How often do you go out of your way to help your customers get the most benefit from their mailed communications? Whether you work for an in-house document operation or an outside service provider, that's a pretty good question to ask yourself.

People in the mailing business - those that keep up on the latest trends and strategies and know how the postal system works - could probably do a lot more to help their customers. But they believe they don't have the time.

This isn't a matter of avoidance. The time issue is a real problem. Even those organizations that recognize the importance of guiding their customers through the complex world of multi-channel communications or postal regulations may be unable to follow through. They spend all day dealing with other urgent matters that invariably come up in their own operations. It's difficult to make the time to do some outside- the-box thinking.

Guess what? Your customers also suffer from a lack of time. Maybe worse than you.

Provide Big Benefits by Delivering Ready Solutions
Imagine the appreciation for your proactive efforts if you were able to save your customers money, improve on the deliverability of their mail, or coordinate their messaging strategies across multiple communication channels. When you begin solving customer problems instead of concentrating solely on getting mail out the door, new ideas and opportunities become more apparent. Anytime you can present a complete solution you generate time-saving benefits for your customers. And you heighten the probability of successful implementation.

That's pretty much the approach I've taken with my business. Any new product or service that we introduce these days has to not only provide a benefit or address a situation; it has to do so without requiring much time or effort on the part of our clients. The reason for this philosophy? We've had several clients that paid us for work we did (either writing or consulting) and then never used it to accomplish anything. I realized that something had to change if we were going to grow the business like I wanted. We won't get referrals and repeat business from companies that get no benefit from our last engagement with them! So today we're always encouraging our clients to let us do some of the things that they think they can do themselves - but in reality never seem to get to. This approach produces real results that we've taken the responsibility for delivering - instead of making work for our clients. People experience a degree of relief and appreciation when tasks get off their to-do lists and onto ours.

You can create the same kind of reactions from your customers.

Using Document Industry Knowledge
When was the last time you scanned your customer's prospect mailing list to identify wasteful conditions such as duplicates, hopelessly undeliverable addresses, or people that are already customers?

Have you read the actual documents to see if you can suggest strategies such as improved relevance via the use of variable text instead of boilerplate terms and conditions? Thought about targeted variable messages or images printed on the outside envelopes to increase open rates?

Have you suggested using QR codes to attract the attention of mobile customers? The paper bills I get in the mail usually include pleas from billers to convert to paperless delivery. They tout the convenience of paying my bill with my phone or tablet. They want me to use my mobile device to do business with them, yet few of these messages include a QR code. And many of the codes I see send me to a page that is not mobile-optimized or has nothing to do with going paperless. Perhaps you could help your customers achieve a higher paperless conversion rate by making the enrollment process easier.

I know it sounds counter-productive to suggest measures that will reduce print volume. But businesses that generate transactional documents have expressed a keen interest in switching their customers to paperless delivery. Print volumes are going to decrease no matter what. Lower demand for printed documents leads to overcapacity in the print and mail industry. Without a way to add value, the processing of paper bills and statements becomes a service with commodity-driven profit margins. For a print service provider or an in-house operation facing elimination due to outsourcing, this scenario is bleak.

It seems worthwhile to make time to develop deeper relationships with customers now. Show them you can help them reach their goals and increase your chances of replacing the revenue lost in print volume with services that generate higher profits.

Show your customers that you have your finger on the pulse of the industry. You know they are interested in alternative methods of communicating with their audience. Making time to help them develop a strategy gives you the opportunity to participate in the new plan. Physical mail should be part of the overall strategy. Your knowledgeable input will show your customers how to exploit the advantages that postal mail provides.

12 Ways To Make Your Customer's Mail Better
1. Clean up mailing lists
2. Simplify terms & conditions
3. Link print & digital
4. Improve readability
5. Add transpromo content
6. Improve segmentation
7. Track the mail
8. Improve reply/remittance pieces
9. Add variable images
10. Variable printing- outside envelopes
11. Reconfigure flats to letters
12. Reconfigure letters to self-mailers

Mike Porter is an expert in Print and Mail operations and President of Print/Mail Consultants, an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide lower costs and integrate new technologies in their document production workflows. For more of his thoughts and ideas visit and sign up for Practical Stuff - the free newsletter for document operations. Your questions on this topic are welcome. Send them to