Mantra: Grow the Mail -- Responsibly

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Last month's National Postal Forum was one of the most inspiring for me personally. Postmaster general Jack Potter set the tone with his "can-do" attitude and his challenge to "grow the mail." Chief operating officer Pat Donahue and chief marketing officer Anita Bizzotto introduced several industry representatives who shared examples of creative ways they have used mail to build businesses. This combined presentation sent a clear message that our postal partners are eager to work with us to maximize the value of this powerful medium.


A hands-on example of this "can do - will do" attitude came at the Postal Customer Council Leadership meeting. One delegate challenged Donahue and the national PCC support team to commit to the activities under discussion. And two other delegates gave examples of operational obstacles where local postal personnel have failed to address their needs. Expressing surprise, two district managers promised to check into the matters. Donahue joined in to confirm in no uncertain terms that both situations would be resolved. Their collective assurance left the 100 or so delegates with a sense of a partnership refreshed.


The forum served as a venue where many delegates, exhibitors and postal representatives openly stated the belief that one annual National Postal Forum would serve the industry adequately. Many also held that opinion for MailCom.


To underscore the responsible use of time for cost incurred, most participants were "working the show" to the maximum, conducting serious business with exhibitors and cramming in as many seminars as feasible (not to mention after-hours meetings).


The forum carried two interrelated messages to attending professional mailers: Grow the mail, and grow it responsibly. Some of the informational and instructional sessions presented many ways in which the U.S. Postal Service is addressing the issue of responsible growth of the mail.


A notable example is Intelligent Mail, a work in progress, which lets mailers follow or track mail in route to its destination. This simple example notwithstanding, Intelligent Mail is a major initiative of the postal service to improve delivery, intercept undeliverable mail as it enters the mail stream and monitor mail through the system.


And here's an alert for small, medium and major mailers: Anticipate far more contact from your district account managers and business service managers. They want to encourage you to use the medium more aggressively because it yields the strongest response when used properly.


However, when it comes to implementing the "responsible" aspect of growing the mail, the burden rests solely on the mailers. No, that doesn't mean any of the mail service providers. The responsibility rests strictly on the company initiating the mailing activity, whether it's a repetitive monthly statement mailing or a prospect mailing campaign. Both generate undeliverable mail; both have varying degrees of corruption within their files.


Let's set the record straight. The last statement is not an exaggeration. It's not hyperbole. It's not an attempt to sell an address hygiene service for the USPS or one of its licensees. It is fact. The Census Bureau has told us for the past two censuses - the past 20 years - that 17 percent of the population moves every year. Evenly distributed across one year, that translates to 1.5 percent change per month.


Said another way, every 90 days the average file experiences 4.5 percent name-to-address error, deterioration, corruption. That's 4,500 records for each 100,000 mailed. At 35 cents cost to mail (postage, material and labor), that's $1,575 wasted expense in the budget and an unnecessary cost of handling 4,500 UAA pieces to the postal service.


If that's not embarrassment enough, look what it costs in terms of lost business. Providing those 4,500 records with correct addresses before entering the mail stream would let them respond to the prospect offer in the same vein as the rest of the accurately addressed and delivered mail. A 2 percent response rate yields 90 business transactions that otherwise would have been lost. Who can afford to waste the opportunity to gain new business by ignoring fundamentally good business practices?


Now, more than ever, is the time to implement solid front-end, cost-saving techniques to maximize your mailing activities. That includes customer mailings as well as prospect mailings. Want more ROI information? E-mail me at rbsemperfi@aol.com.


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