*USPS to Begin Direct Mail for Small Businesses Campaign

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The U.S. Postal Service, Washington, will begin a direct mail campaign this week to promote the use of direct mail by small-business owners and dot-com companies.

The USPS has been promoting direct mail to small companies in the fall and spring since 1996, but this is the first year the agency is focusing on dot-coms as well.

"Dot-coms are now realizing the value of direct mail to draw people to their Web sites," said Gerry Kreinkamp, a spokesman for the USPS.

The campaign includes letters and self-mailers that explain the benefits of direct mail and why it should be part of a small business's marketing mix.

There are four versions of the letter. Two target dot-coms, and two target traditional small businesses. One mailer includes an offer for customers to order a free Business Guide to Advertising with Direct Mail booklet, and another includes an offer for customers to order a free Direct Mail by the Numbers kit.

This new kit is designed to help small businesses and dot-coms use and understand direct marketing. It includes detailed information about where to purchase or rent a mailing list; 12 vital questions that small-business owners should ask their broker; creative tips; and information about how to save time and money when using products and services from the USPS. The kit also includes several case studies and lists of resources for small businesses pertaining to direct mail.

The USPS sent mail pieces to more than 300,000 businesses from a rented list. The USPS performed a merge/purge on the file and selected previous responders.

Dot-coms and small businesses were selected at random to receive either offer, because the USPS "wanted to test to see which one does better," Kreinkamp said. "We just took half the names and sent them one, and then took the other half of the names and sent them another. It is a random test to see which response rates are better."

The campaign was designed and executed by Foote, Cone & Belding, New York. FCB is one of four new advertising agency to which the USPS awarded contracts in September. FCB was named the USPS' agency of record for direct mail.

FCB, however, began working on the campaign at the beginning of September, "because they were one of the carry-over agencies," Kreinkamp said. "We had them under contract before."

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