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Dec. 8 2011 02:57 PM

    If you've watched the news this fall, 2012 may seem like the end of the postal world as we know it. USPS revenue has plummeted. With mail volume down and many postal facilities listed for closing, it can be scary to be a mail service provider. But with 9.2 million jobs in the direct marketing business alone, mail is an important part of the US economy. With a little bit of planning, you can strengthen your business and weather the postal storms on the horizon.

    Higher Prices
    USPS will raise prices again this January. Fortunately, they have announced that this increase will stay within the CPI cap. Mail prices will go up around 2 - 2.5%. Expect that larger pieces, such as flats and parcels, will get the majority of these increases. USPS is shuffling around some rate categories, and prices for First-Class Parcels (now called First-Class Package Service) will get a significant bump.

    Facility Closures and Delivery Delays
    Over 4,000 local post offices and around 250 mail processing facilities are under review and may close. This means that the place you normally submit your mail may not be open by the end of 2012. Talk to your entry offices to see if they are on the list. Identify and visit other entry offices that you can use as a backup. Along with closures could come different entry times and mailing delays. Make sure you know when your office is open and any mail acceptance windows.

    Prepare your customers. Let them know that it may take a few extra days to get the mail delivered. If time-to-delivery seems slow or isn't dependable enough, try using a service like OneCode Confirm to see where your mail is held up. You can use this data to help your customers schedule their mailings properly to meet any important deadlines or sale dates.
    5-Day DeliveryIt will take an act of Congress, but there is a real possibility of mail delivery five days a week instead of six. Fortunately, this only affects delivery - USPS plans to keep post and entry offices open on Saturdays. For time-sensitive mail like prescriptions, missing a day of delivery could make a world of difference. Talk to your customers to see if 5-day delivery will affect them. If so, suggest starting the mail process a day earlier, or look at faster delivery services such as First-Class Mail.

    Changing Content of Mail
    Americans used to get personal letters almost every week. Now we get a personal letter about once every two months. People still go to their mailbox every day, but they are less likely to open every single piece of mail, especially mail that doesn't look interesting. If your customers send boring mail and get poor results, they will conclude that direct mail doesn't work. Take a more proactive approach and provide them with your valuable experience in the mailing industry.
    Not sure what to say? Take some time to really look at the mail you get. What are you drawn to? What do you open? Take what you learn and help your customers get more results. Some may be willing to try a few new layouts, or new messages on their normal mailers, to see if they get a better response. Take a note of what works and what doesn't, and you'll have the tools to suggest changes to your other customers. Most mail these days is advertising, so making your customers' mail stand out can make a big difference in their bottom line.
    Being a mail service provider has never been easy, and when USPS suffers it's natural to be concerned. But you can make some small changes that can have a big impact on your bottom line. Start thinking about your strategy now to get a leg up on the coming year.