Tag : usps

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6 Reasons Facebook Hasn’t Yet Killed Direct Mail

I got a big surprise in the mailbox yesterday. The cover of Auctioneer, the auction industry’s international trade journal, teased a story about the Auction Technology Specialist (ATS) program. Since I was on the panel that rewrote the curriculum for ATS and have been one of the instructors of the course since last summer, I was excited to see the coverage.

The surprise, though, came in the opening paragraphs of the article, when it was declared that the instructors had ditched all print media and used print advertising only to prove to sellers that it was a waste of advertising dollars.

You’d be surprised, too, if—on the same day you read that story—you had also designed three different postcards for one of those instructors and had consulted about a brochure with the other instructor. In fact, I designed 139 postcards last year for Grafe Auction, the company used as the case study throughout the course. Plus 15 already in 2016 (more than I have for any other client).

John Schultz, Robert Mayo, and I spend the vast majority of the course talking about digital media and analytics of all media. So, I understand if direct mail might seem like a tumbleweed ghost town to the casual observer.

I make money creating advertising for both Facebook and direct mail. Facebook is the biggest innovation in advertising ever. I truly believe that and am thankful for the times it bails me out of tough strategy situations with my clients. While Facebook collects a mind-boggling amount of data about its users, there are still audiences it can’t reach that direct mail can.

Your In-House Bidder, Banker, or Attorney Lists

Sure, you can email your registered bidders, biggest hitters, and referral agents; but we all know that direct mail is more disruptive. It has to be physically touched at least once, even to be tossed in the garbage. While Facebook can match 40-50% of your email addresses, that leaves 50-60% in limbo. With email open rates averaging in the 15-25% range, are you willing to take the chance that a number of your proven prospects won’t be bidding?

Acreage Owners (Including Absentee Owners)

I can buy direct mail lists of people who own specific amounts or ranges of acreages in many locations around the country. This is a critical list for farm real estate auctioneers—both in acquiring new sellers and in appealing to farmers looking to buy more land. Facebook doesn’t have any data remotely close to this category.

Owners of Fishing & Hunting Licenses

Facebook can give me fans of Realtree and Mossy Oak, Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s. I can tap into lists of people who like kayak fishing, bow hunting, and trophy whitetail deer. If I want people with actual hunting or fishing licenses, though, I have to use direct mail. Also, since Facebook doesn’t allow the overt advertisement of guns and ammo, you’re going to need other disruptive media to advertise those wares.

Every Door Direct Mail

If your property needs the attention of everyone on a United States Postal Service (USPS) mail route, Facebook can’t match direct mail. No digital or other print media can, actually. With some ingenuity (that my mail house uses) this USPS tool can be expedited to almost first class delivery times.

SIC Code Businesses

Facebook can match a lot of professional roles—more than any medium I’ve found. What it can’t grab yet are businesses. For instance, today I was working on a proposal for a self-storage facility. I can get a direct mail list of those; Facebook didn’t have that category for entities, employers, or professions.

Chamber of Commerce Members

Facebook can’t tell you who takes part in offline groups like Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, or other trade associations. If you’re lucky, you might have access to your group’s email database, but that’s usually not an option. Since most groups don’t have daily or weekly (or even monthly) print publications, how do you reach those movers and shakers?  Hint: it rhymes with “correct sail.”

As my clients and industry peers can tell you, I’m an evangelist for almost everything in the ATS course. It was a game-changer for my business and for the firms I serve every day. The part it didn’t change, though, is my belief that a tactile medium holds more value than ever in a digital world. For me and my clients—including both of my fellow ATS instructors—Facebook and direct mail are complimentary tools, not zero-sum competitors.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

101: The USPS Program That Could Save You Thousands

Mail Sorting (Image purchased from iStockPhoto.com)The other day, I sent a FedEx envelope via overnight delivery.  When I looked at the receipt, I was shocked at the delivery charge—more than double what I paid for the same service when I started my company (back when I had to overnight Zip disks to my print shop multiple days per week).  I had similar sticker shock at the UPS Store a few weeks ago.

By contrast, over the last 13 years, first class postage for letters has risen just 12 cents per piece—just under a penny per year.  Despite basically tracking with inflation, postage increases usually draw complaints from marketers I’ve met.  And every time that penny gets added, people threaten to abandon direct mail for email, Facebook, and other online tools.

Well, the United States Post Office (USPS) must have been listening to these complaints.  The USPS dropped the postage rate on CASS-certified addresses for 8- and 12-page brochures to be the same letter rate available to 2-, 4- and 6-page pieces (a savings of 15¢-25¢ each).  And they introduced a new program called Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) that could save you over 60% on your next direct mail campaign.

Learning From the Past
EDDM is a much improved version of the old “presorted standard” mail, in which postcards, brochures, and letters were delivered to every box holder on a mail delivery route.  If you’ve seen your postal carrier with a tray of identical brochures on their front seat, you’ve seen that kind of mail in action.  There are no addresses on the pieces, because everybody on the route gets the same piece.

The knock on standard mail—even presorted standard mail—was that promised mail delivery schedules weren’t reliable for periods shorter than two weeks.  Your brochures or postcards could literally sit for days at any USPS post office or distribution hub along their journey.  In my line of work, advertising auctions, we don’t have time enough to play that Russian roulette.  And I can tell you a horror story of when an auction company played anyway and lost dramatically—probably exacerbated by mailing across state lines, which often adds one or more stops to the USPS transportation process.

New & Improved
More than a slick rebranding, EDDM is a more viable solution for marketers across the country.  EDDM now expands beyond rural and city routes to include P.O. boxes, something previously unavailable for saturation mailings.  So, now you can ensure everyone in a zip code gets a copy of your direct mail.  Maybe most importantly, marketers can now request a specific delivery date.  My regular USPS hub’s postmaster said that those requested dates can now be as short as two days after the final post offices (called “drop sites”) receive their respective trays—a far cry from “up to two weeks.”

Shearer Printing & Office Solutions, my print and mail vendor, has made this process even more efficient and reliable for my clients by calling each drop site’s postmaster to alert them of incoming trays.  And instead of dropping the trays at their local USPS hub in Kokomo, IN, where the postage would cost 19.5¢ each, Shearer ships the trays via UPS or FedEx directly to the drop sites.  For bypassing their transportation system, the USPS knocks an additional 5¢ per piece off the postage.

Case Study
One of my Michigan clients recently experienced all this EDDM savings first hand, while sending a biplane-designed brochure to three separate geographical areas spanning five routes, totaling 3,023 recipient boxes.  Shearer presorted, packaged, and shipped the trays at a cost of $241.03 for processing and $80.46 for tray freight.  Postage totaled $438.34.  That’s just 14.5¢ per piece!  A brown-shirted driver retrieved the trays on Thursday; the trays arrived at the two destination post offices on Friday; the brochures then arrived in mail boxes on Saturday in two of the areas and on Monday in the other area.  So, with EDDM, the total mail preparation and delivery cost for an 8.5×11 brochure that took three business days to go from mail room to mail box was just 25.1¢ per piece.

Hybrid Mailing
But what if you do have a trusted in-house mailing list or want to target specific companies or consumer demographics through brokered lists?  You can use them, too!  Now, with digital and variable data printing technology, part of your print run can have barcoded addresses and first class indicias printed in line; and the rest can be printed with the necessary EDDM markings.  So, you can canvas a swath of local end users AND a group of specific, qualified prospects across a region or across the country—in most cases without any difference in printing costs for brochures.  (For postcards, you would need to have slightly different trim sizes to use for each purpose.)

Special Design & Production Considerations
All EDDM-eligible pieces must be larger than letter size.  This means your piece’s final dimensions must be more than 11.5 inches long OR more than 6.125 inches tall OR more than .25 inches thick (and must be less than 15 inches long, 12 inches tall, and .75 inches thick).  So, these pieces will often be larger than envelopes and other letter-size mailers in your audience’s mailboxes.  Tabbing is not necessary or encouraged.  A different postage indicia must be used, but most print & mail shops have one; so, you shouldn’t have to obtain one just for your mailings.  All pieces must have “ECRWSS Postal Customer” (for businesses and residences) or “ECRWSS Residential Customer” (for residences only) printed on the mailer panel.  Also, because there are no addresses for USPS scanners to read, there is a lot more room and freedom on the mailer panel for images and copy.

For auctioneers, who often have limited budgets and even more limited time, Every Door Direct Mail may prove itself a long-overdue solution.  And if your proposed budget can gain dollars on the postage line, you can spend those saved dollars on more marketing in places your competition can’t.


When I was in high school and college, maintaining “good Christian” status sometimes involved accompanying people from my church as they canvassed the subdivisions on the island where I went to church.  I always felt awkward.  But I fought through that discomfort, because I thought some kind of heaven points were on the line; and I truly wanted people to know relationally the God I recognized as the source of all good things.  I must’ve thought I was vicariously knocking on heart doors like Jesus did in Revelations.

As much as I like telling people about products, vendors, and adventures that I love, I’ve always hated sales—especially theta part of trying to convince people they should purchase something.  I think that’s because I don’t like dealing with sales people or being convinced that I need or want something I previously didn’t—let alone an entire worldview system.

In the past month, I’ve heard both silly and very sad stories of people’s experiences with Every Door Direct Evangelism.  In one case, my buddy was driven away from God and church for 20 years because of a terrible encounter from door-to-door evangelists.  It made me sad.  Stories like that aren’t as surprising after you’ve lived in Ft. Wayne, IN, the self-proclaimed “City of Churches” and Lynchburg, VA, the “Buckle of the Southern Bible Belt.”  On top of my recent anecdotes, I’ve read an editorial newspaper column from a secular writer who’d been negatively impressed from this evangelism model.

I won’t go so far as to say that strategy is wrong or sinful.  I just struggle to find the biblical precedent, the relational benefit, the net efficacy. Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house but met him on Main Street; and as far as I know, the Bible doesn’t record the Messiah or his disciples hitting a neighborhood’s worth of houses.  I need to ponder it all some more.  In the mean time, I welcome your insight.

[footer]Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.[/footer]

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