7 GREAT IDEAS FOR IMPROVING YOUR ENVELOPES PAGE 24 MAY - JUNE 2021
BREAKING IT DOWN:
ANALYZING THE USPS’S 10-YEAR PLAN TO FINANCIAL STABILITY PAGE 28
EXPANDING CAPABILITIES IN HOSTED MANAGED SERVICES PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY PAGE 18
DON’T OVERLOOK THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ENVELOPE WHEN IT COMES TO CUSTOMER RESPONSE RATES. PAGE 20
OPTIMIZE YOUR DIRECT MAIL WITH AN INKJET INFLUENCE. PAGE 12
TABLE OF CONTENTS
MAY-JUNE 2021 | VOLUME 34 ISSUE 3
DEPARTMENTS 05 Editor's Note
Changes — and Uncertainty — Ahead By Amanda Armendariz
06 Real-Life Management Hope: The Pathway to a Better Future! By Wes Friesen
08 Software Byte
Processing Shortage or Spoilage in Seamless Acceptance By Jeff Peoples
10 The Trenches
What’s an Envelope for?
By Mike Porter
12 Inkjet Info
Direct Mail with an Inkjet Influence By Karen Kimerer and Eve Padula
FEATURES 16 Tips and Tricks to Make Your Mail Piece Stand Out By Rob Hanks
22 Developing a Direct Mail Campaign in 2021, Part 2
14 Strategy and Culture Connection
Do You Lead Your Culture, or Does It Lead You? By Bruce Gresham
By Gary A. Seitz
18 Expanding Capabilities in Hosted Managed Services Provides Opportunity
27 2021 Postal Promotions Fact Sheet
By Kemal Carr
20 Envelopes: An Integral Factor in Improving Postage Costs and Customer Response Rates By Mark Rheaume
28 The USPS 10-Year Plan: Analyzing the Details By Leo Raymond
SPONSORED CONTENT 15 How To Make Seamless Seem Less Overwhelming 24 7 Great Ideas for Improving Your Envelopes 2021 EVENTS National Postal Forum (virtual) May 3-4 Inkjet Summit July 26-28 PRINTING United October 6-8
MAY-JUNE 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
EDITOR’S NOTE VOLUME 34, ISSUE 3 MAGAZINE STAFF President Chad Griepentrog Publisher Ken Waddell Editor Amanda Armendariz firstname.lastname@example.org Contributing Writers Kemal Carr, Wes Friesen, Bruce Gresham, Rob Hanks, Karen Kimerer, Eve Padula, Jeff Peoples, Mike Porter, Leo Raymond, Mark Rheaume, Gary A. Seitz Audience Development Manager Rachel Chapman email@example.com Advertising Ken Waddell 608.235.2212 firstname.lastname@example.org Design Kelli Cooke
MadMen3 PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098 Tel: 608.241.8777 Fax: 608.241.8666 Email: email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 3] 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
CHANGES — AND UNCERTAINTY — AHEAD BY AMANDA ARMENDARIZ
or an industry that sometimes gets dismissed as dusty or stagnant, there are certainly a lot of changes going on that could affect mailers in the near future, not to mention a fair amount of uncertainty, as well. As everyone in our industry undoubtedly knows by now, the United States Postal Service recently released its 10-year plan to “achieve financial stability and service excellence.” However, some are questioning the feasibility of these ideas, especially since many of them depend on Congressional approval, which, as we all know, should never be counted on as a guarantee until the legislation is actually signed into law. Some other tenets of the plan depend on package growth continuing to be a significant contributor to the USPS’s bottom line. While no one is denying that package volume is indeed growing by leaps and bounds (especially in the wake of the pandemic, when online ordering skyrocketed), when it comes to parcel deliveries, the USPS is not the only game in town like it is for mail pieces. FedEx and UPS are still generally the go-to choices for shippers, so it would be unwise for the Postal Service to depend on this segment growing year after year at a certain rate. On page 28, we provide an in-depth analysis of exactly what this plan means for mailers and the industry — and the
likelihood of many of the proposals actually coming to fruition. In other words, the plan sounds good, but don’t bank on it all happening as written out (at least not yet). But even as we wait for the plan’s tenets to get approved or put into motion by the necessary parties, there are still things mailers can do to inject more pieces into the mailstream, cut their postage costs, and increase their customer engagement. One of the best ways to go about this is by participating in the 2021 USPS promotions; mailers are given a two percent postage discount for eligible mail pieces that incorporate the relevant information as required per promotion. We’ve put together a quick fact sheet on page 27, but more complete information (including informative webinars detailing the requirements and benefits of the promotions) can be found on PostalPro. We encourage as many mailers as possible to take advantage of these offerings; not only does it save you money, but it amps up the volume in the mailstream; a win for us all! As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
the work the team does. We also need to set realistic goals that have some stretch but are also attainable. I agree with M.P. Neary’s statement, “Realistic thinking is where real hope is found; helping us hit the right balance between realism and aspirations.”
HOPE: THE PATHWAY TO A BETTER FUTURE! BY WES FRIESEN
e all need hope, don’t we? Both as individuals and as leaders of teams, hope is critical to our present and future success. What is hope? Dr. Shane Lopez is a university professor, Gallup senior scientist, and perhaps the leading researcher on hope. He simply defines hope as, “the belief that things could be better and that you can make them better.” Multiple studies have shown that having hope has many benefits, including increased: Psychological strength Workplace performance and productivity Job satisfaction and better attendance Happiness Organizational commitment Engagement and creativity Physical and mental health (including less stress and burnout) How can we develop greater hope within ourselves and others we work with? Let’s explore what leading experts like Dr. Lopez and others have discovered as we look at 10 proven ways to develop greater hope within ourselves and our teams: 1. Lead by example. There is a concept called “Shadow of the Leader.” People look to us in leadership roles and take cues based on what we say and what we do. As leaders, we need to nurture our own optimism and hope, and be an example for the people we influence. The Gallup organization randomly sampled a 6
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large group of people and asked them to describe a leader that had the most positive influence in their daily life. The research showed that followers want their leaders to help meet four psychological needs: stability, trust, compassion, and hope. Another Gallup research project found that when leadership didn’t make them feel enthusiastic about the future, 99% of employees report feeling disengaged at work! 2. Share the vision of a better future. People want to believe they are part of something bigger and are making a positive difference for others. As leaders, we can embrace and share a vision of a better future that can inspire our teams and give them the hope they crave. One benefit of helping people have more hope is they will be more engaged and committed. Dr. Lopez observes, “When you think the future will be better than the present, you start working harder today.” Zig Ziglar expressed similar insight when he said, “If there is hope in the future, there is literally power in the present.” 3. Focus on meaningful goals. We are all inspired by meaningful goals, especially those that we have some input on. When we as leaders participatively set goals that our team members believe in, we have the recipe to inspire and provide hope for a better future. Meaningful goals that inspire emphasize the value we are adding to other people by
4. Draw attention and celebrate progress and the positive. One of my favorite principles is “success breeds success.” We need to communicate when progress has been made (even when small) and celebrate the positives when they occur. Highlighting progress builds positive momentum and builds upon itself. Our goal is to help people feel good about themselves and the team, and realize that by working together, we have the realistic hope of a better future – no matter what challenges lie before us! 5. Provide perspective. Leaders need to provide perspective in at least a couple of ways. First, we need to communicate the value of the work the team does. We need to share how we benefit our key stakeholders (investors, customers, employees, community) and the overall organization we are a part of. Second, when going through challenging times (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic), we need to help people see the bigger picture and the longer term outcomes (e.g., the pandemic is improving and will come to an end). We can embrace and communicate the sentiment expressed by Roy T. Bennett when he said, “Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger and never last forever.” 6. Work to remove obstacles. Effective leaders need to have high expectations for the future, and a clear-eyed view of the obstacles that we need to overcome in order to get there. A major responsibility we have then is to remove the obstacles that prevent our people from excelling. Obstacles can include: economic fluctuations; changes in personnel; inadequate “tools” (e.g., equipment, hardware, software, etc.); overly restrictive policies; faulty processes; challenges with worklife balance; or unresolved conflicts with people from other departments. 7. Prepare for contingencies (“what ifs”). Life brings a mix of positive and negative experiences as well as planned and unplanned events. One approach to potential negative future events is to
focus on worry. But I like the wisdom expressed by Winston Churchill when he said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” That is where Contingency Planning, which primarily focuses on the potential negative, unplanned events that come our way, is helpful. We can proactively prepare for many potential contingencies — such as economic fluctuations, bad weather events, changes in staffing, supply chain disruptions and others. We can make time to brainstorm with our teams, key support staff, and vendors about potential contingencies, then partner together to develop plans if needed. Having contingency plans in place ahead of time can be a source of hope when the unexpected happens. 8. Build “pathways thinking.” Pathways thinking refers to the ability to generate various routes (paths) from the present to the desired future. We can help people and our teams generate options and possibilities and not get stuck on only one route, which may be blocked. The reality is there are often multiple routes to accomplish our individual and team goals. Being able to identify these different routes, and having plans to deal with the potential obstacles that might arise, is critical to being hopeful. As author Gil Frondau has commented, “Just highlighting possibilities and listing them down can be a helpful way of promoting pathways thinking.” 9. Be a sounding board. Bennett once said, “Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her challenges can be a big comfort.” We can be both a listening ear and a sounding board to help people work through uncertainty and be open to new possibilities. We can create a psychologically safe environment where people can be transparent and candidly share their concerns and not be judged. This is where embracing the servant leader mindset is helpful — as leaders, we are here to serve the people we lead. 10. Demonstrate confidence in people. When we demonstrate confidence and trust in people, most people will live up to those expectations (i.e., “Pygmalion effect”). We all want to be treated with respect, and empowering people to make decisions they feel comfortable with shows respect and builds confidence and a sense of hope. Leadership expert and bestselling author John Maxwell makes a key point, “When there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present”. As leaders, let’s be “dealers in hope” and help our teams experience both a better present AND a better future! 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, which provides leadership, management, and teambuilding training. He serves as the Industry Co-Chair of the Greater Portland PCC. His book, Your Team Can Soar!, 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. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from Xulonpress.com/bookstore or wesfriesen.com (under Book) or an online retailer. Wes can be contacted at email@example.com or at 971.806.0812. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
PROCESSING SHORTAGE OR SPOILAGE IN SEAMLESS ACCEPTANCE BY JEFF PEOPLES
frequent question we receive from mailers is in regards to how to properly report spoilage or shortage when submitting files to PostalOne!, particularly when submitting mailings under Seamless Acceptance. There are a multitude of reasons why mailers need to report spoilage or shortage: perhaps some of the mail pieces get damaged during processing, or you may run out of some of the mail piece components before the job is finished. We’ve all heard the saying, “Stuff happens.” Mail piece production and mailing processes are essentially manufacturing processes, and regardless of the quality assurance procedures you have in place, it is almost inevitable that some pieces need to get removed from the mailing. Whatever term you use to call these pieces (pulls, deletes, mutes, rejects, spoils, shorts), these are pieces that get pulled from your mailings for any number of reasons. Mailers likely already have procedures in place to handle this from a manufacturing perspective, but what about making the adjustments to report these types of spoilages or shortages in your eDoc submissions to PostalOne!? And how do you do this without causing Undocumented Mailpiece errors? Within the Mail.dat file set, there are currently three different files that may be used to report Spoilage/Shortage: the Piece Detail Record (PDR), the Piece Barcode Record (PBC), or the Postage Adjustment Record (PAR). 8
MAY-JUNE 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
PostalOne! Accepted Reporting Methods A Guide to Full Service (https://postalpro. usps.com/aGuidetoFullService) from the USPS provides information on four methods for reporting spoilages or shortages using PostalOne! The acceptable methods vary depending on the type of mailings you are processing — and only Method 4 (below) is allowed for postage-affixed mail. Here are the four current acceptable methods: 1. Available for situations where the postage for wasted and shorted pieces is paid as part of the total postage detailed on the postage statement. This method is used if the mailer wishes to re-use the unique Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) from the spoiled or shorted pieces and the postage has already been paid. In this case, the PDR or PBC files must be edited to identify the spoiled or shorted pieces; however, the only way to obtain a refund for the spoiled pieces is to submit a hard copy PS-3533 (yes, hard copy!) along with documentation of the spoiled pieces. Important note: refunds are not granted for shorted pieces. 2. Available for First-Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail (previously known as Standard Mail) only. The postage is adjusted on the postage statement so postage is paid for only the pieces that actually get mailed. As in Method 1, the unique IMb from the spoiled or shorted pieces may be re-used, and the PDR or PBC files must be edited to identify the
spoiled or shorted pieces. In this case, because postage has not yet been paid, the Mail.dat files may be edited and submitted to PostalOne! as an updated release, so the postage is not paid for the spoiled or shorted pieces. 3. Available for First-Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail only. The postage adjustment is reported as a dollar amount and piece count for the entire mailing. For this method, the PAR file is used. In this method, the unique IMbs may not be re-used, and the spoilage is reported as a percentage or number of pieces rather than reporting each individual spoiled or shorted mail piece. Since this method does not tie back to the individual mail piece ID, it CANNOT be used for manifest mailings. Note: this option will NOT work for Seamless Acceptance mailings as it will cause Undocumented Mailpiece errors. 4. The electronic documentation in either Mail.dat or Mail.XML states only the pieces mailed. This method is used when there is either no spoilage or shortage to report, these pieces have already been identified and removed from the Mail.dat files before they are submitted to PostalOne!, or the mailer plans to request a postage refund using PS-3533 and does not need to make any count adjustments in PostalOne! This method may be used for any class of mail. Currently this is the ONLY spoilage method available for postage affixed mailings, such as metered mail, stamped, or precancelled stamp mailings. Note: For Periodicals mailings, spoilage/ shortage may be reported, but is ignored by PostalOne! Reporting Spoilage/Shortage So, how do you go about making these types of Mail.dat file edits? The easiest way to perform these edits is by using post-presort software. In this software, mailers typically have the opportunity to enter individual mail piece ID numbers, or to import a file containing these ID numbers for the shorted/spoiled pieces so that the Mail.dat files can be accurately flagged with the appropriate spoiled/ wasted indicators for the other methods. Some post-presort software even allows users to scan the IMbs from the spoiled pieces and import the scanned barcode file into the software to automate the process of making the necessary adjustments. Once these adjustments are made, the edited files can be submitted to PostalOne! and the post-presort soft-
ware may be used to generate numerous reports to document the spoilage/shortage claimed. Timing Keep in mind that under Seamless Acceptance, postage statements for mailing jobs are automatically finalized when the files are submitted to PostalOne! For this reason, mailers MUST make the spoilage/shortage adjustments before uploading files to PostalOne! In the past, mailers could submit files first as an Original Release to PostalOne!, allowing for spoilage/shortage edits or changes to the file prior to paying for postage. Now under Seamless, the only way to make any changes after submission and finalization is to request that PostalOne! cancel the job or reverse the postage payment and re-submit. Due to these complexities, we STRONGLY recommend that you practice submitting jobs with spoilage/shortage, including cancellation of jobs, using the TEM environment of PostalOne! prior to going into production. This practice allows you to become familiar with how this process works and iron out any bumps in your internal processes.
Postage Refund Requests Mailers who are not able to make spoilage or shortage adjustments electronically must use hard copy form PS-3533 to request a postage refund from the USPS. These forms were revised a number of years ago to be uniquely barcoded, which is why these forms are no longer available online or through mailing software. Mailers may request these forms from their local post office and follow the instructions on the form for completion. Keep in mind that mailers may be required to provide specific documentation of the spoiled pieces in order to receive a postage refund. This documentation is outlined in the form instructions, or may also be included in any agreements mailers may have in place with the USPS, such as Optional Procedure agreements. Preventing Undocumented Mailpieces A critical area to add to your QC procedures is a method to ensure that the pieces pulled from the mailing and reported in the Mail.dat files actually get removed from the mailing and destroyed, and that the processes you have in place to re-use the IMbs from those pieces
are sound. If these pieces accidentally get into the mailstream, the USPS Mail Processing Equipment (MPE) will scan the Intelligent Mail barcodes printed on those pieces. Since those pieces, and their associated IM barcodes, have been reported as spoils or shortage in the eDoc submission, depending on the method used for reporting spoilage, this means that those IMb scans may not be able to get matched up with an eDoc. We know what that can mean: undocumented mail pieces! 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 PostalOne! Help Desk (https://gateway.usps. com/eAdmin/view/support) is available to provide assistance to mailers who need help in understanding the various methods of reporting spoilage/shortage or to help them trouble-shoot errors in submitted Mail. dat files. Your mailing software providers can also lend assistance.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
WHAT’S AN ENVELOPE FOR? BY MIKE PORTER
ost people would agree that an envelope’s purpose is safely transporting the contents from sender to recipient. But the envelope has another important job — getting opened! Magazine and catalog mailers use the covers of their mailing pieces to encourage readers to look inside, but most letter size communications don’t make the same effort. If you consider envelopes as part of the overall communication strategy instead of just a utilitarian transport device, you might make a difference in the mail’s success. Companies send mail for a reason, often because they want the recipients to take a specific action, such as paying their bill or buying a product. Other mail attempts to change how someone thinks about a topic or issue (some political and non-profit mailings fall into this category). A third group might be mail that companies are required to send, such as annual privacy notices or tax forms. In any case, the front cover of a mail piece (the envelope) can affect how many mail recipients decide to examine the interior contents. Of course, mail doesn’t always require an envelope. Newspapers, postcards, magazines, catalogs, and self-mailers travel perfectly well through the postal 10
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system without an envelope. But most of the mail we receive in my household, whether marketing mail or transactional documents, arrives enclosed in envelopes. For most mailers, distributing paper documents still relies on the act of inserting materials into window or closed-face envelopes.
Studies show that personalization has a positive effect on direct mail campaign performance. If your company (or your company’s clients if you are a mail service provider) sends mail in envelopes, it’s fair to take an objective look at these critical pieces of the mailing package. Are they helping you achieve the desired result by increasing the chances the messages will be read, or are they just passive containers? Most times, envelopes are only an afterthought.
Designers can choose from many envelope design strategies meant to enhance the performance of envelopes. The internet provides plenty of advice about envelope colors, teaser text, personalization, die cuts, postage payment methods, stickers, etc. The best approach depends on the application. A design that increases open rates for one type of mail can have the opposite effect on another. I’m not suggesting you invest in a particular envelope design or construction strategy, only that you take time to think about how your current envelopes contribute to the success of your mail pieces. Personalization Studies show that personalization has a positive effect on direct mail campaign performance. Today, most marketers are personalizing the contents of a mailer via explicit variable data use or by altering the offers, text, and images. They use demographic, psychographic, or customer relationship information to control the contents of each mail piece. The envelope is already personalized with the recipient’s name and address. Further personalization, such as variable text or eye-catching graphics aligned with the recipient’s known interests, can make mail more enticing to the targeted recipients. Some envelope converting machines can personalize envelopes as you make them. If you don’t make your own envelopes, then inline inkjet solutions added to inserter bases can handle envelope personalization on the fly as the machine inserts contents into the envelopes. This technique works for both window and closed-face envelopes. Windows or Not? Mailers have long used window envelopes to simplify the mailing process. By personalizing only the contents of a mailing, you don’t have to worry about mis-matching addressed envelopes with personalized documents. However, window envelopes convey an impression of commercial, high-volume mail, which can work against you in your quest to communicate with customers and prospects. Plain window envelopes won’t be the first thing addressees open when they retrieve their mail from the mailbox.
Pieces that look more interesting will get the most attention. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon window envelopes — especially if you use windows to reveal something interesting waiting to be discovered inside. Some mailers use larger windows for this purpose. That may be an approach that works for your applications. One of the financial institutions where I have accounts uses #10 envelopes with a window that consumes about half the space on the front of the mail piece. The bank uses these large window envelopes for both transactional documents and marketing messages. Unfortunately, they never use that space to tell me anything important — only the mailing address, return address, and logo are seen through the window. This seems like a wasted opportunity. Always be careful about windows that allow extraneous content to show. You don’t want to interfere with USPS addressing standards, but you could reserve a portion of the window space to
tease the contents inside the envelope. The bank sends me the same envelopes with the same offers every month. If the offer ever changed, I wouldn’t know it from the envelope. Closed-faced envelopes can raise anticipation levels, especially if the envelope hints at recipient benefits to be found inside. If you are addressing closed-face envelopes with an inkjet head mounted on the inserting equipment, you can also print personalized or targeted messages on the envelope. The print technology has improved since I first looked into this technique way back in 1997. Printing high-quality, full-color graphics on the address side of an envelope is within reach of most mail service providers today. Another factor for mailers to consider is Informed Delivery from the US Postal Service. According to the USPS, as of March 2021, 29 million users are currently subscribed to the Informed Delivery daily email. Subscribers see images of their letter mail before their
carrier delivers it. Those images feature the address side of the envelope. Any messaging or graphics you’ve added will be visible, giving you an extra chance to get the addressee’s attention. What’s the Right Approach? Before you automatically reorder your supply of envelopes, take a step back and ask yourself if something as simple as changing the envelope will help you or your clients generate the results your mail should produce. Take the time to look at envelopes as part of the communication strategy, not simply as a container.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
INKJET INFO received physical mail. In addition, over half of respondents reported that direct mail made them feel more connected to the sender.
DIRECT MAIL WITH AN INKJET INFLUENCE BY KAREN KIMERER AND EVE PADULA
he ritual of gathering mail has not changed much over the years. In a typical scenario, a mail carrier delivers the mail to a residential or office mailbox, and the recipient of the mail must then decide what to do with it. Professional organizers suggest that direct mail essentially falls into two categories — the pieces that are discarded immediately and those that are kept and dealt with. In many cases, this means that the life span for junk mail is short, perhaps lasting only long enough for the recipient to walk from his or her mailbox to the front door. When it comes to the mail that is opened and dealt with, people have become more discerning over the years. In addition, the narrative that accompanies the sorting process has changed. Aware of the power of technology and data, educated consumers and business owners are now putting more thought into their mail sorting efforts. With some promotional direct mail, the recipient might acknowledge that the piece serves a purpose, yet discard it anyway because it is not interesting or engaging. Other pieces might be discarded due to improper targeting. Suppose a loyal customer receives a piece of direct mail from a well-known brand, but it is targeted toward a prospect rather than an established customer. The recipient might then think, “I’m familiar with this brand, but they don’t seem to know me because they don’t acknowledge my loyalty.” Once again, that mail piece will
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miss its mark. And every once in a while, a piece of award-winning direct mail might cause the recipient to wonder why all mail can’t be done so well. Right now, you’re probably wondering… what IS award-winning direct mail? We’ll explore that shortly. Direct Mail Experiences a Resurgence Several studies indicate that direct mail is on the rise after years of reluctance to use it as a marketing channel. The lessons we learned from the pandemic suggest that B2B and B2C organizations
What Makes Direct Mail Effective? The direct mail channel has been proven to stand out, providing differentiation from the never-ending stream of digital messages that are delivered on a daily basis. As a result, it is perhaps not surprising that direct mail response rates have held steady over the past several years. Armed with this knowledge, you might be tempted to flood your audience with more direct mail… but not so fast! Just because direct mail has rediscovered its place at the marketing table doesn’t mean you can ignore the components that make it successful in today’s multichannel world. So what makes a piece of direct mail successful, or even awardwinning? Award-winning direct mail starts by developing clear answers to the following questions: What is your goal for the direct mail campaign? Who is your audience? What other marketing efforts are you conducting that direct mail can complement? How do you want your audience members to respond to the direct mail you’ve sent them? A Direct Mail Usage Report from USPS Delivers and Forrester Research asked marketers to address some very similar questions in 2020. After being given a long list to choose from, the majority of marketers stated that their primary objectives for using direct mail were to spark interest and trigger purchases. Marketers’ responses also revealed that email was their number one go-to for coordinating and complementing online efforts with direct mail. Desired actions in response to direct mail included website visits, program sign-ups, store visits, and, of course, purchasing a product or solution. When it comes to the delivery of direct mail, each organization will have its own unique objectives, audience members, and desired actions. The important thing to remember is that direct mail will not
Nearly a quarter of these consumers had made a purchase in response to a direct mail piece in the past 12 months. need to rethink how they connect with their audiences. Direct mail creates a tactile, tangible experience that can evoke emotion by putting the brand in the hands of its customers. According to a 2020 USPS study entitled COVID Mail, people’s spirits were lifted when they
be effective unless all of these unique components are well-understood. Once they have established the answers to these basic questions, marketers will be well-positioned to create meaningful and compelling offers. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth saying — persuasive offers are not the products and services of a brand owner. A powerful marketing message paints a picture, so the intended audience will understand the benefits they will gain if they act on the offer or lose if they do nothing. FOMO Marketing According to Eventbrite, fear of missing out (FOMO) is an epidemic that 69% of Millennials have experienced. As humans, we have an innate desire to be in the know or part of the action. Simply put, we don’t want to be left out. FOMO marketing is a concept that builds on this desire to be included. Although FOMO marketing historically worked best in the digital world, the sheer volume of digital messaging causes many of today’s emails and digital ads to come and go without notice. Direct mail, meanwhile, provides a deliberate physical experience. Thanks to ongoing advancements in production inkjet printing, highly effective direct mail with FOMO messaging is finding its way into more and more mailboxes with great success. Limited-time sales and coupons can create a sense of urgency, or
FOMO. Recent research suggests that consumers are more likely to engage with a direct mail offer that includes a coupon or opportunity for savings. Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent Annual State of Marketing Communications survey clarifies this point. When respondents were asked about the techniques that made them most likely to engage with a piece of printed direct mail, the use of full color was the top response, followed by the inclusion of coupons. Nearly a quarter of these consumers had made a purchase in response to a direct mail piece in the past 12 months. So what has changed, and why has direct mail become hot topic? It is likely that technological advancements have revived a traditional marketing channel and created new opportunities. Offset printing presses were once the only affordable means for producing cost-effective direct mail, but this is no longer the case. Thanks to improved image quality, better inks, drying systems, and a much-improved library of paper stocks, today’s digital production inkjet presses are a vital asset to marketers. The vast advancements in direct mail printing make it easier than ever for marketers of all sizes to take advantage of its unique qualities. The Bottom Line All brand owners are keen to increase market share, attract new customers,
and retain existing customers. All of these goals are equally important, and concentrating on one at the expense of another is like a parent admitting that he or she has a favorite child. With ongoing advancements in production inkjet technology, marketers can now use direct mail to support multiple objectives. With today’s technologies, you can target your messaging to the right audience, appeal to their needs and interests, and have a direct impact on your bottom line. 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 wellversed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products. Eve Padula is Senior Consulting Editor for Keypoint Intelligence’s Production Services with a focus on Business Development Strategies, Customer Communications, and Wide Format. She is responsible for creating many types of content, including forecasts, industry analyses, and research/multi-client studies. She also manages the writing, editing, and distribution cycles for many types of deliverables. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
STRATEGY & CULTURE CONNECTION
But remember, building a culture is a team sport. You cannot do it alone.
DO YOU LEAD YOUR CULTURE, OR DOES IT LEAD YOU? BY BRUCE GRESHAM
stablishing, honing, or outright changing your company culture is one of the trickiest aspects of business. It’s also the most important. Well-known management educator and author Peter Drucker had a saying I’ve heard more and more recently: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Meaning: you, your team, and your company will not have meaningful, sustained success without a powerful culture to support your business vision and strategy. Driving the Right Culture Is Your Top Job You and your leadership team cannot “manage” the culture. The culture has to be led, or it can go down paths and valleys you never intended. It starts with the new hire process, connecting the culture to top applicants and looking for people who will not only fit in, but be a culture champion once they join the team. It’s critical to hire associates with the right mix of attitude and aptitude. A team
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member can have all the talent in the world, but they are not a true “A” player if they are disgruntled and pull others down with them. Never underestimate the power of your words and the effect they have on your team and the business culture.
Spread the Word All business owners or leaders need the help of their leadership team to steer the culture in the right direction. It usually takes about one to five percent of employees to be committed to driving the culture forward and spreading the word. A good way to start is to ask your immediate reports to in turn excite three or four people on the culture and future company vision. Once they have those three or four folks leaning in, have them spread the word to three or four additional people. In the book Hug Your People by Jack Mitchell, he suggests spreading the word throughout the organization via the five “I’s” Invite: gain participation from employees. Input: solicit and gather information, and seriously consider their thoughts. Include: have your leadership team and employees help make decisions. Involve: get their help with the implementation of the culture. Invest: once the first four “I’s” are completed, your team should feel invested in the business.
It usually takes about one to five percent of employees to be committed to driving the culture forward and spreading the word. Clarity is critical. Top teams and businesses have vision and mission statements along with key goals posted in high traffic areas. These don’t collect dust and are reviewed during monthly huddles with every member of the organization. These critical culture components must be tweaked and changed as you find new facts and realize new realities.
Spending the time to build a passionate group of culture champions will pay dividends for years to come, and help get the business working for you, instead of you working for the business.
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.
HOW TO MAKE SEAMLESS SEEM LESS OVERWHELMING As the mailing industry moves closer to the May 1 deadline for mailers with a Detached Mail Unit (DMU), as well as mailers who enter full-service mailings at a Business Entry Mail Unit (BMEU), to enroll in Seamless Acceptance, there has been an uptick in questions regarding the program and how mailers can avoid the errors that lead to costly assessments. It might be helpful to start at the beginning: what is Seamless Acceptance? Instead of traditional methods of verification, Seamless Acceptance “…leverages electronic documentation (eDoc) and IMbs on mailpieces required under full service.” Scans of the mailpieces are collected and reconciled to the mailer’s eDoc to confirm that the mail has been prepared properly, to verify discounts, and to confirm that postage has been paid. By utilizing Seamless Acceptance, the Post Office no longer needs to verify the mailing at time of acceptance. To spur adoption, the Postal Service has provided mailers with an incentive which currently sits at $.001 per piece. This discount can be combined with the full-service incentive, which is $.003 for USPS® Marketing Mail and First-Class Mail, and $.001 for Bound Printed Matter flats and Periodicals. However, to eliminate the time-consuming manual verification process,
the Post Office scans samples of mailings that were prepared using Seamless Acceptance. This is done to determine if any errors are present in the mailing and if those errors (which are measured over a calendar month) are determined to be over the stated thresholds. If, during the sampling process, the verification process crosses the established threshold, the mailer may be charged additional postage. One of the more common errors is for Undocumented Pieces, where the threshold is .3% of the mailing. Pieces are considered Undocumented when the IMb was scanned and cannot be found on the accompanying eDoc. When this happens, the Mailing Service Provider is liable for the missing postage — not the Mail Owner. Without proof that the correct postage was actually paid for the piece(s), the mailer has no recourse in the matter. So, how can mailers guard against Undocumented pieces? Improve Documentation First and foremost, it is crucial that processes around documentation are buttoned up. In the event of a claim that there were undocumented pieces in a mailing, the onus is on the mailer to prove otherwise. To that end, take the time to establish a documentation process that demonstrates your organization’s commitment to quality assur-
ance throughout your mailing process. Then, work with your local USPS office to approve your documentation so that, in the event there is an error, the process is already in place and known. You do not want to go through a month’s worth of mailing to find the pieces in question; if your documentation is accurate, you can more easily guard against potential error claims. Monitor Your Mailer Scorecard When it comes to Seamless Acceptance, the devil is in the details. The more you can get out in front of errors prior to them occurring, the better off your organization will be in the long run. By monitoring your Mailer Scorecard, you can observe the trends where you are exceeding the established thresholds. If there are places in your process where errors tend to reoccur, it is crucial to address them through improving your procedure or investing in additional technology. Leverage Your Existing Partners It is in the Post Office’s interest for mailers to be successful with Seamless Acceptance. Work with your local office to improve your organization’s process for tracking undocumented pieces, so if the time comes where you are found to be in error, you can lean on your previously established process. Remember, Seamless Acceptance is an automated process. To that end, consider where you may be able to automate your own processes and rely on your software provider where necessary. Reducing the need for manual intervention throughout your workflow can help eliminate the potential for error.
email@example.com 800.337.0442 bccsoftware.com
TIPS AND TRICKS TO MAKE YOUR MAIL PIECE STAND OUT By Rob Hanks
ail is a great way to engage customers and prospects, and it’s one of the most trusted communication vehicles out there. However, some mail pieces garner more attention from recipients than others, due to a variety of factors, and no mailer wants to be in the position of having their communications ignored. Let’s take a look at some ideas to make your mail piece stand out and grab the recipients’ attention. Use the Sense of Touch Adding to the feel of a piece is a great way to get the recipient to read your mail piece. Choose a paper stock that has some texture to enhance your design. Try a linen or fiber stock to give your piece a textured feel. If you’re looking for something opaque, try a Glama Natural envelope to allow your inserts to show through and entice your audience. Loop or felt stocks are also an option. Applying a coating to your mail piece is another way to use touch to your
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advantage. A textured or smooth dispersion varnish allows you to have a matte feel to portions of the mail piece while being able to put a high gloss coating on areas that you would like to highlight. The matte texture is ideal for clothing, buildings/landscaping, animals, or things people touch daily. Aqueous soft touch can add a smooth rich feel to a mail piece. This coating can be used as a flood or as a spot coating. Try placing the soft touch on the cover of a multi-page booklet and leave the inside pages uncoated to create a cost-effective mailer. Embossing or debossing your piece adds another way to engage the sense of touch. Combine it with foil stamping and your piece will stand out from the crowd. Embossing/debossing is commonly used on covers of books, high-end self-mailers, brochures, annual reports, and pocket folders. This can be a little more expensive and add to the production timeline. Using foil stamping can add color as well as a smooth touch to the piece. Gold and sil-
ver are the most common colors used, but other colors are available. Size Does Matter Using a non-standard size envelope will get your mail piece to stick out in a stack of mail and draw attention to it. The most common size envelope used is a #10. By using a #14 envelope, which is 5” x 11.5”, you are still within the letter rate of postage but have an additional 7/8” in height and 2” in length, plus that much more real estate to print on. You are using the back of the envelope to print your offer or a message, right? I mentioned this in a previous article for this publication (MailingSystemsTechnology.com/AvoidMailMistakes). If you are printing your envelope on a flat sheet and then converting, the additional costs are minimal. When printing a card or brochure, again use a non-standard size. The maximum size of a card is 6.125” x 11.5” and a folded self-mailer is 6” x 10.5”. If mailing to everyone in a specific area, try Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). For a
mail piece to qualify for EDDM, one dimension must be larger than a letter size mail piece. I suggest 6.25” in height as that is 1/8” larger than the maximum size of a card but still allows the same number of pieces out of a press sheet (verify with your printer). EDDM postage rates are very competitive at $0.192 per piece for EDDM Retail and down to $0.18 per piece for DSCF rates when using a mail service provider. Interactive Mail Interactive mail pieces engage the recipient, drawing them in and giving you an additional opportunity to get your marketing message read. Making your mail piece actionable is easier than you may think. Here are some examples:
Die cutting your mail piece can add dimension. Die cut an interesting shape that coincides with your offer, such as waves if you are marketing a resort at the beach, or the outline of an automobile if you are a dealership. Create a hole that allows the addressee to see a portion of your artwork inside of a self-mailer or brochure. Try using a Customized MarketMail
piece (CMM) in a unique shape. The USPS does have some very specific rules to follow for Customized MarketMail.
ple enjoy opening packages and seeing the contents. Use game pieces, plastic chips with your message, or a toy to get your message across. Many of the items in this article will qualify for USPS 2021 Mailing Promotions. These include the Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Engagement promo; the Emerging and Advanced Technology Promo; and, later this year, the Mobile Shopping promo. Here is a link to the USPS 2021 Mailing Promotions Calendar: https://postalpro. usps.com/mnt/glusterfs/2021-03/Final%20 Promotions%20Calendar.pdf to help get you started, or check out the fact sheet on page 27. Happy mailing!
Think Inside the Box One option that is not utilized as much as it should be is mailing out a package. Design a mail piece that can be mailed as a lightweight parcel. By designing a box that contains your offer, a thumb drive, or small item that pertains to your event, there is a larger chance that it will be opened. Peo-
Rob Hanks is an inside sales representative at Suttle-Straus and has more than 25 years of experience in direct mail. Rob is a Certified Direct Mail Professional and a Certified Mailpiece Design Professional though the United States Postal Service and serves as the Industry Co-Chairperson for the Greater Madison Area Postal Customer Council. Rob is also a member of the Postal Customer Council Advisory Committee. Rob enjoys the challenges of mail piece design within postal regulations and helping clients save on postage costs.
Repositionable notes are a great way to add action to a mail piece. The notes can be pre-printed with a static message or you can apply blank notes and inkjet a variable message. Place the name of the addressee along with a specific offer on the repositionable note and be sure to have a call to action someplace on the mail piece. Include QR Codes or Personalized URLs (PURLs) to take the addressee to your website to see a special offer specific to them. Be sure to have instructions stating to scan the QR Code.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
By Kemal Carr
EXPANDING CAPABILITIES IN HOSTED MANAGED SERVICES PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY
echnologies for implementing more advanced customer communications management (CCM) emerged over two decades ago and since then have expanded their capabilities through the development of more sophisticated automation. Over time, CCM platforms have become a comprehensive means of launching and sustaining personalized and interactive communication with customers. This is especially important today as the way a company communicates with its customers along the customer journey often defines the nature of the customer experience. While organizations utilizing CCM traditionally worked with in-house CCM technology and staff, various types of third-party services have developed to take on some or all functions of a company’s CCM operations. Termed hosted managed services (HMS), they are built on various and flexible business models and offer different service levels to fill in the gaps of an in-house operation and/ or to perform specific, often specialized CCM functions. Madison Advisors’ February 2021 study on CCM HMS is its third surveying this field, uncovering how the market has changed since its previous 2015 study, and focusing on the in-depth analysis of six successful organizations offering CCM HMS. Of these six, three
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are print service providers (PSPs) that have branched out from offering primarily print output to becoming increasingly involved in offering CCM HMS. A Closer Look For those companies considering CCM HMS, it is important to understand the seven critical components that need to be incorporated into a single fully integrated CCM platform. Summarized, these include: Data management and processing: the collection, aggregation, standardization, and storage of data in a standard data model from a variety of sources Content management: a centralized repository that stores all the components necessary for the document composition process Preference and customer profile management: the collection and management of customer profile information, delivery channel preferences, and customer consent for electronic interactions Composition: the process that combines data and variable content with document templates according to pre-determined business rules to create customer communications that are optimized for the delivery channel(s) Omnichannel delivery: delivering communications in the appropriate format to a variety of channels, including
2. 3. 4.
print, email, web portal, mobile, tablet, SMS, and social media Archive: a single repository to store all customer communications as delivered for future retrieval and delivery to support customer service requirements and regulatory requirements Dashboard reporting: a thin-client or browser-based user interface that provides business users full visibility into the entire communication workflow
CCM HMS provide a complete end-to-end solution and, similar to SaaS (software-as-aservice), is designed to deliver a better return on investment than an on-site installation because of the shift from a capital expenditure model (CapEx) to an operational expense model (OpEx). However, unlike SaaS, where a company that purchases the SaaS solution is responsible for its deployment and integration within its existing technological environment, in the HMS model, the client and provider are jointly responsible for the system’s implementation and utilization. Additionally, CCM HMS providers, in some cases, have tailored their offerings to serve specific industry segments, such as financial or insurance organizations. Trends to Be Aware of The entrance of PSPs into the CCM HMS marketplace has introduced a second cat-
egory of providers in this space. Many PSPs are experiencing a reduction in production volumes as their clients move from print to electronic communication channels and these PSPs are seeking additional revenue streams. The Madison Advisors study differentiates between those companies that focus wholly on HMS and the PSPs currently offering HMS. While both business models can be described broadly as CCM outsourcers or third-party providers, these companies come from different backgrounds with different perspectives and they offer a different range of services within the general framework of CCM HMS. For example, one key differentiator between the two is that the more traditional CCM HMS providers may not offer a print output option at all, though they will work with a client’s print provider or partner with a PSP of their own. On the other hand, PSPs generally bundle CCM HMS services with their printing capabilities and continue to emphasize print output. Madison Advisors asked how the study’s six participants address the customer experience (CX) issue and how the conversation with new and prospective clients has changed over the last three to
five years with respect to CCM and CX. The unique responses provided by each participating organization offer additional insight into how CCM and CX are being positioned to meet client requirements. Each company takes its own approach, but in every case, clients of a CCM HMS that offers customer journey mapping can expect to share much of their consumer data with the HMS provider and to develop complex enterprise-wide relationships due to the need to draw on information collected and managed by different internal departments. The study notes that once a client is committed to one or another CCM HMS, it can become complex to disengage and move to another provider.
many organizations already outsource their high-volume transactional print production, CCM HMS firms relieve clients of the need to invest in and maintain in-house CCM operations and allows them to focus on their core business. For those open to exploring the financial and business benefits of moving to a CCM HMS model, the information provided in the Madison Advisors study demonstrates how each of the traditional and emergent CCM HMS providers have built successful and often innovative businesses around a range of client demands. Their stories are instructive and can be inspiring for those open to the new opportunities in this field.
Key Takeaways to Note Madison Advisors found that CCM HMS is a field that is growing slower than expected, largely due to the reluctance of potential clients to share their internal customer data. However, as CCM platforms become more sophisticated and complex, outsourcing these operations to providers that have the specialized hardware, software, and staff to manage them efficiently has the potential to become an attractive option. Just as
Kemal Carr is president of Madison Advisors, an independent analyst and market research ﬁrm that addresses the needs of the electronic and print customer communications management marketplace. For more information, visit www. Madison-Advisors.com. To purchase the full report, “Customer Communications Management Hosted Managed Services Market Study, 3rd Edition,” visit the Madison Advisors website at https:// madison-advisors.com/product/customer-communications-management-hosted-managed-services-market-update-3rd-edition/.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
An Integral Factor in Improving Postage Costs and Customer Response Rates By Mark Rheaume
f all the elements we consider as we produce printed communications, the importance of the envelope is often overlooked and under-appreciated, but envelopes can have a significant impact on postage costs, payment processing, and customer response rate. How does something as old and foundational to the mailing process get overlooked and underutilized? Look no further than your mailbox. It happens all the time: Mail is delayed or, worse, rejected because the basic elements we all should know about envelopes are forgotten, mishandled, or simply not applied. Proper envelope design is essential to ensure that postage is optimized. The slightest increase in any dimension can move the piece from USPS “letter-sized” to “flat” and the postage costs skyrocket. To be specific, the piece inside may not require the envelope size used but the postage is charged on the size/dimension of the mailed piece, which the envelope dictates. For envelopes, the areas of consideration that I want to highlight fall into four areas explored below. Design Diving right in, design is a very important consideration. There are USPS regulations related to envelope design that most mailers discover are easy to find and follow. The USPS design requirements focus on getting the mail piece delivered through the USPS network. In process, the envelope
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could travel through several processes (manual and automated) before it is delivered. To achieve (timely) delivery, it must allow the processing equipment to efficiently operate, highlighting the need for barcode clear zones and other standardized elements necessary for high-volume mail processing. These requirements are not restrictive, per se, but can become so when they are not incorporated into the envelope design. They can literally stop the mail and cause it to be returned or mailed at retail postage rates. An investment in time reviewing your design with a USPS Mailpiece Design Analyst (MDA) is recommended. Here is a link to this valuable resource: https://postalpro.usps.com/ mailing/mailpiece-design-analyst-mda-customer-service-help-desk. Reply Envelope Type Although reply envelopes often look unassuming, unnecessarily plain, and are represented as utilitarian only, they are one of the most critical elements in a mail package. There are some simple things we all should know and consider about reply envelopes. The two most common “versions” we see in our industry are business reply (postage paid by business requesting payment) and courtesy reply (postage affixed by respondent). Both are effective but we must consider their purpose and our desired outcome to properly use each in an optimal manner. The USPS-compliant artwork needed for each is available to anyone via the same MDA link provided above. It
should also be noted that they do not have to be “plain” and can be designed to stand out in the envelope, inviting the recipient to send it in. By using colored stock or appropriate graphics, this can easily be achieved. The prepaid postage on business reply envelopes is generally used to incent timely response for a request for payment (bill pay). Yes, many people still mail in their payments! The tenet here is that the respondent will act more quickly if they do not have to pay for postage. It may seem old-fashioned and strange to some in the industry, but this idea has stood the test of time and is still effective today. The courtesy reply envelope has its own unique requirements but can be effective. In the recent past, when tested against each other, the BREs would win every test. This is no longer true. Now, BREs and CREs perform about the same when measured solely on response rates. There is an oddity related to this testing: When organizations that regularly use one type of return envelope (“Champion”), and then test the other type against it (“Challenger”), the Challenger does better. This points to the fact that people generally notice the change, which provides an uplift in response! Operational Stability All envelopes have a purpose. All are generally used in automated inserting environments and should meet the specifications of the equipment manufacturers to optimize productivity. These can be difficult for most people to understand and
are often not accounted for as capital equipment is acquired. Thankfully, there are great partners in the envelope industry. They have a great deal of experience with all types of equipment and can often recommend product that will ensure that there will be no disruption to the throughput of your operation. They know about glassine, high speed equipment processing (feeding technologies, etc.), OCR technologies, and USPS compliance and can help mitigate any issues with your mail as it is produced in your operation and when it gets to the USPS. They are waiting for us to engage and discuss issues with them to maintain and sometimes increase productivity. This gets more complex as we need to stabilize and manage envelopes for both the outgoing and incoming mail processes. I address the outgoing process in the previous paragraph. Many often overlook the processing of incoming mail associated with claims, payments, return mail, and other incoming business communications. We must ensure that the automated processes associated with managing this incoming mail stream are fully optimized and free of issues that slow down revenue recognition, cash recognition, or settlements associated with medical claims. Any
disruption in these processes can be catastrophic to an organization financially as well as very damaging to their reputation. Available/Valuable Space Finally, we should all take advantage of the space our envelopes provide for us to manage their appearance and reinforce branding. Our business units are always looking for space on the documents themselves, which can be difficult to find. We overlook the fact that the envelope is the first thing the recipient will see. A properly placed message, pleasant appearance, or well-placed brand reminder will help the document arrive inside the recipient’s home (ahh, success!). In my daily routine, this is called the “driveway sort.” I go to my mailbox every day and on my return to the house, the mail is sorted into two piles: Going into the house and going into the recycle bin. Often the decision is made for me by the appearance of the envelope. I know enough about mail to look at the postage and try to discern a few things about the contents but even for a “geek” like me, appearance makes a difference. If nothing else, it allows me to see things I think are creative and add them to my personal collection of pieces I use as
examples (both good and bad) during my presentations. In conclusion, the envelope is a valuable and powerful tool. It can be the difference between success and failure as you send printed communications for your business. The worst-case scenario is that the envelope is poorly done and cannot mail or cannot mail at presorted rates (financially, this can be disastrous). The best-case scenario is that you remember to engage the proper resources, do a great job, and the mail reaches the intended recipient to drive the behaviors/outcomes your organization desires; all at the preferred USPS rates that were budgeted. The great part is that the choice is yours and the resources needed for success are available and waiting to help you succeed. Mark Rheaume is a Services Engineer, Enterprise Services Sales Engineering, at Ricoh USA, Inc. He has over 35 years of industry experience developing, designing, and implementing solutions. Mark is and has been an active member in several postal industry associations as a board member, speaker, and writer. These associations include: MTAC, Idealliance, NPOA, PCC, MSMA, Mailcom, NPF, and Printing Industries of Minnesota. He can be contacted at Mark.Rheaume@ricoh-usa.com.
By Gary A. Seitz
DEVELOPING A DIRECT MAIL CAMPAIGN IN 2021, PART 2
n our article in the March/April issue (visit MailingSystemsTechnology.com/DirectMail2021 if you missed it), we provided an overview of the tools to a successful direct mail campaign in 2021. It starts with your own data. Demographics help you understand who your customer/donor is in order to find those best “look-alikes.” Make a compelling offer, be creative, and use advanced matchback techniques to measure your success. 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. Let’s explore how to do this to complement your direct mail. Real consumers do interesting things on their journey from the discovery phase to purchase. They float between channels. And, without the right tracking in place, you’ll never know who responded, where they responded, and which channels performed best. So, what is a mailer to do? How can you possibly track and analyze all that data? The answer is simple, but the execution is complex. You set up your campaign to effectively track your recipient’s behavior across multiple channels and you collect, distill, and analyze all the response data for real business intelligence and actionable insights for your next campaign. We’ve become accustomed to the idea of mixing mail and email, but there are now many more online options that can 22
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be directly tied to your mail, triggered by your mail list, and not dependent upon key word searches. That translates into a method to use a mailing list for targeted, online advertising. Start with Email Coupling your house list with email noticeably boosts your response rates. Capturing emails is a critical step in your marketing program. If you don’t have a tool to capture emails for your house list, service providers can help you append emails to your file — with matching rates typically ranging from 20% to 60%. In the past, marketers would enter the mailing, then blast an email a few days later, hoping delivery of both would coincide within a few days. Today, email platforms can “trigger” a personalized email based on the in-home delivery date using the USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode delivery scan data. Using your pre-defined business rules, each recipient can receive a tailored email the same or next day that their mail piece is delivered! When a prospect opens the email or clicks on the link, it can also trigger a follow-up email. Depending on your business rules, you can also send a reminder email days after delivery of the mail piece, or if the first email wasn’t opened. Of importance is that both the email and the link are trackable for accurate source attribution. Landing Pages Marketing campaigns including landing pages are more likely to create engaged leads. Using your mailing list, you can append IP addresses (more on this later), so that those visitors will see a personalized landing page, pre-populated with customized information, thereby increasing the odds for engagement. Utilizing email, online ads, or a printed piece with a pURL (personalized
URL), the obvious use of a landing page on your website is to capture sales leads, requests, or donations. When you add in the right tracking code to the page, you can capture the IP address, which will be matched back to a mailing address. Your landing page visitor will receive a postcard via the USPS. Responsive landing pages can be optimized to track IP addresses, mailing addresses, and even devices during engagement.
Perhaps the most effective way to maximize your direct mail response rates is to integrate your direct mail campaign with the power of digital marketing. Informed Delivery Informed Delivery (ID) is a USPS program that sends consumers images of the mail they will be receiving that day. Each morning, registered consumers receive an email from the USPS that provides a black and white image of each mail piece that is expected in their mailbox that day. The Postal Service allows mailers to replace the black and white image with a full-color image, and ads that link to a landing page. This gives marketers an additional “touch” with their prospects and customers, boosting response and providing a new response path through a clickable “ridealong” ad. Post-campaign summary reporting from USPS shares how many ID emails were delivered for the campaign, how many of them were opened, and how many ride-along ads were clicked. And the best part is — it’s all FREE from the US Postal Service. Get Digital Perhaps the most effective way to maximize your direct mail response rates is to integrate your direct mail campaign with the power of digital marketing. Eighty percent of sales are made between the eighth and twelfth contact. An easy way to quickly become memorable to your audience is by generating online impressions. There are dozens of ways to “get digital” with ads on Google and social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram. Your customer or prospect can receive the mailing, and can have digital ads delivered with the same message on their social feeds, even before they visit your website online or receive your direct mail piece. IP targeting is the process of targeting internet advertising to specific households based on their Internet Protocol address (which is the string of numbers assigned to your internet connection by your Internet Service Provider). Essentially, a postal address is linked to an IP address. Typically, an “IP append” will match 80%+ of a consumer list. With IP targeting, you can target one-to-one down to a specific household or business or include neighboring households. When you’re sending ads through IP targeting, you’re hitting every device connected to the identified network. Direct marketing tactics can now include mail, email, and online display advertising delivered directly to the homes you want to reach. Ask a professional mail services provider to help you plan your next campaign to include these powerful strategies. Gary A Seitz is the Vice President of CTRAC Direct, a MidWest Direct company, who provide print, mail, and digital marketing services to mailers. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
7 GREAT IDEAS FOR IMPROVING YOUR ENVELOPES Your customers and prospects take a moment to look at the day’s mail. Did your marketing information or customer communication stand out? Was it effective? If it didn’t get the attention of buyers and it didn’t get the impact you wanted, the answer may be simpler than you think. It could be right there when you first see and touch your mail… the envelope. If you want to know more, we have brought you 7 ideas that might be just what you have been needing. Take a few minutes to read through each of these innovative envelope solutions and then call or email them for more details.
EnvyPak Crystal-Clear Envelopes Does your current direct mail piece stand out from all those paper envelope look-alikes in your mailbox? Does it make the recipient want to open your envelope? If not, maybe your envelope is to blame. It’s time to try EnvyPak. We’re trusted and known in the mailing industry for our innovative clear polypropylene direct mail envelopes. Because our 100% polypropylene envelopes are completely clear, the contents can peek through and interact with content to spark the recipient’s curiosity. This interaction creates direct mail magic because it sparks curiosity and conversations — which drives results. Unlike our competitors, our clear poly envelopes aren’t ordinary plastic sleeves or bags. EnvyPak envelopes are constructed using sturdy 4.5 mil polypropylene that’s precisely engi-
neered and formatted. If you’re looking to save on postage, EnvyPak can help there, too. We are the only supplier of 100% clear polypropylene Automation Letter Rate Envelopes that are approved by the USPS to mail at a letter rate. This means that EnvyPak ALR envelopes can mail at the exact same postage as traditional paper envelopes. Postage is typically reduced over 50%. EnvyPak has helped create customer success stories using this envelope with big brands in the automotive, banking, IT and pharma industries. Ready to start your own direct mail success story? www.envypak.com firstname.lastname@example.org 877.835.3052
With over 30 years of experience in the mailing industry, Kao Collins offers pigment-based process (CMYK) ink formulations, 14 standard color dye-based formulations, and a variety of customized ink solutions for your specific application. We can also color match any Pantone Matching System (PMS) color. www.kaocollins.com email@example.com 513.948.9000
Any savvy marketer knows that full color printing on direct mail pieces attracts more attention and increase chances of a response. However, printers and mailers face many challenges on how to cost-effectively produce customer communications, particularly in short runs. Kirk-Rudy’s new FireJet 4c is an allin-one four color inkjet printing system that combines the heavy duty transport Kirk-Rudy is famous for, along with the quality and reliability the industry expects from Memjet technology. The FireJet 4C can print A3+ and A4 cut sheets in full color (CMYK) at 1600 x 1600 dpi and can print at speeds up to 150 feet per minute. The newly designed user-replaceable printhead has been engineered to provide a longer life — approximately 120 liters — and outstanding image quality across a broad range of porous, uncoated offset, inkjet-treated and inkjet-coated media.
Memjet’s new DuraFlex technology uses aqueous pigment inks that produce a high quality, durable image. The FireJet 4c is the profitable alternative to the smaller desktop, toner based digital color printers, as well as the high cost digital presses on the market today. This mid-volume work horse produces cost-effective, profitable mail pieces from day one. To learn how the FireJet 4c may be the solution for your digital color printing needs, visit our website, or contact a dealer near you.
The iJetColor Pro 1175P is Printware’s newest solution for short-run, full bleed, variable data high volume envelope production. The iJetColor Pro 1175P is powered by proven HP PageWide thermal inkjet technology (F1-1000) that incorporates an industrial printhead to deliver durable, water safe pigment ink. A proven industrial solution for high-volume print, packaging, and direct mailing operations, the iJetColor Pro 1175P delivers at near press speeds and provides the industry’s lowest variable costs per piece. Integrated into the iJetColor Pro is a proprietary vacuum conveyer system that provides over 10,000+ envelopes/hr with a rugged failproof feeding system designed for envelopes. With a flexible print width of 11.7” and printhead height of up to 2”, the iJetColor Pro 1175P can accommodate a variety of media sizes from coin, mail, stationery and larger packaging mailers. The industrial HP printhead is ultra-durable yielding millions of
images. The pigment-based ink is water, smudge, and light-safe for lasting, quality output and rich, optically dense blacks. The iJetColor Pro 1175P comes bundled to start profitably producing envelopes on Day 1. Includes: DFE RIP w/ ICC color profiles, built-in color profiles, PMS color matching, software + machine controls pre-loaded on included computer platform, need a new printhead we provide it next day as part of our service program, manufacturer direct installation + support w/ 24/7 access to the iJetColor technical support team, advanced training w/ iJetColor Wizard, and non- wearable parts warranty.
www.kirkrudy.com firstname.lastname@example.org 770.427.4203
One of the many things that Quadient is known for is our exceptional inkjet solutions. We have a vast line of digital inkjet printers so finding one to fit a specific application is quite effortless. Whether it is a simple short run job or a large production-sized run, we have the hardware to get the job done. We provide solutions for the typical monochrome address printing needs, such as return address and mailing address printing, as well as Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) printing. We also have a line of full color digital inkjet printers that are ideal for graphics and variable data and can even go beyond the envelope and print on material for the packaging market. Quadient’s full color digital inkjet printers utilize Memjet® technology, which can produce brilliant images at high speeds and impressive quality, making it easy to create an eye-catching envelope that your customers will want to open to see what’s inside. Clear the warehouse clutter and only print when and what you need with Quadient’s full color digital inkjet printers. These workhorse machines are built to last. From small family-owned print shops to large corporations, we have the experts that can determine which of our printers will best suit the needs of the customer. www.quadient.com email@example.com 888.444.7362
Think Ink now offers envelopes for process color inkjet printing. These envelopes are a step above standard commodity work envelopes. They are recommended for high-quality and premium-quality print jobs. They are produced by specifying additives during the paper milling process, which reduce dot gain and migration of ink. The result leads to greater color saturation — without the need for a more expensive inkjet top-coating. While premium inkjet coatings are still available, Think Ink knows that many mail manufacturers require a consistent look and feel with enhanced appearance, yet at a cost that is attractive. Think Ink also offers ICC profiling to maximize the effectiveness of
our customer’s inkjet printer when using our envelopes. Think Ink offers ICC profiles which can be loaded to certain color inkjet printers — and help to optimize the ability of the printer to reproduce colors properly for the envelope stock. This profiling can also help increase consistency between different devices. thinkink.com 301.963.7481 Lisa.firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTACT INFO EnvyPak www.envypak.com email@example.com 877.835.3052
Kao Collins www.kaocollins.com firstname.lastname@example.org 513.948.9000
Kirk-Rudy www.kirkrudy.com email@example.com 770.427.4203
Winkler+Dünnebier (or W+D), with more than 108 years of industry-shaping innovations, offers a wide range of highly efficient, integrated system solutions for the envelope and mail industry. W+D North America Inc., located in Lenexa, Kansas, is the main North American headquarters facility for spare parts, technical services, sales and administrative support for W+D’s complete line of envelope converting, printing and mail inserting. In 2016, W+D became an American owned company when it became part of the $3 billion Barry-Wehmiller group of companies with unmatched resources to serve the largest mail market in the world. The power of the envelope is real in the world of direct mail. No longer is high print quality 1:1 direct mail only relegated to a postcard or self-mailers. W+D now takes the proven effectiveness of the envelope to a new level for the new data driven direct mail markets with cutting edge products like: } New higher quality 4 color inkjet overprinting products for front of line and end of line inserting.
} The fastest and highest quality 4 color
inkjet envelope and flat sheet overprint press capable of reach speeds of 36,00 env/hr. at 1600x1375 dpi. } The first solution to convert digital web or cut sheet print from mailers’ existing presses into 1:1 personalized printed envelopes with engaging haptic finishing, windows, shapes folds and foiling. } New Innovative “true envelope wrapping” systems to offer the fastest time to mailbox for digital preprint. } The most intelligent direct mail and vote by mail inserter systems on the market which commanded an 85% market share of the for-profit ballot printers in the 2020 US general election. wdnorthamerica.com firstname.lastname@example.org 913.227.3001
iJetColor by Printware www.ijetcolor.com email@example.com
Quadient www.quadient.com firstname.lastname@example.org 888.444.7362
Think Ink thinkink.com 301.963.7481 Lisa.email@example.com
W+D North America Inc. wdnorthamerica.com firstname.lastname@example.org 913.227.3001
2021 POSTAL PROMOTIONS FACT SHEET For the past few years, the United States Postal Service has been offering mailers a two percent discount on postage if they take advantage of certain promotions. While the registration period has already begun for some of these promotions (and has ended for the Earned Value Promotion), there is still time to sign up for many of these, as they run through at least the summer (and some through the end of the year). More information, including educational webinars, can be found on https://postalpro.usps.com/promotions, but below is a quick recap of what these promotions entail.
Tactile, Sensory & Interactive Promotion
Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion
Registration Period: December 15, 2020 – July 31, 2021
Registration Period: January 15, 2021 – August 31, 2021
Promotion Period: February 1, 2021 – July 31, 2021
Promotion Period: March 1, 2021 – August 31, 2021
Eligible Mail: USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats; Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats
Eligible Mail: First-Class Mail letters, cards, and flats; USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats; Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats
The Basics: This promotion encourages marketers to incorporate innovative techniques (through specialty inks, specialty paper, and/or interactive elements) on their mail pieces in order to drive their customer engagement.
Registration Period: February 15, 2021 – March 31, 2021 Promotion Period: April 1, 2021 – June 30, 2021 Eligible Mail: Business Reply Letter Mail; Courtesy Reply Letter Mail; and Share Mail The Basics: This promotion is designed to stem the decline of First-Class Mail. Mailers who register their Mailer ID (MID), permit(s), and use Intelligent Mail barcodes on their eligible pieces may receive a postage credit for each mail piece that is put into the mailstream by the recipient.
Mobile Shopping Promotion
Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion
Informed Delivery Promotion
Registration Period: June 15, 2021 – December 31, 2021
Registration Period: May 15, 2021 – December 31, 2021
Registration Period: July 15, 2021 – November 30, 2021
Promotion Period: August 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021
Promotion Period: July 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021
Promotion Period: September 1, 2021 – November 30, 2021
Eligible Mail: USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats; Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats
Eligible Mail: First-Class Mail presort and automation letters
Eligible Mail: First-Class Mail automation letters, postcards, and flats; USPS Marketing Mail automation letters and flats; Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail automation letters and flats
The Basics: Each mail piece must include mobile technology that can be activated by a mobile device and leads the recipient to a mobile-optimized shopping website with the ability to purchase from said website.
The Basics: With this promotion, mailers are encouraged to incorporate technologies like Near Field Communication (NFC), “Enhanced” Augmented Reality, Video in Print (ViP), Virtual Reality, Digital to Direct Mail, and Mixed Reality and Integration with Voice Assistants in order to bridge the gap between digital marketing and physical direct mail pieces.
Earned Value Promotion
MAY-JUNE 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
The Basics: Eligible pieces must include a full-color marketing message (such as reward program information, renewal offers/incentives, etc.) in two or more colors, not including black, white, or grayscale.
The Basics: Mailers receive the two percent discount if they register for this promotion and create an Informed Delivery interactive campaign for qualifying mail pieces.
THE USPS 10-YEAR PLAN: ANALYZING THE DETAILS By Leo Raymond
here was a commercial for Toyota that aired several years ago that had the tag line, “You asked for it, you got it.” In this case, given that the Postal Service finally issued its 10-year plan on March 23, the agency can say, “You asked for a plan, you got a plan.” Congress and the mailing community have been waiting for years for it; now we can all see whether the result has been worth the wait. It was noteworthy how much of a production attended the release of “The Plan,” as I’ll call it. The document itself was a slick, full-color publication, with plenty of charts and graphs, accompanied by a simple two-page summary, and announced not only though the usual press release but on a professional-looking live presentation. The chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, the Postmaster General, and a succession of executive VPs all were on camera, reading from carefully worded scripts while coordinated slides were displayed to convey the points of The Plan.
MAY-JUNE 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
Those who watched the press conference and others who read the materials knew the sales pitch was under way. Anyone or anything from the USPS who would thereafter speak about The Plan would be talking from the official sales sheet. The Premise Though the authorship of The Plan is unattributed, persons who’ve heard PMG Louis DeJoy comment on the USPS will hear him in the proposal — in its perspective on what’s wrong with the agency and why, in what to do to fix it, and in how his vision reflects his own professional background. DeJoy has inferred in the past that the situation he inherited upon becoming PMG was the result of his predecessors’ failures to act decisively, to have a vision and implement it, to insist on operational precision (his favorite word), or to force the difficult choices his Plan has advanced. Whoever they may be, the authors of The Plan suffer no lack of conviction about the accuracy of their assessment of the situation or the virtuous efficacy of what they propose.
Every postmaster general in the past two decades has been a career postal employee, individuals whose understanding of the agency’s flaws and areas needing improvement, and whose desire to effect positive change, were tempered by their experiences in trying to implement change. DeJoy has yet to have the enlightening experience of having a carefully developed plan derailed by Congress or, by proxy, by the postal unions. In presenting The Plan, and arguing it has to be implemented in totality if its predicted benefits are to be realized, DeJoy clearly assumes that the accuracy of its premises and the wisdom of its proposals are so manifestly compelling as to overcome the self-interest of everyone and anyone who could resist its adoption. Likely, a dose of reality lies ahead. The Plan also reflects an origin among like-minded people confident that their insular perspective is both accurate and the source of all necessary knowledge; absent from the process were meaningful contributions by outside stakeholders. The negative reactions to The Plan that are percolating outside USPS HQ are testament to what happens when a circle of predisposed authors drafts a complex document impacting many parties who aren’t present, and from whom they sought no advice. As a result, opportunities were missed that would have allowed stakeholders to raise and resolve issues they’re now bringing forward as criticism. Big Money The Plan looks at four sources to offset the estimated $160 billion it claims the USPS will lose over the next decade if the status quo is allowed to continue. Of that, $58 billion is to result from favorable action by Congress. In that regard, The Plan repeats what past PMGs have said are essential to any strategy to put the USPS back on stable footing — Medicare integration and elimination of the pre-funding obligation being at the top of that list. The problem — that past PMGs have faced and that The Plan will encounter soon enough — is that both of those require Congressional action and, accordingly, will be evaluated and acted upon (or not) based on considerations having nothing to do with their merit or potential benefit to the Postal Service. For example, if postal employee and retiree health plans are fully integrated into Medicare, that would be good for the USPS perhaps, but what about the consequences that would have on the Medicare fund, or on the health care premiums of other federal workers? The same would be true of the prefunding payments. In the mind of budget hawks and others who would label waiving the prefunding mandate as a “bailout,” officially dismissing the debt could be a step they’d be unwilling to take. Therefore, no matter how much some in Congress may say supportive things about Medicare integration and ending prefunding, the PMG should not take either element of The Plan as a given until the president signs the necessary legislation. Service To generate some of the $34 billion in “self-help management initiatives,” The Plan proposes to establish revised service standards for First-Class Mail and time-sensitive Periodicals, moving some of what is now two-day service to a three-day standard, and stretching the remainder to a four-, five-, or six-day standard. Doing so would allow the USPS to move more long-haul mail less expensively by truck rather than by air, while enabling achievement of the revised standards.
DeJoy notes the cost of moving mail by plane, the many handoffs in that process, and the unreliability of air carriers. During the worst of the pandemic last year, when airlines parked 70% of the planes, mail that required air transportation missed standards when lift wasn’t available, undoubtedly furthering DeJoy’s distrust of that mode for moving mail. Putting more mail on the ground would slow its movement so, naturally, he concluded that service standards have to be changed. However, adjusting service standards can hardly be presented as the solution for chronic shortfalls against established service standards, for poor service for classes of mail that already move by ground, or for the performance of some facilities reliably at the bottom of service scores every quarter. Changing service standards to more “achievable” levels is like lowering the passing grade for students who otherwise fail. Moreover, it’s unclear how lowering service standards for some mail, and adopting what should be normal quality performance practices, will generally improve service. And here’s an alternative to changing standards that should be considered: make the system work to achieve the ones already in place. If DeJoy sees poor performance and execution in his network, why doesn’t he fix those systemic problems before easing the service goals they’re supposed to support? Until that internal problem is remedied, service won’t improve no matter what service standards are established. Prices and Costs The industry’s opposition to raising prices beyond the CPI cap is well documented, as are the arguments it offers about lost mail MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2021
volume and, in turn, decreased revenue. The industry also notes the inappropriateness of asking ratepayers to pay more at the same time as decreases in service are being proposed, not to mention while the memory of the last few months’ service debacle is still fresh in their minds. Yet still, in The Plan, the USPS remains in thrall of raising prices based on the new authorities granted by the PRC last year. Despite saying it will be “judicious and prudent” in exercising its authorities, the Postal Service has set a goal of $44 billion in revenue through actions before the PRC, e.g., price changes. Given that the current annualized CPI cap is just over one percent, it’s clear that the USPS will have to use its new, over-CPI authority if it’s to reach its revenue goal. Of course, the role of higher rates in The Plan harkens back to negotiations over what would be included in potential postal reform legislation. In those discussions, all stakeholders are supposed to put “skin in the game,” i.e., each agreeing to sacrifices to reach a consensus. Usually, the stakeholders are the Postal Service, postal labor, ratepayers (the mailing industry), and the public (allegedly represented by Congress). Under The Plan, Congress would grant $58 billion in relief to the USPS, and ratepayers would kick in another $44 billion. The USPS would also generate its own $58 billion through “self-help initiatives,” such as streamlining processing, reducing service standards, and growing parcel volume. What’s conspicuously missing is the contribution — the skin in the game — from postal labor, even though salaries and benefits represent the majority of USPS costs (63.6%: $52.4 billion out of $82.4 billion total expenses, in FY 2020, excluding costs for health and retirement plan obligations). The Plan makes no mention of reducing those costs. At the same time, contracts negotiated during the Postal Service’s financial crisis repeatedly have perpetuated pay raises and cost-of-living increases, expansion of pay grades, and the continuation of “no-layoff” clauses. It would seem reasonable to expect that, had DeJoy been taking measures to turn around any other financially struggling business, he would have quickly looked at pay and benefits as a source of cost savings but, regarding The Plan, he’s said he’d rather improve productivity before “getting into workers’ pockets.” Regardless, that The Plan includes nothing representing postal labor’s “skin in the game” is an egregious flaw. The Infrastructure Back in 2012, the current First-Class service standards were implemented as part of the Postal Service’s “network rationalization” process under which about half of its processing facilities — ostensibly in place only to support overnight service commitments — could be consolidated or closed. While there was uproar over the change in service standards, there was more over the impact of facility closures on the postal workforce, particularly clerk craft employees who staffed the operations of the affected facilities. In turn, this led to the involvement of politicians and, predictably, to the termination of the rationalization program before all the candidate facilities were closed. In The Plan, as part of internal cost reduction efforts, the effort begun in 2012 will be reopened. Hold that thought. Elsewhere, The Plan says the USPS will “evaluate and consolidate low-traffic stations and branches of city Post Offices into nearby full-service retail Post Offices.” Missing from this component of The Plan is any mention of low-traffic post offices, 30
MAY-JUNE 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
including contract facilities, and any potential adjustment to their operations — or their consolidation or closure — even though that, too, would reduce cost and make providing retail service more efficient. Even with the limited attention The Plan gives to stations and branches, The Plan’s authors present the topic without having experienced trying to close a postal facility. Whether, as discussed above, the target is a processing facility or simply a rural post office, opposition to any closure is typically fierce and persistent, commonly spearheaded by the postal clerks union and supported by its Congressional allies. Politicians like to urge the USPS to become more efficient but lack the commitment to put any “skin in the game.” Packages Perhaps the most brash — not bold — element of The Plan, one that pervades most of its underlying thinking, is that the future of the Postal Service is in packages. Looking at the windfall volume and revenue it’s received as the pandemic changed shopping habits, it’s understandable why the agency wants to tie its future so closely to that product line. However, banking on packages to be the key to the agency’s future is like planning your life around the affections of a fickle lover. Unlike the market-dominant classes held captive by the postal monopoly, packages are a competitive product, and the USPS is far from being the preferred alternative to UPS or FedEx. Moreover, given its recent record of service, The Plan looks all the more starry-eyed when it talks about building package volume. Planning for more packages in the future mail mix is reasonable, but putting so much reliance on them as The Plan does seems like counting chickens before the eggs are even laid. Conclusions Despite the glitzy debut it was given, The Plan is far from groundbreaking and, moreover, its future is far from certain. Despite its enthusiasm to get it, Congress is far from reliable when it comes to taking action. The Plan puts too much weight on the willingness of ratepayers to generate $44 billion while avoiding making politically-risky demands of other stakeholders, and much of the rest of The Plan rests on a web of optimistic, if not, overconfident assumptions about the reception and disposition of its proposals. Largely unquestioned so far is The Plan’s assumed need to overcome a $160 billion shortfall over the next decade, an amount that’s the product of projections and estimates and assumes nothing to avoid it will be done. What happens if those assumptions are wrong? For example, nearing half way through this fiscal year, the USPS is about breaking even; will it really lose $16 billion over the second half? Putting up a big scary number may be a strategy to get co-operation from Congress on legislative matters, but why ask for $44 billion from ratepayers when there’s no guarantee that much is really needed? And what happens if the shortfall is really $200 billion, or only $50 billion? Is there a scheduled time to adjust the estimates and, accordingly, The Plan? We wanted a plan; we asked for it, we got it. The question now is where things go from here. Leo Raymond is Owner and Managing Director at Mailers Hub LLC. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Mailing Systems Technology May/June 2021