At the 2016 National Postal Forum, Harris Diamond, the Chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, shared that Americans spend an average of 25 minutes a day with mail. This “mail moment” is an important opportunity for direct marketers. Bridging the high-touch value of direct mail to the high- tech experience opens up a world of new benefits. As an industry, we know the tangible hardware and technology behind delivering top-performing mail pieces. The time is now to become better educated about the power of the intangible technologies that are so critical to effective direct communications.

By taking advantage of these technology advancements, you can finally touch the intangible and further enhance the value of direct mail.

• Data quality and data exchange. The importance of getting the right message to the right person begins with having the right information. With the changes to the USPS Mailer Scorecard, as well as other Postal Service regulatory changes, the onus for having good data quality is increasingly being put on the service provider (aka eDoc submitter). There are many tangible tools and services available to correct data – ranging from compliance-focused solutions to leveraging additional data for deeper discounts. These all have tangible benefits like reduced postage and higher delivery rates. Yet, printers and mailers offer miss the critical opportunity to send address data that has been processed back to the list owner. When marketers incorporate this data back into their databases and use it to drive decisions for their next campaign, they see greater ROI from direct marketing and continue to keep direct mail as an important component of their multi-channel campaigns.

• Brand identity. Using the postal promotions calendar, mail owners can leverage the full impact of their brand colors and graphics. For example, the Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion offers mailers a two percent discount when they produce transactional mail like bills and statements with personal offers, printed in color, that are directly targeted at the recipient. This direct benefit enables mail pieces to touch the intangible by extending marketing into every customer touchpoint. It is an opportunity to delight customers with unique messaging that draws on the brand imagery that marketers have worked hard to cultivate. But as Paul Abdool, Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at Solimar Systems, notes, it isn’t without effort.

“The transpromo promotion was a larger effort than people first thought,” said Abdool, “but the effort and the investment pays for itself fairly quickly if you can pull it together.

“Once you get the promo going, and the discounts are coming in, there’s benefits across the board,” said Abdool. “It also benefits the USPS First-class mail from a preservation perspective.”

• Software and technology solutions. The backbone of operations has to be technology and software solutions that allow your business to be agile and responsive. Printers and mailers can see tangible results, like Mike Libby at Perinton Publishing did, when these systems are working in harmony. Libby, a mailing service provider with over two decades of experience, recouped over $8,000 annually in just man hour savings after investing in a software upgrade. That tangible advantage is further enhanced with a series of intangible benefits that can be more difficult to measure. In his words, “I’m not certain how to measure the financial impact of reducing errors, increasing reliability and repeat-ability, and meeting aggressive customer timelines. I consider it invaluable.”

Perinton Publishing’s investment in technology and process came with another intangible benefit. They are one of fewer than 70 USPS Full-Service Certified Mail Service Providers in the country. This puts them on the same list as some of the most prominent mailers in the country and provides an intangible competitive advantage that certainly has had tangible results. By maximizing automation, printers and mailers can create optimized workflows. The money saved on labor can be re-invested into ways the customers can see more ROI for their direct mail advertising dollar.

Intangibles like these are fueling advancements in mail design, deliverability, and response. By recognizing the importance of these intangibles you can bring in new revenues streams, increase workplace efficiency, help ensure compliance, and make your services more valuable to the end client. In this new column, I will show you that through tangible and intangible “connecting points,” you can not only become a more educated representative of the industry, but also a more profitable mailer.

Chris Lien is the president of BCC Software, and has been active in the mailing industry for over 20 years. During that time, he authored several software solutions utilizing Mail.dat for electronic auditing, distribution and logistics planning, palletization, and electronic postage payment. He has been heavily involved in industry associations such as the Association for Postal Commerce, EPICOMM, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, and Idealliance. Chris also serves as the elected Immediate Past Industry Chair for the Postmaster General’s Mailers Technical Advisory Committee.