Well I'm still waiting!

I told you I was delusional. Of course there is no spaceship on its way to beam me up (see the January/February Issue). Even more preposterous was the thought that the Postal Service intended to build a strong partnership with mail service providers.

And of course no one at postal headquarters took my challenge to prepare a simple mailing using their IMsB Tool, online guides, and local acceptance employees. Postal VIPs are just too busy "managing" operations and ensuring the smooth running of the USPS to personally learn what it currently takes to produce a fully compliant mail marketing campaign. But so are the small business people (future customers) targeted to save the United States Postal Service, its management, and union employees from bankruptcy.

"Stronger Together," the theme of the recent Postal Forum, was a canard, an empty promise. It was another slogan not taken seriously by postal management. Most believe they do not need mail service providers of any size. The impression I got from the Forum was that package services are the future of the USPS and direct mail is dead. There are no plans to promote it, there are no plans to advertise it, and they certainly do not plan to support those that try to sell and produce it.
Good news though; in their push to grasp the new shiny thing just out of reach (parcels), they have also given up on selling direct mail to our customers. There was still talk about EDDM but no schemes to compete with mail/print service providers (MSPs). Like I said, the attitude from postal marketing was that direct mail is dead, long live parcels! The bad news is that this is not a parcel company; it's a mail (letters/flats) delivery company. Parcel success may get people promoted over the next few years but it will never float the delivery infrastructure of the USPS. And the Postal Service will never truly compete with UPS or FedEx.

If the USPS wants to increase revenue, it will have to increase mail volume. To increase mail volume postal management will have to change course on several fronts. First, mail service providers are not the enemy. As a mail service provider I am (like it or not) a USPS partner. After embracing the delusional group think that they can service mail owners better than MSPs, it is time for postal management to face a hard reality! They need MSPs to cultivate and take care of postal customers if they want to increase sales.

Next, the complexity that has been added to mail production starting with the redesign of flats through Full Service implementation has been horrendous. Smaller mailers (the vast majority of print and mail service providers) only have one or two people that work with address data and postal regulations. The complexity of Full Service, PostalOne!, the Gateway, report cards, electronic ACS, mailpiece design, tracking, various support tools, numerous barcodes, and the thousands of different types of parcels is beyond the ability of a couple of people in these smaller operations to understand and comply with the standards. And yet, as mail volumes continue to decline, the USPS needs these smaller MSPs to stabilize marginal customers and revenues.

YOU MUST SIMPLIFY THE PROCESS!!! We can no longer keep up.

Finally, if postal management wants to increase mail volume they need to promote mail! The most interest in mail I have seen in years was when the USPS ran ads on TV for EDDM. What a thought, advertise your product and it generates sales. Concentrating all of your advertising on parcels is like bailing out a sinking aircraft carrier with one, two and a half gallon bucket.

If we (the Postal Service and the direct mail industry) are going to succeed we must build on our strengths. The direct mail industry has never been able to sell direct mail. We have successfully sold our services and managed the needs of direct mail customers! What the Postal Service must do is provide the resources for a significant, sustained, nationwide advertising campaign that sells the concept and value of direct mail to future mail owners. We have a great story to tell, but since the early 2000s the word on the street has been that direct mail is dead. This negativity cannot be changed at the local level by an MSP. This attitudinal change has to be accomplished at the national level by the USPS.

What the Postal Service needs to promote is not only the low cost of EDDM but the value generated by personalized cross-channel marketing. The Postal Service must promote the concept that the best way for businesses to get actionable information from consumers is by using direct mail to ask for it. The only way the Postal Service and this industry succeed is if the USPS sells the bottom line value of integrated direct mail to businesses and organizations of all sizes. And the mailing industry sells our ability to provide integrated marketing and easy access to this complex delivery system.
In the past mail service providers needed the Postal Service more than it needed us. For years most of us have been treated with contempt because of our small size. I love direct mail and want to continue producing it in my business. But MSPs can make more money from designing landing pages and producing integrated email campaigns for our customers than we will ever make producing direct mail jobs.

Our industry is at a tipping point. Many large businesses in our industry have already signaled that they will not be making any more investments in physical mail. With the complexity, cost of compliance and general lack of interest from the advertising industry, direct mail has become a tough sell. It is time for the Postal Service to partner up and grow "Stronger Together" (for real) or I and many like me will be leaving the Postal Service desperate, broken and all alone!