Automatic Mail Services, Inc Telephone: 718-361-3091

Postal Awareness... Tips and Ideas for Efficient & Affordable Direct Mail is brought to you by Automatic Mail Services, Inc — direct mail processing, printing, data processing, and fulfillment since 1971.

When it comes to the latest postal rules and regulations that can maximize your savings, you need to turn to the expert. We have the knowledge and the information you need to make your mail more efficient and process it to arrive at the lowest possible rate. In a tough economy, that’s a good thing.

A lot of you are scrambling to boost your return from every mailing campaign and to attain better targeting with the cleanest and the most up-to-date list possible. It’s wise to bookmark this site and visit us often.

Discussing your campaign objectives, design, and approach with us long before it reaches print is the surest way we know to help you take advantage of current postal rules and regulations that can maximize your savings.

Below is a compilation of real time experiences, we recently encountered and a few tips to help you along the way with your direct mail communications.

Contact Automatic Mail Services, Inc today at 718-361-3091 or by email to info@automatic-mail.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Summer 2011

QR Codes

The approved Mobile Barcode promotion of the summer, using static QR codes and receiving a 3% postage discount has been fairly popular with quite a few mailers. These codes are easy to produce and there are a variety of software programs we have at our disposal.

One of our favorites is with the use of a landing page and even one client used a video in a recent mailing. If you are considering the use of a QR Code, or have a question or two, please give us a call.

Dont confuse them with the Variable Data QRs and tracking QR results, as these are more involved and as expected, have an effect on the mailing fees.

Did you know - Direct Mail Represents 52% of Total Mail Volume in the United States.

The USPS processes 391,000 pieces of mail a minute and processed 41.5 million address changes in 2010. It has been named The Most Trusted Federal Agency six consecutive times.

A whopping 98% of consumers bring in their mail the day it is delivered and 77% sort through it immediately.

Do you have a question? A day doesnt go by that someone asks What kind of response will I get, or someone told me a stamp is better than Indicia, what do you think? These are only just a few good questions that we get daily and usually answer with it depends.

A goal with all our customers is to develop a long term business relationship. Most if not all of the mailing campaigns we handle are about making money from a service, product, or a cause. With so much competition for dollars and cents, it takes a well coordinated communication plan, for people to dig into their wallet and spend their money.

It takes more than a one-time direct mailing to get people to part with those dollars and cents. Thats why it makes sense to call us first when you start to plan any type of marketing communication program. Your marketing dollars are too valuable to waste on a campaign that may or not meet expectations. The next time you have a question about direct mail or postal issues, call us. Its our job to make sure your next campaign is running on all cylinders.

Want to go green? One of the easiest ways to start a green campaign is to look at your database. Each year businesses send billions of pieces of mail that are undeliverable as addressed (UAA). By having us help you keep a clean, up to date database, you are able to print less, which reduces waste, saves on paper and reduces energy consumption.

As a reminder to our customers, check with us well in advance of any mailing to ensure there are no delays in getting your materials into the mail stream.

Spring 2011

Five or Six Day Delivery
That is the question, but what is the answer?

On March 24th, the PRC revealed its perspective on the USPS proposal to reduce delivery dates from six to five days and make related changes in mail processing. In a nutshell, the PRC did not make a decisive announcement, but preferred to make a non-decisive opinion.

Without boring you with rhetoric from the USPS, the PRC and government legislatures, when we have a more definitive direction announced, we'll post it on this site.

The Exigency Case - When the PRC turned down the USPS request for a price increase in October, 2010, the USPS filed a suit in the US court of Appeals, for the DC circuit. Oral arguments were recently held in March. A three Judge panel heard these arguments and quizzed attorneys from the USPS and the Public Regulatory Commission. Although a decision is not expected for months, some of those in the courtroom gave an advantage to the PRC.

A shrinking USPS As you are all probably aware, the USPS is reducing employees and getting by with fewer districts.

In reference to people, they are reducing administrative layers with the hope of achieving a 20% reduction in administrative and executive positions. The USPS is now offering monetary settlements to accelerate people's decision to leave the USPS.

The restructuring also included seven districts that process the mail. These closed districts territorial and administrative were assigned to existing adjacent districts in their immediate area.

As a reminder to our customers, check with us well in advance of any mailing to ensure there are no delays in getting your materials into the mail stream.

Winter 2011

Is the USPS really helping a small business?

The US Postal Service said December 21 that it will ease its rules on simplified addressing to allow small businesses to use the format for city delivery routes. The agency states the move will help it raise revenue and save small businesses money at the same time.

What they are really saying is nothing new. As we get closer to the IMB (intelligence Mail Barcode) deadline, we continually recommend to our mailers, that a highly targeted and clean list is the most important component of a successful mailing. The notice in December said small businesses will be able to use the format for saturation flat-size mail pieces and irregular parcels. Saturation mail is used to reach every address in a geographic area, while flat-size mail includes large envelopes and fliers often used for advertising, according to the USPS. So you save a few pennies here and there and then grow a long old beard waiting for the response because your mail was sent to "postal customer."

The simplified addressing option enables businesses, in most instances, to address mail to "Postal Customer" when complete coverage of a delivery route is intended. If your business has a product or service that can benefit every household in your area, such as a restaurant or dry cleaner, it can be an advantage to reach every household. Please call us for all the details.

The state of your postal budget

Postal rates, new rules and regulations pertaining to mail preparation have had a big impact on all mailers. As of this writing, for standard mail, the rate of letters will go up 1.8%, if approved, on April 17, 2011. Parcel and package service rates have already increased. Please contact us with any of your rate increase questions. It's confusing! Not just the rates, but the dilemma of how size, shape, and weight can impact your postage budget in a bad way. Add in the value of maintaining clean data to avoid penalties or even a delay to get your mail delivered.

There are ways you can keep more money in your pocket. For example, something as simple as folding documents to fit into a smaller envelope could save you a bundle. Or treating a package as a flat could change what you pay.

Changing mailing formats is definitely a step toward cost-savings, but paying attention to your data is even more critical. However, reducing mailings and blindly lowering expenses are not a recommended first step. The most important step you can take is contacting Automatic. Call us for a postal needs analysis based on the budgetary requirements for your next mailing. Our goal is to help you achieve the greatest possible response to your direct mail campaigns.

Winning direct mail marketing is all coordination

A direct mail campaign is rough on everyone involved. It's probably toughest for the creative people who must adapt their ideas from start to finish. Strong coordination between the designer and the copywriter bring good results.

In the design of a direct mail piece, the objective is not always to create a knock 'em down dead design. The main goal of the piece is to sell products or services. The copywriting sells, so to achieve this goal the copywriter must craft the best words to make this happen.

This is where heads start to butt. Whether it's the design department or copywriters, everyone is very proud of their work, as they should be. A great idea without compelling words often goes unnoticed. Great words without design to attract the consumer's attention are often doomed to oblivion. Great visual images without substantive words and ideas may fail to produce the desired outcome.

As you can see, each is important. But readers of direct mail will overlook the best words and most monumental ideas unless something grabs their attention. The grabber for direct mail is design. It is the proper blend of color, shape, size, illustrations, photographs, and typography.

Good direct mail design attracts the eye to the page and makes the copy easy to read. Imagine receiving a piece in the mail with funky, hard-to-read type or bold colors that hurt the eyes. The reader's hand will make the move to the trash can in three seconds or less.

Get us involved early in your next direct mail campaign. We'll make sure everything and everyone is on the same page.

Fall 2010

According to the USPS, Standard Mail volume up 10% in the latest quarter

However, First Class mail is down and many experts believe we’ll never match the volume in year 2006.

If you’ve been holding back on getting into the mail stream, here are a few tantalizing ideas and information that recently came through our facility.

A delivered piece of direct mail means you are serious. Compared to the latest communication in social media channels and with some industry experts saying 97% of emails are never opened, direct mail is definitely a viable communication channel for message deliverability.

Remember the mass mailing of disks by AOL in the 1990’s? In a recent study sponsored by DiskMail Direct and the DMA, a mailer with a disk enclosed experienced a 91% open rate. 59% of the respondents found a DVD was safer to put into their computer than a file via email. Responders also noted that they would prefer a DVD 85% of the time via mail than an email from the same advertiser.

When it comes to direct mail containing an object within an envelope, curiosity is king to increase the open rate. Another type of mailer, three-dimensional, or a tube or box, that brings something big, something different, just can’t be resisted.

Tip

The sky is the limit when it comes to design for your direct mail piece. And so is your open rate if the curiosity gets the best of your recipients.

Intelligent Mail from the USPS

May 2011 is the date for compliance with basic IM. It’s also an important date for the Postal Service in their goal to meet the latest regulations and to become SOX compliant.

As we are going over the many nuances of IM (Intelligent Mail), here are a few pointers that can help you with your present mailing activities.

We have started the IM process which will include electronic documentation of mail processing and make sure your mailing gets all the discounts applicable. For any additional information or if there are any questions, please call us at (phone number).

Non-Profit Mailing Smarter

As with other types of mailing pieces, non-profits that regularly mail, are changing their what, why and how of mailing.

According to Karen Zapp, a direct response copywriter with a focus on charities and professional associations, she recommends you tell your donors why and not what. When you answer that, you start to get at the heart of why donors give and what they really care about. Donors want to feel special. It’s critical they know how important you are to them.

With the digital world all around us, it’s important to test channels that your contributors respond to and with. Make sure you test integration of channels to determine if there is another option to reach out to donors. We’ve seen some non-profits use a post card with a landing page address to give a thorough picture of what the non-profit is doing with their donations.

Another neat trick we’ve seen with a post card is to have a return card perforated in the post card for mailing back to the non-profit for an offer or another type of response.

Tip

What kind of offer motivates people to make a donation using direct mail? If the present offer is generating declining results, it’s time to test a new offer or present different offers to various segments within your list.

Summer 2010

According to Mintel Comperemedia,
Direct mail volume up to 16% in Q1, 2010

In the first quarter of 2010, 6.1 billion pieces in total entered the mail stream. The insurance and credit card industries were the strongest drivers of this growth.

Tip

If you’ve been holding back on getting into the mail stream, here are a few tantalizing ideas that recently came through our facility.

We've seen success with direct mail pieces that also include a promotional product. Including a useful product means that your information will stick around longer… it's not just a piece of paper that will get tossed in the trash!

Professionals know that a mix of marketing is better than committing any one campaign to one communication channel. Our experience is that email is good for making offers to the people who already know your company but new prospects react much better to a tangible piece that they receive in the mail.

Source: Mintel provides industry-leading Market Intelligence.

Our Take on Intelligent Mail from the USPS

Despite the wealth of information available on Intelligent Mail, there is still a common misperception in the industry that using Intelligent Mail® barcodes (IMb’s) automatically allows mailers to track their mail. While the additional data included in the IMb certainly facilitates the ability to track the mail, using the IMb, in and of itself, does not provide for accessing mail-tracking data.

Tip

Over the last few years we have gone to great lengths to strengthen our client data analytic services to meet the latest USPS regulations. Today we are better equipped to help you find the right people to target.

Our three rules of better customer engagement are:

Non-Profit Mailing Smarter

A number of nonprofit organizations that used to mail to their entire database of donors are also refining their database to get rid of old names, lapsed donors, or folks that they have determined shouldn’t be mailed to anymore.

Tip

May we suggest to budget dollars for an appeal to just those people.

For example—a special A-6 invitation- sized mailing was sent by an organization to 500 of their lapsed donors that had not donated to the organization in over five years. The simple “invitation to contribute” letter, with a compelling image of one of their clients, did the trick. They ended up with an excellent 8% response rate and a bigger increase in sorely needed donations.

What was so compelling to make these 40+ people respond? A nice little two-line sentence that read, “Won’t you help those less fortunate than you in these troubling times?” Simple and very effective, even the folks that had not responded for five years could not resist helping out! Yes, they mailed less, but smarter, focusing on donors they already had in their database. They provided a targeted, focused, and compelling message that shared the story that even in these disturbing times, there are still unfortunate folks out there that need your help. The goal is to look at your database list—what sectors of your data population have you not touched in a while? For the answer to this and other non-profit mailing techniques, just pick up your phone and ask us. We love to share our tricks of the trade and help your organization reach its goals.

The USPS Saturation Mailing Program May Just Meet Your Needs

Saturation mailings enable you to cost-effectively target entire neighborhoods within a ZIP Code™, city, radius or county. To qualify for the maximum saturation mail discounted postage rate, your mailing must meet two requirements:

1. The mailing must follow the 90/75 Rule, which means you must mail to at least 90 percent of residential addresses, or at least 75 percent of the total number of residential and business addresses in a given carrier route.

2. The mailing must be sorted in “Walk Sequence” order – the actual sequence that the postal carrier walks the route.

Tip

A local business looking for an inexpensive way to increase sales, or plan to expand the business to a new market, might want to consider doing a saturation mailing. It’s a great way to deliver more mail for less. It’s another tool to use for testing mailers, offers, or even new services.

The saturation mailing strategy works by “saturating” a direct mail message within a localized area, such as a certain radius from your business, a particular neighborhood, a ZIP Code™, city or county by reaching the majority of households and/or businesses in a postal carrier route.

Saturation mail is a great option for a business looking forward to establishing their brands, increase walk-in traffic, and deliver targeted offers promoting their services, grand openings, and special events.

Saturation mail can help connect you to your prospects and customers who are located nearby and are more likely to do business (and repeat business) with you. And, it’s a great tool to expand your database.

Plus, because saturation mailings are so quick and easy for the USPS to process, they pass the savings on to you, the mailer. Now that’s an even better reason to give this a try.

Spring 2010

Plan like there’s no tomorrow.

Planning is the most important process when using direct mail today. With postage costs accounting for as much as 70% of direct mail expenses, understanding how rates are calculated is important to everyone who creates mail – including marketers, writers and designers.

Direct mail may seem passé, quaint or simply irrelevant. However, it's still an effective way for all businesses to remind (frequency, anyone?) customers you’re still in business, and get them in a purchasing mode.

It may eventually be replaced by some new form of communication, but not anytime soon.

All of us know big changes are coming to our Postal system, so you can't continue mailing as usual, expecting the same results. That's not going to work any more. You have to mail highly efficiently, targeted and have relevant messages that offer customers true value.

When you get in that mode, you even save money!

Tip

Remember, in addition to the weight of your mailpiece, consider size and shape that can affect your postage costs. For example, take letter-size mail. The rates on oversized letters, commonly known as flats, did increase during one of the rate increases, but you have a lot of flexibility to use different sizes and still qualify for the lower letter-size rates.

If your first class mailing program is on a diet, you still get the letter rate if you do not exceed 3.5 ounces and when you use Standard Mail, you can mail up to 3.3 ounces for one low price.

When you plan to use Machinable Mail, not only is the size and shape of the mailpiece important, but you must consider the thickness, how you seal it, and what is inside the mailpiece. If you do not meet all the guidelines, it can go as nonmachinable, and you face significantly higher rates.

The new guy on the block vs. Direct Mail

Social media strategies, Purl’s, email and other online strategies, are and should be, a major component of direct marketing. As long as there is a US Postal Service, you should never ignore direct mail.

That's right, direct mail.

There’s a perception that direct mail is much more expensive than other channels due to Postal costs and to some degree, paper cost. When direct mail is used wisely and planned accordingly, direct mail still outperforms many of the new tactics, especially in the use of prospecting and defining better customer segments.

There are a lot of businesses that were built using direct mail. In fact, the success of many small businesses in this country can be attributed to the use of direct mail. The last time I checked, 97.5% of the businesses in the US are considered small and provide a paycheck to nearly half of the private US Labor force of about 153 million.

Tip

Nearly every company doing business on the web today can benefit from performing simple validation and verification against the contact forms on their website. Each piece of customer contact data has the potential to hinder a company’s business processes if the information is inaccurate, incomplete or fraudulent. Perhaps the key, and often most inaccurate piece of information captured, is the postal address. Research shows that performing validation and verification on addresses can help businesses improve deliverability and shipments, reduce overhead spent following up on bad data, and reduce waste associated with Undeliverable Mail and over-production of direct mail pieces.

It’s not good to be invasive.

Some of the other newer communication channels can be invasive. When I hear the word invasive, I think of those weeds that sprout in the garden during late spring. You bend over to pull them out, and the just the top of the weed remains in your hand, with the root secure to aggravate me another time, another day.

It’s also like my email in box. Invasive emails come from out of country pharmacies, or those offering the stock of the decade that will make me thousands of $$$$ in a matter of minutes. Now that’s invasive.

It’s not like direct mail.

Yes, direct mail is an “active” format. Customers may find their way to your Web site, but a catalog or a direct mail piece in their mailbox is a result of a recent or past purchase, a request, or another relevant reason to pique your interest. It’s a nice tap on the shoulder, reminding them you are here for them, that online-only communications don't always get through.

Let’s look at email. While e-mail shares some intrusive nature as direct mail did less than 2 years ago, e-mails can get overlooked in a crowded inbox. Plus, consumers are conditioned not to open e-mails from unknown senders for fear of viruses or other technical monstrosities.

Direct mail won't get caught in a spam filter. When done properly, a good direct mail piece will stand out even in a crowded mailbox, grab customers' attention and incite them to act. That's the relevancy nature of direct mail that no other marketing tactic can emulate. And that’s good, not invasive.

Tip

Five over eight, top or bottom, leave it clear, to eliminate a problem.

Here’s a problem we see quite frequently with mailpiece design you should consider in future mailings. More than likely it won’t cost you any additional postal dollars, but it can make your mailer look a bit cluttered and un-professional.

In order to handle your mail piece efficiently, the USPS applies its own barcode to your mailpiece. Take a look at any mail returned to you. It may have multiple barcodes on it, or even a fluorescent or an opaque peel off label.

The USPS reserves the right to place these codes that are for its own internal use within 5/8" of the top or bottom edge of the mailpiece, either on the front or back. Information may be blocked from view by the recipient if you design your mailpiece so that you have critical information appearing within that space. Even though the labels are designed so that they can be easily peeled off, it is still very likely that any part of your message that is covered by the label will not be seen.

We call it the 5 over 8 non-information zone. Call us and we’ll tell you all about the zone.

Not-for-Profit Update

If you are in the non-profit business, you know it’s a very challenging time. We are seeing success with non-profits who maintain constant communication with their donors.

Spread good news. What successes has your organization had that has made an impact of those you serve? Do you have a special story to tell pulling on the strings of your donor’s hearts?

Second, continuous communication is essential. According to a recent article in DM News, “a national study by Cygnus Applied Research showed that almost one-half of respondents stopped giving to a charity they donated to once before because they did not receive enough information about what was going on after they donated.”

Finally, use other communication channels to support your direct mail efforts. Email, for example, reaches through a broader range of vertical markets. Plus, it’s faster to get a message out and not as expensive. Use direct mail for specific target messages, especially showing any of your successes, and what the donated dollars are accomplishing.

We are able to assist you by managing your databases and ensuring you comply with the Move Update Standard to avoid additional postal charges. Your donation addresses are now more important than ever. Together, we can treat them with kid gloves.

For Additional Information

Without a proactive strategy to plan and prepare mail properly, you could wind up paying considerably more for postage than is necessary.

With the new yearly rates and regulations now in place, there are price changes, surcharges, and regulations that can take effect at various times throughout the year. It’s now more important than ever to maintain an open dialogue with us regarding your mailing needs.

Discussing your campaign objectives, design, and approach with us well before it reaches print is the surest way we know to help you take advantage of current postal rules and regulations that can maximize your savings and reduce your headaches.

Contact Automatic Mail Services, Inc today at 718-361-3091 or by email to info@automatic-mail.com.