Fresh Beginnings By Todd Butler, Butler Mailing Services, eKEY Technologies
The Postal Service announced on May 16, 2012 that they hired Nagisa Manabe as Chief Marketing/Sales Officer (CMO). She replaces Paul Vogel who takes his imperial presidency down the hall to the newly created USPS Digital Solutions Group. Hopefully Ms. Manabe, with PMG Donahoe’s help, can purge the legacy of antagonism and confrontation towards the direct mail community they were hired to serve! Mail service providers, need a reset in our relationship with the Postal Service. Maybe that is why Mr. Donahoe has brought in a CMO experienced at selling goods and services through distributors.
Ms. Manabe needs to forge a new partnership with the MSP industry if she hopes to succeed where Mr. Vogel and his predecessor failed. The first thing the new marketing chief has to do is send her staff to a business reeducation camp. The curriculum should include ethical business behavior as it relates to customers, learning how to coordinate with and promote businesses that sell your services, and how to leverage the vast resources of the direct mail community to significantly increase mail volume. Staff that fail reeducation should be retired.
With the appointment of a new CMO we have an opportunity to start fresh and work together towards a common goal of promoting and growing direct mail. Here are three ideas that will invigorate the mail service provider (MSP) community and help re-establish the partnership that once existed between the United States Postal Service and its best, most loyal customers.
Mutual Trust and Ethical Behavior Partnerships require mutual trust and ethical behavior. Many in the MSP community view the Postal Service as a parasite, and with good reason. The USPS requires from our community proprietary, confidential information about our customers with the sole intent of using that information to market competing products and services to them. If given a choice, all MSPs would be using a different delivery system rather than the Postal Service!
Unethical businesses go out of business because no one will deal with them, unfortunately there is no such “death penalty” for governmental monopolies. The fact that many in postal management perpetuate this unethical behavior and think taking advantage of customers (MSPs) in this way is smart business, says something about the amoral business culture permeating the senior staff. There is certainly a case to be made for a purge or, at the bare minimum, ethics indoctrination.
Since a purge is not going to happen, an alternative way to start to rebuild trust in the MSP community is to build a firewall around our customer data. The firewall should be real, with real penalties for those that access the information without authorization. No one in sales or marketing at any level should have access, ever! Any use of our customer data should be in aggregate when used by the Finance Department or other internal groups. Two notable exceptions would be the use of the data by the OIG and Postal Inspectors.
If this makes the information useless, then quit collecting it.
Coordinating/Promoting Businesses to Sell Your Services The Postal Service has 1,000 dedicated sales people. D&B lists over 54,000 companies in the printing industry. The Postal Service, under current law, can only produce one economic activity that generates revenue. It is only allowed to deliver mail and packages across the country. The unimaginative bureaucrats running marketing for our postal monopoly are not thinking outside of the box (as they believe) but playing monkey see, monkey do as they try to follow FedEx and UPS into the printing business.
An entrepreneur would look at the Postal Service’s financial situation and know that it has to reduce costs (which congress won’t allow) and increase sales. Instead of sending 1,000 postal sales people out to sell printing and mail preparation services as a way to increase sales, the entrepreneur would figure out a way to partner with the 54,000 printing companies that already produce, or with a little assistance, could be producing and selling direct mail. Knowing that most printing companies have multiple sales people, a postal entrepreneur would spend time, money, and significant resources to encourage these printing companies to sell postal delivery services (direct mail). Only a postal bureaucrat would intentionally alienate an industry with over 100,000 sales people by directly competing with them (assumes 54,000 printing companies average 2 sales people each).
The Postal Service needs to put together initiatives, training, and advertising that will help print sales people increase printing and postage revenue for the entire direct mail industry. Those 1,000 postal sales people should be re-tasked with the job of recruitment, support, and direct mail training. Their primary goal should be to significantly increase the number of MSPs in their territory.
How to Leverage the Vast Resources of the MSP Community It is time for the postal marketing department to stop playing small ball and get serious about pushing direct mail as a viable effective means of marketing! Our problem is not a lack of service providers; our problem is a lack of customers! It is time to fire the current ad agency and find one that believes in and can generate demand for direct mail! By competing with digital advertising and actively defending the value of direct mail, the Postal Service can change the current view that direct mail is ineffective, too expensive, and too antiquated for today’s marketing professionals.
How do you leverage the vast resources this industry has at its disposal? It is really quite simple; treat us with respect, as partners. Encourage us to align our goals with your goals. Build demand for our products by building demand for your delivery services. Postal bureaucrats think of themselves as leaders. It’s time they lead this industry in the resurgence of physical direct mail.
The Postal Service’s current goals (to provide printing and mailing services through usps.com) and lack of effective national advertising are encouraging many MSPs to take their customers on-line. The primary push in our industry is to become a marketing service provider, where print and mail is only one of the marketing services these companies will provide. Acxiom, considered a direct mail leader, is the most recent casualty with their future now based on digital advertising.
To succeed, Nagisa Manabe has to generate demand for the Postal Service’s delivery system. Unfortunately, creating demand for postal delivery services has never been done. Demand has always grown organically, no matter who took credit for it. MSPs have always sold mail prep and other services to meet that growth in demand. Mail service providers are now learning how to provide digital marketing services for our customers and do not care which products increase revenues for our companies (note Acxiom).
It is critical that the USPS figures out how to generate demand for direct mail, before no one but postal employees care!