Jan. 3 2007 11:26 AM

As the mailing service industry continues to become more competitive, as marketing clients continue to become more demanding about service and price and as the postal environment continues to become more complex and potentially expensive for the incautious, professionals often turn to associations for help, support and information.


One such group is the Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association (MFSA), the national trade association for the mailing and fulfillment services industry. MFSA originated 85 years ago for owners, presidents and other senior management of member companies but has evolved to provide a broad range of management education; employee training; business resources; postal information; and basic help for members on technical, employment and postal issues.


The association is made up of nearly 700 companies, mostly located in the US and Canada. Regular members are in the mailing services premium-literature fulfillment, printing, pre-sort and/or list processing businesses. Associate member companies include independent professionals and suppliers to the mailing services and fulfillment industries.


Sharing Information

MFSA is famous for the open "sharing" that takes place among members a characteristic that many feel is enough to justify membership alone. Members looking for advice can call or e-mail a fellow member or post a message to MFSA's online discussion list serve and get their questions answered quickly. "We'll occasionally have some odd situation and need a little perspective about how to proceed," says Scott Schuh of Little Rock, Arkansas' Lloyd Schuh Company. Schuh, also the Chairman of the Board of MFSA, continues, "Going on the list serve with a 'how did you handle this?' question always gets useful answers."


MFSA's staff plays an important role in representing the industry and the association's members to the Washington legislative and postal world. MFSA monitors legislation and regulatory activity, regularly meets with U.S. Postal Service executives and advocates for its members during rate case proceedings. Members receive timely USPS information critical to their businesses, whether electronically for breaking news or through hardcopy distribution of resources like postal rate charts. Postal Points, published 18 times per year, is MFSA's newsletter focused on postal and related legislative issues, and gives members both an overview of and some perspectives on postal matters.


"There are a great many sources of postal information," says Kevin McPhillips of Direct Group. "Postal Points is one of the most comprehensive and succinct sources for critical information and analysis in the industry."


Each month, MFSA members also receive PostScripts, the association's newsletter for members only, covering a range of operational issues faced by today's mailing and fulfillment companies as well as relevant news from the general business sector. Employment Points, a bi-monthly newsletter, focuses on employment topics that are critical to mailing and fulfillment companies.


Association Services

Of course, MFSA also offers the types of business support that would be expected of a major trade association. MFSA meets members' insurance needs with MFSA Assured Protection, a collection of important business insurance coverages including workers' comp, commercial vehicle and commercial general liability. Terri Hedges of Nashville, Tennessee-based member Mailer's Choice, Inc. says, "Like everyone else, we've encountered situations where having good insurance coverage has made the difference between a small problem and a major business difficulty."


MFSA distributes a free, annual membership directory and buyers' guide to thousands of professionals in the direct marketing and advertising fields, giving association members greater visibility in a competitive marketplace. MFSA publishes Performance Profiles, an annual confidential summary of key business ratios by region, predominant business and annual sales volume to help members compare their businesses to peers and industry leaders. MFSA also provides members with a detailed bi-annual study of the compensation practices found within the industry, enabling member companies to compare their rates and practices with industry and regional norms. And MFSA produces a Job Descriptions Manual with over 600 job descriptions in 43 categories, supplied by member companies.


For the first time ever, MFSA recently conducted a national survey of pricing practices within the mailing services industry. The "Pricing Study for Mailing Services Report" is a 120-page "publication" that lists the median prices and mid-range for all of the mailing services being provided today shown nationally, regionally and in selected metropolitan statistical areas around the country. The study is available at www.mfsanet.org.


Educating the Membership

MFSA conducts a number of conferences each year, each designed to bring member executives and employees the learning experiences needed to operate efficiently and profitably. Supplier members can keep other members up-to-date through displays at MFSA conferences, providing the chance to see the latest services, equipment and technologies. "The annual conference is not only a chance to visit with and learn from my colleagues," notes Tom Duchene of Paramount, California's AMS Response. "It's also when I get to 'kick the tires' on some of the new equipment that's coming on the market."


In addition, MFSA hosts online "distance learning" seminars, affording participants an efficient way to stay on top of key issues without leaving their offices or conference rooms. MFSA's Web site (www.mfsanet.org) is a valuable resource to let members get the information they need quickly, in virtually any subject area, by researching "Knowledge Domains" that group topics by the functional areas found within member companies.


David Weaver, President and CEO of MFSA, sums it up: "No two MFSA member companies are exactly alike, but we take great pride in being a valuable resource for every one of them." For more information, please visit www.mfsanet.org.