The Titanic hit an iceberg and ultimately sank because it moved too slowly to change course in time; the USPS is a very large organization facing similar challenges due primarily to dramatic decreases in mail volume.
According to a recent study conducted by The Boston Consulting Group, overall USPS mail volume has declined by 17% since 2006.
The encouraging news is that over the course of the last 12 months the USPS has taken some common-sense steps that are encouraging to business mailers. This post will share insights on what other changes you can expect from the USPS right now and in the near future, and how they impact business mail and bulk mail marketing.
Small Business Mail Pilot Program: In Raleigh, North Carolina and Austin, Texas the USPS created a new beta program called "Direct Mail Hub." In a nutshell, this new program is a web-based program that takes a stab at simplifying the bulk mail process. The USPS has indicated that this template-based system is specifically designed to get more small businesses using direct mail.
The next phase of this test system is scheduled to launch this August and it's called "Direct Mail Quotes." This program pairs small businesses with local bulk mail vendors who already have the necessary equipment to print and process bulk mail campaigns.
Finally, there's an online educational component tied to this new micro-site that offers advice on applying marketing strategies to small business direct mail campaigns.
Reply Rides Free: This year, the USPS also tested a pilot program for high-volume bulk mailers called "Reply Rides Free." This particular program applies to 1st class bulk mail only; it allows mailers to mail up to 1.2 ounces for the price of 1.0 ounce. The concept here is that the additional weight from the response card or reply envelope will not result in extra postage. Perhaps the USPS will expand this program next year to include small businesses too.
Reducing Post Offices: Even Postmaster General Donahoe knows that he needs to continue to reduce post office locations. A recent Business Week article compares the USPS to mail carriers in different European countries to see if any of their models could be applied in the US.
Many European countries rely almost exclusively on private companies to receive mail. For instance, in Sweden only 12% of mail is goes through a post office. All but 2% of Germany's mail is handled by private enterprise. The most common model in Europe is to use existing businesses like grocery stores and convenience stores to process the mail dropped off by consumers.
Europeans also spawned some creative ways for their post offices to generate revenue. For instance Sweden's Posten built a smartphone app that creates instant postcards using digital photos captured on users' phones. They are also experimenting with different techniques that allow smartphone users to pay for postage using their phones.
Elimination of Saturday Delivery: While the majority of business mailers are not concerned about this, the postal unions are aggressively fighting elimination of Saturday deliveries. The truth is that this is one of the least disruptive ways for the USPS to save money.
Here's a link to an article that shows examples of PR and marketing campaigns launched by the postal union to fight this. What's your opinion on the elimination of Saturday delivery?
In earlier posts, I talked about encouraging steps that the United States Post Office has taken already this year for business mailers including the expansion of saturation rate, the launch of a simplified bulk mail program called, Every Door Direct Mail, and finally the three percent summer QR Code bulk mail discount. Can the USPS continue to take business-friendly steps like these that simplify bulk and make it more cost effective? I believe that the survival of the USPS depends on it.
What steps could the USPS take that would get you more excited about bulk mail? Please share your comments below.