One of our clients recently received an interesting direct mail marketing piece from Cliff Rucker, the Vice President of Sales for the US Postal Service (USPS). The letter explained that the new dimensional weight (DIM) pricing policies of their competitors makes Priority Mail even more attractive for shipping. In the “P.S.” paragraph, the letter gave the name of the local USPS representative who would be contacting the recipient directly.
This sounds like a standard direct mail piece designed to raise awareness and provide an introduction for the sales representative. Just a few issues:
- The letter was addressed to the CEO of a multi-state healthcare insurance company – a business that doesn’t ship packages, but does send a lot of First Class Mail and Standard Mail. And the person furthest from any discussions involving mail – the CEO.
- The mail services manager for this company is an active leader in the mailing community, and serves on the local Postal Customer Council executive board.
- The mail services manager for this company has been trying to resolve a delivery issue, and the local representative mentioned in the letter hasn’t returned his phone calls.
The first rule of an effective direct marketing campaign is to know your target market. As an organization that promotes direct mail, one would think the USPS would understand this basic principle. Yet this letter underscores a consistent problem – the USPS doesn’t know much about, or care enough about, their business customers.
This deficit of understanding the businesses they service goes beyond a poorly executed marketing campaign. The recent decision to lower delivery standards for First Class Mail is having a measurable negative impact on businesses in all industries. Customers are calling companies to complain about late bills, ID cards or policies. Those calls cost money. And the implementation of lower delivery standards was followed by a decision to raise rates by 2.5% on presorted First Class Mail.
Contrary to popular belief, the volume of transactional mail that businesses send to customers – commercial First Class Mail – isn’t rapidly declining. In fact, volumes have been stable for the past 3 years. However, unless your company is one of the largest mailers in the country, the USPS doesn’t take the time to understand your business needs. You’re on your own.
The company that received this letter was trying to be heard. They joined the Postal Customer Council. They attended the National Postal Forum. They contacted the local USPS Business Service Network office.
Instead of assistance, their CEO received a piece of junk mail.