You may describe the company for which you work as being in the printing business, or the mailing business. “Marketing services provider” might describe your employer, or perhaps simply “mail house”. Whichever terms you commonly use when someone asks about your job, I’m pretty sure you are in the data business, too.
I started my career in an industry that was commonly called “data processing,” but a good part of what we did involved document creation and distribution. It’s interesting that 40-plus years later much of our focus in the document industry is back on processing the data. All the communications your company produces are driven by data, and more data influences much of what happens after the mail leaves your facility.
The more you think of yourself as being in the data business, the better prepared you’ll be to address what comes next. It sounds like a subtle difference, but self-identification as “a mailing company that deals with data” or “a data company that also mails” are miles apart in how they affect your approach to business opportunities.
I’ve covered this topic before in this column. See this article here.
Data seems to dominate the conversation no matter where one looks in the printing and mailing industry:
Mailing Statistics — I’ve attended webinars and read articles about the US Postal Service’s ten-year plan and the upcoming August 2021 postage rate increases. Experts who follow these subjects closely can cite statistics and show you screens full of finance figures, delivery performance numbers, and pricing tiers.
Does all this data analysis make a difference to your business? I’d say yes! Your customers will hear about postage increases on the news. They will want to understand how a mid-year postage hike affects the budgets they locked in at the beginning of the year.
Familiarity with the rate changes and new delivery standards are part of your job now. Don’t let your customers panic. Reach out to them now and help them mitigate the impact of these events by implementing new mailing strategies. No one in the mailing business wants to see their customers react to a postage rate hike by unnecessarily eliminating some of their mail.
Customer Experience — CX has been a focus of organizations for a few years now and it hasn’t subsided. I’ve written many articles about how regular customer communications like bills, notices, and statements affect CX. The impression a company makes with their transactional documents (printed or electronic) can change the way customers feel about the organization. How a company uses customer data plays a big role in this perception.
In-plant and outsource document service providers can show clients how to leverage the customer data they have on file to create more relevant marketing and informational messages through transactional documents. Let your customers see how those documents they’ve always thought of as a necessary expense can help them achieve their CX goals through intelligent data use.
Here’s an article about mailed communications and their effect on CX:
Post-Mailing Actions — The USPS generates a great deal of data about the mail after it leaves your facility and enters their delivery network. Informed Visibility wouldn’t exist without the data derived from scanning the mail as it moves from one postal facility to the next. The Postal Service also generously provides mailers with feedback if they cannot deliver the mail to the addresses printed on the mail pieces. This data can include specific reasons why a piece was not delivered. The USPS may even furnish the new address if the recipients moved — a service unique to postal mail and unavailable in competing channels like email.
Mailing professionals may know all about this post-mailing data, but they aren’t always great at putting the data to work for themselves and their customers. Become familiar with all the tools that lower the number of undeliverable pieces and work with your customers to interpret and leverage the Informed Visibility information. Volunteer to analyze the delivery data to determine if new mailing strategies, such as drop-shipping, will help customers achieve the on-time delivery performance they want. This will be important after the USPS implements new delivery standards and reorganizes the delivery network.
AI may not have directly impacted your mailing business yet, but the new technologies are now found in fields such as marketing. Predictive analytics will continue to improve, using machines to comb through mountains of customer data. Legacy services such as supplying clients with mailing lists by selecting on only characteristics like ZIP Codes or age will eventually disappear. AI will decide the messages and offers customers will receive and compute the best time to deliver them. Batch mailings may never be totally replaced, but some of that mail will be diverted to AI-controlled schedules that use data to send mail to individuals more strategically.
The investments clients make in AI technologies will raise the value of every mail piece they generate. This presents an opportunity for document operations to incorporate the personalization, coordinate multi-channel campaigns, provide fulfillment services, and track the mail.
The higher value of each mail piece makes successful delivery even more important. Expand your pre-mailing data services to include more precise ways to raise the delivery percentage of your customers’ mail, using tools such as DPV or DSF2.
Data Expertise Is an Opportunity
The game is changing for mail. The availability of data and the sophistication of the tools to analyze and manipulate the data keep improving. Printing devices and document composition software that create printed and electronic documents based on the data also continue to advance in functionality.
Professionals working for mailing service providers and corporate document centers should hone their data skills. Make plans to service your customers by making sure you correctly target every document you produce. Leverage the information as much as possible and give each mail piece the best chance at being delivered.
Thinking about data first is a different mindset, but change is necessary to avoid being cast as a commodity vendor. Clients will consider successful mailing operations as valuable partners helping them achieve their business goals. An appreciation for data’s role in mailing applications is a key factor in achieving that partnership status.
Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at and . Follow on Twitter, or send him a connection request on .