- NPF Mailing Industry Updates
Making Informed Connections at the 2017 National Postal Forum
Whether you seek mailing and shipping solutions to run your business more efficiently, you're looking for the right partnership to complement your business strategy, or you're pursuing continuing education opportunities for career advancement, the 2017 NPF is the place to be.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2017 NPF PROGRAM
OPENING GENERAL SESSION - PMG KEYNOTE ADDRESS
To launch the 2017 National Postal Forum, Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Megan J. Brennan will deliver the keynote address on strategies enabling mailing and shipping industry growth. Innovations that deliver business value are front and center, especially as the accelerating pace of digital and mobile innovations reshape the way people interact with their mail.
TUESDAY GENERAL SESSION
US Postal Service Chief Customer & Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, Jim Cochrane will lead a plenary session on customer centricity, featuring a panel discussion on best in-class customer experience strategies. This engaging session will deliver insights and a fresh look at ways of smoothing mail and e-commerce customer journeys and the competitive advantages of consistently delivering an excellent customer experience. This session will also look across the breadth of the mailing industry value chain to highlight the structural and cultural path toward continual advances in customer experience.
US POSTAL SERVICE OFFICER LED SESSIONS
These special US Postal Service Officer led workshops are created to share with NPF attendees an exclusive, firsthand look at the extraordinary innovations and updates that are making an impact in the mailing and shipping industry.
The 2017 Officer Led Sessions will include:
CULTIVATING SMARTER INTELLIGENT MAIL
Pritha Mehra, Vice President Mail Entry and Payment Technology
CYBERSECURITY: EMPOWERING MAIL IN THE DIGITAL MARKETPLACE
Greg Crabb, A/Chief Information Security Officer and Digital Solutions Vice President
DELIVERY TODAY AND TOMORROW
Kevin McAdams, Vice President Delivery Operations
END-TO-END NETWORK OF OPERATIONS – THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE
Robert Cintron, Vice President Network Operations
ENTERPRISE ANALYTICS – THE DIGITAL FRONTIER
Isaac Cronkhite, Vice President Enterprise Analytics
INFORMED CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Steve Monteith, Vice President Marketing
INFORMED PRODUCT SIMPLIFICATION
Steve Monteith, Vice President Marketing
Sharon Owens, Vice President Pricing & Costing
INNOVATING TODAY FOR TOMORROW’S CUSTOMER
Gary Reblin, Vice President Product Innovation
MAKING CONNECTIONS WITH SUPPLIERS
Susan Brownell, Vice President Supply Management
Guy Cottrell, Chief Postal Inspector, US Postal Inspection Service
Gary Barksdale, Deputy Chief Inspector, US Postal Inspection Service
FIVE EDUCATIONAL TRACKS ENCOMPASSING OVER 130 WORKSHOPS
CUSTOMER ANALYTICS AND MARKET RESEARCH
INTRODUCING INFORMED DELIVERY: DIGITAL IMPRESSIONS WITH MAIL
MAIL OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT
THE EVOLVING SHIPPING MARKETPLACE
THE NEW DIGITAL MARKETING CHANNEL – MAIL
OFFICIAL USPS PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS
2017 Professional Certification Programs Include:
CERTIFIED DIRECT MAIL PROFESSIONAL (CDMP)
The CDMP course is designed for the mailing industry professional to develop and strengthen core skills that build and maintain a successful direct mail business within this highly competitive environment.
• Mailing List Management
• Mailpiece Creation
• Response Rates
EXECUTIVE MAIL CENTER MANAGER (EMCM)
The EMCM course is designed for individuals who wish to develop Mail Center Management skills. The course teaches skills needed to manage more effectively, boost productivity and cut costs. Sponsored by the US Postal Service and developed by a professional committee with representatives from across the mailing industry, this course offers a certified designation that emphasizes professionalism in Mail Center Management.
• Sales and Marketing
• Basic Mail Design
• People Management
• Tools and Resources
MAILPIECE DESIGN PROFESSIONAL (MDP)
The MDP course is centered around effective mail design compatibility and optimizing postage costs through automation. This eight-hour course will be held over Tuesday and Wednesday and includes a comprehensive final review. The MDP certification is a two-year certification that offers a professional designation to all graduates.
• Classes of Mail
• Processing Categories
• Barcode Formats
• Designing Automation Mail
• Machineable/Non Machineable Criteria
All of these educational opportunities plus multiple daily networking opportunities and access to the largest exhibit floor in the mailing and shipping industry will be available to attendees of the 2017 National Postal Forum in Baltimore, MD - May 21-24.
A direct mail catalog can provide a lot of value to its customers simply by repositioning its existing products.
Mailer Name: Hubert Co.
Date Mailed: May 2016
This slim-jim catalog targets food retailers with content intended to help its intended audience think in new ways. Presentation and staging are crucial to the success of these enterprises, as the mail piece tries to prove.
The catalog showcases the “Five Elements of Visual Merchandising.”
Across several spreads, it uses its products to illustrate how each one can be used by the business to maximize impact and improve the customer experience. For example, the texture of objects displaying food can be leveraged to create different impressions for customers.
Additional spreads combine two or more of the elements to demonstrate how they can be implemented with actual foods. Others go further, incorporating them into larger real-world settings, like those representing real-world trends.
Among other things to note:
By getting a customer to think of how their products or services are part of a greater strategy or design, you can win more of their business
There have been days when 2157 Rayburn House Office Building had the feel of a boxing match.
It’s the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee room where Republicans and Democrats have been known to go at each other with vehemence.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday.
Members on each side of the dais went out of their way to praise representatives from both parties for work on legislation designed to save the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from financial ruin.
For more years than can be easily remembered, the Postal Service has pleaded with Congress for help with its financial situation. Members of Congress, along with postal unions and other interested folks, agreed that the financial picture was bleak, but consensus on getting out of the hole seemed beyond reach.
Now, with bipartisan legislation being considered in the infamously partisan House, hopeless no longer describes the USPS’s future. It’s not fixed yet, but the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017 provides a degree of optimism that for many years was absent.
“We’re actually going to get to the finish line and get a bill on the president’s desk,” Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told the hearing. “I’d like to see that as a bipartisan reform proposal that we can all get behind and champion. I didn’t get everything I wanted, Congressman (Elijah E.) Cummings didn’t get everything he wanted, but that’s the nature of coming up with a compromise without compromising your principles.” He and Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, made a point of thanking Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), who was a longtime postal employee.
“We’re faced … with 10 consecutive years of financial losses at the Postal Service, totaling some $62 billion. The United States Postal Service isn’t at ‘a’ crossroad, it’s at ‘the’ crossroads,” Chaffetz said. “It’s up to this Congress to address the challenges facing the Postal Service, its customers, the businesses that rely on it, and the taxpayers who will bear the burden if we fail to act.”
Much of what the bill would do is in the weeds of postal finances, dealing with the nitty-gritty of health benefits for employees and retirees, pensions, governance and contracting. Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan said the provision requiring postal retirees to fully participate in Medicare is key because that “would essentially eliminate our unfunded liability for retiree health benefits,” which has been a major driver of postal doldrums.
The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) objected to this proposal, saying it would mean a monthly increase in Medicare premiums of at least $134 for postal retirees. “All for health insurance coverage many postal retirees do not want, may not be able to afford, and have previously chosen not to take,” said a letter to the committee from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen.
For customers, the legislation would allow a one-cent increase in the price of a first-class stamp. Centralized, or cluster box, delivery would be used for homes where 40 percent of residents agree, with a waiver for the physically disabled. Before postal officials could close a local post office, they would have to consider the distance to the next one, the availability of broadband Internet service and local conditions, including weather and terrain.
In a demonstration of the exceptional unity around this bill, even the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service (C21), an organization of mailing industry trade associations and companies, endorsed the legislation, including the postage increase.
“To put it bluntly, mailers do not welcome rate increases generally, including this one. They are bad for business,” said Art Sackler, C21’s manager. “Nonetheless, we accept the necessity in this unique set of circumstances for the one-time across-the-board 2.15 percent increase … as, from our perspective, a necessary evil to assure longer-term postal financial stability.”
The bill would not end Saturday mail delivery, once strongly advocated by postal officials as a major component of their cost-saving strategy. Brennan acknowledged that would not fly with Congress.
Before the celebration over the bill begins, let’s recall that there has been hope before, only to have it wane as talk faded to inaction. At a January 2016 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, the postmaster general, the leader of the letter carriers’ union and a trade association representative all supported Sen. Thomas R. Carper’s (D-Del.) postal reform bill that increased hope but was not enacted.
Notably absent at that point was support from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate committee. Notably, the House bill, which includes some elements of Carper’s legislation, is a thoroughly bipartisan effort led by the oversight committee’s Republican chairman and ranking Democrat.
With that bipartisan backing, optimism grows. The mounting consensus around the House bill builds on the forward momentum generated at the Senate hearing and House committee approval of a bipartisan postal reform bill last year that was never considered by the full House.
“The need for postal reform is as urgent as ever. Fortunately, we also may be closer than ever to enacting reform,” Cummings said. “Only we can ensure that this 240-year old institution — an institution that connects every family, business, and community in this nation — will continue to be there to serve all Americans.”
There is a saying that if you aren’t growing your dying.
Growing sales is an art and a science. The art is the communication and the sales and marketing copy. This is the persuasion piece.
The science is the technology needed to discover the data for optimising the conversion paths in the journey from attention to sale. The rise of artificial intelligence and marketing automation provides scale and insights that we as poor mortal humans struggle to discover in the avalanche of data.
Some of the tactics needed to be applied in today’s social web are a world away from the old proven methods of door knocking salesman and cold calling. But the core motivations to human behaviour remain the same………Avoiding pain and running towards pleasure.
The change? Technology now sits at the centre.
The old school direct mail marketing world’s ongoing challenge was always optimisation and testing. Making many small mistakes revealed what were the best tactics to get someone to open that envelope.
Did you personalise or write compelling headline offer on the front. What color should it be? White or Yellow?
Does that sound familiar?
Email open rates, click throughs and high converting lead magnets are just digital versions of old school advertising copywriting measurement metrics.
The more things change, the more things stay the same. The message hasn’t changed just the medium.
The fast moving digital world almost taunts us to fail fast and often. Because sometimes the cost is just time. Make a small typo in the blog post and it can be edited out in seconds.
But I am not talking about aiming to make mistakes but be willing to commit to spending some of your resources on trialling and testing new tactics.
You won’t find that in your average marketing 101 course handbook.
Trial and error and testing can reveal new sources of traffic and improved lead generation because you moved out of your comfort zone.
The temptation is to run off in many directions. The mobile social web is a constant distraction and .
Three areas to focus on include:
Let’s have a look at some tactics and growth hacks that help you with achieving those.
Many of us have seen the Buzzfeed’s quizzes. They look like simple fun and maybe seen as superficial.
They include these classics.
But one of their most popular with over 21 million views is “What Career Should You Actually Have? The reality is that the questio is so compelling that it drives a ton of traffic and engagement.
But there is a serious growth tactic that sits behind that simple tactic. They are great for building your email list and that is a growth tactic worth investing in.
You can custom build them yourself or you can use a platform that makes it easy. One of those is a simple to build templates from Interact and is used by people such Toni Robbins, Cindy Joseph and brands such as Forbes and NBC.
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So check out the Interact quiz building platform and start growing your email fast today. It is a much faster and cost effective way to implement a quiz rather than spending $10,000 on a custom build and take months of work.
It will also help you identify the top tactics and proven templates to grow your email list faster.
Increasing revenue online is not just about more traffic. Attention is vital but it’s what you do with that traffic is key.
The journey becomes one of constant optimisation. It’s simple steps like fine-tuning your lead magnet to convert at 3% instead of 2%. That alone can increase revenue by 50%.
SamCart is a tool that you can use to improve your sales funnel and one of its big features is it can improve your checkout page conversion rate by replacing the less than optimal PayPal page with one that converts better.
Here is a typical PayPal checkout page.
Here is a sample of the SamCart page that I created. It includes a guarantee, social proof and even testimonials.
The stats are currently showing around a 50% optimisation improvement. That means 50% more revenue.
The secret to many successful digital entrepreneurs is that they are always optimising every step of the buying journey.
Find more information on Smartcart Here
The question that is often now asked “Is Twitter still worth using?”. The simple answer is “Yes”. The more complex side of that is “how”
Growing your traffic with a bigger email list, building a larger social media following on social and driving more page views with search engines is something that all smart growth marketers commit resources to.
Social Quant is one tool that is adding 10,000 followers a month to my Twitter account. It also helps to increase engagement, boost brand awareness and grow your industry influence.
If there is one key strategy that has been behind my success online then growing and using Twitter well has been key.
Find out more Here
Time is one thing we can’t buy, beg for more of or even steal. So we have to get smart and scale your time and resources. Marketing automation is one of those highly leveraged tactics.
I was watching an automated and pre-recorded webinar a couple of years ago by Russell Brunson who is the author behind “Dotcom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company onLine”. I was looking to learn more on how to create and optimise my sales funnels. The secret behind effective sales webinars is that they educate first and sell second. The result. I bought an online course for $1,000. The revelation to me me was how effective an automated webinar could be.
That tactic didn’t stop it being a great educational resource and sales tool. Easy Webinar is one of those apps that can help you do that.
It is used by some big names in the online world and these include. Amy Porterfield, John Lee Dumas and Chris Farrell.
Marketing at scale is vital if you want to grow your business.
Getting attention is becoming harder. So using pop-ups that have a compelling offer is almost a requirement for most savvy digital entrepreneurs. This can double your current email list and can covert more than 3% of all your visitors into email subscribers.
One of the best apps to do this is that I have come across is SumoMe.
Their default designs are a great place to start. But you can create your own by using their large range of templates. The stats show that the welcome mat is one of the highest converting list building tactics you can use.
Sumome data shows that it can triple your conversion rate with its full-screen call to action.
Welcome Mat displays a full-screen call to action that shows when visitors land on your site. It encourages your visitors to join your email list and check out your latest and popular blog post!
Popular features include:
Want to be a little less intrusive or even add to the popup then a “smart bar” will not get you the same conversion rate for clicks but it is a nice way to further optimise your list building tactics.
If you go the top of my blog you will see the “Smart bar” that links to SumoMe and you can start setting it up today. You can also use it on your website to start building your email list.
In a fast moving digital marketing landscape the effectiveness of your marketing tactics, the reach of social networks and platform algorithms can change overnight. This means a healthy sense of paranoia needs to be embraced. So looking for new ways to grow your business should be considered in your plans.
Constant innovation, adapting and testing new tactics should be part of your entrepreneurs mindset.
How are you adapting?
One of the services we perform through Whitestone Partners, our consulting firm, is to analyze the return on investment (ROI) of different types of marketing efforts. We had a client, for instance, who used direct mail to sell his product. He had mailed 500 potential clients and sold 17 products; he was excited about the results.
He asked us if we thought he should borrow money in order to mail to another 1 million potential customers. We agreed that this was an interesting opportunity. However, before going all in, we suggested that he focus on three things:
The first thing our client needed to determine was the close rate needed to break even. In the test, he had a close rate of 3.4 percent (17/500). For direct mail, that is typically very good. However, he still needed to verify that, given the economics of his product, this close rate would make him profitable.
Here are definitions for the terms used to make this calculation:
In a break-even calculation, revenue must equal cost. Therefore, the breakeven equation is:
B/E close rate x pieces x gross margin = fixed cost + (pieces x variable cost)
Solving for the B/E close rate:
B/E close rate = ((fixed cost/pieces) + variable cost)/gross margin
Related: Tracking Your Direct Mail Campaigns
If the B/E close rate you calculate is less than your actual close rate, you’ll make money. Notice that the B/E close rate declines as the number of pieces mailed increases. This is because when the number of pieces mailed increases, you amortize the fixed cost of the campaign over more pieces of mail. Therefore, the fixed cost per piece is less. When calculating the break-even point, use the number of pieces that you would expect to be able to mail consistently after the rollout (this will likely be more than the 500 our client mailed in his test).
To execute an ongoing direct mail marketing campaign, you’ll need a reliable source of names to mail. Make sure that you have access to enough names to make your program successful. You will need to test to determine the best cadence for mailing your prospect list.
If you mail too frequently, close rates will decline to the point that the mail campaigns are unprofitable. If you mail too infrequently, you are missing an opportunity. Test your way into the optimal mail frequency.
Our client had tested only a very small sample size -- 500 pieces mailed. With this sample size and response rates in the 3 percent range, he could be 95 percent confident that his actual close rate would be ± 1.5 percent of the result he got. The observed close rate was 3.4 percent. That means he could be 95 percent confident that the close rate with his planned 1 million mail pieces would be between 1.9 percent and 4.9 .
If his break-even close rate were below 1.9 percent, he would probably be safe significantly expanding the size of his direct mail campaign. However, we advised him that it would be prudent to test with a mail drop of 10,000 to 100,000 before rolling out to 1 million. With a mail drop of 10,000 pieces, he would be able to read his close rate to within ±0.33 percent; and with a mail drop of 100,000 pieces, his confidence interval would shrink to ±0.11 percent. We suggested testing at these levels before rolling out to 1 million people.
Direct mail can be a profitable way to market certain products or services. It can also be an expensive waste of money. Our client had what looked to be a promising opportunity. Using the calculations and the three tips above helped him to make a good decision. We hope our advice will ensure that your own direct mail campaigns also come down on the right side of the ledger.
Doug and Polly White own Whitestone Partners Inc., a management-consulting firm that specializes in helping small businesses grow profitably. They are also co-authors of Let Go to GROW, a bestselling book on why some businesses thrive and o...Read more
Are you a mail owner with a mailing on the way to important customers, and you’re wondering where the mail is within the postal network? Or maybe you are a Mail Service Provider and want to offer mail owners better intelligence on the progress of a mailing. IMb Tracing from the United States Postal Service (USPS) helps attain these results and much more. Piece-level tracking data can assist any mailer to better staff call centers, project inventory requirements, kick off follow-up marketing endeavors, identify and resolve potential service issues, or simply measure response rate and the success of the mailing. This kind of visibility and intelligence from the use of IMb Tracing achieves a higher competitive edge and greater customer satisfaction for all in the mailing supply chain.
The best part of IMb Tracing it that it is a free service for Full-Service First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Periodicals, and Bound Printed Matter. The unique Intelligent Mail barcode allows for mail piece tracking for origin or destination. To check compliance with Full-Service preparation requirements, review the Electronic Verification section of the Mailer Scorecard. The Mailer Scorecard is a free mail quality tool available on the Business Customer Gateway. Some areas of concern that may impact the quality of IMb Tracing results are specific barcode quality issues, such as Service Type ID (STID) errors and barcode uniqueness piece errors. A STID error may occur when the Service Type ID is missing or not valid for the particular class of mail. In order to select the correct STID to receive IMb Tracing data and address correction services, refer to the Service Type Identifier (STID) Table on PostalPro (https://postalpro.usps.com).
For the most accurate tracing data, barcodes must remain unique for 45 days and follow all applicable specifications. If issues are identified on the Mailer Scorecard, focus efforts to remedy problem areas and monitor results before beginning IMb Tracing. A couple of easy options to get started: sign up online at http://postalpro.usps.com/node/1489 or talk with your Postal Service account representative. Inquiries may also be submitted to IMb Tracing Customer Support at IMbTracing@usps.gov.
IMb Tracing reports the date, time, location, and processing information for each mail piece each time the mail runs on automated equipment. Keep in mind that the raw data delivered from the United States Postal Service will require some tweaking before the deep dive of intelligence is reached. Before the creation of usable reports, take time to consider the best format to align with your business process. Is it best to track single jobs? Do you need the ability to drill down from batch jobs to individual orders? Would geographical location or USPS processing facility be the best way to explore your data results? Do you have an internal IT partner to develop reports built off this information? Use them! Also, consider the option of visual analytics software. My team used both internal IT resources and visual analytics software to create our deep dive reports. The use of visual analytics allows the team to focus on potential service issues proactively with preset alerts based upon expected in-home arrival dates. If internal resources or visual analytics software are not an option, there are also third party IMb Tracing vendors. A simple internet search will return vendors and the tracing capabilities offered.
Previously, I have shared ways IMb Tracing can reduce costs, enhance marketing efforts, and improve relationships with customers. When my company embarked on our mail piece tracking endeavor, the number one objective was to have concrete information to share with our customers when in-home dates were at risk. Previous to mail piece tracking, the mail owner was the first to alert of a delivery issue. As any mail owner or mail service provider can imagine, this was of great inconvenience and major frustration for both the customer and our company. Six years later, we have full visibility for each mail piece ran on processing equipment from induction date, to entry facility, through stop-the-clock automation processing. Stop-the-clock operation codes indicate the last run on processing equipment before disbursement to carriers at the delivery unit. Stop-the-clock data is key to predicting delivery. This is where IMb Tracing visibility ends. If you plan to design reports in-house or utilize the services of visual analytics software, I highly recommend understanding which stop-the-clock operation codes apply to your mail class and category. With approximately 170 operation codes, there is no simple way to read and refer to all the codes. The full list of IMb Tracing operation codes can be found at: http://postalpro.usps.com/node/2667. Once the applicable stop-the-clock codes are identified, all other processing scans are merely a stop along the way.
As I began to dig into reports and analyze the data, I found some reoccurring themes in the operation scans. Fifty-six percent of mail pieces reported by the recipient as undelivered also did not receive the expected stop-the-clock scan code of 919. Why was this? The new found ability to correlate feedback from my customer and the feedback of the USPS gave us the power to question the data. The data was discussed with local, district, and national Network Operations management. After many discussions, research, and test runs, we discovered the design of our mail piece, in some cases, results in “fly outs” on the mail processing equipment. Often times when the “fly out” occurred, the mail piece was damaged. This would prevent the piece from completion of the Delivery Point Sequence (DPS) sort on the equipment. Thus, the mail piece was not delivered within the date range expected nor would it receive the stop-the-clock processing code expected.
Not only has IMb Tracing provided insight into stop-the-clock inconsistencies, I have been able to identify processing facilities with the largest volume of customer complaints. In many cases, my Business Service Network representative arranged a face-to-face meeting with the Plant Manager, District Manager, and Marketing Manager to present the facility’s performance data on my mailings. However, a face-to-face meeting is not necessary. A phone call can work as well. The United States Postal Service has been most gracious to review, discuss, and collaborate to improve adherence to service standards and customers’ expectations throughout and after these meetings. Furthermore, customers with reoccurring late delivery or mail that is never delivered are thrilled to know their Mail Service Provider is fully invested to not only track the mailings but resolve issues as they arise.
The future of IMb Tracing becomes even more robust with the introduction of Informed Visibility. This enterprise system expands business intelligence for end-to-end visibility for mailers and the USPS. Real-time reporting, flexible data provisioning, and customer specific mail performance are all benefits available to mailers. The first release of Informed Visibility was set to begin in January 2017. Full program information is available on PostalPro: https://postalpro.usps.com/visibility-and-tracking/informed-visibility-iv.
Imagine the ability to contact a customer, warn of a possible delayed mailing, and at the same time ensure efforts are already underway to get the mail moving days before the mailing was even expected. I can imagine it. This is the reality of the intelligence achieved through this service. I provide this level of customer service to over 3.5 million pieces of mail a month. It was not without some blood, sweat, and tears to get there. But with all hard work come great results. I recommend any and all mail owners seek out this kind of competitive edge from vendors as well as challenge mail service providers to provide this level of customer satisfaction to the mailer owners.
Trista Niswander is the Postal Manager at Our Sunday Visitor, the nation’s leading Catholic publishing and offering envelope provider. Ms. Niswander is involved with preparation and payment, postal compliance and records management, continuous improvement, and postal relations. She is a representative for the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers on the Mailer’s Technical Advisory Council (MTAC). She can be reached at TNiswander@osv.com.