing and manufacturing the highest quality mailing and printing equipment used by the world’s top companies. All of Kirk-Rudy’s equipment is sold through a world-wide network of authorized dealers who have been factory trained on sales and service and fully supported by the factory. With Kirk-Rudy’s Customer Satisfaction Guarantee all the guess work is removed from choosing the right equipment. Ask anyone who owns their equipment and they will tell you, “Nothing is built like a Kirk-Rudy”. www.kirkrudy.com email@example.com 770.427.4203
Mailroom Dynamics Services, LLC (MRD) was established in 1994 servicing mail processing equipment which supported the State of California and the private sector. We are in constant pursuit of the challenge of constructing the best fit products for our customer’s application. For many years we have remanufactured/rebuilt swing arm inserters learning the equipment down to its nuts and bolts. We have improved parts beyond the manufacturer’s specifications. As a company, we strive to include the best fit equipment for our customers. This ultimately challenged our company to create our own feeder/folder, the MRD438. “Mentor our success to our customers.” While most product vendors and manufacturers lock their customers with expensive service contracts, we consistently provide effective service for our clients. We challenge our customers to be self-sufficient while promoting the concept of “in-house” or “self-service maintenance” on AutoSET and MRD products. We offer hybrid service where we offer only major service and help manage the customer’s parts inventory. Customers can invest in our equipment knowing that our experience is reliable, consumers are satisfied, and our equipment is effective and economically designed to boost efficiency and success. For more information contact Ranier Sadang, President of Mailroom Dynamics. www.mailroomdynamics.com Rsadang@mailroomdynamics.com 916.730.7887
Gluing Systems & Machinery, Inc. (GMS®) has been servicing the needs of the converting and graphic arts industries since 1977. Our focus is on providing an American made, high quality, and performance-based hot glue systems and cold glue systems with flawless results. GMS understands your business and can provide you with a product that performs beyond your expectations. microglue® is a complete line of both hot glue systems and cold glue systems and accessories. This product line consists of programmable 2, 4, and 8 channel pattern controllers, hot glue melt units, hot and cold glue applicator valves, and a variety of cold glue systems. With high-quality results at a fantastic price, the microglue line is an effective choice for your adhesive application needs. Made affordable and accessible to our customers, expandability and flexibility are just part of the advantages
to working with the GMS microgluer family of products. Designed to be expandable for future applications, the micromailer® offers an affordable solution for the most direct mail applications and is in compliance with current postal requirements. microgluer® is a family of small-format buckle plate folding and gluing machines, designed to simplify and streamline the folding and gluing operation for mailing applications. The microgluer® is the simplest and easiest to use tabletop folder with an integrated glue system.
Maxim is NPI’s premier, high-speed letter sorter reaching speeds of up to 40,000 mail pieces per hour. This system offers the most compact, ergonomic design in the industry. The Maxim utilizes software-based decipher OCR technology running on standard off-the-shelf computers. Patented, precision anti-jamming technology reduces document damage, resulting in increased throughput and uniform stacking of the entire sort bin. Maxim stackers utilize bin-
kicker systems eliminating the safety risks presented by systems using bin augers. The user-friendly operator interface allows networking of multiple systems.
Microglue (GMS VanSco of Valco Melton) www.microglue.com firstname.lastname@example.org 707.285.3392
WWW.NPISORTERS.COM Sales@NPISorters.com 888.821.7678 (SORT)
Tritek’s leading-edge technology provides fully customizable, field proven solutions for inbound and presort processing, parcel sorting, vote by mail ballot processing, return mail processing, mail forwarding and digital email delivery. Tritek has been awarded numerous patents for innovative material handling technologies and other solutions that make Tritek’s equipment the best in the mail processing industry. Tritek’s proprietary Rules Editor Software enables reading data in any orientation, on either side of the mail piece and then sorts the mail items to pre-selected collection bins. A variety of output configurations are available including space-saving multi-tier bins and portable units that customers can roll to production areas as needed. Tritek continues to create solutions to deliver, sort, inspect, and process postcards, letters, flats, and parcels. Tritek machines also accept challenging items such as unbound newspapers, catalogs, magazines, and polywrapped material by processing the entire mainstream on a single machine. Tritek sorters are particularly suited for processing difficult applications such as incoming mail. For over 37 years, Tritek has worked together with their customers and engineered advancements in the industry. This unparalleled engineering has produced custom software and hardware designed to meet their customers’ unique requirements in government processing, financial services, universities, insurance, and mail services. To see Tritek’s equipment in action, please visit the website or contact Tritek directly. www.tritektech.com 302.239.1638
A ROADMAP TO ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE US POSTAL REFORM By Merry Law
e need postal reform that will last longer than a few years without calls to fix it — and we need it soon. Interested parties and stakeholders agree the USPS is in trouble and that something needs to be done to resolve the problems. We know this will require legislation for another reform of postal services in the United States. The current model of the USPS as a self-sustaining generator of income doesn’t work with decreasing volumes of mail and an increasing number of delivery points that must be serviced six days a week, per the (largely undefined) Universal Service Obligation (USO). Additionally, the unique employee retiree funds prepayments add further financial strains, along with union contracts that continue to be more generous than in the private sector. On the plus side, the monopoly on personalized letters and delivery to an individual’s or business’s mailbox, exclusive delivery to post office boxes, the nationwide network of post office and processing facilities, and extensive real estate holdings are advantages unique to the USPS. Compensation for executives and top managers is also substantially less than in large private-sector companies. All of these advantages and disadvantages need to be factored into an agreement
on postal reform — and all of the major parties need to accept, to a greater or lesser degree, the final agreement. Obviously, some stakeholders will not be happy with some provisions of any agreement; there will be winners and losers. Postal reform in the US has a history of years-long delays in achieving any results. Previous efforts have been marked by disagreements between the White House and the Senate and the House of Representatives; the Democrats and the Republicans; rural and urban areas; the USPS management and their employees and unions; and stakeholder groups. The most recent efforts have continued this unpleasant history. A Brief History of Reform The Postal Reorganization Act (PRA) was passed in 1970 under the Nixon Administration following the postal strike earlier that year. The PRA was intended to remove political influence by removing the Post Office Department from the Cabinet and making it a more independent Postal Service. The PRA also relieved Congress of setting postage rates. It required the Postal Service to operate more as a business with funding by revenue from postage rather than by a tax subsidy. Public subsidies were phased out over a period of years and postage rates
were regulated by a new Commission, now named the Postal Regulatory Commission. Postal unions were granted full rights to collective bargaining. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) was enacted in 2006 under the George W. Bush Administration to further the PRA’s move toward a more business-like postal service. The origins of the PAEA began in 1995 and reform became more urgent by 2001 because of the USPS’s increasingly precarious financial condition. The PAEA made major changes in how postage would be set and, most notably for current reform discussions, how payments to the postal employees’ retiree funds were made. This ended the requirement for the Postal Service to pay for pension benefits their employees had earned for military service, but continued the requirement for substantial pre-payment of the retiree health care fund. As there was a cash surplus from previous excess payments to the pension escrow account and the elimination of the military pension requirement, it was not expected to be a burden on the USPS. In hindsight, the provisions of PAEA on retiree obligations became a problem as the Great Recession began in 2007. The decrease in mail volumes continued to fall to 142 billion pieces in 2019 from a peak of 213 billion pieces.
The current reform discussions have focused around five broad areas: “relief” for the pension obligation, retiree health care provisioning, defining the USO and required days of delivery, whether or not to privatize part or all of the USPS, and reform and control of postage-rate setting. The continuing legislative incursions into routine USPS administration and rate-making have received little attention. Although less intrusive than in the past, Congress continues to involve itself in USPS management decisions by mandating a six-day delivery schedule, preventing the closure of postal facilities, and the renaming of post offices with the costs of doing so passed to the USPS, all of which add to costs the USPS must cover from its revenues. While the USPS is viewed positively and trusted by a great majority of US residents, many who work closely with the USPS do have a less favorable opinion. From comments at public hearings, it would seem some members of both houses of Congress have a still less favorable opinion. This suggests that USPS proposals for reform will be met with doubt and skepticism, even if some aspects are supported by many. Of course, any comments and proposals by other stakeholders are likely to also be met by doubt and skepticism by some and welcomed by others. A Look at the Options Perhaps we should examine what’s worked in other developed countries. Many other developed countries have undertaken extraordinary reforms of their postal sectors, often referred to as liberalization. The various examples include options between our current government-owned monopoly and the often-proposed privatization of the USPS. We might discuss some level of competition in the domestic postal sector, allowing competition in delivery for all categories of mail and access to mailboxes and post office boxes. We might consider regulation (and licensing) for all companies delivering to mailboxes and post office boxes, as we currently do for utilities, airlines, and mobile phone and internet service companies. Congress has, over many years, shown a desire to continue postal services, both deliveries and brick-and-mortar post offices, to the entire US population. There is strong support for publicly supported post offices and much needed delivery service in rural communities and isolated areas, although less desire on the part of Congress to support them financially. Rather than sup-
porting all postal services, we might look at defining the USO and subsidizing the USPS for the cost of attaining that standard where it is less financially viable. Beyond defining the USO and deciding how to determine the level of support for desired services nationwide, a discussion of ownership of, and access to, physical assets from mailboxes and mail collection boxes to post offices and other real estate would be needed. If the USPS has true competitors in all areas, as it currently contends, determining who owns and controls what assets will be necessary. (Some countries have assigned ownership of physical assets to a government agency separate from the postal service, as the government has paid for and created these physical assets and they “belong” to the government as a whole, not one unit of it.) This argues for a regulator with a more extensive responsibility. Not all potential postal providers would need to meet the USO requirements, but they would require access to some delivery options currently unavailable to them and possibly other down-stream access. The discussion about allowing non-USPS staff access to post office boxes and mailboxes has revolved around security considerations and more advertising in mailboxes. Permitting access by identified employees of approved and licensed private postal operators seems a minor risk. We do allow employees of private companies access to sensitive and secure areas of our airports, while limiting access by others passing through airports. It is possible to do this safely. Broadening the discussion might focus everyone involved on the most important issues. Many countries have successfully allowed competition in the postal sector and improved the level and efficiency of postal services. (Others have been less successful, but the US would have the advantage of seeing what worked and what did not.) This would not mean that postal services by our national USPS would end. The USPS could continue as a government service producing some of its own revenue, but compensated for meeting the standard of a clearly defined USO with broad services across the US, and competing against other regulated postal service providers. Merry Law is President of WorldVu LLC and the editor of Guide to Worldwide Postal-Code and Address Formats. She is a member of the UPU’s Addressing Work Group and of the U.S. International Postal and Delivery Services Federal Advisory Committee. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
By Gary A. Seitz
DEVELOPING A DIRECT MAIL CAMPAIGN IN 2021
recently received an email from a marketing company that started out with this statement: “Let’s face it — direct mail is simply print, a mailing list, and postage, all of which are commodities accessible to almost anyone. At the end of the day, all you care about are results (sales, votes, donations)! You don’t care how the postcard was printed.” While somewhat true, there is a lot more that goes into a direct mail campaign given new technology and the changing environment, both for marketers and consumers. With a major shift in the workforce from the office to work-from-home, marketers know that it is easier now to target their audience at home — making direct mail more effective than ever. IT STARTS WITH DATA Most marketers remember the 40/40/20 basic tenets for successful direct mail: 40% of your success depends on the list, 40% on the offer, and 20% on the creative. A recent statistic shifted the relevance to 60/30/10. Finding the right list is critical. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are tools available to help determine 20
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the right list, specifically targeted for your campaign and offer. Start with your own house list. While your own database may be rich with years of customers, you need to know their relevance now. Build a simple RFM analysis: Recency — when they last purchased (and the best predictor of future behavior), Frequency — how often they buy from you (triers, buyers, and advocates) and Monetary — how much they’ve spent with you (sales shoppers or true loyalists). A service provider can assist, or you can build this easily within an Excel table with the right internal data. Then identify your best RFM segments. If that type of information isn’t easily accessible, use the last two years of customer data to help identify and mirror your best customers. These are your most recent buyers/donors who reflect current buying trends. Utilize your service provider to scrub the data using CASS, NCOA, vacant and deceased coding, and then remove non-pertinent or undeliverable addresses. A clean list to start is essential for success! Get the demographics right. Today’s 2021 marketer has access, via service providers, to a host of demographic data
that can help them understand “who is my customer/donor.” Over 400 characteristics are available to append to better define your current base: attributes ranging from age, income, presence and age of children, and home value to lifestyle interests in recreation, the arts, politics, non-profits, and online purchasing or spending habits. With some simple analytics, you can use this data to better segment your house list and target your best rental lists. This can be particularly helpful if your customer base or brick-and-mortar locations are across a broad geographic area. If you don’t have the time, budget, or skill set to deep dive into appended data, service providers can also provide you with a customer profile report. A dozen key demographic and lifestyle or firmographic (business) attributes are applied to your file and a summary report describing your best customers is created for you. In most cases, a scored list of the best look-alikes in your geographic footprint is also generated. A scored list ranks each household in relation to how those demographics reflect your customers/donors. Households with a score of 90+ best reflect your current database for prospecting.
Building a mailing list of well-qualified customers and prospects is the single most important aspect of any direct mail campaign. MAKING YOUR OFFER With so many options and internet search tools available to consumers today, a compelling offer is essential for the success of your direct mail campaign. Remember that today’s consumer isn’t interested in what you can do; they are most interested in what you can do for them! In any offer, “FREE” is still a driving force in marketing — from free samples or trial offers to free shipping. Be sure to include an equally strong call to action, with multiple options like a phone number and a website landing page. Make your offer and call to action compelling and easy. BE CREATIVE While the least important component of a successful direct mail campaign, creative elements also matter. Determine the best option to deliver your message: a
standard or over-sized postcard that grabs immediate attention, or a standard letter that provides more real estate for your message and response vehicle. Consider testing both to determine which method yields a better response. Ensure your message is concise and easy to read, makes use of eye-popping color, and has a clear offer and call to action. Don’t overdo the copy — your website can provide more details. A picture is still worth a thousand words. MEASURING SUCCESS When the campaign is over, you need much deeper analysis than just measuring response rate to the mail. We’ll have more on this in the next issue. An effective and successful direct mail campaign in 2021 does not just end with a list and a mail piece. There’s a lot more to this than just preparing a mailing list, crafting an offer, designing a mail piece, and dropping it in the mail. Today’s marketer is transforming beyond simple direct mail to reach customers and prospects in more ways.
OMNICHANNEL MARKETING New technology helps enhance the direct mail message, driving greater response rates. Marketers can, and now need to, integrate and serve messages in email, landing pages, and online display ads to extend the effectiveness of their direct mail. It doubles your marketing power as you improve the customer experience while gaining much more relevant data to inform you of your buyer behavior while adding insight into your customer journeys. Omnichannel marketing presents marketing teams with new challenges. Now marketers must coordinate multiple touchpoints across multiple channels beyond direct mail — not always an easy task. In the next issue of Mailing Systems Technology, we’ll explore how to do this to complement your direct mail. Gary A. Seitz is the Vice President of CTRAC Direct. He assists mailers who need help understanding their data and their direct mail. Reach out to him at GSeitz@ctracdirect.com or 216.251.2500 x 4985.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
By Leo Raymond
INFORMED DELIVERY: THE NUMBERS TELL THE STORY ack in 2014, the Postal Service was developing something called Real Mail Notification as part of its continuing effort to keep hard-copy mail relevant in an increasingly electronic world. A free feature, it sent a digital preview of the day’s incoming mail to participants’ computers, smartphones, and other devices. To assess the viability 22
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of the concept, the agency initiated a limited pilot test in Northern Virginia, getting 5,700 to register out of about 37,000 who were invited. Encouraged by participants’ satisfaction, the pilot expanded to the metropolitan New York area in 2015. When rolled out nationwide in 2016 as Informed Delivery, the objective of the service was simple: stimulate greater
engagement with hard-copy mail by giving addressees an advance look at what’s in their mail that day. In turn, the USPS hoped, advertisers would recognize the value of having their messages in that daily preview. As the record has shown, Informed Delivery has been a success; subscriptions grew rapidly. According to the Postal Service, at the end of 2019, Informed Delivery had 22
million subscribers and reached 13.5% of eligible households and, by the end of 2020, it had more than 33 million subscribers and reached more than 19.8% of households. In 2020, a total of 6.05 billion Informed Delivery daily emails were sent, representing more than 19 billion mail pieces. More than 4.25 billion of those emails were opened by subscribers, an open rate of over 70%. Are Mailers Taking Advantage? But has the program been as well-received by advertisers, and has it encouraged them to use the mail? Businesses and organizations can add interactive content to the notifications that consumers receive, allowing them to click through to the company’s website to receive offers, coupons, or more information. Has that capability been used successfully? The USPS reports that, in 2020, 1,907 mailers used Informed Delivery to deliver content, up 53% over 2019, and conducted 80,322 interactive campaigns, 85% more than in 2019.
Even the Census Bureau used Informed Delivery in 2020 to provide customers with a link to where they could complete their census questionnaires. A loan company reported that customers who opened its messages through Informed Delivery were 13% more likely to respond, and applied at a six to eight percent higher rate. Their test didn’t reveal whether it was their Informed Delivery advertising that caused the improved response, or if people who open Informed Delivery messages are inherently more engaged with — and more responsive to — their mail. Either way, they concluded that using Informed Delivery to promote their service improved response. A commercial mailer also noted that its customers’ use of Informed Delivery has increased dramatically since 2019, and the volume of campaigns increased even after the annual promotion ended. Apparently, many came for the two percent discount, but stayed for the improved per-
formance. The mailer also reported that its nonprofit clients, who are its heaviest users of Informed Delivery, felt that response came more quickly for mailings with an associated Informed Delivery advertisement. Commercial service companies also were pleased with the click rates on their Informed Delivery ads. Given the growth in Informed Delivery subscriptions — by about 800,000 a month — Informed Delivery and what it presents to subscribers has become increasingly relevant, not just to postal customers, but to businesses who want to contact them effectively. With all that in mind, when asked whether the combination of hard-copy mail and Informed Delivery is a worthwhile channel through which businesses can reach potential customers, the answer would seem to be a definite yes. Leo Raymond is Owner and Managing Director at Mailers Hub LLC. He can be reached at lraymond@ mailershub.com.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
STRATEGIES TO LINK PHYSICAL DIRECT MAIL WITH DIGITAL COMMUNICATION By Kurt Ruppel
espite the disruption to consumer behaviors caused by COVID-19, direct mail retains an important role in driving the success of direct marketing campaigns. In a recent study by Demand Metric, 80% of marketers surveyed said direct mail improves campaign performance when paired with other channels, and a recent IAB study demonstrated marketers continue to include mail as part of their direct marketing channel mix. Mail’s effectiveness extends to younger consumers with recent Mail Moment studies conducted on behalf of the US Postal Service showing that millennials spend more time with their direct mail than older generations, with more than 60% of the millennials surveyed using direct mail as a prompt to go online. 24
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To drive direct mail engagement and make it an integral part of an integrated marketing campaign, marketers need to leverage delivery data like USPS Informed Visibility Mail Tracking and Reporting to coordinate the timing of their direct mail with other channels such as email delivery, social media campaigns, or other advertising touches. Marketers can also leverage technology to make the transition from a physical mail piece to an online experience as seamless as possible. QR Codes: The Rodney Dangerfield of Physical/Digital Integration One of the simplest ways to integrate mail with other marketing channels is to include a QR Code with your mail piece. For those
not familiar with him, Rodney Dangerfield was a comedian whose signature expression was, "I don't get no respect!” Although QR codes aren’t seen as the most elegant marketing device available, for marketers wanting to seamlessly move prospects from the direct mail piece in their hand to an engaging online experience, we have found including a QR code can drive incremental response ranging from five to 20%. QR codes motivate action by taking advantage of mobile access and the fact that a smartphone is usually nearby. Like any marketing tool, QR codes must be used wisely to achieve their full potential. While consumer experience with these codes in the US has been increasing due to COVID-19, not everyone is familiar with QR codes, how they are used, or knows that QR codes can be opened with iPhone and Android phone cameras. To ensure your recipient takes full advantage of this tool, be sure to include a call-to-action (CTA) notation next to each QR code that makes it clear what the recipient is supposed to do, such as “Scan this QR code with your phone’s camera to find out more.” To make your QR code easy to scan, it should be at least one inch square with necessary white space around it. Avoid clutter so the QR code isn’t “lost” in other copy. If you are using a QR code within the body of a letter, make the code an integral part of the letter design, and consider
using the same color palette for the QR code as the rest of the letter. The QR code should send your prospect directly to the targeted landing page with no intermediate pages or additional setup. Since the reader is using her or his phone to access the landing page, it should be mobile-friendly and mobile-actionable. Page content should be specific to the direct mail content (including sharing the look and feel of the direct mail piece) and not a general landing page. Personalized URLs: Creating Relevant Online Experiences As part of your direct mail copy, personalized URLs (PURLs) are another option to catch the reader’s eye and drive traffic online, taking the recipient to a unique online destination that can establish direct, personalized contact with that person. With unique landing pages for each recipient, offers can be customized to individual preferences and can be used to capture email address and other prospect information for further follow-up. As with QR codes, landing pages need to enhance the relevance of the offer made in the
direct mail piece. We have found packages that contain PURLs can drive incremental response and increase the capture rate of email and cell phone information. Although they allow a more customized online experience than QR codes, PURLs do require exact URL entry by the recipient, who needs to go to their computer or phone to engage with the PURL. Using PURLs also generally requires a longer set-up time than QR codes due to the need to create multiple personalized landing pages and reporting dashboards. Informed Delivery: Expanding Options for Marketers The Postal Service offers another tool to integrate mail with other marketing efforts in its Informed Delivery tool. Informed Delivery is a subscription service for mail recipients that provides daily email or app feed access to images of the contents of the subscriber’s physical mailbox that day. Marketers can create Informed Delivery campaigns to enhance a subscriber’s daily feed with color images and online links for an additional marketing touch with their direct mail recipients.
Informed Delivery currently has more than 30 million subscribers, representing more than 26 million households, which is 20% of eligible USPS deliveries across the country. Over the past six months, Informed Delivery has averaged a 69% email open rate, far exceeding industry averages for other types of email campaigns. The USPS Informed Delivery team continues to explore new features to be added to the service. This year, the team will be piloting several capabilities including allowing users to: Share images and target URLs from Informed Delivery interactive campaigns from social media accounts; Set an email reminder to prompt them to interact with their mail on a timeline that works best for them; or Download coupons using click-to-wallet on a mobile device. How are you leveraging direct mail in your integrated marketing campaigns to enhance performance and improve response? Kurt Ruppel is Director Postal Policy and Marketing Communications, IWCO Direct.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2021
tion manual, but a quick and simple tool to buttress the skills of trained professionals. Certain tasks should always be included in checklists, especially: 1. Tasks that have been forgotten in the past. 2. Tasks that have been performed incorrectly in the past. 3. Tasks that are routine, yet critical. 4. Tasks that are the minimum necessary steps.
CHECKLISTS: HOW TO INTEGRATE IN A PRINT-MAIL OPERATION By Mark M. Fallon
hecklists work. That’s why pilots use checklists. That’s why doctors use checklists. That’s why successful people use checklists. Several years ago, I wrote an article for Mailing Systems Technology entitled, "Checklists — Simple and Powerful Tools." The article explained that the humble checklist helps prevent more errors than specialized equipment or software programs. A checklist provides protection against failures in your operation. A checklist reminds us of the minimum necessary steps. A checklist helps your staff be effective and efficient. To be successful, checklists need to provide enough, but not too much, detail. A checklist isn’t a “how-to” guide or instruc-
MARCH-APRIL 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
Opportunities for Checklists A common task that’s forgotten in mail operations is checking the alignment of forms and addresses. These simple errors could cause barcodes to be read improperly or addresses not appearing correctly in the envelope window. A reminder to check alignment will prevent errors and returned mail. In the past month, we’ve had multiple clients report problems with checks mailed by their service providers. In one case, the checks were printed on the wrong stock. In the other, the checks were printed upside down. Verifying that the correct stock is properly loaded in a printer is something that should be performed before and after every print run. Selecting the correct mail class on a meter takes place with every job, every day. Forgetting to change the meter to “Presort” may mean that hundreds, if not thousands, of envelopes are metered with the wrong postage amount. An entire job may have to be processed, spoiled envelopes submitted for a refund, and extra paperwork completed. These aren’t hypothetical scenarios. Each of the above errors are actual events. In many cases, the companies had well-documented procedures. Most had training programs for new operators. Some even had Six Sigma and lean manufacturing programs. None had checklists. Implementing Checklists Every manager should integrate checklists into the daily processes of their print-mail operation. Which checklists to create depends upon the answers to the four questions asked earlier. Checklists that address recent errors should be implemented first. When possible, make the lists open enough to address multiple issues. For example, printer checklists should cover all forms, not just checks. How you implement the new lists should be given careful consideration. One option is to post lists on key pieces of equipment. Another is to create poster-sized reminders hung on the shop floor. The best option — make the lists part of the work order system, including verification. A well-designed workorder already has key information — e.g., file name, paper type, and envelope stock. Additionally, the form will have space for the operators to validate piece count, samples, etc. This is a natural location for additional checkpoints. In addition to the existing information, the work order can be modified to include acknowledging that key tasks have been completed. There should be brief bullets confirming file names, stocks, positioning, alignment, and piece counts. Next to each bullet, a space for the operator’s or supervisor’s initials. The most common challenge with this method is when operators don’t respect the process. Instead of acknowledging a task when it’s actually done, a person might just initial the top line
and then draw a line through to the end. Or, they may simply initial each line while a job is running or after it’s completed. The easiest shortcuts are the hardest to shut down. Managers must be proactive with supporting the proper use of checklists. When introducing the new documentation, emphasize the importance of following the process. Share stories on how the checklists have prevented errors. At least once a week, use your daily/shift huddles to reinforce proper actions. Make sure that the emphasis is on the positive impact of following the new procedures. Your team wants to do a good job, and the checklists help them be successful. Threats of corrective action have limited success. General Dennis Reimer wrote, “Discipline isn’t the fear of punishment for doing something wrong, it’s the faith in the value of doing something right.” Celebrating the Success of Checklists During my classes on checklists, whether in-person or on a webinar, I always use the story of US Airways Flight 1549, The Miracle on the Hudson. On January 15, 2009, CPT Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger landed a jet on the waters of the Hudson River after it had lost both engines when it hit a flock of birds. There were 155 people on that plane, and not a single life was lost. Sully Sullenberger is a hero not just for his actions that day, but his actions afterwards. In every interview, he made it clear that the “successful” crash landing was because of the efforts of the
entire crew. And that what he did was simple — he and the crew followed a series of checklists. Checklists. Emergency checklists. Communications checklists. Passenger checklists. Evacuation checklists. In addition to the skills of CPT Sullenberger and his crew, checklists helped save those 155 people. Most print and mail operations won’t have to use checklists to save a plane load of passengers. However, the work that they perform impacts people. Statements, policies, and similar documents allow companies to stay in contact with their customers. Checks deliver needed funds — whether to pay an invoice or an insurance claim. Direct mail helps all companies attract customers and grow their business. Managers must celebrate the successes of checklists. When a customer takes the time to send an email or note about a job well done, it needs to be shared with every employee. Post “thank you” letters and emails in common areas, like break rooms or hallways. When a potential error is caught, the event should be applauded. The simple checklist — a powerful tool to help you and your organization succeed. Mark M. Fallon is President & CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting ﬁrm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. You can contact him at email@example.com, or visit his blogs at www.berkshire-company.com/the-berkshire-company-blog or www.markfallon.com/blog.
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THE LARGEST MAIL SAVINGS OPPORTUNITY: OUTSOURCED PRINT AND MAIL SERVICES By Adam Lewenberg
am going to start out with a blanket statement based on years of customer research: 99% of medium to large organizations have limited to no visibility to their mail spends across the enterprise. This leads to overspending, lack of control, and lost funds. The largest category of this overspending is around mail that is outsourced to third parties. Most of the mail in the United States is not processed in local offices, but instead sent to outsourced print and mail services who have the proper equipment, staff, and expertise to do it efficiently. The issue is that this is one of the least understood categories, with the lowest level of visibility and the highest opportunity to overspend. When we analyze what organizations are paying for these services, we find huge discrepancies in the rates paid, the level of detail provided on invoices, and the lack of knowledge and visibility to the scope of the services being provided. This category can be in the
MARCH-APRIL 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
hundreds of thousands to millions in annual spend and because of these issues, can have significant savings opportunities. There are three key ways to reduce your costs with outsourced print and mail services, and each is equally important in your program’s optimization. Visibility Is the Key to Success To put the numbers in perspective, these outsourced providers, commonly known as mail houses, are processing over 70% of the nation’s 122 billion pieces of mail. This is a multi-billion-dollar industry made up of thousands of providers. Most organizations that we work with had limited to no visibility to what service providers they are using, the cost of the projects they are outsourcing, and the breakout detail of what was driving their rates. The reason is that the spend is typically fragmented with different groups cre-
ating projects, and these groups typically do not communicate. Some of the most common issues we see include: Statement and transaction print documents (Accounts Receivable) Advertising based projects (Marketing) Customer service information announcements (Customer Service/Operations) Internal staff mailings (Human Resources) This visibility is made more difficult when there are multiple locations and lines of business all working with different outsourced providers. We recommend having one person or group take responsibility for managing this category holistically to have the understanding and data to create the leverage for change. The level of visibility is difficult to manage because each vendor invoice has different degrees of detail. We have seen bills for large sums with a single line charge, while others break out every service area into multiple sub-groups that may be difficult to understand. You will find incredible variations in the rates charged from one job or service provider to another. Also, there can be significant overcharges because invoices are infrequently audited against a contract rate. The key to reducing costs is to develop a standard process to build this visibility, to better understand your mailings and fees. We developed a system to categorize every charge into one of the mailing categories listed in the chart on the next page. With this, you can now compare cost of services, providers, and the impact of changes. Optimize How You Are Sending Your Mail Now that you have the visibility to your mailings, you can develop strategies to reduce costs. The biggest savings potential is optimizing the way you are sending current projects using your existing providers. Postage is the largest cost of most mailings, making up over 50% of the spend. There are multiple strategies that can be utilized from moving mail closer to its destination, to USPS quarterly incentives, or consolidating spend under your own direct presort arrangements. There could be additional savings by changing from Flats to Letter or from First-Class Mail to Marketing Mail or validating that Full-Service IMb (Intelligent Mail Barcode) discounts are in effect. The key is having a person on your team that understands what is available and can push the service providers to optimize the spend. Printing is the next biggest area with large variations in costs. Ask the questions: Does everything have to be in color, can roll print be used instead of cut sheet, and is high-speed inkjet printing viable instead of laser? We recommend understanding your print costs to make sure you have benchmarks against your various service providers. Print suppression by converting to email or web presentment is one of the best ways to reduce costs. Understanding the full printing and mailing costs could provide a business case to offer incentives to clients who go electronic. Pay attention to the cost of image creation, storage, and presentment because this can grow drastically based on the longevity of images that are stored and accessed. By understanding the total cost of this spend, you have the means to decide if it makes sense to offload this work from the service providers to your own storage models. There can be savings in the remainder of the categories above based on having the details of how items are mailed.
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to send across country. On the other side, if your customers are nationwide, you may want to look for providers with multiple mailing locations that can split projects to be closer to the customer. If you are going to mail from one location, is the service provider in the center of the country or near a USPS hub to provide better service levels? Finally, what is the cost of labor in your area? If you are in a high cost of living region, it may make sense to look at providers in less expensive parts of the country who can offer lower pricing. What type of mail are you sending? Some service providers focus on transactional mail like statements or invoices, while others focus on marketing projects. You may want to have different vendors for these different categories. Also, some providers may focus on a specific vertical like banking or insurance that can offer a higher level of service. What added value services will you need? Examples include creative, transportation, web presentment, storage of stock, or on-demand mailing services with online portals and third-party agreements with presort services and international remailers.
Optimize Your Mail Service Providers The final step is to make sure that you are using the best providers with the most competitive rates. With the data we have gained from the visibility step, you will see drastic rate variances between providers, and it is a best-in-class practice to do a request for proposal (RFP). This can be done on a project-by-project basis (if you do infrequent mailings), but a best practice is to develop national agreements with fewer providers where you can get higher service levels, account management, and lower costs. Here are items that are important when selecting a service: Where are your customers? If you mail locally, you will get faster delivery times if the service provider is in your area vs. needing
MARCH-APRIL 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
When creating the RFP, it is important to control the template so you can easily compare services. It is equally essential to know all the fee structures to your current projects to make sure they are represented. The biggest issue companies have is they focus on the cost to mail the one-page document and do not look at the other items we mentioned above that could have a significantly larger impact on the total cost. It is also valuable to be able to have sections where each provider can discuss their visibility and support models as well as provide references. Unfortunately, many mailers have limited to no visibility to their spends in this category. To make matters worse, many spend millions of dollars with these outsourcers and on permit accounts with limited controls or internal expertise. The good news is, with the proper resources and processes, this is one of the largest categories for savings as well as creating simplicity in its oversight and management. Adam Lewenberg, CMDSS, MDC, President/CEO 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 North America and their mission is to help organizations with multi-locations reduce mail and parcel related expenses, recover lost postage funds, and simplify visibility and oversight. Since 2011, they have helped their clients save an average of 57% and over $61 million on equipment, presort, avoidable fees, and lost postage. Adam can be reached at 617.372.6853 or firstname.lastname@example.org