The Postmaster General at the 2011 Postal Forum acknowledged that as mail volumes grew during the 2000's there was an underlying weakness in market fundamentals that postal management didn't recognize. I believe the deteriorating market fundamentals he mentioned were the massive loss of small and medium sized mailers (SMMs) from the mail stream. As financial services companies ramped up direct mail marketing campaigns that drove mail volumes higher, the total number of customers substantially decreased. This loss of stable SMMs undermined the foundation of the USPS customer base, concentrating more and more mail volume with fewer and fewer customers. The result, when the inevitable down turn in the financial services industry came, mail volumes and revenues crashed rather than trailing off.

    Unfortunately postal management, led by PMG Jack Potter, didn't miss the loss of SMMs. They were outwardly antagonistic towards this segment of the postal customer base in pricing postal products, the development of postal procedures, and implementation of postal policies. Contact with mail service providers was unilaterally severed, as PMG Potter demonized the organizations that owned the small and medium sized mailing customers. It isn't that postal management missed critical changes in their customer base, their actions stated loud and clear that they believed servicing small and medium sized customers was not important to the future of the Postal Service.

    It's funny how attitudes towards customers change with adversity. It's funny how, after pushing small and medium sized businesses out of the mail stream and on-line, the Postal Service now sees this market as key to its future. The Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program was designed to lure small and medium sized businesses back into the mail stream. The Postal Service obviously wants/needs this market back, but I am afraid postal employees still think there is no need for mail service providers!

    Mail service providers, which include printers that mail, will always own the small and medium sized business market place. Lettershops grew into prominence in the 1990's because printers wanted to print and not mess with the hassles of preparing direct mail. No business of any size wanted the hassles of working with the USPS and their arcane rules and regulations. It was the expertise amassed by lettershops and our ability to fight our way through the postal maze that brought customers to our doors, grew our companies, and significantly increased mail volume.

    Comparing the complexity of postal rules and regulations in 1990 to 2011, is like comparing the knowledge needed by a child entering kindergarten to the knowledge and financial resources a student needs to get in to Harvard Law. With the design of the EDDM program and its accompanying on-line tools, it is obvious that postal management is trying to reduce some of the complexity from making a mailing. No matter how much the USPS changes or simplifies its rules and procedures, preparing direct mail will never be as easy as it was in the 1990's. Therefore, most new direct mail customers will need a mail service provider to efficiently and cost effectively prepare their mail.

    During PMG Potters tenure we had change. The change was away from a partnership with mail service providers to a
    contentious, adversarial relationship with this key customer segment. The results are evident. The mail volume growth momentum we built in the 1990's slowed significantly through 2006 and then collapsed. A new PMG, Pat Donahoe, also wants change. He says he wants a more collaborative relationship with mail service providers, and yet EDDM was designed and introduced without any outreach to this critical segment of the industry.

    The problem is that after more than ten years of hostility towards mail service providers, the USPS has no idea what our (or our customers') needs are. Nor do they remember how to work collaboratively with us. The Postal Service is in the process of implementing new programs and policies to make it easier to work with the USPS and grow mail volume by bring new customers in to the mail stream. I believe under this PMG they are open to ideas and suggestions from the industry they serve. I also believe it is our responsibility to provide the information they need to help grow the direct mail industry.
    So how do we provide the information the USPS needs but is unwilling to ask for? The easiest way is to join a postal association that represents the needs of your segment of the direct mail industry. But that is not enough! Associations represent the wishes of the collective and unfortunately the USPS hears this information as just one voice from the industry.
    Not only do we need to speak through our associations, but we must also speak for our individual companies and customers whenever and wherever possible.

    When a decision is made by the USPS, it affects each of our companies differently. Take the EDDM program. It has had no effect on many companies, but for others it has (already) been devastating. Some are seeing their saturation mailers leave in droves, led by the siren song of low cost and simplicity being sung by postal sales people. Some saturation list companies are seeing a 30% reduction in sales. Unfortunately in the USPS rush to make EDDM a success, many sales people are trying to convert customers utilizing higher priced products (such as First Class mail) in to EDDM participants.
    I have heard many, many complaints about this program through one of the associations that I belong to, but have not seen these concerns expressed in venues that postal management and its employees visit! In this day of eNewsletters, blogs, emails, LinkedIn, Facebook, and websites such as the PRC (which has a complaint mechanism as long as your complaint is less than 1,000 characters including spaces), our industry has a great opportunity to sound off and inform postal employees and management alike about our needs.

    During the week of May 16, the OIG had a discussion centered on the virtues of EDDM mail, and yet with all of the rancor over this program only eight people left a comment. The Postal Service interprets this kind of response as eight people that do not like the program and the rest of the industry loves it. YOU are responsible for their misinterpretation of the facts! It is the responsibility of mail service providers to take the time to make comments and provide information in any available forum. Our jobs and companies depend on the USPS, up and down the chain of command, to understanding our needs, concerns, and customers!

    Below is a list of issues I currently have with the EDDM program. Please add to this list in the comments section below. It only takes a minute, it is anonymous, and it will be read by postal management at headquarters. It is time to quit complaining amongst ourselves and start educating postal bureaucrats on what it takes to be our partner and grow mail volume.

    1. The stated goal for EDDM is to go after customers not currently using the postal mailstream.
    a. And yet customers of MSPs across the country are being contacted by postal sales people that are either using Ghost Number information or information accumulated by the USPS in its PAF database. Use of this coerced, private information is at a minimum unethical! To demand customer information from MSPs and then use that information to take our customers away from us may be more than immoral; I believe it is illegal.
    b. My customers are my customers. We hire the Postal Service to deliver the mail, period!
    2. It has been reported that one gun-ho district marketing manager called an MSP to gather information on the MSP's customers such as volume and types of mail. His explanation was that he wanted to be able to better refine his EDDM marketing message for a presentation to these businesses.
    3. There have been direct mail campaigns to ALL businesses, including current mailers, under G permits. Funny how the USPS pushes targeting direct mail but couldn't eliminate existing customers from their list.
    4. Postal sales people are talking directly to MSP customers telling them that they do not need the services of the MSP and how much cheaper it would be to use EDDM mail.
    5. Postal email campaigns to existing customers who are members of local PCCs. If an organization is part of the local PCC they are not non-mailers!
    6. One Senior VP did a 15 minute EDDM presentation to a local PCC. Obviously the message about only marketing to non-mailers didn't leave the PMG's office. Or was there one message for the troops and MSPs were intentionally told a different story? As I said, anyone can comment below.
    7. EDDM is being pushed by postal sales people to First Class mailers. EDDM may be profitable but not as profitable as First Class.
    8. There is at least one report from an MSP stating that his local post office told his customers that they didn't need to bundle EDDM mail, just bring it in bulk and the carriers would count out what they needed. This MSP lost several customers over this breach of policy, or is this the next phase for EDDM mail?
    Todd Butler, Butler Mailing Services, eKEY® Technologies can be reached at 513-870-5060, or