USPS Begins Direct Mail Campaign Aimed at Small Businesses

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The U.S. Postal Service is courting the small-business market with a direct mail campaign, a joint effort with Microsoft and continued expansion of its NetPost Mailing Online service.


The agency will send two direct mail campaigns to 500,000 small businesses from July to September that will focus on its services aimed at small businesses.


The USPS would not reveal the cost of the campaign.


The initiatives touted in the mailings include Priority Mail; PC Postage; Global Express Guaranteed, an expedited international shipping service; and NetPost Mailing Online, which allows mailers to electronically transmit documents, correspondence and newsletters, along with their mailing lists, to the USPS via the agency's Web site.


The USPS is testing two different tri-fold mailings to see which gets the best response.


One mailing, which will be sent to 300,000 randomly selected small businesses, offers the chance to receive a Small Business Toolkit, which explains the USPS' small-business services and directs them to the agency's Web site for special offers. Businesses can respond by mailing back a business reply card, calling a toll-free number or signing up for the kit online.


The USPS will send another tri-fold mailing -- a reminder piece -- a few weeks later to those who do not respond to the initial piece. A few weeks after this, small businesses that still do not respond will receive a postcard as a second reminder.


Another mailing to 200,000 randomly selected small businesses will include special offers upfront instead of having the businesses first receive a Small Business Toolkit. The USPS will send one reminder postcard to follow up on this mailing.


FCBi, New York, developed the creative for the campaign.


The USPS is running television commercials and print ads in business publications related to the direct mail campaign. Several other print ads and commercials will run later this month as well.


The campaign is only one part of the agency's plan to reach the small-business market.


The USPS announced last month that it is joining forces with Microsoft bCentral, a provider of small-business services on the Web. Through this partnership, certain USPS online services, such as NetPost Mailing Online, will be integrated with Microsoft bCentral services.


Microsoft bCentral also will allow co-branded versions of its services to be customized for the USPS Web site for small businesses. There also will be joint marketing and promotional opportunities for both organizations.


"The small business/[small-office/home-office] market is the fastest-growing market in America," USPS spokesman Gerry Kreinkamp said. "And this market is probably not fully aware of the business solutions the postal service has available to them to acquire new clients, to help them fulfill their offerings and also to retain their clients."


At the same time, the USPS continues to expand its NetPost Mailing Online service. Jim Samaniego, manager of Internet messaging services at the USPS, said NetPost Mailing Online is on target with its plan, which was revised about three months after the service debuted in September.


There are 665 active users serviced through one printer/mailer, Rich Graphics Communications, in the Chicago area. The USPS no longer works with the printer/mailer XYAN.com, which the USPS signed for the project last year but which has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The USPS began working last week with Lason, a printer/mailer in the San Francisco area.


The USPS will recruit additional printer/mailers in the next few months. The solicitation will be sent to a pre-qualified list of suppliers.


So far, the service has generated more than $330,000 in revenue for the USPS from more than 565,000 pieces mailed through the system. The USPS could not say how much NetPost Mailing Online has cost the agency.


Other plans in the works for NetPost Mailing Online include updating the USPS Web site to allow for an interactive pricing option based on features desired by the mailer. Currently, NetPost Mailing Online costs about 50 cents for a one-page document sent First Class. Printer costs are built into the pricing structure.


Recently, the USPS added full-color document printing to the service and added nonprofit rates. Mailers now can use the service to send self-mailers and postcards as well.


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