New Name Fits New Challenges

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Who said change is easy? Example, which acronym is easier to say rapidly five times: MASA or MFSA? This real example typifies the complexity one organization has had to grapple with as it began adjusting to new horizons in its distinguished life.


Mail Advertising Service Association International, MASA, an 82-year-old, well-respected direct marketing industry association is now the Mailing and Fulfillment Service Association, MFSA. MASA has been an energetic and effective association that has represented lettershops and other direct mail service providers in the industry.


Why change? Adaptation to new times, which often forces companies, organizations or associations to undergo the wrenching adjustment of a name change. This step makes sense for two good reasons.


First, it better reflects members' growth into fulfillment services. This evolution has been both reactive and proactive. Reactive in the sense that providing fulfillment services enables lettershops to respond to another associated direct marketing need of their customers, hence being of greater value to them. Proactive in that expansion into fulfillment services opens partnerships with e-tailers by these same entrepreneurs who have knowledge of moving mail and packages domestically and internationally.


The second reason is equally sound. MFSA is now able to open its membership to fulfillment companies that have lacked a national association of their own. This is no small matter. With the economy constantly challenging a company's ability to contain costs, the leverage of a national relationship offers volume-related pricing of services that otherwise would not be available. The association also keeps a read on the pulse of postal, political and business matters on behalf of its members.


This responsibility was carried forth most recently at the association's annual conference, where John Nolan, the deputy postmaster general, updated MFSA members on the U.S. Postal Service. At one point in his address, Nolan clarified the postal service's position not to get into the fulfillment business. This was a welcome departure from the service's previously stated position.


The deputy postmaster general used the occasion to re-emphasize the value in building the direct mail business through partnerships. While not news, it is an important stance that must be heard as a challenge to act. It is a call for action that should spur the entrepreneurial interests of MFSA members and other direct mail services companies.


For example, this forum introduced a partnership opportunity that begins with the postal service's position of wanting to promote the use of its delivery system for merchandise order fulfillment but not wanting to be in the nuts and bolts of the business. Further, the USPS has its own sales arm, the Business Service Network, which has established relationships with all major mailers in the country. Here is the opportunity: A partnership could be established with the USPS by a coalition of geographically dispersed fulfillment services structured to provide a low-cost/quick-delivery mechanism for e-tailers and retailers alike.


Economically distressed times often stimulate change in operating procedures, which, of course, is a double-edged sword. Keeping in context with the idea of building partnerships, direct mail service providers have a distinct opportunity to be of greater service to their customers using the technological advances in the name and address cleansing process provided by nonexclusive USPS licensees and others.


Case studies underscore the value in regular use of proven cleansing techniques, most notably the postal service's Delivery Sequence File, which identifies invalid addresses, and its National Change of Address service, which provides new addresses and identifies movers who have not provided a forwarding address. Two proprietary cleansing services complement these actions.


The first are non-USPS change-of-address services that often find movers above and beyond those identified in the NCOA file. The second include companies that provide a deceased suppression service, which provides savings by avoiding mailing to deceased records and more than offsets its cost.


Conscientious direct mail service providers that aggressively offer such pre-mail cleansing aids provide an immediate cost-savings benefit and a possible long-term benefit by preventing further postage increases and move update regulation through improved mail delivery. Food for thought in these economically challenging times.


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