Everyone has heard the rumors … “The Post Office is closing” … “They are laying off all the postal workers” … “We’re only going to get mail two days a week!”
These are only rumors, no need to panic. If Kevin Costner could deliver the mail in a post-apocalyptic United States, I’m sure we’ll manage today. The USPS has proposed substantial operational changes in order to become financially stable and ensure a more healthy future, and I can tell you direct mail is still alive and well … and is actually the direct marketer’s most powerful tool.
Despite the rise in postal rates and printing costs, direct mail continues to be the workhorse of the direct marketing world. It is the only medium that can tell us so much about those who do and don’t respond to our offers and buy our products. It’s where we can test creative, test offers, and learn about our consumers in-depth by using the power of data and analytics that is available to us today.
One Man’s “Junk” is Another Man’s Ad
Every other medium is supported by advertising; but when marketers support the postal system with “advertising mail” – the consuming public calls it “junk mail.” Why do you think so many think it’s junk? It’s because so much of what we get in our mailboxes is just not relevant to our wants and needs. We can surf past an ad on TV that’s not for us. It’s a quick delete on email. A flip of the page in a magazine. But when it’s in our mailbox we have to carry it, sort and trash or recycle what we don’t want. But – what we want we keep. We read it, we order from it – or we save it for a time when we have more time. No other medium can deliver what direct mail delivers.
How to Harness the Power of Direct Mail
So, our job is to use the power of the data that we can harness today, and make sure we are doing our very best to put a message that’s relevant to every recipient in their mailbox. That’s a tall order – but we’ve only failed if we’ve failed to try! So let’s build models that target our prospects, use digital printing to vary the copy and the images to fit each household, and actually save some trees by mailing fewer pieces while maintaining (or improving) response rates and sales.
There’s no doubt that postage is likely the single most expensive part of any direct mail campaign. Postal rates continue to increase because there’s less first-class mail due to electronic banking, billing, and bill pay. Standard mail — advertising mail — supports the postal system. Doing less mail and smarter mail isn’t going to put the volume in the system that the USPS needs to survive. But I believe that the USPS will find a way to survive and thrive – even as we do our jobs better than ever before.