CSG Direct Mail and the Postal Customer Council

The Postal Customer Council® (PCC®) program is a valuable resource for business mailers, large and small. Local PCCs serve as an open channel for USPS-to-business communication, providing information and best practices for cost-effective and profitable mailing, education and training, and solving local challenges. Though most PCC members include large business mailers, government agencies, and business mail service providers, small businesses can benefit from PCC membership, too.

Your local PCC offers these benefits…

• Learn from postal experts about marketing through the mail.
• Find new sources for mailing lists. Printing, database management, and more.
• Get discounts to major mailing industry events.
• Network with other mailers, business mail service providers, and USPS executives to discover new ways to make your mailings more efficient and profitable.
• Hear first-hand from other decision-makers on how they deal with the same challenges you face.
• Leverage best practices to improve mailing effectiveness, efficiency, and profitability.
• Gain knowledge about postal products, services, and tools to improve mail quality through workshops and events—and earn a professional certificate to boot.

The US Postal Service continues to modernize and automate steps to keep postage low and better serve its clients. Every event put on by your local Postal Costumer Council is a chance to come learn about new and innovative features.

For example the new Business Customer Gateway from the US Postal Service. The Business Customer Gateway gives you a single, unified landing point to access the Postal Services’ online business offerings. These channels consist of the products that support intelligent Mail Full Service Mailing. This includes PostalOne!, FAST (Facility Access and Shipment Tracking), CLDS (Customer Label Distribution System) and Mailer IDs (MID).

For more information and PCC locations in Nevada:

Northern Nevada PCC
2000 Vassar Street
Reno, NV 89510-9998

Cindy Cornelison,
PCC Postal Co-Chairman

cynthia.k.cornelison@usps.gov
T (775) 788-0690
F 775-333-2805

Matt Balzer,
PCC Industry Co-Chairman

matt@mmswest.com
T 775-331-5554

Southern Nevada PCC
1001 E Sunset Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89199-9996
Web site

Craig Colton,
Postmaster

craig.m.colton@usps.gov
T (702) 361-9200
F (702) 361-9215

Marilyn Fenimore,
Customer Relations Coordinator

marilyn.m.fenimore@usps.gov
T 702-361-9544

Database Marketing – Quick Tips for Database Bliss

Database Marketing starts with a database.  Database tips for our friends in direct mailing marketing.

Here at CSG Direct, we’ve seen every type of “database” you can think of, from mailing labels copied into PDF files to multiple relational SQL monstrosities. We’re always dealing with new challenges and finding new solutions for making your database the powerhouse it can be.

So here are a couple of tips from our data team

Even though Excel is a spreadsheet program, it is one of the most widely used mediums for database storage. I can hear you now, saying, isn’t that the same thing as a database? Well not necessarily… “A spreadsheet is a computer application that simulates a paper accounting worksheet” Excel is designed to quickly handle financial calculations, numbers and formulas. Therefore when using it as a database, there are a few precautions one should take.

1) Sorting: “So let’s see if I’m in the database” you say and quickly highlight the last name column and hit the A-Z button at the top, you see your last name, figure “ok! Good enough” and hit save. This is one of the most common and most destructive mistakes that can be made in Excel. What just occurred is that all your other fields stayed exactly as they were, while the last name field was placed in alphabetical order by itself. Now everyone in the database has the wrong last name.

2) Numbers: Remember that Excel is a spreadsheet! It loves to perform calculations and “properly” format numbers for you. Quick things to keep an eye out for, would be: Account numbers being formatted oddly, east coast zip codes missing their leading zero, cash amount fields having differing decimal places, even phone number fields having math done on them (something like 775-852-9777 turning into -9854)

3) Line breaks: In the final stretch of putting the finishing touches on your Excel database, then you realize this record has a secondary address, so you just place a carriage return and put the secondary address in the same cell below the first. In an Excel Cell its easy to add a line break, the problem is that when exporting a database out of Excel most database programs won’t recognize odd characters within a field and either jumble the record or completely leave it out. When in doubt it’s always better to just add another column.

4) Coding: There have been many great looking spreadsheets out there with colors that dazzle, but remember that when you use cell colors to delineate between multiple tiers of a database, they won’t translate over into real databases. It’s always best to use a separate field and populate it with whatever alpha-numeric signifier you might need! That way when the database is moved out of Excel it’ll still be there!

Until next time… Keep the data flowing to CSG Direct Mail

Why We Love Variable Data Printing #1!

We have been in the variable data printing (VDP) business for nearly fifteen years. Nothing gives the team at CSG Direct Mail more of a rush than taking a job and applying the advanced concepts of conditional programming and intensive personalization to create a highly-targeted VDP campaign that brings excellent responses. We thrive on complex VDP projects that take all the elements of a customer’s project and weaving them into a grand, personalized tapestry.

Many Direct Mail companies brag that they do VDP, but do they really understand the height and depth that really constitutes VDP? Do they understand that personalization is more than just putting “Dear First Name” in a letter? Can they take multiple tiers, hundreds of graphics, text elements and styling, and intensive data to create a campaign that can be run as one version to maximize postal savings and project timeliness? This is where the rubber hits the road!

VDP is a wonderful ballet of data and graphics woven together with conditional programming to create a custom-tailored personalized message that is unique and desirable to catch the attention of your customer. The more targeted your data and graphic assets are constructed, the more likely of a positive response. In addition, one is almost unlimited in what can be created in a VDP project. The only limitations are the complexity of the data, design assets and one’s imagination!

It’s just not enough to have a person who “crunches” your data and prepares it for postal output. They must understand how to code a database to work in conjunction with graphic assets to make a VDP project sing. One can have the most talented graphic designer on their team, but if the designer doesn’t have a basic understanding how a database can be used to power all their designs with conditional programming, then the project is reduced to creating many separate outputs according to level/tier. A huge waste of time and money! For a successful VDP project, both data and design must work in tandem and understand each other’s skill sets to make the final product shine!

This is when we shine at CSG Direct Mail. Data, Design and Print personnel working in tandem to produce some crazy and wonderful VDP! Multi levels, multi Property, graphics switching out on the fly, fonts changing size, face and color, with conditional programming humming in the background while the data conducts the process like a maestro! It’s magic!

Next…VDP in action!

EPS Direct Mailing Marketing Awards

The EPS award acknowledges great direct mailing marketing design and execution as well as follow-through, tracking, results and strategy. Campaigns and mail pieces recognized by EPS are exceptional in marketing and creative detail. These entries interact with their target audience in a fashion that creates profitable results.

“EPS” is an industry insider abbreviation for “Envelope”, so it is all about direct mailing marketing. As the marketing industry has changed the EPS judging criteria has too. EPS evolves with the times and if certain criteria and modern postal and response methods are not utilized than it affects the scoring of entries.

We live and breath results and our best clients measure those results.

The EPS award is not  limited to print oriented results. We thrive in new and emerging areas with mobile, web, text and email components included. We dig into the campaign and judge it by effectiveness, thoroughness of how well the physical mailed piece drove the action.

EPS Awards categories:
1) Best Mail Piece Design
2) Best Direct Mailing
3) Best Mailing Campaign

Primary Qualifications:
1) Effective Creative Design
2) Call-to-Actions
3) Overall Marketing Strategy
4) Tracking of Results

The EPS awards are judged for the best ideas, most creative uses and the finest executions.
We acknowledge the best of your entries in direct mailing marketing!

If you are interested in us presenting awards to your group please contact us: service@csgdirect.com or 800-881-2150 x12

We may be willing to sponsor or contribute to your AAF Meeting, PCC Meeting, Ad2, American Marketing Association, PR group or other similar awards functions.
(Award categories are chosen to best meet your events members, theme or goals)

Past Winners:

Meyer Rosene -Best Mailing Campaign

A. Carlisle -Best Mail Piece Design

DRGM -Best Direct Mailing

DynaGraphics -Best Direct Mailing

KPSB -Best Mailing Campaign

DRGM -Best Mail Piece Design

Peppermill Hotel Casino, Reno NV -Best Mail Piece Design

Cirus Circus Hotel Casino, Reno NV -Best Mail Piece Design

Smith & Jones -Best Mail Piece Design

GMAA -Best Mailing Campaign

The Postal Service proposes to revise the Mailing Standards

The Postal Service proposes to revise the Mailing Standards of the USPS Domestic Mail Manual to provide standards for creating folded self-mailers (FSM) and other unenveloped mailpieces such as forms, statements, and official notices that will improve processing of these pieces on automated Postal processing equipment.

In this proposed rule, the Postal Service defines letter-sized FSM, provides detailed standards about the basic elements of all FSM letter-sized pieces, and introduces “panels” as a basic element for constructing FSMs. Additionally, optional creative elements that are currently found in FSM designs, but are not defined in the DMM, are added.

To improve the quality of FSMs, the USPS, in collaboration with the mailing industry, implemented a series of tests designed to identify the characteristics of FSMs that could be processed successfully on automated letter-sorting machines. Industry members, recommended through the Mailers Technical Advisory Council (MTAC), Postal Customer Councils (PCC) and the Business Service Network, were asked to provide sample mailpieces for testing. A wide array of mail owners, mail service providers, and vendors participated. The collaboration resulted in a better understanding of the capabilities and needs of the mailing community and enabled the Postal Service to align terms commonly used in the mailing industry with those in the proposed standards. Working together, the Postal Service attempted to strike a balance between innovation and mailpiece machinability.

The outcome of this collaboration is a streamlined framework of proposed standards that aligns with existing letter-mail standards, provides specific information, and clearly defines the characteristics of additional design elements for mailers who create FSM mailpieces. Folded self-mailer maximum dimensions and weights are now proposed to align with other unenveloped letter standards. The dimensions will better delineate envelope and over sized cards when compared to unenveloped-type mail. Improved standards that are clear and easy to understand will encourage consistency and level-set the playing field minimizing delays in production and will help the Postal Service to control costs.

Postal letter sorting equipment is capable of processing letters at the rate of 10 pieces per second. When prepared according to current standards and processed at that speed, some FSM designs have higher rates of damage and cause jams in letter sorting equipment that result in diverting those pieces to flat sorters or manual handling. Both alternate processes are time consuming and costly. This proposed rule provides standards for FSM and other unenveloped letter designs so those mailpieces can better withstand the rigors of letter automation processing.

To find out more about this proposal please download our PDF.

We also have a Folded Self-Mailer Reference Material PDF for your convenience.

We at CSG Direct are focused on quality and speed. We use our high quality staff (25 MQC certified by the USPS) to identify ways to save money through intelligent programs. High quality staff menas you have more high quality options. Direct mail is not an industry to cut quality on, especially if you want to save money! I have seen too many low cost vendors ruin entire campaigns because they offer low prices and miss all the most important steps (maximizing every step is important.)

Direct mail is a details business. Demand quality if you want success. We’ll help you find ways to balance cost and speed from there. Knowing what you’re dealing with is half the battle!

US Postal Service® is proposing to cut its workforce

ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE US POSTAL SERVICE:

The United States Postal Service is the cornerstone of an industry that employs over seven million Americans. Mail service providers, fulfillment companies, shipping firms, printers, transportation companies, and “Mom-and-Pop” small business owners all combine to use the mail and generate over $1 trillion in sales and revenue for the nation’s economy. This important segment of the business world represents seven percent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the United States.

Today, despite unprecedented cost and staffing reductions over the past decade, the Postal Service is facing the equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the need to reorganize. While our business remains vital to the U.S. economy, we will be insolvent next month. Since 2007, the Postal Service has faced the financial strain of steep declines in mail volume and revenue, combined with increases in network costs, wages and benefits, and new legal requirements.

The financially strapped US Postal Service® is proposing to cut its workforce by 20% and to withdraw from the federal health and retirement plans because it believes it could provide benefits at a lower cost. They are talking about a reduction of 220,000 people which includes converting some to part time. The forced retirement and layoffs would be achieved in part by breaking labor agreements, a proposal that drew swift fire from postal unions.

The plan would require Congressional approval but, if successful, could be precedent-setting, with possible ripple effects throughout the government. It would also deliver a major blow to the nation’s labor movement. During the past four years, the service lost $20 billion, including $8.5 billion in fiscal 2010. Over that period, mail volume dropped by 20%. They are also talking about reducing the number of processing facilities by two thirds.

The USPS will need legislative action on the following:

• Allow the Postal Service™ to establish its own health benefits program
• Allow the Postal Service to administer its own retirement system
• Give the Postal Service the ability to adjust the size of its workforce to match operational needs and the changing marketplace.

Two Postal Service white papers provide details on these options. You can download them here.

Workforce Optimization Discussion Draft

POSTAL SERVICE HEALTH BENEFITS AND RETIREMENT PROGRAMS Discussion Draft

The new legislative proposals are in addition to ones previously identified, including:

• Eliminate Congressionally mandated retiree health benefit pre-payments
• Enable the Postal Service to access Federal Employees Retirement System overpayments
• Give the Postal Service the authority to determine the frequency of mail delivery.

The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence and, therefore, threaten the livelihoods of our employees and the businesses and employees in the broader postal industry and overall economy, of which the Postal Service continues to play a large part.

If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality. Because this option is not available to the Postal Service, we believe that this extraordinary request is a key to securing our future and our continuing ability to provide universal service to our nation.

Direct Mail and Printing Services

Direct Mail and Printing Services

I was asked to write content about some individual direct mail and digital printing services so…

BINDING AND BOOKLETS

How about some personalized binders for your next meeting? One of the biggest advantages of using a digital printer that is skilled at keeping things in order, is the cost savings of booklets and the ability to personalize them. We print, punch, drill, tab and coil bind very professional personalized binders and booklets of all shapes an sizes.

DIE-CUTS

The old fashion die-cut gives way to digitally printed and personalized die-cut pieces. Match them to a colorful envelope or mail them without an envelope as Custom Market Mail.  CSG Direct can take your customized die-cuts to a whole new level.

INKJET ADDRESSING

Before Inkjet addressing there were labeling machines and then pin-fed Direct Impression Printers. Our management was installing, training and repairing all 3 technologies. We have been on the leading edge of addressing, addressing software and barcoding since 1988.

Wither you just need a barcoded address or you need a return address and a personalized message added to your mailer, Nobody is more creative and flexible in Inkjet than we are.

CSG “variable everything” continues on our inkjets. Every component we inkjet print on your mail pieces can change per customer to create fully customized pieces.

When we inkjet your pieces we will print the most modern barcodes for you as well, including Intelligent Mail Barcodes and Variable QR Codes too.  Then each piece can be tracked online as they travel the country and we track the QR responses too.

UV COATING

Everybody loves to put the fancy bling of a UV Coating onto their art. Not only does it make most art and designs look amazing but it also protects the pieces against common damage like tears, cuts, smudges and stains. The only drawback is that it costs a few cents extra and you cannot write on it once it is coated.  It sure does look beautiful though!

We would UV coat everything if given the chance.

FOLDING AND TABBING

To a traditional print shop folding and tabbing are simple “finishing work”.  With everything we mail being so personalized we think on a different level. We must ensure these final moves don’t ruin weeks of preparation, printing costs and event deadlines.

We know the pieces we are folding may be in a postal sorted order and will be reversed by the printing process. They also may need to be scored before printing so they don’t crack.  Maybe we score them, then UV Coat them, then come back and do the final fold.

US Postal Service Tabbing requirements are constantly changing. You can make simple changes to your direct mail pieces to reduce tabbing time and money. Your mail piece may require from 1 to 3 tabs or more based on the piece. If done incorrectly your mailing can be completely rejected by the US Postal Service or bumped to higher postage.

Our Folder and Tabbing operators are USPS Certified for mail piece quality control.

TEXTURES

Dimensional Printing is the art of applying a 5th color of raised ink in very specific areas to create a textured printed piece. We do this at CSG Direct to create a tactile feel with your piece or to create security features for coupons and offers.

We have not seen any credible statistics about response rates due to textured printing.  However, we do know that when a person plays with, touches and shares your brand with others, it is a wonderful thing!  We’ll help you get creative with this unique service.

Mobile QR Barcode Promotion approved by Postal Regulatory Commission

The Postal Regulatory Commission on Tuesday approved a USPS Mobile QR Barcode Promotion.

Postal Service’s short-term promotional proposal

FAQs Mobile Barcode Promotion

Fact Sheet

This is great news at CSG Direct Mail! We have been working with 2-D QR barcodes for a while now! These mobile QR barcodes are two-dimensional and can be read by your iPhone, iPad2, iPod touch, Android and other smart phones. When your smart phone scans these barcodes an infinite amount of actions can occur. It can be a business card, a link to a website, a shopping cart, a winning promotion, fact sheet, etc. The list is endless.

Have a smartphone with you now? Get it out and scan the barcode above. We recommend Scanlife as your barcode reader.

The Mobile Barcode Promotion was designed to build awareness of mobile barcodes and demonstrate to mailers how mobile barcodes can increase the value of mail, while “blurring” the lines between online and offline marketing.

How does the Program work?
The Mobile Barcode Promotion runs July 1, 2011 through August 31, 2011, providing business mailers with an upfront 3% discount on Standard Mail and First-Class Mail® letters and flats that include a mobile barcode.

The following rules apply:

1) Mobile barcode must be two-dimensional and readable by a mobile smartphone. One dimensional barcodes do NOT qualify.

2) Mailing documentation must be submitted electronically and postage must be paid using a Permit Imprint. Current electronic submission methods include: Mail.XML, Mail.dat and Postal Wizard.

3) Participating mailers will be required to affirmatively claim this promotion in electronic postage statement submissions, certifying each mailpiece contains a mobile barcode either within contents of mailpiece or on outside of mailpiece.

4) All mailpieces in a mailing statement must contain a mobile barcode.

5) With the exception of IMB full service discount, only one incentive per mailing will apply.  Yes, there are other discounts too.

6) Mobile barcode must be used for marketing and advertising purposes. Mailpieces containing mobile barcode that convey information about the postage value, destination, sender and machine serial number for security do not qualify.

7) Mailings claiming non-profit prices are ineligible for the discount. : (

Don’t forget, at CSG Direct your 2-D Barcodes can be variable content too! Like always, we are here to help you get the most from these programs. Need a quick quote?

For additional information, go to 2011 Mobile Barcode Promotion

CSG Direct Mail tours the National Postal Forum

Sometimes when you have your head buried in your own innovations you forget to look up and see what everyone else is doing. This year we decided to go to NPF (National Postal Forum) and get inspired. We want to be ready for our next series of innovations. NPF is the fundamental basis for the entire industry and it’s a great place to see if anyone’s catching up to us. Unfortunately NPF has yet to amaze us, but it is always interesting to see what if can offer to the direct mail marketing bunch.

You can have lots of great marketing ideas but at the end of the day you still need to fold the letter and insert it into an envelope. That is where NPF plays its roll. The National Postal Forum is a national event that brings mailing equipment manufacturers. It allows them to show off their goods to the mail processing industry. I have been ‘the manufacturer’ at many of these over the years but this year we come as the mail processor.

Michael at National Postal Forum My interest this year in NPF was new US Mail Tracking solutions that have popped up with the new IMB Barcodes. There were a few, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The show was held in sunny San Diego California right on the oceanfront. It was beautiful!

 

San Diego Convention CenterSunny San DiegoSan Diego Convention Center

 

 

 

 

National Postal ForumUS Postal Service

 

 

 

 

We’ll, like I said I am here for tracking mostly. However we thought it would be a great chance to peek at some of the newest inkjets and other technologies too. For those who haven’t followed me until now I have been talking about direct mail tracking since about 1990 when I was an early trainer of the original postnet barcodes introduced by the US Postal Service. Even then I was fascinated by the idea that we could track pieces of mail in “the near future”, however it has taken almost 20 years for that technology to get here.

The real breakthrough was the introduction of the newer barcodes including planet codes and the new Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMB). The 1st company to create tracking was originally a mail shop that built track-my-mail and then got bought by Pitney Bowes. They were the originals, however their systems (imho) are not based on the right angles of consumer need ( I’m here Pitney, come by and see us ☺ ).

Vendors at the show talked about their particular angle on US Mail Tracking. As I watched and listened to each company explain in detail how their systems worked, I could easily see they were missing the point. Yes, there are tons and tons of data being stored and tons of pieces being tracked, but what does that mean to the consumer? Not once did they answer this question, lol. Anyway, I don’t like to kiss and tell too much. We see the entire US Mail Tracking system in a different spectrum of light.

The new vendors have some roadblocks ahead of them. For example, one of the vendors is putting your entire mailing list online for you to do a lookup by address or name. Is mailing data not private? Hackers are everywhere and even data in the cloud isn’t safe. Why would you put a customer’s private database online when they wont even do that for themselves? There are other ways to go about these procedures gentlemen.

Other vendors we saw struggled with the naming of their new products. Where we own TrackDirectMail.COM others have had to dabble in .NET addresses. Take for example findmymail.NET where the .COM is owned by Pitney Bowes. That is going to cause you some legal expenses if you ask me. Perhaps they should buy one of the extra tracking URL domains that we own.

Only one vendor was talking about a future mobile app and everyone knows we currently own that space. We have the only direct mail app in iTunes and we have been there for over a year now. I found their business models lacking in reality too. For example, the average tracking cost per mailing is now about $25. The end game is free people, might as well get a grip on reality now.

At $25 they need to sell/track 40,000 mailings per year to earn just $1 million dollars. With trade show expenses, sales people, phones, R&D, computers, servers, marketing and other expenses this is a losing deal. Just think of the sales staff expense and the idea that they are selling $25 items. If they sell 10 per day they sell $250 and they cost you probably $125 of that or more. Good Luck my fellow tracking brothers. I think you will need it, we offer our tracking FREE already.

US Mail Tracking for Smartphones

Simplified Addressing for Businesses: Every Door Direct Mail

This year the US Post Office is offering an expansion of Simplified Addressing for businesses to mail saturation flat mailers within city routes. Previously, only government agencies could mail to city routes using the simplified ECRWSS format. The expectations from the postal service are that small businesses will be able to saturate their neighborhoods without the expense of data acquisition or addressing. This will work well if one has a broad demographic and a basic understanding of postal requirements for facing slips, entry procedures and protocol.

The down side for these businesses is that they will need to acquire a permit ($185) and pay the permit application fees ($185). If they are not a regular mailer, this is a major cost to absorb. They are also limited on how refined they can target their audience with a saturated mailer. For example: If a local insurance agent wishes to target RV owners, data is available for RV owners. To further refine the search…we may wish to target RV owners with modeled good credit ratings (much more desirable for insurance agents), or homeowners with RV’s – in an attempt to capture larger customer portfolios. The printing and mailing costs might be greatly reduced by only sending to the audience whom you wish to present to. By saturating the entire area – the same agent may lose focus of his intended audience due to responses from unqualified leads or less than prime targets. A personalized “one to one” mail-piece tailored to the individual will net greater response overall. We are talking about cost per response, NOT cost per piece. A mailing that costs the same, targets a more refined audience and triggers greater response is a much wiser investment for many marketers.

Simplified addressing works well for restaurants, ice cream shops, local service/repair shops, home maintenance businesses, etc. that might appeal to a vast majority of individuals within a route or neighborhood. Each business has a unique marketing need, and should have a well-planned and executed approach to meeting their budget and ROI requirements. Marketing is essential in these tough economic times, and intelligent marketing is the lifeblood of most any business. An experienced direct mail marketing partner who is familiar with the postal system and marketing trends is an investment that one should carefully consider. A marketing partner like CSG Direct.

The post office has also unveiled some great tools for establishing counts and finding routes and zip codes within given cities.

I hope you find peace in your mailing universe, and may your 2011 campaigns be successful.

Find out more about Every Door Direct Mail™