Mailing Systems Technology November/December 2021

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DEPARTMENTS 05 Editor's Note

Uncertainty as We Head into 2022 By Amanda Armendariz

06 Real-Life Management Are You Up for the Leadership Challenge? By Wes Friesen


08 Inkjet Info


Data and the Consumer Persona By Karen Kimerer

10 The Trenches

What Can Document Re-Engineering Software Do for the Mail Center?

By Mike Porter

11 Strategy and Culture Connection

Delivering on Your Merger & Acquisition Strategy


By Bruce Gresham

12 Our Annual Wage & Operations Survey: Part Two By Amanda Armendariz

16 Could Millennials Be the Ones Who Save Mail?

A look at this important demographic and their mail habits. By Ashley Leone

18 How to Plan for Slower Mail

While lagging delivery times are not what any mailer wants, they seem to be inevitable, at least for the near future.

By Adam Lewenberg

20 The Proposed Postal Reform Legislation and What It Means for the Industry Industry experts Jeff Peoples and Steve Lopez share an excerpt from their recent Q&A interview.



24 Does the C-Level Understand the Importance of Mail?

Now, more than ever, it’s critical to educate the higherups on how mail can help achieve your organization’s goals.

2022 EVENT CALENDAR Inkjet Summit April 11-13, 2022 Austin, TX

By Mark Rheaume

26 IMI Means Big Changes on the Horizon for Business Mailers By Alain Fairise

28 The State of Direct Mail Marketing and Predictions for 2022 By Jill Corcoran

National Postal Forum May 15-18, 2022 Phoenix, AZ PRINTING United October 19-21, 2022 Las Vegas, NV

EDITOR’S NOTE VOLUME 34, ISSUE 6 MAGAZINE STAFF President Chad Griepentrog Publisher Ken Waddell Editor Amanda Armendariz Contributing Writers Jill Corcoran, Alain Fairise, Wes Friesen, Bruce Gresham, Karen Kimerer, Ashley Leone, Adam Lewenberg, Steve Lopez, Jeff Peoples, Mike Porter, Mark Rheaume Audience Development Manager Rachel Chapman Advertising Ken Waddell 608.235.2212


Design Kelli Cooke

MadMen3 PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098 Tel: 608.241.8777 Fax: 608.241.8666 Email:

SUBSCIRBE Subscribe online at Subscriptions are free to qualified recipients: $20 per year to all others in the United States. Subscription rate for Canada or Mexico is $40 per year, and for elsewhere outside of the United States is $45. Back issue rate is $5. SEND SUBSCRIPTIONS TO: Mailing Systems Technology, PO Box 259098, Madison WI 53725-9098 Call 608.241.8777 Fax 608.241.8666 E-mail Online at REPRINT SALES ReprintPro 949.702.5390 All material in this magazine is copyrighted ©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 6] 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


he USPS recently released its FY 2021 results, and there were certainly some high points to note. The Postal Service reported a net loss of $4.9 billion for 2021, compared to a net loss of $9.2 billion for 2020 (based on US generally accepted accounting principles). The organization’s 2021 operating revenue was $77 billion, an increase of $3.9 billion (5.3%) compared to 2020. During this time, the USPS reported its strongest service performance for all mail categories since the previous year. Not surprisingly, the e-commerce boom associated with the pandemic and the holiday rush led to a revenue increase of $3.5 billion (or 12.2%) for the shipping and packages division, showcasing a volume growth of 253 million pieces (3.5%). Even though this surge has started to dwindle, volumes still remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, Marketing Mail revenue increased $681 million (4.9%) with a growth in volume of approximately 2.2 billion pieces. This is especially encouraging given that Marketing Mail experienced a significant decline in volume at the start of the pandemic. However, while this segment is rebounding, volume still has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and some of this increase in volume can be attributed to political and election mail during the 2020 election season. Unfortunately, First-Class Mail did not fare as well, with a decrease in revenue of $500

million (2.1%), with 1.9 billion fewer pieces entering the mail stream. But even with these (mostly) positive results, there is still a sense of uncertainty that plagues the industry. Especially now, as we head into the busiest time of the year, there is a lot of talk about service standards, delivery times, and the rising costs associated with sending out mail pieces. Our survey results on page 12 provide insight into what some of our readers are thinking about industry events and happenings, and most of them aren’t ideal. Many respondents worry that the USPS 10-year plan for financial stability will actually lead to decreased mail times and increased costs; “timely delivery” was actually listed as our respondents’ number-one complaint about the USPS. It will be interesting to see what our respondents report in next year’s survey; hopefully the outlook will be a little brighter! As you head into the last month of 2021 and into the beginning of 2022, we at Mailing Systems Technology will be here as your partner as you navigate changing industry standards to make your mail operation as profitable and successful as it can be. As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology. | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021





love leadership because when done well, it can truly make the world a better place. As I write this, I am in the midst of teaching a university course on leadership. The primary book we are using is a superb primer on leadership entitled, The Leadership Challenge, and it is based on over 30 years of research by James Kouzes and Barry Posner from Santa Clara University. Their study of what practices the best leaders do has included input from over one million people! The Leadership Challenge is about leaders mobilizing others to want to achieve extraordinary things in an organization. I say, let’s rise up to the leadership challenge and help make positive differences in the workplaces and the world we engage in! Kouzes and Posner have identified five key practices (what they call “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership”) that, when done consistently, will lead to great results — for the leader and her team members, and the stakeholders that the team serves. In fact, the leaders that consistently perform the five practices have 95.8% of their direct reports that are highly engaged, compared to only 4.2% of direct reports that are highly engaged when their leaders only use the five practices occasionally. Using these five practices can increase high engagement 23 times compared to not using regularly! My experiences, as well as the experiences of my students and other managers, are certainly in line with these statistics. 6


Before looking at these five important practices, let’s discuss the four most desired characteristics that people look for in their leaders. Keep in mind John Maxwell’s statement that, “People buy into the leaders before they buy into the vision.” After 30 years of research and after a million-plus surveys, these four characteristics consistently rise to the top of what people desire:  Honest (aka integrity, authenticity). First and foremost, people want a leader who is honest, authentic, and acts with integrity.  Competent. People want a leader who has a track record and ability to get things done.  Inspiring. People desire a leader who is enthusiastic, passionate, and positive about future possibilities.  Forward-looking. People expect leaders to have a sense of direction and concern for the future. Leaders must know where they are going if they want others to join them on the journey. Kouzes and Posner suggest that credibility is the foundation of leadership, and I agree! I teach the 3 Cs approach to being a successful leader: Character, Competence, and Chemistry. The four characteristics above speak to character; the five practices below speak to leadership competence, and chemistry involves pursuing positive relationships and leading with love. Leaders inspire and mobilize others to want to act because of the credibility we have.

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership Model the Way. The starting place for modeling the way is for us to clarify our own key values and leadership philosophy. I aspire to be a servant leader, which, in a nutshell, emphasizes that leaders are here to serve others, and not have the traditional perspective that others are here to serve us. Along with clarifying our personal values, we need to identify and affirm shared values within our team(s). Once values are clarified, the next key commitment we need is to set a positive example. This includes consistently following the identified values, and when we occasionally fall short, being humble and transparent and admitting our shortcomings. Remember, people desire honest, authentic leaders who lead and act with integrity. Inspire a Shared Vision. To be an exemplary leader that inspires people, we must be able to imagine a positive future. The best leaders are forward-looking and envision a future that excites people and motivates them to want to pursue it. But the vision of a better future can’t belong only to the leader — it must be owned and shared by the team members. As leaders, we must develop and inspire a shared vision. Ken Blanchard counseled, “The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision.” To develop a shared vision, we must listen carefully to what people have to say and how they feel. When we involve people in developing a future vision and related goals, we get two main benefits: 1) buy-in (sense of ownership) and 2) a higher quality product compared to us as leaders developing a vision and goals in a vacuum. When promoting the vision, we need to not only appeal to people’s “heads,” we also need to appeal to people’s “hearts” (emotions). Explaining how the vision benefits others is one way to appeal to hearts and build more enthusiasm among our team members. Challenge the Process. We need to look for opportunities to make positive changes to improve our processes and better serve our stakeholders. Many of the best ideas to make improvements can come from our front-line team members that are doing the bulk of the work. How do we get these ideas? Ask them. We also should be looking for ideas outside our organization. We have multiple sources we can utilize: trade journals

(like this one!), professional organizations like PCCs and MSMA, conferences like National Postal Forum and MAILCOM, and books (like Your Team Can Soar! Sorry for the shameless plug!). We also need to experiment and take risks. My philosophy is to “be reasonably leading edge, but not bleeding edge.” Another tip: generate small wins and celebrate them when they come. Small improvements that are recognized can build momentum and lead to bigger successes down the road. Enable Others to Act. Great success is never achieved through the actions of a single person. Achieving greatness requires a team effort. We need to foster a culture of collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships. Remember the saying, “there is no I in team!” Or, as Andrew Carnegie stated, “No man will be a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” We can build trust by extending trust to others, showing concern for people, sharing knowledge and information, being honest, and doing what we say we will do. We can build better relationships by practicing the Golden Rule (treating others

positively like we appreciate) and practicing the 3 Rs (Recognize people for who they are and the value they bring; Reward people in ways they appreciate; and show Respect). We also need to strengthen others by providing helpful training and development opportunities, and by positive coaching that builds competence and confidence. Encourage the Heart. Genuine acts of caring draw people forward. People want to feel valued and esteemed by their leaders. I agree with Sam Walton’s statement, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” One way to help people feel valued is to recognize their contributions. And to make recognition valued, we should personalize it whenever possible, and be specific, timely, and sincere. A common complaint about recognition is that it’s often mundane, impersonal, and not sincere. Let’s avoid falling into that trap! People also want to feel they are part of a winning team, so let’s make sure we take time to celebrate the victories and accomplishments along the way.

The closing statement by Kouzes and Posner really resonates with me: “The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations provide, and with those who honor the organization by using its products and services.”  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 team building 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 or (under Book) or an online retailer. Wes can be contacted at or at 971.806.0812. | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021





e all have our favorite customers, and the ability to replicate them is the golden ticket to business success. For that to be a possibility, you must develop a deep understanding of your customers’ needs and how you plan to address them. Without this information, marketing dollars, solution development, and service offerings will suffer a hit or completely miss the mark. Evaluating your current customers based on demographics, company size, and industry type is a good place to start, but the findings are often shallow in terms of insight. For this very reason, the practice of developing customer personas is growing in popularity. According to the Marketing Insider Group, 93% of companies that exceed lead and revenue goals segment their databases by buyer persona. A persona identifies the personality and character of your ideal customer. It is built around a fictional person and will include basic customer data like business type, job title, and company revenue or income. Even so, it goes beyond the categories we use for market segmentation. A persona gets into what drives a customer’s



motivations, needs, and expectations. It provides the opportunity to paint the perfect picture of where these customers live, what they do in their spare time, and how they engage with their favorite brands. It captures what is important to them in terms of their initiatives, beliefs, and who they trust. Imagine the possibilities that could be uncovered if you shaped your marketing messages with this information! This article explores what a customer persona is, why it is important to business development, and how data plays a key role. Don’t Miss the Mark! It can be difficult to determine how best to approach your audience with simple data. For example, messaging your prospect based on age, gender, or income might miss the mark in several areas. Not all female Gen Xers with similar annual incomes have the same passions or priorities. In fact, in the early years of variable data and personalized print, attempts to “fit” consumers into a rigid demographic bucket ultimately failed and did more harm than good. The customers of today can be quite different from the customers of just

two years ago. A recent study from Accenture reveals that half of consumer respondents agreed that the pandemic caused them to rethink their personal purposes and re-evaluate what’s important to them in life. As a result, modern consumers will quickly abandon brands that don’t support their everchanging values — and will spend more money on those that do. This implies that marketers and sales organizations have much to lose if they continue with traditional methods when attempting to capture and retain customers. Businesses that neglect the process of establishing customer personas run the risk of diluting their business development efforts with apathetic prospects and customers. Discover Your Data Creating a customer persona is important, but it doesn’t need to be complicated! In fact, it’s likely that much of the information you need is readily available. A customer persona is nothing more than a fictional representation of your ideal customer based on what you already know about your current customers. If you’re not sure where to begin, consider the quantitative data you collect from surveys, market research, and existing databases of current and former customers’ information. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems house valuable information like job title, education, and organizational structure. Naturally, basic demographics like gender, age, and annual income are important as well — combined with communication preferences, how they consume social media, and where they obtain the information they need to do their jobs. Qualitative data gleaned from one-onone interviews and conversations can further shape your data records. Details like individual goals, hobbies, interests, and social behaviors can all add value and flavor to your customer persona. A big part of a customer persona involves identifying the challenges your ideal customers face as well as any objections they might have to your products and services. Well-designed customer personas have structure. Due to the variety of data

that is available to today’s businesses, it’s a good idea to define the information you want to gather, then develop a template to follow. Many marketers find it helpful to create a persona for each market niche that they serve. Regardless of how many personas you establish, the goal is to ensure that your offerings align with each fictitious personality. Putting Your Persona to Work Customer personas help businesses engage with their desired audience in a meaningful way. They enable you to speak their language so you can share stories that mirror their interests and become a brand that they want to do business with. Ultimately, well-defined personas lend strategy to developing content that will drive customer engagement. For that reason, your entire organization must be clear on the personas that you took the time to create. In fact, it’s not unusual to give each persona an individual name. For example, everyone in your organization could learn that “Riley the Researcher” will always conduct an intensive amount of research before making his decision. Meanwhile, “Marilyn the Mobile Maven” might want to do as much business as possible from her mobile device. Basically,

these personas become your customer archetypes. When you talk about them like they’re real people, everyone in your firm can take part in creating and delivering a customer experience that individuals fitting that persona are most likely to appreciate.

king — but it can’t stand on its own! Your customer data must be shaped to reveal a precise understanding of the people and markets you want to serve. Today’s customers will seek out opportunities to do business with brands that reflect their personal values. Make the commitment to define your ideal customer types, then update your content to mirror their interests. If you aren’t sure how to get started, there are many persona examples and templates online that can help you. It’s time to make your data smarter! 

It can be difficult to determine how best to approach your audience with simple data. For example, messaging your prospect based on age, gender, or income might miss the mark in several areas. The Bottom Line No one wants to be overtly sold to, so sales and marketing organizations of all types and sizes are tasked with finding better and more effective ways to engage their audience members. When it comes to developing a growth strategy, data is

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. | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021





hen I was working in the service bureau business early in my career, I had no software that allowed me to rearrange text on documents or make other adjustments to print-image files. Such programs did not exist, but we sure could have used them. Like many print/mail service providers today, our service bureau had no access to the raw data many of our customers used to compose their documents. Often, even the customers lacked influence over how their documents were formatted. Several of our customers used packaged software that gave them little control over their transactional documents. They wanted to make changes to their printed documents, but they couldn’t do it. If we could have supplied that service to them, they would have gladly paid us a premium beyond our customary charges for printing, inserting, and mailing. The reformatting service would also have aided in customer retention. Today, of course, print/mail service providers can choose document re-engineering tools from several software companies. Some companies will even set up the conversions for you as a professional services engagement. If your organization processes pre-composed documents, investments in document re-engineering may be worthwhile — for many of the same reasons present decades ago, plus some new ones.

What Document Re-Engineering Can Do As I mentioned, changing the layout of 10


printed pages to satisfy the desires of the customers can be a revenue stream. Beyond cosmetic changes, document re-engineering software can also help your internal or external customers save money or improve the experience of their customers. You might add text, for example, that answers common questions customers have when they call customer service. You could colorize text to make it stand out or add graphics that communicate information more effectively. Operationally, document re-engineering software can be the step that makes a difference in how efficiently documents process through your printing and inserting workflow. The software can change barcode formats or reposition the codes to allow for consistent reading and processing by inserting machines or other finishing equipment, for example. As print/mail service organizations switch from monochrome toner devices to inkjet, they have new reasons to use document-re-engineering software to add value and improve efficiency. Changing from pre-printed inserts to color printed onserts that are part of the document set is a good example. Switching to onserts allows the marketing messages aimed at transactional document recipients to be much more targeted, which makes each promotional message more valuable. No longer will the number of insert stations on mailing machines limit the messages companies can include in transactional documents. Waste associated with obsolete inserts and jams on the inserting

machines caused by difficult insert material will vanish. Eliminating inserts for most jobs might allow an operation to remove some stations and increase inserting throughput. This move also allows a print/mail operation to combine small inserting jobs, decreasing set-up time and other and administrative intra-job tasks. To combine jobs, document operations must configure all documents to use the same outbound envelope. Again, document re-engineering software can be the solution. Use the software to re-position address blocks so they show through the window of a common envelope. Document tracking and mail piece integrity have always been important. They become even more critical in environments where document operations merge jobs or alter the order of mail pieces. Document re-engineering software can extract data from the pages and use it to build the control files necessary for your ADF or document production platform and account for all the pages and mail pieces in each job. In-Plants Need This, Too The benefits of document re-engineering software extend to in-plant document operations as well. Though their own organization may be responsible for the data and document composition, getting mail center development projects to the top of the priority list for IT can be a challenge. By handling the document modifications themselves, the print/mail department can reap the benefits months sooner than they could by waiting for IT resources to change the source documents. Sometimes the source code for legacy print applications doesn’t even exist, or is in such a fragile state, IT won’t touch it. Then you are forced to re-write the applications. Instead of re-creating the documents with a new composition engine, use document re-engineering software to make necessary changes and avoid large-scale, expensive IT development projects. Making the documents better, regardless of the output channel, should be on your to-do list for 2022 and beyond. Re-engineering the documents is one way to accomplish this goal.  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




n ever-present reality in the mailing community for over 20 years has been the steady stream of mergers and acquisitions, regardless of the size of the businesses involved. Across the entire business landscape, 2021 is setting up to be the largest M&A year in history according to financial data reporting companies S&P and Refinitiv. The number of deals alone was up 24% through September. There seems to be ample advice on how to make an acquisition. But the key to acquisition success is deftly merging the two or more cultures into one and ensuring everyone, from front-line workers to executives, understands the vision, mission, and goals of the new organization. If your team delivers on the following three keys to culture merging, you will realize or exceed the return on investment and financial goals to which you committed.

damage relationships and the company culture. It is critical to have a clear communication plan and schedule before a deal is announced that includes what information can be communicated, who can communicate the information, and when it will be communicated. “Communicate, communicate, communicate,” said Alison Hall, General Manager of Lineage Mailing Services, which recently acquired Strahm Automation & Mailing Services in Kansas City. “Employees are the key to culture, and they feel unsettled and unsure when no one is talking to them. That is always the case, but especially during an acquisition.” It’s not just timelines and employment information your team needs to communicate during the acquisition. Clearly outline the organization’s vision, mission, and goals early and often, so new employees have a glimpse into their future with you.

#1 Meaningful Communication It is impossible to keep everyone “in the loop” in the time between an acquisition announcement and the moment the deal closes. There is critical information that simply cannot be shared until day one of the combined company. However, most teams end up nearly shutting down communication and do not share even the basics that are contractually allowed. This can lead to uncertainty, and in this tight labor market, the exodus of key employees. Lack of communication will often carry over to the integration period and will

#2 Focused Integration Teams A method to ensure meaningful communication occurs is to have focused integration teams in place to drive success. Even for the smallest of acquisitions, you should have a dedicated resource to oversee the integration period. In addition, a core team of three to eight employees from each of your key functional areas (e.g.: operations, human resources, finance, sales, etc.) is the minimum that should be designed before the ink dries on the deal. These employees will do their “day jobs” while contributing heavily to the success of the integration.

If you are managing a larger acquisition with several locations or a multi-national presence, you should consider developing three to eight integration subgroups in addition to the core team. These teams will have a lifespan of 60 days to six months, depending on the acquisition’s complexity. Teams focused on company culture/ human resources, information technology, operations, finance/legal or sales/ marketing are the most common. Examples of additional focussed subgroups are:  Operational Efficiency: A deep dive into best practices at both companies that can be shared and implemented for quick wins. This one is not necessarily about cutting heads, but redeploying resources needed in other areas.  Revenue Upside: Identifying cross-sell opportunities across the combined customer base of the new company as well as developing new product bundles that catch your competition flat-footed. #3 Out Front Leadership It is critical the new company’s leadership team remain visible throughout the process. More is needed than an internal email or video conference the day the deal is announced to ensure a successful integration. Company leaders need to be in the field to meet and listen to — not speak at — employees of all organizational levels. Working side-by-side the front-line employees is also a nice touch. “We really celebrated our first day as a combined company,” said Hall. “All our leaders were present from around the country and were able to talk to individual employees throughout the day. Employees talked about the big impact it made and got them excited for the future.” By following the above critical aspects of culture merging, your company will deliver a successful acquisition — and be able to start the next one before your competition!  Bruce Gresham and the team at Applied Vision Works ( use practical methods to help business owners, leaders, and teams reach their goals faster. Connect via 704.726.6728, bgresham@ or via LinkedIn by scanning the QR code at left with your smartphone camera. | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021


OUR ANNUAL SURVEY: PART TWO What do our readers think of the USPS and other current industry events?

By Amanda Armendariz

It’s not a big surprise that the survey results from this fall, 20+ months into the pandemic, aren’t necessarily the most encouraging. But even though negative results are to be somewhat expected, that doesn’t mean that we welcome them. This year, the number of respondents who rated the USPS negatively rose, while the number of people who utilize offerings such as Informed Visibility and Informed Delivery decreased fairly significantly. The vast majority of our respondents (70%) think that the proposed USPS 10-year plan for financial stability will simply lead to slower delivery times, increased costs, and fewer pieces in the mail stream, rather than the stated objectives of improving operational efficiency and decreasing costs. We at Mailing Systems Technology will continue to monitor the current happenings in the industry as we bring you the information you need to keep your mail operation viable and successful. And in the meantime, take a look at the survey results, and see how your opinions and experiences compare to those of your peers.

USPS Performance, Programs, and Current Events Unfortunately, the number of respondents who rated the USPS “excellent” or “good” went down compared to last year, while the number of people who rated its performance as “poor” more than doubled.

COVID-19 and Your Mail Operation Our mail volumes have dropped significantly since the start of the pandemic. We have not really noticed a difference in terms of volume we send out.



We have actually increased our mailing volumes during COVID-19.


On a positive note, last year, 50% of respondents said that their mail volumes had dropped significantly, so this year's 32% is a welcome change. Likewise, the number of people who have increased their mailing volumes has also gone up compared to 2020.

16% 41%

38% 40%







If you have decreased the amount of mail you send out, have you noticed a negative impact in terms of customer retention, customer engagement, revenue, etc.?







When it comes to the biggest complaint with the USPS, “timely delivery” held the top spot for the second year in a row. Inconsistency, which garnered only three percent of the votes last year, increased five-fold to take the numbertwo spot. Address corrections Communication/information


We utilize IV and have found that it allows us to better time our multi-channel marketing efforts.


Delivery accuracy




Hours of operation



This year, the number of respondents who report using IV and noticing positive benefits from it, and those who utilize IV but haven’t yet seen positive results, went down compared to 2020, while the number of people who say they do not plan to use this offering shot up by almost 10 percentage points.

We utilize IV but haven’t seen any concrete results yet. We have not yet started utilizing IV, but plan to. We do not plan to utilize this offering. Other


Mail acceptance






Postal personnel





Regulations confusing or burdensome




Returned mail


Supplies availability


Timely delivery






I’m noticing a trend here, and it isn’t ideal; just like Informed Visibility, the number of our respondents who utilize Informed Delivery or plan to decreased, while the number of people who have no plans to incorporate this offering increased greatly.

We use ID, and we’ve seen great results from our customers!

70 60 50 40


30 20


10 0

24% 13%


100 90 80 70 60 50

We participate in ID, but I don’t know that we’ve seen any concrete results from it.


We do not yet participate in ID, but we plan to.


We don’t take part in ID, and we have no plans to.



10 0

41% 26% 15% 7%



While the number of people who report their organizations participating in the USPS postage-saving promotions decreased slightly, it overall stayed relatively stable compared to the past few years. Hopefully, next year, we’ll see it increase.

YES 54% NO 46% This year, the United States Postal Service unveiled its 10-year plan for financial stability; this plan was met with both criticism and praise. What are your thoughts on the plan?



What is your view of electronic communication methods as used by your organization? I embrace electronic communication methods because I believe that digital and physical mail should work together in communication efforts.


8% 10%

I embrace electronic communication methods because I believe they are more efficient than physical mail pieces, which eventually will be eliminated.


I am against electronic communication methods because I am fearful that physical mail will be replaced. I am against electronic communication methods because I personally prefer my information in hard copy format.

Do you feel that the USPS is taking the correct steps to change how it does business in the face of an increasingly digital communications environment?


6% Yes No


Other The proposals in the plan are what the USPS needs in order to cut costs, improve service performance, and stay viable.


The proposals in the plan will slow down service performance and cost mailers more money, which will eventually reduce the number of pieces in the mail stream even more. I am unfamiliar with what the plan proposes.

Do you think there will be any advances made in 2022 with respect to postal reform?

YES 16% NO 84% 14


Are you concerned that some of these organizational changes proposed in the USPS’s plan are going to make it more difficult for your mail pieces to reach your customers in a timely manner, or for their return pieces (remittances, etc.) to make their way back to you?







What is your number-one issue in managing your mail center?

What is your view on the effectiveness of direct mail for your organization?

Compliance with postal regulations

16% 5% 54%

Customer relations


Facility is inadequate


Inadequate equipment/Equipment maintenance


Personnel issues (motivation, attendance, hiring, etc.)


Direct mail is a trusted communication method, and we’ve gotten great results from it.



Productivity or efficiency


Relationship with USPS employees


Safety and security




Time management

3% 13%

Timely delivery of mail

I’m undecided; I think mail is important, but we don’t get the results we used to.

Training of staff




I think we’ll eventually abandon mail and focus solely on our digital efforts.

Understanding/support of upper management

3% 23%

Volume spikes/changes






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Expedite Proof of Delivery 888.960.6245 | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021


By Ashley Leone

COULD MILLENNIALS BE THE ONES WHO SAVE THE MAIL? A look at this important demographic and their mail habits


espite previous cries of millennials being industry killers, haphazardly and indiscriminately giving the proverbial axe to anything from beer to fabric softener to chain restaurants, they may provide the greatest reviving shock to the direct mail industry. Objectively speaking, it doesn’t make much sense: how could millennials, who are predominantly defined as digital natives with multiple social media and email accounts, tech-savvy, and reluctant to talk on the phone versus sending an email, be the savior of an advertising channel that some say dates back to 1000 BC? It’s because — or in spite — of this digital inundation that makes millennials the prime candidates for direct mail offers. Maybe it’s because of their upbringing around technology that makes direct mail something of a novelty. It could also easily be that millennials, being penny pinchers themselves, recognize the effort and exclusivity that comes with a printed communication. But



perhaps the biggest boon direct mail offers is its ability to create connection without contact; something that’s become increasingly crucial during the pandemic. There are plenty of theories and factors as to why mail continues to make such an impact in ROI. The tactile nature of mail connects with the human brain in a way that digital content can’t, which results in a significantly higher emotional connect and message recall. The amount of mail received vs. the amount of email received creates an environment in which mail is perceived as being more valuable and urgent. Promotional emails are often caught by spam filters or deleted within seconds of receiving, while the life span of physical mail averages around 17 days. But regardless of the reason why, evidence proves that millennials value mail. Millennials + Mail = A Winning Combination The USPS has found that 90% of millennials find direct mail reliable, with 62%

sorting, opening, and reading their mail for more than 13 minutes, making them the generation that engages with mail the most. In fact, according to data from MarketingCharts, 75% of millennials find that the mail they receive is valuable, and 90% of millennials prefer direct mail over email when talking about promotional items. Compared to older generations, millennials have reported being “happy to receive” coupons for local businesses, promotion mail from companies they’ve purchased from in the past, and promotion mail from companies they know but don’t typically buy from. Importantly, two out of three millennials have taken action after receiving the mailing. Even when shopping online, 73% of millennials use direct mail coupons, and a Valassis study states that 72% of millennials say print ads spur them to make online purchases, and millennials are 24% more likely to show their mailed offers to others. The marketing efforts millennials receive via other channels, like email and social, are

shown to become more effective when mail is added to the mix, with 60% of consumers also more likely to make a purchase of an item or service they first experienced digitally after seeing it mimicked again in mail. Including direct mail as part of any multi/omnichannel strategy has proven to increase response in all channels. PFL’s The State of Multichannel Marketing 2020 states that 84% of multichannel marketers say that direct mail improves their overall campaign performance, and that campaigns with direct mail compared to those without receive almost a 20% lift in ROI. Yet, only 44% of multichannel marketers report using direct mail, making it an under-utilized tool that resonates with a large audience. What’s even more intriguing than millennials preferring mail over email is how the pandemic has actually helped with response rates. According to Pitney Bowes, more than half of millennials think receiving mail is more important than ever. In the RARC report, Millennials and the Mail, a staggering 87% of millennials reported that they like receiving marketing mail, impacted at least in part by the increase of millennials working from home. Millenni-

als’ affection for mail during lockdown and quarantines may partially stem from having a trip to the mailbox register as one of the more exciting parts of the day. Direct mail reported an eight percent jump in effectiveness from 2019 to 2020, marking the largest gains in overall effectiveness in any channel. A research compilation on why direct mail volumes continued to soar during the pandemic, when many advertisers were pulling back, found seven out of 10 saying they would rather get mail over email. Meanwhile, 92% of consumers say they prefer looking at direct mail when making shopping decisions, and 76% of those who used direct mail to make a purchase say they would strongly consider doing repeat business with those brands, altogether leading to purchases that are five times larger than what is seen from those who used email. The millennial preference for mail is a place to start when “saving” the direct market mail industry, but it can’t be done by preference alone. Marketers still need to find the sweet spot when it comes to frequency, messaging, and channel mix to continue mail’s relevancy with younger

generations. Personalization continues to resonate with consumers and spur action (it’s a fun aside to note that 67% see physical mail as being more personable), while offer relevancy keeps open rates high and brand loyalty strong as additional campaigns are sent out. PFL’s report states 82% of brands that use integrated, branded, and personalized direct mail report that the channel is effective at marketing to consumers, making it the most effective channel for reaching target audiences. Yet, it also warns that data accuracy, understanding audience needs, and branding are the top factors that will make the message effective. It’s up to marketers who understand the value of mail to save the industry with smarter marketing, but if they’re looking for a place to start, there isn’t a demographic more willing to tear open the envelope than millennials.  Ashley Leone is marketing and corporate communications coordinator at IWCO Direct, where she researches and writes for a variety of channels on a range of topics, including millennial marketing trends and purchasing habits. She can be reached at | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021


HOW TO PLAN FOR SLOWER MAIL While lagging delivery times are not what any mailer wants, they seem to be inevitable, at least for the near future. By Adam Lewenberg


n October 1, 2021, the USPS announced that First-Class Mail would slow from one-to-threeday delivery to one-to-five-day delivery. While it stated that this change would not impact 61% of mail, this is only with respect to the organization’s targeted objectives and may not be the reality in terms of how your mail had been delivered. The change will be far more impactful because organizations are going to have to change their workflows to adapt to the reduced delivery times. Here are some steps you can take to prepare for these changes. The Rationale The main reason for the slowing of mail is the USPS wants to reduce its dependency on third-party air couriers that are expensive and make planning difficult. It wants 18


to move most of the mail to truck delivery and be more in control of its delivery standards. This does not impact local deliveries already delivered by truck, but as items go farther throughout the country, this shift can make a big difference. Here are the largest changes that mailers will see: Although the USPS states that 35% of mail would be delivered in two days, this percentage was higher in the past at 43%, and many of these local items were delivered the next day. Now the USPS states only local presorted mail can get next-day delivery. The cut-off for two-day mail went from 280 down to 140 miles, further reducing the amount of mail receiving this standard. The remainder of mail (57%) that used to get three-day delivery has


2. 3.

now been reduced to 35%, with many recipients getting four-to-five-day delivery. Not all mail will be delivered in the five-day delivery targets, and based on distances and remote areas, some could take much longer.


Largest Areas of Impact Now that we are faced with this new reality, it is important that we adjust how we process our largest mail streams to adapt to these changes. Invoices and Statements – This is the largest single source of First-Class Mail and will have the greatest impact. Sending bills to customers is the lifeblood for millions of companies, and they will have to plan for these changes because it will impact their accounts receivable collections. If mail has slower delivery, they will get paid later, impacting cash flows.

Delivered in 2 days

Old standards

3 days

43% of mail volume


Distance cutoff: 280 miles Delivered in 2 days

New standards


3 days

4 days

5 days



35% 140 miles

930 miles

1,907 miles

Source: U.S. Postal Service

Accounts Payable – Most companies try to pay invoices at the latest times possible to maximize their cash flows. Payables going farther distances will have to be paid earlier or late fees, finance charges, and collection issues will accrue. Reminder Mailings – Many organizations send postcard reminders for services. These will have to be planned better to adapt to the slowing mail streams. On a positive note, the USPS just announced new size standards that allow these postcards to be bigger (increasing from 4 ¼” X 6” to 6” X 9”), so more information can now be displayed at the same rate. Outsourced Mail – Most of the largescale mailings are not processed in-house but are done through third-party print and mail services. Where these services are located is now significantly more important. If you are mailing nationally and your service is in New York, it is going to take much longer to reach many of your customers than if the provider was based in the Midwest. Also, does your provider have one facility or do they have any ability to distribute your mailing through different locations scattered closer to your customers’ locations? Conversely, if your mail is primarily local and you are using a mailer in a different part of the country to save money, it may be costing you on increased delivery times.

Visibility Drives Change The biggest issue we see in most organizations is they do not have the visibility of their mail across the enterprise to know what changes will need to be made. To gain access to the data to quantify the mail spends, implement these best practices:  Start with accounts payable and get an export of the mail spends from the largest mailing vendors and the USPS.  Get copies of key invoices to see the details on the accounts that are generating mail.  Reach out to the mailing vendors to gain access to their web portals and link the identified accounts. This provides visibility to mail volumes.  Go to the largest volume departments identified in the steps above to document their workflows. Creating a Plan Now that the largest mail streams have been identified, it is critical to come up with a plan to drive change. Here are some areas that need to be considered:  Invoices may need to be mailed earlier or production times sped up to maintain cash flows.  Mail volumes from different areas may need to be consolidated into single workstreams to get better postage rates through presort, which can have faster delivery.  Accounts payable might want to set up more vendors for ACH payment and adjust payable time periods for vendors located farther away.  Outsourced mail could be put out in a request for proposal (RFP) to identify where it can be produced closest to the

customer or if more integrated planning needs to be done with partners to speed up when mail is sent.  Reminder mailings are converted to presort services where there is a better chance for local next-day delivery.  Clients can be given incentives for electronic delivery methods, eliminating the need to mail hard-copy pieces. It is easy to be upset at the USPS for these changes, and no one likes reduced service levels. On the flip side, the Postal Service is adjusting to our rapidly decreasing mail volumes, coupled with more places it needs to deliver. If we expect the USPS to sustain itself through the future, it needs to become more cost-effective, and hopefully these changes help it achieve these goals. It is our job as consumers of the USPS to adapt to these changes, but to do it in a way where we are in the highest control to optimize our own environments. It will be interesting to see if these changes reduce mail volumes at a greater speed now that organizations are incentivized to develop creative ways to eliminate sending mail. 

Adam Lewenberg, CMDSS, MDC, President/CEO of Postal Advocate Inc., runs the largest Mail Audit and Recovery firm in the United States and Canada. They manage the biggest mail equipment fleet in the world and their mission is to help organizations with multi-locations reduce mail and parcel related expenses, recover lost postage funds, and simplify visibility and oversight. Since 2011, they have helped their clients save an average of 58% and over $68 million on equipment, presort, avoidable fees, and lost postage. He can be reached at 617.372.6853 or | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021


THE PROPOSED POSTAL REFORM LEGISLATION AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE INDUSTRY Industry expert Jeff Peoples, Founder, CEO, and President of Window Book, recently sat down with Steve Lopez, Chief Operating Officer for Window Book, to discuss the current state of postal reform and what the proposed legislation means for the industry. Here is an excerpt of their interview.



Lopez: [For background], in terms of legislation, there’s only been one legislation in our lifetime that we would be old enough to remember, and that would be the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) back in 2006. There were also changes made in the ‘70s when the Postal Service came off being a cabinet-level position in the US government and operated as a “corporation.” When PAEA hit, the intent was for it to operate as a business and make a profit. It is a very large employer. Back then, we were looking at about 560,000 employees in the Postal Service and it was interesting to see that the Postmaster made less than the Vice President and had probably the second-largest employment staff at that time. There is a bill floating around right now, [so] I’ll let you ask some questions and I’ll see what I can answer.

Peoples: The [recent] postal legislation was introduced in the House and the Senate. Where are we in the process? Lopez: On the House side, the House government oversight committee had a markup, they passed down the legislation out to the committee, and it is sitting there on the House floor waiting for consideration. At the same time, in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs [Committee], which we call HSGAC, Chairman Peters introduced identical legislation with his committee. Where we’re at with the Senate side is they have not held a markup. For our clients that mail letters and flats (which are mostly on the market-dominant side), there’s quite a bit of concern [with this bill]. I think it’s justifiable to have this

concern, because there are things in interpretation that can occur when a bill is written into law. Once people can manipulate the interpretation of a law that wasn’t the original intent, it can be dangerous. This bill has a specific provision that has caused a lot of angst. It is mostly driven by the Package Service Coalition, who is largely funded by Amazon, and they are a large user of USPS last-mile parcels. If you think about it, they would love to dump non-profitable parcels on the Postal Service to be delivered for the last mile because they have their own delivery network, but there’s an obvious reason why they are getting rid of (or shedding) parcels to the Postal Service. It’s because they’re not profitable to be delivered. They’re behind some of this legislation, and we’ve been active in talking to Congress about our concerns of what potentially could occur. Peoples: What is contained in the legislation? The bill has some changes the industry has been seeking for quite a while and has a few new provisions that are written that will compose a long-term threat. A great example of something the industry has been after is reform on the retiree health care pre-funding benefits. There is some

language in there that for the money that the Treasury has not collected, that debt would be forgiven and no longer be required to be pre-funded at 100%. To put that into perspective, that’s why most people tell you the Postal Service is bleeding money every year. That is a $5, $6, $7 billion obligation on paper that causes them to lose money immediately. I read a report a few years back — it’s a little dated now — and it said that if you had looked at the 10-year period after the first reform bill came in, if they had not done the 100% prefunding requirement and counted that as a liability on their books, they would have been in the black in that 10-year period. They wouldn’t have lost money. A lot of people don’t understand that. That’s one thing that they’re interested in. However, there’s another big thing; they’ve introduced the ability to have Medicare as a requirement for any employee (or retiree) that qualifies for Medicare, [which] then eliminates the Postal Service carrying that as a healthcare cost. There are a few other provisions in there that can be called “nice to have.” They’re trying to combine the PRC, along with the Office of Inspector General of the USPS, to get some synergies and to reduce some costs and have some departments work together. Now, that’s kind of key. Because many times, the Inspector General [does] a lot of audit reports and look[s] at decisions that have been made by the PRC and then they come back and say, “In hindsight, now that we’re looking at this...” The OIG are quite critical at times of changes that the PRC made that may or may not have had the intended impact on the business. That would be an interesting combination of the two. They’re also looking at trying to provide a transportation provision that will allow the USPS to choose the most efficient mode of transportation for every class of mail. That’s interesting because that basically means that, according to the 10-year plan, everything will be on the surface. And does it artificially create no distinguishable difference between Standard Marketing Mail and First-Class Mail? At one time in 2020, First-Class Mail was taking anywhere from 17 to 30 days in certain places to be delivered. Why would somebody pay postage at full rate to put something in First-Class that you could basically get the same level of [service] out of Standard (Marketing) Mail, for a much deeper discount? That’s something that they’ve gotten into the bill as well; they have the ability with

the PRC now that every time something causes a loss, they can exceed a price cap and it keeps increasing the cost. You’re basically feeding the system, you’re degrading service; products leave the market, and because you don’t make enough revenue, you charge higher prices, which causes more products to leave the market, and that’s the deathward spiral. That’s a concern. The last thing in the bill that I would say is a major piece of legislation is that the bill mandates, for the first time ever, six-day delivery. The Postal Service for years has said don’t handcuff us and tell us we must do six-day delivery. It goes way back to other PMGs. They looked at the profitability of routes. They knew the cost and the cost per mailbox per stop. They always wanted to have the flexibility to say, “Let me run the business the way I need to run the business.” The interesting thing is in the 10-year plan, the current Postmaster General was originally against six-day delivery. Suddenly, Amazon, a big customer in packages, was pushing this coalition, and now he says, he’s for it. In fact, not only is he for six-day, but they also want to do seven-day delivery. I [ask the] question: if you claim you’re losing money in five- and six-day [delivery], how can you say you’ll make money on seven-day? But that’s for another conversation. But let’s get back to the one provision that I have an issue with that I’ve been speaking to 12 or so staff members of the various HSGAC Congressional [committee members] about. My concern is that there’s a provision in there that says, “Integrated Network of Delivery Services.” The word integrated network has NEVER, and I’m going to repeat myself for people who are putting false things in the media, has never been introduced (or litigated for a definition) as a term in postal history. The Postal Service already acts as an integrated network. You don’t see a truck going down the street with letters and flats followed by a truck right behind it that has parcels. They’ve always been integrated. What concerns me is, in the PMG’s 10-year plan, where he talks almost exclusively about parcels, I think the word ‘mail’ is only referenced maybe once in the plan. [The PMG] wants to spend $40 billion on parcel delivery and he’s estimated that it’s only going to generate $24 billion of revenue. I have three decades in the business. I’ve already seen, and we’re seeing it right now, effective back on August 29, 2021, where we have a regulator that is putting their own interpretation into what’s written into the law. PAEA specifically stated, CPI (only) increases | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021


paid it. They’re the ratepayers. It’s interesting that they want to keep that money that was overpaid that we paid as an industry, because it’s our money, but OK. We’ll go with, that’s something for the mailers and for the Postal Service to get a benefit. When you look at it and you add it all up, it’s about a $50 billion in relief package. The Postal Service could still suffer from operational losses and the PRC has given them some additional pricing authority that went into effect. We must see how the industry responds and how much new revenue is generated from the USPS.

based on full year or less than full-year calculations based upon the last filing. It does not say “CPI plus two percent” in the law. The PMG was originally against six-day mandated delivery but now he’s for six-day. He says he’s going to lose $16 billion in essence. So, my question is simple: who do you think is going to pick up that $16 billion loss? Based upon new integrated delivery network language and how institutional costs are allocated, unfortunately, it could most likely end up being our clients. The reason why is exactly the example I gave earlier: unintended consequences of an interpretation of a law and words that are newly introduced. Recent examples of unintended consequences are when the PRC says, “We can do cost plus two percent because there are like 17 provisions to monitor under PAEA, and only one of them talks about profitability and keeping the Postal Service viable.” Therefore, they decide to look at that one area (of the 17 or so) and [the PRC] interpretation on intent is, “That must mean that we should be able to allow them to do cost plus two percent and allow more than one increase per year to make up differences in revenue.” Nowhere in the bill does it ever say you can add extra percentage increases onto a CPI-only increase as calculated by one of the two ways possible. Congress didn’t intend for that to happen, but that’s exactly what came out of it. Personally, I’ve told all of them that the Postal Service already operates as an integrated network, and it [Integrated Network of Delivery Services] should be struck [from the bill]. On six-day, it’s not my decision to tell the Postal Service whether they should operate five, six, or seven days. I’ve never argued over what days of the week they are, but I also don’t think that the universal service obligation should be defined by a package coalition that’s a competitor of the Postal Service that dumps unprofitable products on it with no conversation whatsoever (by our part of the sector). 22


One thing I want to add: I have been in many calls and there have been a variety of stakeholders, including some of the Postal Service’s competition, that have been aligned with some concerns in some of the language. [One competitor is] the United Parcel Service (UPS), [but] I’ve never once heard them say that they’re against the Postal Service being open for six days. In fact, they go out of their way to say it’s not their business to talk about how many days the Postal Service should deliver mail because they’re not only a partner of the Postal Service for certain products but they’re also a competitor. They don’t feel they should say anything. I’ve read numerous things that have come out of the package service coalition in the press that are blaming UPS, saying the reason why they’re against Section 202 is they don’t want six-day delivery because they think it’s going to harm UPS. That’s a 100% false statement. They go out of their way to say that’s not their concern. They’re concerned about the definition of integrated as well because no one wants cross-pollination or cross-subsidization of products. Peoples: Does [the bill] help the Postal Service financially? If so, will they finally make money? Lopez: Making money and being efficient, especially in certain businesses in this country, sometimes are an oxymoron. The Medicare integration will save the USPS about $1 billion over the 10-year period. That’s what the Congressional Budget Office says. The elimination of the pre-funding of the future retiree health benefits is going to clean up the USPS balance sheet by about $33 billion. That’s your unpaid annual expenses, and it eliminates about $1 billion of amortization payments. However, most of our clients don’t understand is that it’s our clients’ money. Everything that’s been paid in there, they

Peoples: Are there many (or any) provisions in the bill that the industry finds troubling? If so, which ones? Lopez: As I said earlier, most of the cost[s] of these provisions have been discussed by the industry over the last couple of years. I went through them extensively and depending on where you are from an industry perspective, some people are against mandating the six-day delivery and some people are really concerned about the integrated network language. Let’s talk about six-day delivery for a moment. One of the stakeholders in this small group that has participated with me on some of these calls brought up… that when you come out with language like this, what happens to the future when the volume falls off? You’re telling the Postal Service that they must deliver all classes of mail six days a week, but it’s more efficient for them to stay viable by doing odd carrier type solutions where mail is only delivered to a specific side of the street or some other model that says they can hold mail for a day to make more density in the truck to make it more worthwhile and staff appropriately. The cost-sharing I talked about is roughly $30 billion [of which] $27 billion goes to the [letter/flat] market-dominant side of the industry. I’m worried about that but there are ways to avoid that in the legislation. As I mentioned earlier, Medicare, which is out of all our hands, could end up being the most troubling thing for this legislation. It has nothing to do with industry and we’re just going to have to see if the two sides… can agree to terms. Peoples: Why was Section 202 introduced? Lopez: The package coalition, which is led by Amazon, claimed ownership of that provision. They put out press releases on it. They’ve pressed Congress to pass postal reform with that new provision in it. When

you come out to do that, they’re saying that they won’t support reform unless that is in there. Who can blame them? They probably saw the USPS’ 10-year plan right away and the first thing they said is, “Here’s a great opportunity to shed $16 billion of projected losses where 90% of them can be shed on somebody else without us doing it.” Unfortunately, we’re getting to the point now [that] instead of working together, which we did for many years under previous PMGs, we’re now fighting. Now they’ve got us fighting against each other, as opposed to fighting for what’s right for the private sector. It’s a utility. The only reason why businesses use the Postal Service is it’s a convenient medium that generates business and profit, period. It’s not a job promotion thing. It’s not an economy thing. If it were — I do believe there are benefits to rural communities and things to have post offices — but if you want to get into that conversation, let’s talk about Congress allocating money for the 38,000 retail post offices that are out there that provide that vital service to those communities, and start subsidizing that cost out, so the ratepayers don’t pick up 100% of the bill.

Peoples: What is being done to amend Section 202? Lopez: There’s a small group of us, and we’ve been meeting with the Senate committee to explain why it’s troubling and what we don’t like about 202. I have discussed an amendment from the HSGAC that they can propose to add to Section 202, which will stop the Postal Service from doing any cross-subsidization with the way they will put the language into the bill. Think of it this way. If you are a package mailer and you could lower your costs, why wouldn’t you want that cost to go elsewhere? Peoples: How can mailers help? Lopez: I would say for many of them, if they do the math and they’re concerned, they need to talk to their local state representatives, congresspeople, and senators and tell them, I’m in your district and state. These are how many jobs you employ, or this is my growth plan, or I’m trying to build another facility and I’m trying to grow my business. I can’t do that if I’m going to be hit with 10% increases in

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a mid-year price increase (year after year). Some classes of mail got nailed 10% in this extra price increase. Add that on top of degraded service standards and ask members of Congress why should I use the USPS for my business? Pay more, get poor delivery for what? Peoples: Do you think postal reform will pass? Lopez: We need to continue to follow it, [but] I’m going to hold my judgment on that. I need to have a little bit more conversation given the fact that no markups occurred in certain areas. I will say that it has a lot of hurdles to pass where it is now. I have recently heard it will most likely not even get marked up until 2022 calendar year (i.e., January or later). It will not surprise me if they resolve some of these things. There’s some language to do it, so I don’t want to say no, but these could be considered large hurdles and you’re going to have some philosophical differences amongst parties and in both houses in Congress that I just find it’s an uphill battle at this point to get passed. 

13. Publication........................................................................................Mailing Systems Technology 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data ............................................ July-August 2021 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation ......................................... B2B - Controlled a. Total No. Copies (Net Press Run).........................19,215 .......................... 18,827 b. Legitimate Paid and/or Requested Distribution (By Mail and Outside the Mail)

1. Paid Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541.

(Include advertiser’s proof and exchange copies) .....17,226 ........................... 12,407 2. Paid Requested In-County Mail Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541. ..................... 0 .....................................0 3. Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution .............. 0 .....................................0 4. Other Classes Mailed Through the USPS ............. 0 .....................................0 c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation [Sum of 15b (1,2,3 and 4)] ..................................17,226 ........................... 12,407 d. Nonrequested Distribution (By Mail and Outside the Mail) 1. Outside-County as Stated on Form 3541 ..........1,413 ............................. 5,565 2. In-County as Stated on Form 3541 ...................... 0 .....................................0 3. Other Classes Mailed Through the USPS ............ 28 ...................................28 4. Nonrequested Copies Distributed Outside the Mail .............................. 46 ..................................255 e. Total Nonrequested Distribution ..............................1,487 ............................. 5,848 f. Total Distribution (Sum of 15c and 15e) .............18,713 ........................... 18,255 g. Copies not Distributed (See instructions to Publishers #4 (page #3) ........................................................................... 502 .................................572 h. Total (Sum of 15f and g) ......................................19,215 ........................... 18,827 i. Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation (15c/fx100) ......................................................... 92.05%.......................... 67.96% 16. Electronic Copy Circulation ..............................................................................Yes a. Requested and Paid Electronic Copies ..................... 2,635 .......................... 2,545 b.Total Requested and paid Print Copies (Line 15c) + Requested/Paid Electronic Copies (Line 16a) .... .................... 19,861 ................................ 14,952 c.Total Requested Copy Distribution (Line 15f) + Requested/Paid Electronic Copies (Line 16a) ......................... 21,348 ................................ 20,800 d.Percent paid and/or Requested Circulation (Both Print & Electronic Copies) (16b divided by 16c x 100) .........................................93.03% ...................... 71.88% 17. Publication of Statement of Ownership for a Requester Publication is required and will be printed in the November-December 2021 issue of this publication. 18. Signature and Title of Editor, Publisher, Business Manager or Owner: Rachel Chapman, Audience Development Manager, / September 14, 2021 I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete. I understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information on this form or who omits material or information requested on the form may be subject to criminal sanctions (including fines and imprisonment) and/or civil sanctions (including civil penalties). PS Form 3526-R, July 2014 | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021



UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF MAIL? Now, more than ever, it’s critical to educate the higher-ups on how mail can help achieve your organization’s goals.

By Mark Rheaume


n March of 2020, I prepared an article for this publication, and it focused on educating organizational leadership on the value of mail. Given the current events impacting our industry (COVID-19, the changing economy, and supply chain 24


challenges), I thought it would be interesting to revisit the same topic through the lens of today’s environment. I believe deeply in the value of mail. I evangelize about this all the time. It pains me when I find postage being wasted and

a general lack of organizational understanding of mail and postage. When optimized and managed aggressively (proactively and from a strong knowledge base), there is no better way for organizations to realize very large savings. Does it take work? Is that work easy? We all know the answers. In my experience, the most difficult work is to get organizational leadership to: Listen: Truly listen and understand that postage is not a “necessary evil.” Hear this: We do not have to pay the full rate postage so many in leadership feel are “fixed costs.” In the hands of a knowledgeable mail professional, postage is something that can be a competitive advantage and deliver incredible ROI. One executive told a peer of mine after some years of “postal education” that he had finally realized that there were two types of currency in the world: Cash and postage! Quite a different statement than what he asked in their first meeting: “Why in the world is postage included in my budget?”  COVID: While you may not get the chance to meet in person, there are plenty of virtual options to facilitate these 1:1 meetings. COVID cannot change this.  Economy: Listening is free! As the economy changes, every expense should be

 COVID: To my knowledge, COVID has not affected leadership’s ability to learn. There is no reason I can think of to delay this education. You need to push for it and use any available resources and tools to keep it moving forward.  Economy: Economic conditions will demand leadership’s time but so must your desire to educate them. Delivering money (in the form of savings) should interest them a great deal in any economy.  Supply Chain: Not to be a broken record, but your efforts and their value should not be affected by any supply chain issues related to the business. As stated above, your optimization should be valued more in challenging times.

examined. Postage represents a large dollar number for most organizations. Optimizing postage expense provides organizational savings that would be unrealized if not for your efforts.  Supply Chain: Postage is an expense that does not rely on factors included in traditional supply chains. While it is true that organizations may have production affected by the supply chain and that those effects may influence how and when an organization mails, these factors only create more demand for postal optimization within an organization. Learn: Once you have their ear, it is your job as the subject matter expert to teach. It is not enough to simply “feed them fish.” If you do that, they believe it is easy to do, and your efforts are diminished. When you actually “teach them to fish,” they appreciate you much more. They understand the plans you are laying out for them and can make excellent decisions based on fact (actionable data), knowledge, and realistic expectations. As you justify adding staff to expand the effort, they can understand the impact of their decisions on your recommendations. Better yet, they will understand the impact of delaying the recommended actions, which is also a win for you as a professional.

Believe and trust: Organizational leadership is smart. They make good decisions and reward superior performance. Once they have learned what you have to offer, they will want you to do more and find more savings (which are always there). As regulations and rates change, the organization needs trusted leaders who have historically delivered results. For you, that means cost savings through postal optimization. Each effort will build belief and trust in your ability to plan, execute, and deliver results. By delivering the savings time after time, you reinforce your value (and all those who support the efforts) to the organization.  COVID: COVID cannot erode belief or trust. Once established and appreciated, leadership will deeply value the optimization efforts and the measurable results.  Economy: No economy can affect these either. The more challenging the economy, the more leadership is looking for people to deliver savings opportunities. Period.  Supply Chain: The more challenges there are, the more your efforts will be rewarded and relied on within the organizational leadership team to “make up” for deficiencies that the supply chain has created. I often describe postage savings opportunities as pristine fruit on the ground. Rather than going bad, we can pick up the opportunities anytime and realize the savings. Organizational leadership can choose when and what “fruit” they want you to pick up. It is all about which

levers they will support you pulling to optimize postage. On top of the day-to-day responsibilities, mailers must convey to executives and decision-makers that postage is a powerful tool that can be utilized to establish a competitive advantage to attract and retain customers, rather than as an expense alone. This simplistic model does not change during a pandemic like COVID. It is also unaffected by economic changes because there are always opportunities to optimize postage based on the latest rates, rules, and economic conditions. Finally, the supply chain does not affect these efforts. Businesses still need to mail out information. While it seems counterintuitive, organizations need to focus on mailing more (and smarter!) rather than less during these challenging times. What helps drive this message is how efficiently we teach leadership about postage as currency. Your efforts to establish the relationship by measuring and reporting savings will drive recognition, appreciation, and dependence on your knowledge. In my previous article I stated: “Executives are particularly interested in opportunities related to regulatory/ compliance impacts so they can act to protect their organizations against risk.” As mailing professionals, we have the knowledge, data, and ability to deliver this to them. Our “wrapper” is attractive because it also delivers cost savings and strategic actions that can be adjusted/delivered deep into the future. Our current landscape is challenging but has not significantly impacted our value proposition. Going forward, take every opportunity to work with your executive leadership. Get their ear(s), educate them, deliver success to deepen their belief in you, and build their trust in you and your abilities! 

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 | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021




ike many business operations today, the United States Postal Service is adjusting its operations and relying on mailers to embrace automation to improve efficiencies and receive better service. Toward those ends, it is phasing out the widely used Information Based Indicia (IBI) program in favor of the more advanced Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI). Currently, both are in use with Postage Evidencing Systems, postage meters, and mailing systems at small- and medium-sized businesses, high-volume mailers, and third-party mailing service providers. The older IBI meters will be decertified as of June 30, 2024 and regarded as non-compliant by December 31, 2024. The move to IMI provides the USPS with additional data that supports tracking mail with an auditable chain of custody. This reduces lost or misdirected mail and makes delivery dates more predictable — a bonus for marketers who deploy multi-media promotional campaigns. Many mailers are familiar with the advantages of metered mail, such as the discounts on First-Class Mail, the ability to print the exact postage needed (no over- or under-spending), as well as fewer trips to the post office. Mail meters in use today are certified by the USPS as compliant with either IBI or IMI standards. Though both IBI and IMI are digitally based metering systems, the difference between them is the level of sophistication. Introduced in 1999, IBI was the first move by the USPS into deploying digital indicia via a modem/internet. IBI meters print a 2D barcode that was compliant with the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) of that time. However, today the USPS regards IBI standards as outdated and even as unnecessarily limiting the capabilities currently available with modern technologies and mail handling processes. IMI, launched in 2013, represents a significant upgrade from IBI and was developed to give the USPS more transparent, detailed, real-time transaction data for pricing and reporting, as well as allowing for improved security. Though introduced eight years ago, in a statement issued last year in the Federal Register, the



Postal Service noted that many mailers have been slow to adopt the new standard, or to move to IMI meters, resulting in inequalities of service to business mailers and also extending the time and labor needed to manually process the errors and returns that IMI was designed to eliminate. IMI – Faster, More Accurate, and Secure IMI provides several significant features that add up to faster, more accurate, and secure mail processing for both the senders and recipients of the mail. The following are four key upgrades IMI offers: 1. Improved Accuracy. Even the most careful manual data entry is likely to produce errors. With an IMI meter, the postage is automatically calculated after you input the required service class. 2. Stronger Security. Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) creates the standards for data encryption, and IMI adheres to those standards to ensure that information transmits securely, whether it is going to or from the postage meter. 3. Timely Updates. The USPS requires systems with IMI to connect to the manufacturer’s servers every 72 hours. With frequent use information, USPS is better able to manage mail flow, and updates (including rate changes and other modifications) arrive to the meter in a timely fashion, avoiding over- or short-payments. 4. Greater Connectivity. Dedicated LAN connections are required to ensure a constant connection, which enables faster updates and postage refills. Mail Service Providers – Save Time and Money IMI compliant meters can, of course, be used in any setting with a meter. IMI ensures a faster, more accurate mailing process that can save the time and expense caused by mail returns and reduce the hassles associated with correcting inaccurate postage charges. The additional security IMI provides helps lay to rest worries about sending sensitive customer information outside the corporation and can make it easier to ensure the accuracy of

Key Upgraded Functions of IMI While adopting IMI does require an investment in updated metering machines for business mailers, it also provides a range of new and/ or expanded functionality and services USPS can offer to improve a number of mail handling processes. Briefly, IMI metering: • Provides transaction-level data for each mail piece daily • Supports automated refunds, refund authorization, and fraud detection • Restricts Keyed-In-Postage (KIP), which supports proper mail rating and classification for USPS • Provides end mailer information for federal government compliance • Supports the tracking and management of reprinted indicia • Provides improved indicia constructs that support fraud detection, readability, and indicia management • Supports the USPS in accurately calculating short-paid and over-paid postage • FIPS 140-2 Security Level 3+ (EFP/EFT), stronger security to deter current threats • Improved security for rate table, log files, and data exchange interface

postage charged to different business customer accounts. Mailing service providers may even use their IMI capabilities as a selling point to keep and attract their business clients. Ultimately, with fewer opportunities for errors and/or returns, mail can be delivered faster, and senders will get quicker responses from recipients. Move to IMI before 2024 Deadline Because digitally based mailing systems rely on the digital communication between the USPS and the meter itself, IMI compliance means acquiring a postage meter that is able to send and receive data from USPS. These new meters are certified by the USPS, so certification will be the first thing to look for when investing in this technology. New mailing systems also offer additional features, like registering the weight and dimensions of mailing pieces. Manufacturers can provide information on the specific devices for high- and low-volume mailing operations. Although at this time the June 30, 2024 date seems some distance away, business mailers would be wise to begin to understand the new standard and to consider what impacts it may have on their mailing operations overall. While the extra level of automation is beneficial and can reduce the manual processing in your mail center, all business mailers, including mailing service providers, should prioritize the implementation of the IMI systems before the 2024 deadline to ensure there are no disruptions and delays in getting the mail properly processed and out the door.  Alain Fairise is Chief Solutions Officer, Mail Related Solutions for Quadient, a leader in helping businesses transform their customer experience by creating meaningful connections through digital and physical channels. Fairise is a strategic leader with more than 20 years of experience helping businesses of all sizes enhance customer experience with the latest mail-related and digital communications technology. He can be reached at For Quadient’s “Quick Reference Guide: Everything You Need To Know About USPS® Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI) Compliance” ebook, visit: https://www.

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Figure 1

The State of Direct Mail Marketing and Predictions for 2022

Figure 2

By Jill Corcoran


t’s been a challenging time for the direct mail marketing industry. Recession, rises in paper and postage costs, and the pandemic have all contributed to the turbulence. At the same time, though, trends have become apparent in how mail is changing that show promising ways forward in the months and years ahead. Since 1984, Who’s Mailing What! has been the record of direct mail in America. In addition to samples of mail in dozens of subcategories, we also provide marketers and printers a deep dive of insights about those pieces. We’ve looked at our statistics from recent years and have developed three key insights that show how the mail we’ve tracked has changed — and how you can take advantage of those trends. 1. Digital Response Options Are Growing Our data shows that from 2000 to 2021, mail with digital elements grew from less than one percent of our collection to over 10% in recent years. In just the last five years, the usage of digital response devices in direct mail campaigns has doubled. In most cases, this trend has come at the expense of reply envelopes and forms (see Figure 1). In our 2021 data, we focused on mail pieces that contain digital response elements. The distribution of channels shows that QR code usage has soared (now at 40% of all mail received), with web addresses close behind (Figure 2). 28


Figure 3

We also looked at what industries have a digital prompt in their campaigns in 2021. Figure 3 shows the breakdown. Retail mail made the best use of digital channels at 40%, with nonprofits at a more distant 18%. We also looked at the top three industries using apps, websites, voice activated call to action (VACTA), QR codes, and social media in their direct mail campaigns (Figure 4). Figure 5 showcases some phrases we looked at in our research. Marketers know that it is essential to give customers and prospects as many ways as possible to interact with you and to respond to your offer with a purchase or donation. Try attention-getting phrases like:  Scan the QR code  Download our app  Tell your smart speaker  Follow us  Visit our website

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

2. Postcard Use Continues to Rise Over the last 13 years, according to our data, mailing of postcards has risen sharply, while envelopes and self-mailers have declined. In fact, postcards account for nearly half of all mail cataloged today (Figure 6). A breakdown of the format distribution covering only 2021 shows how dramatically marketers’ (and consumers’) preferences have changed. Of all the mail tracked by us through September 2021, envelopes and postcards are nearly equal (Figure 7). Clear trends emerged in a review of format data covering B2B and B2C mail from 2010 to 2021. For decades, the letter was the dominant format in direct mail. The full-dress package — outer envelope, letter, reply form, lift note, insert/buck slip, and reply envelope — ruled the mailbox. Letters still account for much of B2B mail. However, consumer mail is where big gains in postcards are coming from (Figure 8). So why the big rise in postcards?  Higher postage and printing costs demanded a slimming-down or replacement of the traditional envelope format.  Postcards are smaller, faster to read, and therefore it is easier to get prospects to accept an offer or go online for more information to make a decision.  Many marketers tested away from envelopes and arrived at postcards that produced an acceptable ROI or response rate. In the latest round of USPS price changes, postcards up to 6”x9” can now mail at the First-Class bulk rate. With the larger size, we expect to see some marketers move up to these bigger cards for the advantages they offer:  Stand out more in the mailbox  More room for headlines, images, copy, white space, or digital elements like QR codes  Faster delivery, address correction, and return to sender | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2021


Figure 8

“Buoyed by the USPS change to qualify ‘postcards’ up to 6x9 at FirstClass postcard rate[s], this direct mail format promises to be a favorite in 2022. The immediate mailbox impact, combined with the ability to effectively target in-home date with First-Class mail, positions this format as a strong response rate driver.” —Skip Dyer, Executive Vice President, Spire

Figure 9

Figure 10

3. Copy Is Becoming More Concise Let’s talk about word count. Over the last 20 years, according to our stats, direct mail copy has decreased by 62%. That’s across every format — letters, folded self-mailers, and postcards. With the exception of a reversal in the middle of the last decade, it’s been a substantial drop (Figure 9). Since 2010, as Figure 10 shows, the decline in word count for B2B mail has closely tracked with that of B2C mail. So, it’s been happening across many industry subcategories. The question is why. What accounts for this change? Maybe less is more for some good reasons. For example:  Cynics say that reading is becoming a lost art, and blame all of our gadgets.  Designers replace words with icons that are universally understood and allow faster scanning of a mail piece by the consumer.  They also use white space to focus readers on headlines, offers, and calls-to-action.  Marketers are using direct mail to drive recipients to the web to build interest and increase desire for your product or service. What the Future Holds Let’s face it: the future-telling business isn’t perfect. Unforeseen events have a way of upsetting even the best-supported trend data. We’ve all certainly learned that over the last two years. But what’s clear is that marketers are keeping up with changes dictated by market conditions — and the continuing digitization of communications. These trends aren’t a threat to mail, but an opportunity for growth. Integrating channels and making mail leaner and more responsive will help direct mail thrive as a vital part of your marketing strategy.  Jill Corcoran has been building teams to serve marketers for the past 20 years. Employee and client happiness have always been her “North Star.” Jill runs the world’s most complete resource of direct mail campaigns: Who’s Mailing What! ( Connect with her on LinkedIn (, by email at, or call 212.660.9880.



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