Use rate freeze as a time to test new strategies and technologies

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Use rate freeze as a time to test new strategies and technologies
Use rate freeze as a time to test new strategies and technologies

All of us direct mail junkies received an early holiday gift when USPS Postmaster General John Potter announced a postage rate freeze for 2010. According to a statement released in October, the Postal Service wants to build long-term direct mail revenue. I personally salute this decision as an economic development tool.

This rate freeze is part of a larger situation that should create a boom in our industry. Our nation's economy is the main factor cited in the USPS rate freeze. This downturn has also greatly affected printing cost. Printing Industries of America released data late in 2009 that annual printing profits are approximately $2.5 billion compared to $5.4 billion in 2008. This drop brings a bittersweet boon of lower printing cost in the ultra-competitive industry.

Static postage rates and rock-bottom printing costs open the door to increase quantities and test new strategies. As direct mail practitioners, it is usually a distant dream to add a comprehensive test set to campaigns.

In order to meet client (or boss) expectations, those of us responsible for direct mailing often work with our nose to the grindstone and let new technology pass us by. With lower costs across the board, now is the time to test new techniques and strategies. Variable data printing, personalized Web sites, image personalization, intelligent mail bar codes and other technologies are all worthwhile strategies to pursue. Each of these, when implemented properly, can improve response and ROI.

Recently, my company created a student recruiting campaign for a local college utilizing personalization and Web integration. Response to the campaign was over 15% and as a result, the college added 411 students over the previous year. The testing that went into the campaign was a major factor in the campaign's success.

Do not think of this USPS decision as a temporary savings. Use this as an investment. The postage freeze has tremendous implications for an industry that has been relegated to the "old school" box of marketing tools. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity to create a direct mail boom.

This article originally ran as part of the January 4, 2010 Technique, "Make the most of stable postal rates." To read the entire feature, click here.

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