6 tips to transform ordinary sales copy into an extraordinary sales story

What do eggs, fruit, lawn care services, baby clothes, pigs and ink-on-paper organizers have in common? Too often, consumers think of them as commodities — widely available, undifferentiated, pretty much interchangeable. As a result, the decision to buy is typically based on price — driving margins down. When your assignment is to write email, direct mail, ad or collateral copy for a “commodity” product or service, look for ways to help your customer think differently about what you’re selling.

Target fires first salvo in holiday shipping wars

Looking to jump-start its holiday sales, Target announced recently it would offer free 3-to-5-day shipping on all orders, commencing immediately and running through Dec. 20. “We’ve been building capabilities that put us in a strong starting position, including the right digital tools,” said Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell in a press release announcing the move.

Amex partners with Layar in new interactive small business strategy

In what appears to be a new direct marketing strategy, American Express Open has recently taken a very real-life, interactive approach to marketing its Business Gold Rewards Card. This new strategy features real-life small business owners, who are Business Gold Rewards cardmembers, and stories of how the card helped to build and sustain their businesses. In addition, it introduces a new interactive layer to direct mail that we haven’t yet seen from the “direct mail king.”

Get the most from direct mailings with quality data

You cannot expect a good response from the direct mail aspect of your campaign unless you are working with good quality data. It doesn’t matter how good your material is; even if you have brilliant design and text that delivers your offer in its best possible light. Unless your database is clean, you’ll be wasting money.

Postal Service gets green light to test grocery delivery

The Postal Service now has approval for a pilot program to deliver groceries and packaged food, according to an Oct. 23 decision by the Postal Regulatory Commission. The Postal Service had asked to test out a concept it called “customized delivery” in which the agency receives freezer bags filled with foods or other packaged goods from sellers and delivers them to people’s homes. The PRC approved the request.

Why direct mail is undergoing a retail revival

Next’s successful return to direct mail announced recently signals the revival of a medium that has been overlooked by many retailers in recent years. Has Next spotted an opportunity that others haven’t? In an interview with Marketing Week, Lord Wolfson, Next’s chief executive, stated the company has turned direct mail back on after seven years. He said: “There was too much [direct mail] six years ago, but the volume today is infinitely less. The more there is the less effective it becomes [and vice versa].”

Medium-sized direct mail pieces dominate Who’s Mailing What! offers

Direct mail pieces with medium envelope/package sizes dominated the offers received by Who’s Mailing What! since 2010, averaging 71 percent each year. One-third of these medium-sized pieces used a #10 envelope. Retail Traffic Builders were the top user of medium sizes for the years reviewed. Fundraising categories like Health-Handicapped and Social Action (Causes) also topped this list every year, with almost half of the pieces using a No. 10 envelope.

Holiday shipping tips and mailing deadlines

WASHINGTON — With Christmas just two months away, the U.S. Postal Service is offering holiday shipping tips to help customers ship the 15.5 billion cards, letters and packages expected to be delivered in time for Christmas.

Mail Entry Road Map

The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) recently published a guide to help mailers plan for some of the upcoming changes and deadlines with regards to various USPS programs. Called the Mail Entry Road Map, this guide breaks down these various USPS programs and provides details on the USPS plans and important deadlines for each.

DMU closings after October 31, 2014
If your mailing facility has an active Detached Mail Unit (DMU), you should have received a letter from the USPS telling you that DMU’s at facilities with less than 75% Full-Service mail will be scheduled to be closed this fall. That October 31, 2014 deadline is rapidly approaching. If your mailing operation depends on the DMU for efficient verification and acceptance of your mail, you need to make sure that at least 75% of the mail you process is Full-Service. If not, you stand a good chance of losing your DMU. If you have an active DMU and have not received this letter from the USPS, you should check with your DISTRICT Business Mail Entry Office to see if your facility is one of those potentially impacted by this deadline.

What happens if your DMU gets closed? Unfortunately, you will no longer have the ability for USPS acceptance clerks to be on-site at your facility for verification and acceptance of your mail. Rather, you will be required to make arrangements to physically take the mail from your facility to your local Business Mail Entry Unit (BMEU) to have it verified and accepted there. Keep in mind that these facilities may have restricted hours and may not be able to efficiently handle your volume of mail. This could cause delays in getting your mail accepted, which may in turn impact Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) that you have in place with your clients.

Full-Service Non-compliance Assessments
In January 2015 the USPS plans to implement financial assessments for Full-Service mailings that do not meet the minimum compliance thresholds. These assessments will be charged based on your DECEMBER 2014 mailings, so you need to be working NOW to make sure your Full-Service mailings are meeting the compliance thresholds. Errors over the threshold will cause the removal of the Full-Service discount for the pieces in error above the threshold.

The USPS is right now (October 2014) beginning to issue “For Review Only” invoice reports, which are generated based on an evaluation all of the mailings submitted in the previous calendar month. These are not payable invoices, but rather they are “simulated” invoices, representing what you would be paying in postage penalties if these assessments were already in place. Keep in mind that the assessable errors will be those in excess of any threshold; errors within the allowed threshold will not be assessed. Mailers can also see their potential additional postage due on their Mailer Scorecard. Mailers should be closely reviewing these simulated reports in October, November and December 2014 to identify any errors and make corrections BEFORE the actual assessments are implemented in January 2015.

Move Update Validation
The USPS has for a number of years required that mailers utilize Postal approved methods to periodically update mailing addresses in their mailings. Traditionally, adherence to this requirement was in the form of Move Update Validation as a sample-based process, measured on mailpieces verified through the MERLIN process. The USPS is changing this validation process to one that utilizes Mail Processing Equipment scans and electronic documentation (eDoc) to measure Move Update quality on all Basic-Service and Full-Service mailpieces claiming automation rates. The USPS started showing these new validation process results to mailers back in August 2014 on the Electronic Verification tab of their Mailer Scorecard. In November, the USPS will start generating “simulated” invoice reports to calculate potential postage assessments for all mailers who submit more than 75% of their eligible mail volume as Full-Service.

Starting in April 2015, assessments will be implemented for Move Update errors over the permitted threshold. Mailers should be analyzing their simulated invoice reports generated for January, February, and March 2015 and take care of any errors above the threshold BEFORE the actual assessments kick in.

Non-profit Eligibility
The USPS plans to enhance the Non-profit authorization process for eDoc mailings in November 2014. Currently, mailers submitting eDoc must populate the eDoc with either a postage paying permit or Mail Owner permit that is linked to a Non-profit authorization in order for the mailing to be eligible for Non-profit prices. For mailings including multiple Mail Owners, the eDoc includes only one linked permit, and the balance of the Non-profit Mail Owner data is provided on a separate hard-copy list. Starting in November 2014, PostalOne! will support the identification of Non-profit Mail Owners using the Mail Owner MID or CRID. PostalOne! will temporarily continue to check all of the allowable fields (Mail Owner MID, Mail Owner CRID, Mail Owner permit, or postage paying permit) for the necessary Non-profit Authorization link. However, this will end in April 2015 when only the Mail Owner MID or CRID will be allowed for this purpose. It is recommended that Mail Service Providers (MSP’s) confirm the non-profit status for each of their clients prior to November 2014. The PostalOne! Help Desk can assist with this process. MSP’s should submit a completed MSP Customer Validation spreadsheet to the PostalOne! Help Desk, which will then look up each of the identification numbers provided and return the applicable CRID, permits and non-profit status for each mail owner.

Other Programs
The USPS is also measuring various criteria of mailings participating in the eInduction and Seamless Acceptance programs. For these two programs, the USPS is currently limiting postage assessments for errors to those mailings that exceed what they call the “Egregious Threshold.” However, at some point later in 2015, the USPS will be implementing similar postage assessment processes as those described above for errors exceeding the minimum thresholds.

Bottom line, mailers need to pay much stricter attention to their Mailer Scorecard so that any anomalies can be taken care of with PostalOne! and so that the errors exceeding thresholds can be corrected BEFORE the assessment implementation dates.

Resources
Window Book can assist you to increase your percentage of Full-Service mailings and to help improve your Full-Service compliance scores on your Mailer Scorecard. Our Full-Service On-Ramp Service (FSORS) has been successfully used by hundreds of mailers to implement Full-Service in their mailing operations. This same service may be used to help you increase the percentage of your Full-Service mailings or to help you resolve non-compliance issues that negatively impact your Mailer Scorecard results.

Window Book also provides a wealth of FREE educational resources to help you make sense of all the requirements. Webinars, white papers, and these weekly eTips help keep you educated and up-to-date.

Batman Stamps Dedication Ceremony Kicks Off New York Comic Con 2014

GOTHAM CITY — Today, the U.S. Postal Service, in collaboration with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment, took over the Javits Center to kick-off New York Comic Con 2014 by dedicating the Limited Edition Forever Batman Stamps.