In our print issue, we had a comprehensive guide to implementing IMb before the January 2013 deadline. Adam had some other great ideas on how we as an industry can save the value of mail--namely through embracing technology and change, and education/advocacy. Check out his additional thoughts here, and download the PDF to see the guide to IMb.
Embrace Technology and Change

People are going to move more communications to digital, but how can we integrate mail so it can be part of a multi-channel approach that drives people to the web? Also, what are the latest trends in mail that can improve response rates to better compete for advertising resources?

Using Mail to Drive Web Activity - First off, people like getting mail. "98% of consumers bring in their mail the day it is delivered and 77% sort through it immediately". (Deliver Magazine) But with advances in technology, we can use these printed pieces to get people to a web site or landing page and track responses. Here are the three most common forms available:
1. QR Codes - A square barcode with a series of dots that can be printed on the envelope or document. These codes get scanned by a smartphone or tablet to be directed to specific web content. We have been seeing these crop up everywhere according to InfoTrends, "over 180 million Americans are familiar with mobile codes; over 50 million have interacted with them in the past year".
2. Image Recognition - This is where we are instructed to take a picture on our smartphone of an image (Any image could be defined) that then takes us to a specific web page. Use of this technology is still in its infancy but should take off as advertisers may prefer the flexibility over QR codes that could detract from their image goals.
3. Augmented Reality - By scanning a special character (that can be defined up front), the user can be taken to an interactive experience different from what they may get on the website. We are seeing very creative content that can provide an entertaining experience to get your message heard.

Increasing the Value of the Offer - There is so much that can be done to creatively get your message heard through mail that I thought it was a good idea to give some examples of some of the latest trends.
· Variable Data Printing - This is printing one to one messages, graphics and offers in a single mailing. According to a CAP Ventures study, "Repeated studies have found that on average, Variable Data pieces generate response rates ranging from 3 to 10 times higher than non-personalized direct mail".
· Adding Targeted Advertising to Transactional Documents - Everyone (hopefully) looks at their bills and will typically spend much more time with them than an advertisement. We also know many things about these customers because they have bought from us in the past. It only seems logical to reformat our bills and statements to add advertising that will appeal to the consumer.
· Every Door Direct Mail - This is an amazing new service that makes it easy and inexpensive to get offers out without needing an address list. All that you need to do is select the neighborhood, zip code, city or target area and print your piece. The rates are some of the lowest available with the goal being to get companies to send mail who may have been afraid due to the cost and complexities.
· Picture Permits - Instead of the boring permit imprint on the upper right of each piece, you can now customize it with pictures and graphics.
· Repositionable Notes - The USPS now allows you to place sticky notes onto envelopes. Many tabbing/stamp affixing units can automate this process and place these where you want on the envelope. How great would it be to have a pull off coupon on each envelope that customers could use to place an order?
· Customized Market Mail - These are custom shaped post cards that can be designed around your marketing goals. If you are trying to sell the newest car or house, wouldn't it be great if the post card was in that shape?
Educate and Advocate
This is the most important aspect to saving mail because resources go to areas that have the most visibility (Remember the saying "The squeaky wheel gets the grease"). If we are not out their working with the groups responsible for the mail budgets and informing them about the ideas above, than no one else will. Here are some methods on how to communicate the message inside your organization:
1. Meet regularly with your major mailers to talk about these changes and brainstorm on how they can be integrated to their objectives.
2. Have a mail services newsletter or get onto other internal organizational communications.
3. Keep examples of best in class mail pieces and use these to stimulate ideas and discussions.
4. Coordinate meetings with Marketing, Information Services and Finance about getting advertising on invoices and statements.
5. Push mail tracking information on the departments that can most benefit from the information. We want them thinking about collecting information on outbound and inbound pieces.
6. Brag about your accomplishments - This may sound strange but we need to let people know the impact of the changes we are putting in place. This will bring the visibility back to mail.

Conclusion Mail can be saved if we take advantage of change instead of fighting it. By mailing smarter, we can have better response rates, higher visibility, and lower costs. The key to this strategy is to keep visibility on the positive aspects of what mail can bring vs. all of the negative media attention that drives focus away.

Adam Lewenberg, CMDSS is President of Postal Advocate Inc. with over 19 years of experience in the mail industry. Their mission is to help entities with large numbers of locations reduce mail related expenses, recover lost postage funds, and make their spends easy to manage. He can be reached at (617)372-8653 or