Archive for category Thursday Blogs!

Communicating to Utilities Business Customers

Utilities: Educate and Engage Business Customers

This week an item in our local business newspaper caught my attention and had me brainstorming potential ways utilities could add value for their business customers.

Our city may require building owners to report on their energy usage. I began to think of channels and topics utilities could use to engage and educate their business consumers.

How can our customers help their customers?

A couple of items came to mind. Communicating to a utilities’ business customers – through printed inserts to statements, separate newsletters, or email alerts with links – a utility would have so many opportunities for educating their customer.

• How to become a Green Company – What is involved? What first steps should they take? Where can they find more information?
• HVAC Issues – are there new products available to help reduce consumption?
• Lighting issues – new innovations bring more efficiency
• Rebates!
• Choosing solar power – What size? Durability? Longevity? Cost vs Value?

Whether they choose to communicate via newsletter, printed inserts with billing statements, or links through targeted emails, the utility confirms their place as an authority in the community.

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Direct Mail Marketing Campaign

You’ve decided that you want to do a direct mail marketing campaign – now what?

Direct Mail images

You’re priority should be designing a mail piece that will deliver results. One important factor is the copy you use on your mailer.

Want some quick tips?

First make sure you nail down the message you want to send. Keep it short and simple – more words won’t necessarily grab the reader’s attention so focus on what is important to them about your product or service.

Keep the layout clean and simple too. Don’t use a lot of different fonts. Don’t have copy running all over the place in an attempt to be fancy. If you make it hard to decipher your message, guess what? No one will respond.

Focus on areas that the reader will naturally gravitate towards. Put your most important words (free offer, huge discounts, act now) in the headline, subheads and as the first parts of a sentence.

Take advantage of action words and verbs as much as possible. Don’t write about something, speak directly to your customer and tell them what you want them to do.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to proof read and then proof read again. Have co-workers and maybe even friends and family take a look. Sometimes you are so tied up in the process that you can’t see the forest for the trees!

Successful copywriting will get you off to a great start in designing your direct mail piece.

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Curious About “Greening” Your Mail?

The USPS Asked In a Sustainability Campaign,

“How Green is Your Mail?”

Mailers have opportunities to decrease their environmental impact and any organization can implement these strategies. Oce Business Services shares these tips: images

  1. Manage Ink: When designing your mailpiece, choose fewer colors and less ink coverage/usage. This reduces chemicals used during the printing process.
  2. Think TransPromo: Create a document that combines transactional printing (think statement or invoice) with a marketing piece – all in one document and one envelope. In fact, USPS will have a 2015 promotion encouraging the use of TransPromo marketing.
  3. Paper Usage: Use a smaller font and/or decrease the margins in order to keep to a single page document. Can’t do it? Default to printing both sides (duplex). Going duplex can save you up to 50% on paper costs while serving the environment as well.
  4. Sourcing Paper: Choose paper stocks that come from managed forests. The Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) certification supports responsible forestry; forests are audited for best practices and must meet strict guidelines. As well, this sends a clear message to your customers that you care about forests.
  5. Utilize Print on Demand: This concept has been around for years and centers on printing only what you need/when you need it. This eliminates waste caused by document obsolescence. As well, you could select a printer at or near your point of consumption, reducing or eliminating transportation costs.
  6. Mailing Lists: Updating your mailing list may be a challenge, but the cost savings and environmental impact is significant. It is estimated that 15% – 20% of individuals and businesses move each year. Reduce waste and eliminate the printing and postage costs of mail that is non-deliverable.

Has your organization implemented green initiatives in their mailing practices? What outcomes did you experience? We’d love to hear your stories!

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USPS | How A Letter Travels OR How Does My Mail Carrier Know Where I Am?

How A Letter Travels OR How Does My Mail Carrier Know Where I Am?

USPSmailIn discussing with a customer the USPS Move Update requirements, she was curious how the letter carrier knows to take the letter to her house even though the address is wrong.

Here at Strahm Automation we use several processes to meet Move Update compliance.

Some customers choose NCOA as a pre-printing step – saving them printing and postage on addresses that may not ultimately make it into a mailbox. As well, they get reporting back of updated addresses and addresses that are just flat out “bad”.

Many presort only customers choose Move Comply as their update method. This process takes place at the presort level. Our MLOCR sorters bounce the address on the envelope against a USPS database and spray the correct barcode onto the envelope.

Back to Mary and her question of how the carrier knows exactly where to deliver her mail, this informative piece from the USPS gives a great overview of how a letter travels through the mail stream. I hope you find it enjoyable!

https://about.usps.com/publications/pub100/pub100_078.htm

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USPS | First Class Mail Delivery Times

Expect To See Slower Delivery Times For First Class Mail.

With the consolidation of up to 82 processing centers nationwide, a lot of First Class letters and periodicals will cease to be delivered overnight; they will arrive in two days, and mail formerly delivered in two days will now be delivered in three days.

According to the Federal Register, Standard Mail with have the same deliverability as today, with three to 10 days within the contiguous United States. Packages will take two to eight days.

As those 82 facilities close and 95 assume the work, USPS is continuing to focus more on its growing areas of revenue—package delivery—vs. its shrinking areas—First Class mail volume.

Current estimates indicate approximately 20% of the First-Class Mail volume is expected to be delivered overnight, more than 35% is expected to be delivered in 2 days and about 44% delivered in 3 days.

The graphic below illustrates an approximate breakdown of First-Class Mail service performance after Phase 2 implementation:

SlowerFirstClassMail

 

You can find the USPS official FAQ here: https://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/our-future-network/ofn-phase-2-faqs.htm

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Paper | Coatings and Crackings

Coatings and Crackings

paperfoldtestEver received a brochure, booklet or other piece of mail that appears to be cracked along the folded edge? This sometimes occurs with full coverage ink or digital toner when the document is folded unless precautions are taken in advance.

There are three items to consider: Coated papers, toner vs ink and paper fiber orientation.

The Paper Factor

Ink soaks into uncoated paper and digital toner adheres to its rougher surface. Adhesion ability is reduced with a coated paper for both ink and toner. You may get the glossy or satiny finish you like, but you may also experience cracking through both layers – coating and ink or toner.

Specially coated papers will work with non-water-based inks and there are specific papers used with toner based printing.

Should I Choose Toner or Ink?

Most digital toners are made of plastic or wax powders that are fused to the paper using heat. Water or alcohol based inks are commonly used on home inkjet printers; these inks soak into uncoated paper before drying. Glossy printing on a home inkjet printer can only be done using specially coated photo papers.

Commercial printing presses use oily inks that adhere to the paper much like paint.

The Big One: Grain Orientation

Paper is made of wood or cotton fibers and are directed in one direction, although papers such as tissue or the 20# bond you probably use in your office are non-oriented.paperteartest

To determine the orientation of your paper do a tear test. Tearing with the grain produces neat, parallel strips, against the grain ends with ragged and unpredictably shaped pieces. Take a piece of paper and tear it both on the short end and the long end of the paper to test.

How to Reduce Cracking

For short print runs you will most likely want to choose digital printing. The first line of defense to prevent cracking of toner based pieces is to design without full toner coverage where the fold is to occur. Heavier stock such as card or cover, should be scored whether or not there is toner at the fold line.

Ask your printer if they have a stock that can be run with the grain oriented to fit your fold configuration. Often times a larger sheet paper can be used although the price may be a bit higher.

You could also employ the use of special coatings such as UV, varnish or aqueous. UV coating requires the use of a special ultraviolet light. All three options are available as either “spot” or “flood” coating.

Make sure to use your vendor’s expertise during design and paper selection. They will be able to steer you to the best possible outcome!

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Personalized URL Tips!

Tips for Using PURLs

If you’ve ever considered using Personalized URL as part of your mail campaign, here are some helpful tips we’ve compiled.

Starting at square one –

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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USPS 7 Day Service for Holiday Mail

USPS 7 Day Service for Holiday Mail

Getting everything done – both personal and professional – during the holiday season can be tough. The Postal Service is stepping in to help you out by offering seven day a week delivery in major cities and high volume areas beginning November 17th through Christmas day.

They expect double digit growth of their package services during this period – up roughly 12% over the same period last year. The expectation is that they will handle 450 – 470 million packages. This is in large part due to continued e-commerce growth and improvements to Priority Mail services.

“Football has its season. But the holidays? That’s our season,” said Donahoe. “That’s crunch time for us, and year after year, we step up our game. E-commerce package business continues to be a big player now more than ever, so we’ve enhanced our network to ensure America that we’ll deliver their cards, gifts and letters in time for the holidays.”

USPS’ competitors recently announced increases to their services, while the Postal Service lowered some of its prices for businesses and other large shippers. The reduced Priority Mail pricing has affordable options and improved tracking ability.USPSHoliday

“The Postal Service will be out making deliveries every single day during the holiday season, including Christmas Day,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “During the holidays, no carrier makes more deliveries to more places than the Postal Service, and this year, we’re raising the bar with enhanced tracking and Sunday delivery.”

With the continued growth of online retailers, more products are shipped directly to consumers.

“Every household in America relies on us to get their packages in time for the holidays, and we take great pride in taking on that responsibility,” said Donahoe. “We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to deliver for our customers.”

 2014 Christmas Shipping Deadlines

For expected delivery of holiday mail and packages by Christmas, the Postal Service recommends keeping the following mailing and shipping deadlines in mind:

  • Dec. 2 – First-Class Mail International/Priority Mail International
  • Dec. 10 – Priority Mail Express International
  • Dec. 15 – Standard Post
  • Dec. 17 – Global Express Guaranteed
  • Dec. 20 – First-Class Mail/Priority Mail (domestic)
  • Dec. 23 – Priority Mail Express (domestic)

Skip the lines and ship online

Consumers can avoid holiday hassles by visiting usps.com — the Postal Service’s website that will help make mailing and shipping easier. Nearly 75 million customers will skip the trip to the Post Office altogether and take advantage of convenient online shipping this holiday season. Click-N-Ship and other online services allow customers to print shipping labels, order free Priority Mail boxes, purchase postage and even request free next-day Package Pickup.

Next week’s blog? Our annual guide to holiday shipping tricks and tips!

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USPS Update | USPS Cyber Intrusion and Employee Data Compromise

USPS Cyber Intrusion and Employee Data Compromise

united-states-postal-service-usps-logo

You may have heard in the news this week that USPS has experienced a data security breach. This impacted USPS employees and also consumers who directly contacted the USPS call center. Mail Systems Management Association has provided a great review of what happened and who is at risk.

You can read it here:

USPS IT performed work this past weekend to upgrade system security, which resulted in some loss of system functionality. It is also in response to a cyber-intrusion into some of our information systems. You may see this in the news today.

The extent of the breach is somewhat limited. We have had some employee data compromised and some customer care data compromised. We are notifying our employees today and are providing resources for them.

The compromised call center data was submitted by customers who contacted the Postal Service customer care center with inquiries via telephone or email between January 1, 2014 and August 16, 2014. The compromised data consists of names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other information for customers who may have provided this information. At this time we do not believe that affected customers need to take any action as a result of this incident. It appears that no customer credit card or financial data was compromised.

We are investigating the intrusion and are working closely with all the agencies you would expect – the FBI, the Department of Justice, our own Inspector General and Postal Inspection Service, and the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Additionally, we have brought in outside experts who specialize in investigations and data systems to help us understand what happened and how to improve our security.

We have already implemented some important security measures over the weekend and we will continue to roll out other new security measures in the coming days and weeks.

As things currently stand, it is business as usual for nearly every aspect of our operations – Post Offices are functioning normally and mail and packages are being delivered as usual. We have posted Q&As and other information about this on usps.com.

Click here to read FAQs written by the USPS.

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Strahm Open House | Add a Splash of Color

Add a Splash of Color!

StrahmOHStrahm Automation invites you to join us on Friday, November 7th from
3–6pm at our open house. We are proudly introducing our new Océ ColorStream 3500 Inkjet printer!

The newest addition to our production facility provides sharp, full color CMYK printing, even printing duplex simultaneously. This high speed printer can produce up to 1,000 letter size sheets per minute. Add to that the ability to perf – both horizontal and vertical – and trim in line.JoinUs

What can’t this workhorse do? We think our customers will love the new Océ 3500 as much as we do!

So come by November 7th, add a splash of color and something sweet to your day. We will be holding the open house from 3–6pm. Just follow the balloons at 17th and Broadway.

 

Strahm Automation & Mailing Services
1700 Broadway, Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 756-2733

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