Archive for category Connecting
This Day In History: U.S.P.S. Established
Can you believe it’s been 238 years since the establishment of the United States postal system? Yep, that’s right. The postal system (as it was originally called) was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 26, 1775.
You may already know that Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General. Previous to this he was the Postmaster in Philadelphia and one of two joint Postmasters General for the original colonies.
There were no post offices in early colonial times, so mail was typically left at inns and taverns. Nearly all mail was from overseas as the colonists had no need to send correspondence “locally”. Mail deliveries from across the Atlantic were sporadic and could take months to arrive.
Ben Franklin set up new, more efficient routes and cut delivery time between Philadelphia and New York by having relay teams of wagons travelling night and day. He also devised the first postage rate charge with costs based on delivery distance and piece weight.
These improvements were considered so radical that the British fired Franklin in 1774. A year later, Congress made his appointment to Postmaster General of the United Colonies. Franklin remained in this position until 1776, when he left the colonies to become a diplomat to France.
In 1789, President George Washington appointed Samuel Osgood as the first Postmaster General of the United States under the new U.S. constitution. At the time there were approximately 75 post offices in the country.
Today there are over 40,000 post offices and the postal service delivers 212 billion pieces of mail annually to over 144 million homes and businesses. And yet many of the improvements instituted by Benjamin Franklin are still in use.
Way to go, Ben! Your revolutionary ideas of how a postal service should operate make the USPS one of the most cost effective and efficient postal services in the world – handling 44% of the world’s total mail volume.
DC Court Rules on Postage Discounts
One of the many services that Strahm Automation provides our clients is presorting of their mail so that clients are able to take advantage of discounted postage rates. This discount encourages mailers to presort, which in turn lowers costs for the Postal Service, but the current discount is greater than the Postal Service would pay to sort the mail themselves.
The Postal Service is not pleased with this ruling because it believes that it needs to offer mailers large discounts so that bulk mailers (including co-minglers, combined mailers and continuous mailers such as Strahm) will continue to use First Class mail.
“Through snow and rain and heat and gloom of night, the Postal Service delivers the mail,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the three judge panel. “But the Postal Service does so under the watchful eye of a separate independent agency, the Postal Regulatory Commission.”
The PRC establishes rates that the Postal Service may charge for mail. The commission states that the reason customers choose to presort their mail is based on the lower price, and a 1% increase in price will cause a “significant change in demand”.
What are your thoughts? Would a decrease in your presorted postage savings cause you to change how you process your mail? Would you reconsider presorting?
Using Effective Marketing to Increase Customer Touch Points
On average, it now takes nine touch points of communication to build a sales relationship. Most sales people give up after three.
The best way to lose a customer is to lose touch with him or her. Some data indicates that 60% of customer loss is due to lack of communication.
Every prospect and customer should hear from your company at least every 90 days. Savvy marketers reduce this cycle to every 30 days.
Sales force effectiveness increases by as much as 40% when supported by an effective marketing campaign.
Direct mail as part of an ongoing campaign can reinforce your brand again and again. Mail is effective for creating and building brand awareness.
Use strong, targeted messages when “talking” to your customers. How will your product or service help them? Customers are looking for one of two things – reducing or eliminating their pain or increasing their pleasure. It’s a simple as that.
- Direct mail – especially personalized, interactive pieces
- Email or PURL campaigns
- Open Houses
- Phone Calls! When was the last time you just said hello?
So how are you going to step out and communicate with your customers and prospects?
For that matter, how many businesses understand what commingling mail is all about?
Although it may sound too good to be true, it’s not. Using an authorized mail house to process your mail can save your organization as much as 20% in postage.
In a nutshell, the mail house is providing a work share with the USPS. This cuts several steps out of the USPS work flow and in return, the mail house can offer discounted postage rates from the current $0.46 for a First Class letter.
Your mail is combined with other companies’ mail, sorted and released to the USPS. Other than your local authorized mail house collecting your mail, nothing changes – your mail still goes out same day, is still delivered in the same timely manner by a USPS letter carrier. But you SAVE $$$!
And doesn’t saving your organization money make you some kind of hero? Of course it does.
Contact Strahm today and we will show you how easy it is!
Tips for Using PURLs
If you’ve ever considered using a Personalized URL as part of your mail campaign, here are some helpful tips we’ve compiled.
Starting at square one -
- Start with a new domain name. You can use Go Daddy’s bulk registration tool to see which ones are available to you. Get creative and tie your domain name into your campaign vision.
- When crafting your pURL message, don’t offer too many choices to the respondent. Give them one offer or one premium, not 10 different offers. When a respondent has to stop and think over an offer, they are more likely to click away and never respond.
- Keep the landing page clean, simple and relevant. Don’t crowd your message or add distractions. White space is your friend here, just as in a direct mail piece.
- Get them to the submit button as quickly and painlessly as possible. Only ask questions that are absolutely necessary; oftentimes you can get some of this information after they respond.
- If they are able, ask your pURL vendor to customize the thank you page and email follow up as well. Personalization goes a long way in increasing response and customer loyalty.
A pURL offers valuable information. You can track who visited their landing page and responded, who visited but didn’t choose to respond, and who didn’t visit at all. Each type offers unique insight to the effectiveness of your marketing, allowing you to tweak future communications to prospects and clients.
How do you see yourself using pURLs to enhance customer communications? We’d love to hear your feedback.
What is your marketing strategy?
In this day of increasing social media, email marketing and a strong online presence, have you pushed more traditional marketing – such as direct mail – to the wayside?
Perhaps you should reconsider. Direct mail continues to be a bargain and should have a place in any small business marketing plan.
While email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with customers and prospects, there is a downside. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), only about 19% of targeted customers open them and this includes opt-in house lists.
The CMO Council reports that 35% of marketers are using direct mail to encourage sales, while 29% use it to drive traffic online. 14% of marketers use direct mail to support offers or other content.
Here are some tips for creating a successful direct mail campaign:
- Segment lists and create targeted messages. Try breaking down your list by current customers, inactive customers and prospects. Tailor a message specific to each group. You could also mail to vertical markets such as local businesses with over 250 employees, household demographics such as head of household over 35 years old. The possibilities are endless. Any reputable list vendor should be able to help you define and refine your lists.
- Use direct mail strategically. Focus on very specific messages to targeted markets or mailing lists and mail less often. Receiving a postcard or flyer from you once every three months may be more efficient than a flyer every week. After a period, the recipient may just toss it away if they see it too often.
- Use compelling content. Your message should be succinct and have a clear call to action. Whenever possible, your message should be specific to that individual or target market.
- Consider giveaways. Pens, Post-It Notes, magnets, personalized note pads are just a few inexpensive items you could include. A three dimensional mailpiece sticks out and who doesn’t love a freebie?
- Use other forms of marketing along with direct mail. Don’t give up on email marketing, blogging, LinkedIn or Facebook. They are all great companions to direct mail, helping you to define your product or service and how it will be of benefit to your audience. They all should have a place in your marketing plan.
- Measure response rates. Keep track of what messages, lists, or methods generated the best responses for you. Refine future efforts based on past performance.
Response rates for direct mail have remained steady for the past four years. Especially for small businesses trying to connect with a local market, postcards, flyers and newsletters can be quite effective.
How Much Do You Think About ZIP Codes?
There is a whole history, and a pretty cute character, that helped educate your parents and grand parents on how to use these codes and improve mail service.
In July 1963, the postal service implemented the Zone Improvement Plan or ZIP code as it is commonly called. The ZIP code is comprised of 5 digits specific to an area. These codes assist in routing mail efficiently for the USPS.
Predicting that the public would be less than enthusiastic about memorizing not only their ZIP code, but those of family and friends, the USPS introduced Mr. ZIP in late 1962.
Mr. ZIP appeared on buttons, signs, magazines, and even the edges of a sheet of stamps. The point was to educate the public and ingrain the use of ZIP codes to all mailers. Including a ZIP code promised “space-age speed”.
50 years later and Mr. ZIP stands as one of the most successful ad icons of all time. The USPS notes that by 1967, 80% of all Americans recognized him and knew what he stood for.
Mr. ZIP was retired in 1986, but with the 50 year anniversary in 2013, you can expect to see him popping up all over the place. He even has his own page on the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum website.
This simple doodle was able to move the general public into participating in the Zone Improvement Plan – which increased efficiency and speed for the USPS for generations to come.
Please enjoy this video from the mid-1960’s starring our friend, Mr. ZIP!
Tips for Making Direct Mail Eco-Friendly!
Eco-friendly direct mail – kind of sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Believe it or not there are more and more ways to make your mail greener than ever before. Direct-mail only accounts for 2.4% of landfill waste but many opportunities exist to lessen its environmental impact even more. Here are some green ideas for direct mailers:
• Regularly update and maintain your mailing list to eliminate duplications and waste
- Practice list hygiene regularly – clean your mailing lists to remove those who are deceased or others who are unlikely to respond
• Use research to effectively target your customers. For example, people who live in apartment buildings probably don’t need lawn services
• Proofread copy using Adobe PDF rather than hard copy
• Allow customers to opt out of your mailings to ensure you’re not sending them unwanted mail
• Use recycled materials for the mailings you create
- Due to the increase in awareness of global resources, there are now many earth-friendly options when choosing paper and printer inks. Using paper and inks that are made of alternative materials helps reduce the amount of dangerous and wasteful substances used
• Print on both sides of the paper to save resources and reduce mailing costs
• Encourage your customers to recycle the mailing once they’ve read it. Adding a recycle symbol to your mail is free and is a good way to remind recipients that the mail piece is recyclable
New products exist as well for mailers including ecoEnvelopes. ecoEnvelopes is one of the many companies out there that are making direct marketers greener and more profitable than ever before. The Eden Prairie, MN based company creates a recyclable envelope that has a two-way indicia, which eliminate the need for a separate return envelope. ecoEnvelopes not only save money by eliminating one envelope, but they cut down on needed storage space and insertion costs. Interested in seeing how they work? Watch the short video below to see how:
Using Color to Influence Consumer Behavior
Have you ever looked at something red and felt a pang of hunger? How about something blue and felt calmed? For most, the effects colors have on our mood and feelings aren’t that obvious. It’s true though that the ties between emotion and color are deeply rooted in psychology and play a huge role in today’s marketing methods to influence consumer behavior.
Many of the most recognizable brands in the world rely on color as a key factor for brand recognition. Coca Cola has remained true to red while Pepsi is synonymous with blue. Victoria’s Secret reminds many of pink. The Starbucks logo is tied to green. In marketing, color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent. Often times color is the first thing you see when looking at something – it gives a strong first impression that doesn’t leave the mind long after you stop looking at an image. Visually appealing images feed into strengthening a company’s look and brand and in turn influence consumer behaviour towards their brand. It has been found that ads in color are read up to 42% more often than the very same ads in black and white. Trying to strengthen your branding or come up with something entirely new? Here’s a quick guide to the 10 most common colors used in marketing and their associated feelings and keywords. In Western culture the following colors are associated with the following qualities or emotions:
Red – power, attention grabbing, bold, love, life (blood)
Blue – trustworthy, tranquil, honor, productivity
Pink – fun, frilly, typically speaks to female demographic, tenderness
Yellow – commands attention, liveliness, energy
Green – warm and inviting, denotes nature, environment, goodwill, wealth (money)
Purple – royalty, elegance, prestige, wealth
Gold – elegant and prestigious, rich
Orange – energy, fun, cool, cutting edge
Brown – Earthy, comforting, relaxation
Black – most versatile color, can convey modern or traditional feel, ads drama, power and authority, evil, gloom