on Dec 11th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments
 

Wouldn’t it be nice to receive only the advertising mail that interests you? Information about products and services you like or want to learn about, and nothing else? And wouldn’t it be nice for advertisers to know more about what recipients think about their ads? Is an offer appealing, but the timing is not right, or is a recipient completely uninterested?

Creating a system to share this information is a possibility, and the U.S. Postal Service could play a key role in making it happen. That’s the concept of a new white paper released by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General today. Strengthening Advertising Mail by Building a Digital Information Market highlights the importance of maintaining and strengthening advertising mail by enabling more direct communication from mail recipients ultimately back to the advertiser.

Ad mailings could then be targeted with almost pinpoint accuracy, increasing revenues for advertisers and reducing recycling for everyone. The system would benefit the Postal Service, too, by making ad mail even more relevant and valuable.

One potential approach starts with using a smart phone or tablet to scan a digital code on the front of a piece of ad mail you receive, and then accessing an interactive system into which you can record your advertising preferences. In return, you are sent a coupon redeemable for merchandise from a variety of vendors, and in the future you would receive ads tailored to products and services of interest to you. Participation would be strictly voluntary, and privacy guidelines would be established.

Tell us what you think! Do you think customers would be inclined to access an interactive system to record advertising preferences if it meant special offers or more targeted mailings in the future? 

3 Comments


Extremely well done. The model has been emerging for some time now and is consistent with the findings of the USPS Mail Moment study. The technology is now available to change the conversation about the metrics of success in the industry from volume to value and to challenge the existing pricing methodology - potentially expanding the profit pool for both mailers and the USPS.

Well I'm glad some people have finally been reading my blog. This was posted in January at http://www.postalmag.com/postalblog.htm

WHERE IS THE USPS APP TO SIGN UP FOR MAILING LISTS????

Postmarked January 21, 2013

If you notice, the title of this blog entry is in all caps. On the Internet, that means I am yelling. I'm yelling because it's so frustrating to see the organization we all love scrambling around like a chicken with its head cut off. And one of the areas it's scrambling is in technology. Today, I'm reading about how the USPS could get into P2P transactions. The other day I heard about a USPS app showcased at the CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW (the USPS is out of money yet had a big display at this convention?) that can animate direct mail pieces. BUT WHERE IS THE APP TO SIGN UP FOR MAILING LISTS? It's simple. Apps are taking over phones, today's primary method of communication and interaction. There's an app for everything. So where's the damn app to sign up for mailing lists. It would be so simple, and it's purpose would be so important - to increase mail volume and make advertising mail relevant again. (In the mailstream I see so much advertising mail that is untargeted and irrelevant to the people receiving the mail.) With such an app, users could sign up for mailing lists with participating companies. Companies are always looking for leads, paying big money to get them. They would love an app where leads came to them. And users would love an app that brought them information about products and services they care about. The app could also be tied into social networks like Facebook with features such as share, like, etc. Additionally, users could sign up for specific categories, like Pizza, and companies could purchase those leads from the USPS, by demographic, by ZIP Code, etc.

And here's another one from July 2011 http://www.postalmag.com/postalblog.htm

Mail Preference List Could Make Mail Relevant Again, Save Postal Service

Postmarked 7/31/2011

In my prior post of 7/17/2011 found below, I mentioned a Mail Preference List that could help make the mail and the USPS relevant again. Let's be honest. As postal employees, we all appreciate mail volume, any mail volume. It pays the bills and our salaries. Unfortunately, mail volumes are becoming less relevant to postal customers, and will continue to become less relevant each day as personalized First Class letters become fewer and non-personalized Standard mailings increase. I know with the mail I receive each day, much of it goes straight to the trash unfortunately because much of it doesn't pertain to me in the least. But what if it did? What if somehow I could get mail that actually interested me? Well, there are some ways to do that already - subscribe to magazines, sign up for mailing lists, etc. Still, though some magazines and mailers share some mailing lists, it's not exactly working out.

Before I get into the Mail Preference List in more detail, I want to mention a couple of business/economic theories. First, Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y and Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs generally state that work should be meaningful and important. (And of course the market demands products and services that are useful or meaningful in some way.) And another theory I want to mention is that the free market thrives on information, and the more perfect that information is, the more efficient the market runs, and the less perfect that information is, the less efficient the market runs.

With that said, here's what's happening now. Sure, there's some mailing lists, especially for bills LOL. However, a lot of the mailstream now is filled with full coverage or partial coverage mailings that are deemed to be successful if only a certain small percentage act on the mailings. This is especially true with the full coverage ad circulars that much of the nation receives weekly. But as many carriers and postal customers alike can tell you is that much of this goes straight in the trash. (Many apartments, for example, will set up a trash can next to the mail boxes. Carriers will often find these trash cans full of ads circulars they delivered the day before.)

In my prior post I mentioned two problems that have emerged for the Postal Service - pricing and products. In a nutshell, many, many mailers are using the lower priced Standard Mail to mail products through the US Mail. Plain and simple. And this trend towards even more Standard Mailings is putting the Postal Service in a financial bind. Here's my idea.

Create just two classes of letter mail - First Class and Business Class. First Class would remain basically the same. Business Class would replace Standard Mail, Nonprofit Mail and any other kinds of letter-sized (and hopefully flat-sized) mail I have failed to mention here. The new Business Mail would be rate-incentivized to fit and run on proven DPS machines and not on the super-sized and costly FSS machines that only create another bundle of mail to be delivered. Non-targeted full-coverage mailings would be discouraged with inopportune rates.

Business Class Mail would be empowered by a centralized Mail Preference List that would be run by the Postal Service or affiliate partners. Postal customers would log in to the Mail Preference List website and indicate what types of mail they would like to receive. At the top of the site would be a place for customers to check off common preferences such as pizza coupons and grocery ads if they wish. But there would be thousands of other categories as well, from brands such as Coca Cola and Toyota Scion to activities such as softball and Zumba dancing to interests such as cats and jousting. The mailing lists found at this preference site would be further enhanced through website partners who would develop their own mailing lists. For example, I would be able to add a snippet of code that directed PostalMag viewers to sign up for either a PostalMag.com mailing list or various postal-related lists such as postal uniforms, right-hand drive vehicles, etc. Mailers would, in turn, log in to this Mail Preference List site, select the lists they would like, perhaps weed the list down further by selecting only females or people between 30 and 40 years old for example, then design the mailpiece online and have a USPS partner such as Valassis print the pieces and enter into the mailstream.

Here are a few examples of how this Mail Preference List proposal could make the mailstream much smarter, more efficient, and more profitable for everyone involved and empower our economy in a million new "Invisible Hand of Capitalism" ways.

The first example is the diversion of current full-coverage ad circulars to Business Class. With more-perfect information, pizza delivery companies wouldn't have to pay to mail to every address in the region for example. (In the Electronic World, this is known as spam.) With Business Class, pizza companies could just mail a letter-sized mailing/postcard to just the addresses where customers have indicated a preference for receiving pizza-related coupons. Conceivable, a singular ad circular with twenty different advertisers could generate up to twenty different mailings, each highly targeted to the customer.

Here's how it could work for me. In addition to running PostalMag.com, I am also the Commissioner of Dallas Dodgeball. Right now, I do not mail anything to promote Dallas Dodgeball for lack of a relevant mailing list, though I do have an email list. But what if I could log into the Mail Preference List and generate a list of all people within a twenty-five mile radius interested in receiving information about dodgeball? That list would be golden to me and I would certainly use it. Perhaps there would be 300 people on the list. That's 300 pieces of mail added to the mailstream, perhaps on a monthly basis. Now, add this mailing to the millions of new mailings that would be generated by the Mail Preference List and there's no reason for the Postal Service to suffer in this market driven economy for perhaps another two decades.

Overall, this idea is about the only way I can think of to make the mail intelligent enough to be relevant in this Electronic Age.

Additional notes:

1. Postal customers without Internet access would be provided with a postcard with a listing of popular categories to be checked off such as pizza, grocery and home improvement. These postcards would be mailed to the Mail Preference List and scanned into the database.
2. The Mail Preference List could be integrated into social websites such as Facebook (which already has lists of likes) and other sites such as Groupon (imagine a Deal of the Day mailing).

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