direct mail, Economics, Marketing, Thank You

Ten Reasons You Should Thank The USPS

Teddy StampWe are all cheesed that the USPS is looking for a 1.97% increase in postal rates.  But before we run to our social media to complain, let’s open the envelope.  What are we getting?

1.   Door-to-door, pick-up and delivery.   Not only does a real person come to your home to deliver mail, but they are charged to pick it up, too.   Beats driving downtown.   And they do this 6 days a week.

2.   Equal representation.   The USPS is probably the only government institution which situates an office based on population density, rather than political handouts.  For sure, it’s the only federal presence in your community that isn’t there to administer laws and levy taxes.

3.   Legal authority.   A USPS postmark is an official seal, and when your letter is in the system, it’s a completed act.

4.   Jobs.   The USPS employs over 600,000 people.   It’s also the network that directly supports another 1.3 million people who use the mail to make a living, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

5.   The Grid.   There are 142,000,000 delivery addresses in the United States which are visited daily by the mail person.   The USPS grid is like a vast capillary system that beats nationwide, touching the most distant extremity.

6.   Innovation.  Maybe hard to believe, in the face of digital networks, but the USPS has refined and streamlined delivery to the point that it is cheaper to mail a letter today than it was 10 years ago.

7.   Protection.   Your mail is protected by federal law.   The space inside your mailbox is federal property.  The blue boxes situated across your community are safety deposit boxes, in effect.   Drop your mail, and it’s secure in the system.

8.   Culture.   What other government body continually picks new designs to celebrate on the face of a stamp?   Rock stars, writers, artists, scientists, athletes, discoverers… and they are BIG stamps too!

9.   Resilience. Despite a whirlwind of communications technology advances, the USPS still has cache, delivering nearly 500 million pieces a day.   When was the last time you saw a public phone booth?

10.   Fiscal control.   Yes, it has a $5 billion budget deficit.   Works out to $8,333 per employee.   The federal government has a $483 billion budget deficit.   $112,013 per federal employee.   In the bigger scheme of things, go figure.

Nobody likes price increases, but it is a sure thing that the USPS has done leagues more work to control costs than any of its government cousins.  In light of its value, can you really complain?

By the way, the price of a first class stamp remains at 49-cents after the hike.   Good anywhere in the nation.  Buy a bunch, they’ll last forever.

direct mail, Economics, Marketing

AAA Goes Flat Out

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The door opener!

Want to know what stops just about anyone when they open their mailbox?

No, not a boxing glove. Instead, it’s a flat.   No, not a flat tire.   A flat-sized mailing piece.

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The 10 x 12 Flat. Size counts in direct mail.

So it is that I opened our mailbox to be confronted by a certificate-sized 10″ x 12″ envelope. Front and center, in portrait orientation, is an open window. As I peak through I see my name, in bold, printed below a 40-point, gothic type proclamation: Proof of Eligibility.  The State of Illinois is symbolically positioned above.

This manifest is shielded behind a thin sheet of parchment. My reaction? Better open this now.

I am not that naiive, I know this is a solicitation. But still, eligible for what?   Nomination? Higher taxes?  Bronzing?

AAA 2014-12-02 Label copy

A beautiful label… applied on a slant, with raised shading, is actually printed, not real.

As it turns out, it is the AAA Life Insurance Company, who has decided to give me a second chance to insure my remaining days.  Or until the age of 80, when all bets are off.

These are the same folks who sent along a policy kit a few months back.    That one was a flat too: a “fulfillment package”.   Presuming I am ready to sign up, it is essentially a welcome kit.   Regrettably, and unknown to AAA, I am disqualified from obtaining coverage due to a shady past.   So I deferred.

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The official seal of eligibility.

The reason I highlight the new kit is to point out the allure and attraction of the envelope.  “Proof of Eligibility” is vague.   But when it is presented so elegantly, it works.   How many of your incoming direct mail summons use parchment?   40-point Gothic?   Not much I am guessing, since the Sheriff of Nottingham died.

The design strategy of this AAA kit is to get opened.   My bet is that better than 90% of the recipients do open it.   It is irresistible.

From there, the internals have to carry the freight.

The big question you should be asking is why spend the extra postage– probably 15 cents– to send an over-sized envelope?

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The letter under the parchment, complete with filigree.

Do the math.   In a standard #10 envelope, the kit, list and assembly would cost about $250/m.   Postage, another $200/m.   Total, $450/m.

Now lay the papers flat, and place them in a big envelope instead.   Let’s say the production is cost neutral, but adding $150/m flat postage has just increased overall cost by 33%.

The bottom line in direct mail: raise your production cost 33%, you must increase response 33% too.

So if the small envelope garnered a 1% response, the flat needs 1.33% to stay in the game.

From personal experience, I know this is achievable, and judging from AAA’s use of flats before, it’s probably not unusual for them either.

AAA 2014-12-02 Eligible copyBy the way, what was I eligible for?  Discounted premiums as an AAA member.


Thanks for reading!   Never pass up the opportunity to go “big” in a mailing piece.   The cost may frighten you, but usually higher response will cover it.