I spent some time over the weekend doing an internet search on "mailing services". I know it sounds like a sad way to spend the time, but what I found was pretty interesting.

There are tons of organizations out there selling mail. If you are in this business, that isn't news to you - you know there is plenty of competition. If your company is one of the millions of possibilities that prospective customers find from doing a search like mine, well it is going to be a challenge to be found. You probably knew that, too.

High Page Ranking is Possible - But Elusive
With all the companies contending for mailing business, relying on search as your primary method of lead development is a gamble. Most buyers won't ever get past the first page of search results. I skipped ahead to page 4 and found some quality businesses languishing back there where, unfortunately, they won't be seen.

Search engine optimization experts will tell you there are all kinds of legitimate ways to improve your ranking by search engines, and they are right. Making sure your material includes the right key words and is searchable, having content published in multiple places on the web, and keeping content fresh are all worthy strategies to pursue. But breaking into the top 10-12 listings on a search result page can be tough for mail service providers - especially if your organization lacks the resources it takes to create and publish continuously.

Alternative to Search
I'm a big fan of using a resource over which you have more control, your own list of customers and prospects, to keep people interested in what your company can do for them. Direct communication with this group via postal mail or email includes the benefit of personalization and segmentation. You already know something about the individuals to whom you have sent your messages and you can tailor the content to be more relevant.

If you are not actively growing your contact list (and using it), you are missing out on an inexpensive and productive opportunity. One thing I noticed as I visited the web sites of mail service providers revealed by my search is they didn't seem to be doing a great job at collecting contact information from visitors. Only a quarter of the web sites I visited had mailing list sign-up forms. Most of them provided little incentive for new prospects to engage with them. Very few promoted a contest, discount, white paper download, or other reward to prospects in exchange for their contact information. In fact, most promised no benefit at all to prospective customers being asked to identify themselves.

What Do Prospects Find at Your Site?
The other item that struck me from my unscientific research was a disparity among those companies that showed up on the first page of search results and those on page 4. The higher-ranking companies made more informational or educational content available to prospective customers. There were blog postings, tips and tricks, or articles about postal issues or marketing strategies. Many of these appeared to be authored by the mailing service providers themselves, while other content was curated from published sources.

If the companies on page 4 of my search results had any informational content at all on their sites it appeared it was quite dated. The material tended to be more about themselves - the services they performed, details about their equipment or facilities, requirements for data files or mail piece design, etc. There's nothing wrong with that type of content, but 100% of the companies I researched featured that type of information. It is hardly a distinguishing factor that would encourage a customer to choose one company over another.

Easy to Fix
It appears most mailing service providers have an opportunity to develop more leads inexpensively by doing two simple things:

1. Work more actively on collecting contact information and then communicate directly to prospects through postal mail and email.

2. Add more informational content to their web sites so that when prospects do visit (likely driven there by the email or postal mail), there is something that keeps their interest and separates their mail services company from a huge number of competitors.

Implementing these suggestions take some time but not much of a financial investment, making it possible for almost any size organization to improve their standing among the competition. Not everyone can be on the first page of search results, so having an alternate strategy for bringing prospective customers to your web site can make a huge difference in your ability to attract and retain customers.

Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants, a firm that helps companies communicate with their customers and prospects more effectively by supplying content and services developed specifically for the document industry. Connect with Mike directly at Or visit and sign up for Customer Retention NOW! - a free newsletter featuring tips for creating and developing sales leads.