The Mail Center Manager is in a key position to dramatically increase the value and performance of the mail they process. In many cases it simply isn’t in the job description. I suggest that you challenge this. You can make a difference! In the process, you will elevate the importance of your job and your Department.
The first step is to become the “Mail Champion” of your company/organization. How? Get certified! Earn your MDP and MDC certifications. Then help your staff in their professional growth by earning their own. Make a big deal out of it too; present the award in front of the entire company. You will be amazed how this recognition can do more to improve moral and performance than a pay raise.
Get involved in Mail creation at the earliest stages. Create and maintain a “Guide to Mailing Services”, describing your scope of services in both print and Co. Intranet. Include everything a mailer should know before they create that disaster in waiting they want you to mail. Include key deadlines, services you can perform in-house and those that will be outsourced. Offer to participate in marketing meetings and promote the value of mail when it is done right. Send out regular newsletters promoting your operation, include: reminders of key information, like how to reduce mystery mail, the importance of mail stop data, services offered, Postal news and department campaigns.
The Mail Moment
Mail has never been more valuable. Where email communication was once considered a panacea for marketers, response rates are only a tiny fraction of what direct mail produces. Google’s Gmail software (used by many millions) now automatically places marketing communications (except theirs) in a separate box altogether. Many of us receive so much email that we ignore all but the most immediate and important. Email marketing, unless you are sending only to current customers, is trending downward.
Mail, on the other hand is still going strong. Most people realize that the sender spent money to put their message in front of them. Because time is so precious, the recipient of your mail piece may only spend about 1 to 2 seconds to make a decision to open or toss it. This is the “Mail Moment.” Does the message live or die? A well designed mail piece can be very effective – regardless of how much it cost to get it there.
40% of mailing success is determined by the quality of the list, keep in mind that 80% of sales are generated by only 20% of customers, so every piece is important! 40% of the mailing success is based upon the offer. The remaining 20% is the Creative Element – how you present your offer. Here success may be measured by what you don’t do.
The Science of Mail
Mail can be very complicated. You can spend a career becoming an expert in many areas and will never know it all. It is not necessary to get everything perfect. Because of the short window of time your piece is evaluated 3 things are critical:
- Use the right vehicle: closed or window envelope, self-mailer or postcard being the most common.
- Show a compelling reason for the recipient to open.
- Avoid all telltale flags that your mail piece might be “Junk”.
It is possible to Maximize Savings and Improve results!
You likely don’t have any input into the offer or list. However…You can give the piece the best possible chance to succeed. How? By eliminating the flags that can trigger the piece to be categorized as “Junk”
- Fix both the personalized portion and the physical portion of the address by using CASS software to update and standardize address.
- Remove Duplicates: search for duplicates with multiple filters, one should include the address.
- Make Standard mail look and perform like First Class.
- Envelopes are the vehicle of choice for savvy marketers for they know they perform the best and are worth the extra money. Since they need to be opened they are evaluated, so eliminate the sortation marks from the address block. You can remove the optional endorsement line altogether if using IMb (**********************AUTOCR**C-04) Move bundle, tray, break, sort # and place elsewhere. My favorites are under the meter impression or the far lower left, as it also performs a function of priming the nozzles when spraying the IMb in the BC clear zone. Separate the IMb from the address block, you can place up to 1⁄2 below the last line, or put in the BC clear zone. Make sure to account for variable number of address lines and other placement rules.
- Many marketers sell the idea of stamps as the way to personalize the mail and improve the open rate. There is too much of this out there, if you don’t cancel the stamp with the optional Mailer’s Postmark it will not perform well. One study showed by adding 2 each 1 cent stamps and the Mailer’s Postmark, their response and results sky-rocketed! “Their response rate and average gift amount both jumped 20% versus the control, and the revenue generated by the test panel was 45% greater than the control.”
- If you want the message to appear to be highly personalized, use a large script font in blue ink, double space, use pre-cancelled stamp and add the optional Mailer’s Postmark to make it appear like a real stamped letter. Perfect for invitation styled mailings.
- Give them a reason to open, unless the reason is pure mystery or they know who you are, the envelope needs to be your messenger. Think of the outside of the envelope as a canvas. The rest is limited only by your imagination. Here is a great example sent Standard mail from my bank. Notice how the use of Permit Imprint does not detract from the message.
- Here is an example of doing everything wrong:
- Metered Postage is a great way to go for business correspondence and marketing. Here is an example of the local paper getting creative and changed their “subscription renewal invoice” into “an opportunity to continue their subscription” and converted to Standard from FCM.
- Use key data points from your database in the offer line to improve results. One study showed a 500% improvement over a static black and white address. Here is a favorite example with my name spelled out in mustard:
- For Postcards make the best use of the back address side, because that is the side they see first!
Learn from your mailbox
The mail you receive at home and at work can be the best teachers! But first you need to look at it from a layman’s perspective. What is your overall impression, would you be inclined to open it? Was there an appealing offer line? OK now look at it with your professional eyes: examine how it was addressed, what kind of printer did they use, what type of postage, if it was a stamp – was it cancelled? Did they use an optional endorsement line, sortation #, package mark, tray mark, break mark or Ancillary Endorsement? What was the marketing appeal? Did they use variable data, color or QR code?
Priority Mail Savings Opportunities
- Now has improved USPS Tracking with real time final delivery scan. (free) Day Specific Delivery, no longer a 1-3 day program. Up to $100 in Insurance included
- Lower your postage by using the best program: The four choices are: Retail, Base, CPP, NSA
- Consider Flat Rate, Regional Rate, and Cubic Programs
- Lower postage
- Free packaging
- Consider using a Partner program to maximize your discounts, open up unavailable programs without minimum volume commitments!
Here are some stupid mistakes some very large shippers made sending products to my home. They could have saved 50% or more of the freight costs by choosing the right type, size and packaging fill. Polybags will save weight and are still eligible for Cubic pricing.
Critical Mail is a great program for companies that send a lot of documents that require tracking. It’s also a fantastic way to get your mail into the C-Suite. Promotional mail sent in normal window envelopes is often intercepted by staff, who filter it out and may throw it away. Mail marked Critical has a great chance of finding its way to top executives. The increased postage over First Class is well worth the investment, given the increased response rate.
- 1 to 3 day delivery, Free USPS Tracking, Free $100 Insurance, Optional Signature Confirmation
- Up front pricing, Full network, Min 5000/year commitment
- Letter Size up to 3 oz. and 1⁄4” – only $3.50
- Flats up to 13 oz. and 3⁄4” – only $4.50
With the reality of tightening budgets and marching orders to do more with less it is critically important to get the most value for your spend. I encourage you to reach out to your peers, vendors and consultants to help you on this quest. Mailing can be a science; it also can be very successful by doing just the basics right… with a little imagination.