USPS Positions Mail as 'CRM Tool' for Big Biz

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In a departure from previous campaigns that promoted a specific product or service, the U.S. Postal Service has started an effort to sell businesses on the value of direct mail in customer relationship management.

"We are turning a corner in the way we are going to market with our products these days," said Susan Dow, manager of sales strategy at the postal service. "This is our first foray into positioning mail as a CRM tool, and [the mail piece] talks about the attributes of hard-copy communications."

The first drop went to 75,000 mid-tier customers March 12, including 40,000 new accounts nationwide managed by the USPS direct sales force that have been identified as having high growth potential, Dow said. These customers generally have more than 20 employees and spend $200,000 with the USPS yearly.

Also targeted was a 20,000-count control group of customers that use direct mail but are not managed by the USPS sales force, she said. A compiled list of 15,000 professionals in the CRM field who subscribe to CRM-intense magazines also was targeted.

The mailer shows a crowd of people on the front along with a banner that reads, "More Than 105 Million Americans Do it Everyday." Opening the piece shows an inside banner reading "(Check Their Mail.)" Inside, there is a picture of a person looking into a traditional mailbox along with a section that says, "Pull."

When pulled, Dow said, "the mailbox opens, and you see the rest of the person's face. The person is smiling and pulling out his mail. [Then], the mailbox is closed and the mailbox is empty." The message, she said, is that "customers like their mail, they look at it, they react to it and they interact with it."

To reinforce the point, the piece lists statistics about direct mail and discusses its value in CRM. Direct mail, according to the mailer, is "welcome, tangible, trackable and flexible."

The mailer offers recipients the chance to receive a free ROI Estimator, a CD-ROM program developed by the postal service to help marketers understand the cost-effectiveness of a mail program. To get the CD-ROM, recipients call a toll-free number or return a business reply card to the USPS.

"The intention is, once they receive the fulfillment piece, that person will be a lead for our sales force, and we will have our direct mail sales specialist work with them to select the right product mix that lets them achieve their business objectives," Dow said.

A follow-up postcard will be sent in early April to non-responders.

USPS worked with DraftWorldwide on the campaign.

Dow said that research compiled as the campaign progresses will be crucial to the postal service in determining whether it should use CRM as a selling point to larger customers.

"The compelling reason for us to do this [campaign] is because we really want to talk to the very large CRM companies and direct mailers out there -- Sears and JC Penney's, for example," she said. "But first we want to learn if positioning the postal service's direct mail product line as a CRM tool really works, if that resonates."

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