Low Response on Your Mail Programs?

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If you've ever used a lead-generation company or mail shop and were dissatisfied with the response results, one of the main questions you've asked yourself is, "Were all of the pieces mailed?"


When you use a mail service company, the entire process is based on the honor system. You pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in advance for a product you never see or touch. All you have is the hope for a good response rate that justifies the expense.


However, what if the response rate is well below what you expected? What if you've mailed this same piece before and received two or three times the response you're receiving this time around?


Several factors may contribute to an unusually poor response: a seasonal (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) non-targeted or badly targeted mailing list, a badly designed mail piece. However, the same nagging question remains: "Were all the pieces mailed?"


This question can and should be taken out of the equation. Your mail shop should provide you with proof that all pieces paid for were mailed. That proof lies in a statement provided by the U.S. Postal Service called a Postage Statement, or 3602-XX form. Before a mailing can be accepted by the postal service, the mail shop must furnish a 3602-XX form, which among other things, provides the following:


• Mailing date.


• Post office of mailing.


• Permit holder's name and address.


• Weight (single piece and total).


• Total pieces mailed.


• Total postage.


Several varieties of 3602-XX forms exist, depending on the sort class, postage application (stamp, meter or imprint) and profit vs. nonprofit status. All variations provide the same basic information listed above.


Once the mailing has been accepted, the postal service enters the data and prints out a similar form that is stamped and dated. Basically, this is your receipt. You paid for it, you should have it. It's the only proof you have that answers the nagging question "Were all the pieces mailed?"


There are a number of ways that some mail shops can, and do, play fast and loose with your money - not the least of which is blatantly mailing less than you ordered. However, there are other, more subtle ways, including:


Tossed pieces. To keep postage costs down, mailers use pre-sorting software to obtain the best discounts afforded by the post office. After all of the mail has been sorted into the correct rate categories, pieces are generally left over (residuals) that do not qualify for rate discounts. Some mailers trash these residuals to save on postage costs, unbeknownst to the client. Many times, the number of pieces omitted is substantial.


For example, you've paid a mail shop 40 cents each for a 3,000-piece mail program to be sent out using automated standard rate (Third Class) mail. The pre-sorting software determines the following: 2,700 pieces come in at five-digit ZIP pre-sort at 16 cents each. The residual 300 are considered "Basic Rate" at 18.3 cents each. It's these pieces that sometimes get tossed in the interest of saving money. That's 300 pieces that you've paid 40 cents each, for a total of $120 that the mailer pockets. Without the 3602-XX form, you would never know this happened.


"What they don't know ..." When a lead-generation company tells you that a particular piece has been receiving an average 3 percent response rate, you pretty much have to take its word for it. The problem is that some mail companies have developed a scheme in order to grab some expense-free profit.


For example, you're told that you can expect a 3 percent response rate (30 responses for every 1,000 mailed) when, in fact, this particular piece averages 4.5 percent (45 responses for every 1,000 mailed). The mailer knows you're expecting 3 percent and mails out the number of pieces needed to obtain that response. In this case, instead of mailing the 1,000 pieces you paid for, the mailer sends just 700 and pockets the leftover cash. The 3602-XX form effectively removes this possibility.


Excuses, excuses. You may hear one of several excuses when you insist on receiving your 3602-XX form:


• "We batch our mail programs." To make processing faster and cheaper, many mailers combine a number of clients' mail programs into one batch, documented with one 3602-XX form. Unfortunately, this means you can't distinguish your pieces from those of the other clients. Demand in advance that your order not be batched.


• "We have to retain all originals for our accounting department." Wrong! Insist on the original 3602-XX form, stamped by the delivering post office. Let the mailer make copies from its files; you want the real thing. This allows less room for questions or doubt.


• "We throw them out" or "We lost them." This is not a problem. Just have the mailing company provide you with the telephone number of the delivering post office, the mailer's permit number, the date of mailing and the number of pieces mailed. Because the post office maintains computer files of every mail drop, it should be able to provide you with the 3602-XX form.


Demand your 3602-XX form before the fact. There are many legitimate mail shops and lead-generation companies out there. In the end, a low response rate could be because of a variety of reasons. However, the question of "Were all the pieces mailed?" can easily be answered by obtaining the 3602-XX form.
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