Archive for category Connecting
Have You Toured Your Vendors Facility?
Yesterday I took a group of people on a tour of our facility. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve lead a tour here, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. And every time I have a person or group of people come through, they’ve told me they have come away with beneficial knowledge and new ideas.
Whenever I visit a vendor, and I hope whenever a client or prospect visits us, these are a few of the things that I would expect of the experience.
- Is your sales rep present? Better yet, is he or she leading the tour?
- Meet your Customer Service Representative. In most cases, it will be the CSR that handles your day-to-day business and not the sales rep.
- If your sales rep (and perhaps your CSR as well) is leading the tour, what is the sense of relationship you feel between sales and the production team? Do they seem friendly and collaborative towards each other?
- Get an introduction to the department managers or team leaders in each step of production. Personally, I like my clients to have a face to associate with each department (in our case, data processing, quality control, laser imaging, lettershop, presort and transportation).
- Whenever possible, manage an introduction to someone “at the top”. I like to make sure my tour attendees get to meet the president of our company.
- Look at equipment in each and every department. Is it well maintained? Is it apparent that the company keeps up-to-date in new technology and machinery?
- Observe the plant condition. Is it clean and well organized? Does work seem to flow through the plant in a common sense manner?
- Ask if any of your work would be outsourced to a subcontractor or whether your vendor has all the equipment, personnel and capacity to complete your jobs in house.
- And last but most importantly – listen, ask questions and learn something new. I have yet to lead a customer through our facility and not hear them talk about something vital they’ve learned or new ideas they plan to take back to their own companies.
When was the last time you toured the facilities of your vendor or vendors? What did you take away from the experience? Did you leave the plant feeling positive in your decision to use this particular company?
Lesson: Ask for a tour, build lasting relationships with the folks producing your jobs, get fresh ideas and have fun!
This video takes you on a little journey around Strahm Automation and Mailing!
USPS Fun Facts – gathered from USPS.com
The United States Postal Service® delivers more mail to more addresses in a larger geographical area than any other post in the world. They deliver to nearly 151 million homes, businesses and Post Office Boxes in every state, city, town and borough in this country. Everyone living in the U.S. and its territories has access to postal products and services and pays the same postage regardless of location.
The Postal Service:
- Is the nation’s 2nd largest civilian employer
- Has the nation’s largest retail network
- Has the world’s largest civilian fleet of vehicles
- Has the world’s largest alternative fuel-enabled fleet
- The Postal Service has a larger retail network than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wal-Mart combined (in US).
- The Postal Service has one of the largest learning management systems in the country.
- The Postal Service receives 90 percent of its retail revenue from 15,000 of its nearly 32,000 postal-operated retail locations.
- The Postal Service prints more than 800,000 IRS W-2 forms, 3.3 million payroll checks, 1.8 million non-payroll checks and 15.4 million payroll earnings statements annually.
- Most Unusual Delivery Method — mule trains in Arizona. Each mule carries about 130 pounds of mail, food, supplies and furniture down the 8-mile trail to the Havasupai Indians at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, averaging 41,000 pounds per week.
- Another Unusual Delivery Method — boat in Michigan The JW Westcott is a 45-foot contract mail boat out of Detroit, MI, that delivers mail to passing ships in the Detroit River. The JW Westcott has its own ZIP Code — 48222.
- Located in MD, the William F. Bolger Center for Leadership Development is a national training facility for the Postal Service. It is the only hotel in the country featuring an on-site Smithsonian exhibit.
- There are more than 42,000 ZIP codes in the country.
- The lowest ZIP Code is 00501, a unique ZIP Code for the Internal Revenue Service in Holtsville, NY.
- The highest ZIP Code is 99950 in Ketchikan, AK.
- The easiest ZIP Code to remember is 12345, a unique ZIP Code for General Electric in Schenectady, NY.
- The longest regular rural route is Route 2 in Gridley, KS. The carrier travels 182.8 miles daily and delivers to 258 boxes.
- The shortest rural delivery route is Route 42 in Henderson, NV. The carrier travels 2.9 miles daily and delivers to 952 boxes.
- The Postal Service moves mail using planes, trains, trucks, cars, boats, ferries, helicopters, subways, float planes, hovercrafts, T-3s, street cars, mules, snowmobiles, bicycles and feet.
Often I am asked by novice direct mailers what elements to include on their mail piece. They are simply looking to design the best mailer possible to yield a high ROI.
Here Are My Top 10 Recommendations
(In no particular order)
- Make sure your list, mail piece and message are all targeted to the correct audience. What is your goal – lead generation, customer retention, a new product roll out?
- A clear, provocative call to action and a nice incentive.
- A compelling message – don’t forget, most people want to know “What’s in it for Me?”
- A First Class mail permit. Don’t skimp on standard mail postage. 10% of your mailing list may never receive the mail piece and you’d be surprised how many people simply disregard any piece of mail with a standard permit.
- Add a PURL, or Personalized URL. This will tie your printed piece with an online experience. Make sure the PURL ties in with your theme.
- As long as we’re adding hot new technology with that PURL, let’s add a QR, or Quick Response, code. You’ve probably been seeing a lot of QR codes on all kinds or marketing – from billboards to pizza boxes. We’ll talk more about QR codes and using them effectively in an upcoming blog.
- Use a fresh, unexpected image and a memorable tag line. You only have seconds to grab the reader’s attention.
- You’ve probably heard it said a million times, and it’s true, your response rate is only as good as your list. We will delve into list effectiveness in future blogs.
- Include a follow up on the call to action. Perhaps include an expiration date. This also makes room for a second communication (perhaps an email?).
- Since we repeated the call to action, repeat the PURL as well. Remind them how to respond to that call to action!
Tell us, what are your thoughts on creating the ideal direct mail piece? We’d love to hear your suggestions!
How To Get More Out of Your Marketing Program Using VDP
Variable Data Printing (or VDP) has changed the way marketers plan their programs and design their mailpieces. No longer are they creating for a mass market, but instead using carefully mined data to make highly personalized messages.
Data can be gathered from customer calls, interviews, emails and phone calls to create targeted messages relevant to each customer/prospect. Data can be organic from your company or purchased from a 3rd party vendor. Put thought into what data you are gathering; while you don’t want to be intrusive you do want to get as deep as possible.
Pay particular attention to aligning the message of your mailpiece with the artwork. Tie the right art and copy to speak directly to the recipient.
A good example would be a program for a car dealership. Say Mr. Brown bought a mini van 5 years ago. You know (and have within your data) that Mr. Brown has 4 small children. You wouldn’t want to send him a message about buying a 2-seater sports car, would you?
Conversely, Mr. Jones bought a sporty little car from you a couple of years ago. Unless you know from your data that Mr. Jones’ situation has changed, does he have interest in a mini van?
Because this type of marketing is more relevant to the customer/prospect, you should expect to see a greater response rate from your mailing. Consider multi-channel marketing as well. Send a postcard, followed up with an email. Within the email, create a customized landing page with the same or similar message and artwork.
So get to work on that data and start building a truly great, targeted mailing!
USPS Continuing Education for Mailers
The USPS currently offers two certifications – Mail Design Professional (MDP) and Executive Mail Center Management (EMCM).
These courses are not only for Mail Center Managers and industry insiders, but anyone who designs mailpieces, manages a mailing/postage budget or wants to help their own customers improve their mailing programs.
Program Overview for Mail Design Professional
The Mailpiece Design Professional (MDP) Online program teaches mailing industry personnel how to design mail to enhance its compatibility with U.S. Postal Service® automated equipment. It also coaches mailers on how to achieve lower postage prices through automation. MDP Online training is 100% free to all users. However, USPS® MDP certification is only available upon successful completion of course assessment, which does have a fee.
MDP Online Curriculum
The MDP Online program provides training specifically designed for mailing industry professionals. The online curriculum provides mailing industry professionals training including…
- Maximizing eligibility for postage discounts
- Discussing the 5 classes of mail
- Deciding Nonprofit eligibility
- Recognizing barcode formats
- Designing mail for automation
- Designing Reply Mail pieces
- Determining mailability, processing categories, and machinability
- Using Address Information System (AIS) Products
Executive Mail Center Management Program
The Executive Mail Center Management (EMCM) program is a comprehensive training program designed for individuals who wish to develop Mail Center Management skills.
The EMCM program provides training specifically designed for mailing industry professionals. The program teaches skills needed to…
- Manage more effectively
- Improve mail center safety and security
- Boost productivity
- Cut costs
Training is offered at the NationalCenter for Employee Development (NCED) located in Norman, Oklahoma. The EMCM course can be delivered in your city through sponsorship by your PCC®. For more details about what is covered in the program go to our Curriculum page.
Check out your local Postal Customer Council, too. They often hold educational seminars designed to help you ace these USPS courses! PCC is a terrific resource for education, the latest in Postal Service regulations and networking.
Find your PCC here: https://www.usps.com/business/connect-with-a-pcc.htm
Kansas City Project | Artist, Glen Hansen Features Strahm Neon Sign
Strahm Automation has been honored by inclusion to the art exhibit and companion book “Kansas City Project” by Glen Hansen.
Glen Hansen specializes in art inspired by the architecture of cities like Paris, Prague, and Venice. Now he turns his pencils and brushes on Kansas City for a show featuring over 30 drawings and a half-dozen paintings of local buildings and their architectural and decorative details.
A beautiful depiction of the Strahm neon sign hanging at the corner of our building at 1700 Broadway will be part of the exhibition going on now through September 17, 2013 at the Central Library located at 14 West 10th Street, KCMO.
From the companion book:
Strahm Automation and Mailing
Washington Street, Broadway Boulevard, and 17th Street
George Brinkman, Architect (1920)
Holden, Ferris and Barnes, Architects (1927)
Neville, Sharp and Simon, Architects (1950)
Samuel J. Callahan, Engineer (1956)
The design of the neon sign attached to the building complex that now houses Strahm Automation and Mailing may speak to the past, but what goes on inside the 95,000 square feet of light industrial space is hardly a bygone operation. For one, a 70-foot long laser printer – that’s right, 70 feet – produces 52,000 digital impressions an hour. This and seven other digital printers pump out “hundreds of thousands of sheets a day”. Utility bills, jury notifications, credit union, 401k and pension statements, payroll checks, and invoices just to name a few, are printed and mailed. This year Strahm is celebrating its centennial, but the company hasn’t always been housed at the Crossroads location. Grace V. Strahm started the letter company, using her name, in 1913 in the Graphic Arts Building at 10th and Wyandotte. James Minick, one of Strahm’s employees who started as a delivery boy before the outbreak of World War II, became her partner and later purchased her shares from the family. Strahm remained in the Graphic Arts building until 1980 when the company moved to three buildings located on 10th and Bank streets.
The company’s present location combines three utilitarian masonry structures, dating from 1920 – 1956. All but one were constructed for the Smith Grieves Company, printers and lithographers, who erected their neon sign, later altered to reflect the name of the current owner. The attached clock still works and, yes, the mail is always sent on time.
When asked “Why Kansas City”, Hensen says. “The cityscape of Kansas City is filled with iconic architecture from the late 19th century to the present day,” he says. “My visual survey highlights historic architecture, but also makes reference to oddities like the T.W.A. Building, Town Topic Hamburgers, and the Strahm sign”
We urge our readers to visit the Central Library to see this wonderful representation of Kansas City. Admission is free to both the exhibit and the event. RSVP for Hansen’s talk at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.
Hansen is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
Underwritten by a grant from the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Commerce Bank, Trustee.
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?