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Aug. 9 2011 12:29 PM

Promoting direct mail as an advertising medium by the USPS is long overdue and essential to the future of the Postal Service and the direct mail industry it serves. A new program being rolled out in Austin Texas, The Direct Mail Hub, does not promote the use of direct mail. It sells direct mail services in direct competition with mail service providers (MSPs) that mistakenly believe the USPS is a partner. The Hub uses scarce marketing resources to promote one (1) on-line web-to-print service provider!

The mailing industry was told that EDDM would increase mail volume by reaching out to non-mailers. Instead postal sales people aggressively went after existing customers. The results were lost revenues and severed customer relationships for MSPs. Due either to poor management or through intentional design, the USPS has failed to stop postal sales teams from raiding MSPs' existing customers. Unlike EDDM and saturation mail, the USPS promotion of the Direct Mail Hub will negatively impact all printers and mail service providers working with small and medium sized businesses.

In promoting the EDDM program the USPS used direct mail, sales team visits, and phone calls. In many districts, addresses used in the EDDM direct mail campaigns came from either the Ghost Number or PAF databases maintained by the Postal Service. Both databases were developed from information the USPS requires MSPs to provide about customers prior to entering mail into the mailstream. This private and confidential information (much of it covered by nondisclosure agreements) has been authorized for use by postal sales teams in the promotion of these programs by USPS management in Washington D.C.

The data contained in these databases provides contact information, addresses, and phone numbers for end user mailers. Utilizing the Ghost Number (GN) database, sales people can also get volume, class, frequency of mailings, and total postage paid. What a wealth of detailed information our confidential data provides postal sales people!

But for some, even that wasn't enough. One postal sales person called the MSP that entered the GN mail and asked for even more specific information about several customers. When asked why he wanted the information, the MSP was told that he was going to explain to these customers how simplified EDDM mail could reduce their mailing costs by bringing mail processing in house. Whether through ignorance, stupidity or by design, utilizing someone else's confidential information in your marketing program is unethical and probably illegal... for everyone but the United States Postal Service!

Riding the successes of EDDM, the USPS is now introducing customers to the Direct Mail Hub. It is being targeted (you guessed it) "to small businesses that haven't used direct mail in the past..." The roll out obviously includes sending " mailpieces from the Postal Service..." and of course "...Postal Service representative[s] [sales teams] are also planning outreach activities throughout the Austin metropolitan area..." In other words, they are using and expanding their EDDM game plan!

These two programs identify a pervasive irrationality within the USPS marketing department. A department whose primary focus should be the promotion of direct mail as a competitive advertising medium and not with who prepares a mailing! The design of the EDDM and Hub programs demonstrates a core belief of postal management that the problem with the underutilization of direct mail has been the fault of mail service providers and their lack of products, services and affordable pricing.

Obviously, it is the direct mail industry that makes direct mail too complex, difficult, and expensive for postal customers to use the medium. At the USPS postage, postal regulations, and postal employees have nothing to do with the precipitous fall in mail volumes generated by small businesses over the last ten years. To correct this industry wide problem the USPS is going to use marketing resources to promote their partner, Progressive Impressions International (DirectMail2Go), to our customers. This partnership will provide "Small businesses in the Austin area... access to a simple and robust online platform from the U.S. Postal Service to generate affordable, highly targeted, attention-grabbing marketing campaigns." Soon, postal sales people will be knocking on your customers' door to show them how easy it is to go on-line and create a mailing on the DirectMail2Go website.

Unlike the EDDM program, the Direct Mail Hub "customers can access templates, upload mailing lists, order printing, pay postage and have their mail pieces mailed all within one streamlined platform." The "Direct Mail Hub is a one-stop-shop for Austin businesses looking to boost their bottom line with an intuitive, user-friendly online solution for generating direct mail campaigns from start-to-finish. Small businesses will be able to create direct and personalized mail pieces by accessing [from the USPS website] the "DirectMail2Go" tool offered by Progressive Impressions International."

This program is not designed to promote direct mail to non-users. It is designed to sell direct mail services to our customers! No, I no longer believe the lie that these programs were designed to generate new mail from new customers! They were designed to get between me and my customers, and you and your customers. The bureaucrats in Washington delusionally believe they can manage end user customer relationships and increase mail volume better than we can.

So why alienate 100's of other web to print companies who are specialists in this space? Why alienate thousands of local printers and other MSPs already working with small businesses nationwide? Wouldn't the Postal Service be better off partnering with thousands of companies that want to sell USPS delivery services rather than promoting DirectMail2Go, whose products and services the Postal Service has to sell? Do people in postal marketing really believe promoting a single website is going to generate significant increases in mail volume?

Anyone that believes or defends this idiocy is incompetent and should be fired!

The fact is the USPS is going to generate additional revenue from the printing and direct mail work moved from existing providers (you and me) to Progressive Impressions International (DirectMail2Go). Increasing mail volume is not the goal of the Direct Mail Hub program. The goal is to take existing revenue away from mail service providers and move it to DirectMail2Go.

In summary, DirectMail2Go is going to get marketing and sales support from the USPS. Postal sales teams (nearly a 1,000 strong) will be accessing and disseminating confidential customer information. The marketing dollars, sales team support, and sanctioned data breech will all be used by the Postal Service to benefit the one mailing service provider with whom they have a financial arrangement, Progressive Impressions International.
This makes the United States Postal Service an unethical competitor, not a trusted partner! It is time our industry treated them as such!

Todd Butler, Butler Mailing Services, eKEY® Technologies can be reached at 513-870-5060 or Visit for more information.

Making postal delivery, an interactive experience!