Mail Should Be in Every Company's Marketing Mix, Potter Says

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WASHINGTON -- Postmaster general John E. Potter called upon attendees at the 2004 National Postal Forum to spread the word that mail works as an ad medium.

"Mail should be a part of every company's advertising mix," Potter said yesterday in his keynote address. "We have to make sure people know that."

If the mail industry expects to grow ahead of the economy, he said, "we need a new strategy to reach this segment and introduce and drive home the value of mail."

The U.S. Postal Service will retool how it works with customers, Potter said.

"No, we are not going to forget the mega-mailers," he said, "but we are going to invest resources in going back to basics to reach millions of small and midsized businesses."

The postal service's employees help it grow, Potter said.

"They're out there every day, talking to businesses on their routes, explaining to customers how to use the mail to increase their businesses," he said. "They turn prospects over to their postmasters, station managers and our sales and marketing staff. Although we've just begun, we've seen more than $38 million in sales from this effort."

The postal service's local Postal Customer Councils have always offered an opportunity to reach out to these businesses, Potter said.

"This year, with the help of our National Advisory Committee, we've taken that effort up a few notches by creating a plan to enhance PCCs all across the country," he said. "We've devoted staff resources to help existing PCCs grow membership and attract new businesses."

The plan helps PCC co-chairs design workshops, seminars and special events.

Potter said the USPS will enlist industry partners to reach small and midsize businesses and strengthen the PCC network. He added that John Greco, the new president/CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, recently pledged the DMA's support by offering to conduct its professional seminars at PCC meetings. Also, the Small Business Administration pledged to become an active partner with PCCs.

Potter also discussed the credit card industry. In the past three years, many credit card companies have turned to mail, both Standard and First Class, to sign up new cardholders because it offers better value and better return on investment.

Potter said American Express once spent about 80 percent of its marketing dollars on television.

"That's no longer the case," he said. "Today, they've increased the use of mail because they're getting a better response from prospective customers."

Potter also said the USPS is expanding online services and that, based on suggestions from mailers, "you can now purchase insurance for your packages and receive return receipts online."

He added that the USPS Board of Governors recently approved the filing for a prepaid flat rate Priority Box. The filing asks for flat price of $7.70.

"We're working with the Postal Rate Commission to reach an early settlement so we'll have those boxes on sale in time for this holiday mailing season," Potter said.

He is looking forward to a strong holiday season.

"I am optimistic that strong consumer confidence will lead to strong sales for you -- and strong revenue for us," he said. "From a service standpoint, we'll be ready to deliver America's greeting cards and holiday packages."

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