What drives Michael Hemphill: casino direct mail

Direct Mail Man MichaelI have been in direct mail for over 20 years. If direct mail were a hotel room with 300 rooms… I’ve been in every one of them. I have been certified by the US Postal service multiple times over the years as a Mail piece Quality Control Specialist. CSG Direct also backs me with at least 25 other people certified at the same level. Together we optimize print, data and mail projects every business day.

I get a unique excitement when I walk into a casino. Standing on that casino floor, I have the most experience, qualifications, training, and innovations of any direct mail person to ever walk in those golden doors. I am born for this and it is what drives me every day.

Ironically, my biggest competitors are printers that have been dabbling in mail for 3 to 7 years. They are by no means current on direct mail marketing but their company decided to sell direct mail to get more print. The sales representative that represents that vendor is not in the same ballpark as me when it comes to experience or training. I have been innovating in the direct mail industry for over 20 years, they have started ‘selling it’ as an add-on because they were told to.

What drives me so intensely now is that this representative is my actual person-to-person competitor. “Is that all you’ve got?” I yell to the world. Casinos deserve better than that! Our tourism economy requires more than that.

To further break down my competitor: he is not a programmer, he is not a database person, he is not my direct mail equal by any measure, he is an ink person trying to compete in my data world.

CSG Direct invents and evolves direct mail. Our competitors can only follow.
• We Created the 1st direct mail portal.
• We invented “to our friends at” and it grew across the country from my use.
• We invented direct mail tracking and we are unmatched
• We are early adopters of NCOA and were the only vendors in NV for years
• We provided direct mail software to casinos for years
• We are the only vendor uploading data into player tracking systems
• We have worked with Casinos all over the country
• Innovated variable printing with Variable Direct Mail Maps
• Direct mail SEO leads champs
• Landing pages, Salesforce.com
• Early adopters of IMB barcodes
• QR codes and so much more

We Are Casino Direct Mail, Nobody makes variable data printing dance like we do.

That Casino deserves us and we deserve them.
They deserve the best. We are the Best.

That’s what drives me.

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™

New Postage Rates for 2011

New Postage 2011

First we’ll share the announcement from the US Postal Service about the newly released 2011 Postage Rates then we’ll give you our take below.

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Announcement from the US Postal Service:

January 14, 2011

Announcing the continuation of POSTNET barcodes for automation rates beyond May 2011, the continued use of those barcodes for CONFIRM subscribers, and new pricing set to take effect April 17, 2011.

• The new price sheet for CONFIRM can be found online at www.usps.com/prices.

• POSTNET usage has been extended for automation rates beyond May 2011.

• CONFIRM subscribers using PLANET barcodes will also be allowed to continue using the PLANET barcodes beyond May 2011.

• CONFIRM subscribers who have already transitioned to the IMb are encouraged to continue using the IMb. Please do not reactivate a PLANET Code subscriber ID in your system if you have already discontinued its use.

Thanks,
USPS-National Customer Support Center
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New Postage Rates ChartHere is our compiled list of common new postage rates for 2011

As we dig through the new rates there is a lot you can tell by where they raise the rates the most as well as hidden rate reductions. Over the years we have been able to design services based on where we see the direction of increases going.

This year we see the biggest changes in the smaller postcards (4.25×6″ max).
We also see a small reduction in non-profit automation:

postage rate review

There has been a lot of pressure on the post office to increase rates and still balance the public relations nightmare of hurting all the small non-profits that count on direct mail to raise funds. In this rate-case we see a decrease in the automation rates charged to non-profit groups. This is likely to help push them into automation and away from stamps, labels, tape and staples.

The rest of this rate-case is pretty small really. One of the smallest I have seen in a long time.  This is probably due to the fact that we are now getting increases annually instead of every 4 years like in decades past.

Notice also how the largest increases are in the smaller postcards in 1st-class non-automation and single piece rates. This would tend to indicate that this is either a category that is more labor intensive, or there are so few that nobody will notice; which is highly possible. I know from experience that these cards rarely have enough room to do a proper address and the full rate ones are those handwritten ones you get at every tourist attraction in the world.

Those postcards are impossible to automate with that old-fashion vertical-line style design in the middle of the address side of the card.  They need one of our new postal automated designs from one of our USPS Mailpiece quality certified designers here at CSG Direct.direct mail quotes

(postage rates at csg here)

Setup a Direct Mail Postage CAPS Account?

What is a Direct Mail CAPS Account and how do you set one up?

A CAPS Account stands for Centralized Account Processing System. The post office makes it easy for your business to electronically put money into your postal account, instead of the hassle of getting a check prepared and deposited at the Post Office before the 5:30 deadline every day. It is the easiest way to fund your permit, business reply mail, merchandise return service, postage due account, and express mail corporate account.
There are two different CAPS Accounts available for postal customers to use. There is a centralized trust account, where customers deposit funds using electronic funds transfer to the CAPS bank prior to mailing. Then, your account is automatically reduced when your local post office processes postage statements. The next CAPS account is the centralized debit account, where customers designate a debit-enabled bank account for postage charges. The bank account is debited for the total day’s postage on the next bank business day.
Each CAPS account customer will have their own unique account number and password to ensure that funds are properly administered. It makes it quick and convenient to mail under the same permit imprint that they have already held (if a personal permit previously existed.) Postal Customers can set up their accounts to have mailing and accounting fees administered automatically.
To set-up a CAPS account contact your USPS local post office, or you can call the CAPS Service Center at (650) 377-1334. You can also download the forms to sign up for CAPS at http://caps.usps.gov/business/caps.asp and mail them into:

CAPS Service Center Postage CAPS Account
2700 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94497-9442

CSG Direct, Inc works very closely with the USPS and we know all about CAPS Accounts. If you need my help, I am just a phone call away 775-852-9777.

No Postage Rate Increase this January

In an announcement that shocked many today, the Postal Direct Mail PostageRegulatory Commission soundly rejected the Postal Service’s request for a postage rate increase of 5.4 percent on January 1, 2011.

This means that postage rates will remain the same until they can be legally changed under the price cap formula next May.  This is also a stunning loss for the Postal Service has it has pleaded that it desperately needs the money to sustain its operations and it comes in the middle of union negotiations with two of the largest postal unions.

The Envelope Manufacturers Association strongly fought this increase through our Affordable Mail Alliance and we filed many hours of testimony showing how this rate increase would damage a recovery in our industry.  This decision to hold prices stable will have a positive impact on mailings both in the Fall and next year and upholds an important principal in the Postal Accountability and Enforcement Act that price increases could not be greater than inflation.  EMA fought hard for that position as we did to uphold the law.

PCC Newsletter – July 2010

PCC NewsletterThe July PCC Newsletter is out.

Click on the image to open it –>

Michael Hemphill from CSG Direct was last months guest speaker. He taught the local market about the USPS Business Gateway.

The Northern Nevada PCC is one of over 200 PCC chapters across the country. The PCC’s mission is to provide a professional environment where both the USPS and local business mailers can interact and learn from each other. Our Lunch & Learn events provide information on current topics and the opportunity to network directly with colleagues and USPS representatives.

PCC Lunch and Learn: Business Customer Gateway

Postal Customer CouncilPCC of Northern Nevada Lunch and Learn Series

Guest Speaker: Michael Hemphill of CSG Direct, Inc

The US Postal Service continues to Michael Hemphill PCC Luncheonmodernize and automate steps to keep postage low and better serve its clients. Come learn about 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).

Here is the USPS Business Customer Gateway Powerpoint (trimmed)

Speaker: Michael Hemphill of CSG Direct, Inc

Topic: Business Customer Gateway

Location: Atlantis Casino, 3800 S Virginia St, Grand Ballroom 5

Date: Thursday May 20, 2010

Time: Registration at 11:30 am, Lunch served at 12:00

Cost: $20

Reserve your seat by contacting Cindy Cornelison at 775-788-0690.
Call early to request a vegetarian meal.

Here is a scanned copy of the postcard invite from the PCC:

PCC Luncheon

Direct Mail Marketing Strategies (5 of 5)

Direct MailerStrategy #5) Tracking and Reporting for Success

Every sale in your company should be recorded where the sale came from.  EVERY SALE!!  If you miss this trick you will throw 3/4 of your annual direct mail marketing dollars in the trash.

I know it feels like you drive your own fate and ‘shoot from the hip’ with your ‘gut instincts’ but don’t be so vain that you don’t track the number of sales and value of each from every thing you sell.

This applies to direct mail as well.  Every redeemed piece should be recorded in your CRM tools.  CRM tools you say? If you don’t know what they are or don’t have them in place you and your job are at serious risk.  It’s the year 2010 – get serious.

The strongest businesses around got there by using math, reports and tracking sales. So how are you going to come anywhere near them if you don’t know where your wisest marketing dollar was last year.

Here are some things you should be tracking.

What brought the customer in? Did they see your sign or did a friend tell the to check you out? Did they see your ad n the paper or were they just at the store next door and liked your window display.  Whatever it is you want to focus some effort there.

How much did they spend? If the people than randomly walk by your store spend an average of $20 per visit, but the people that drive to your store directly spend $100; you’ll want to spend more time on your direct mail and print ads since they earn you more money.

Who are your multi-trip customers? If you have customers that return to your business time and time again would you know who they were?  Identify loyalty and reward it! Then give them an offer for them to bring a friend.  Birds of a feather do what?

Who are your top spenders? If they like your products why do you wait for them to randomly come in?  Personally invite them for something they would like.  It’s really simple if you take action.

Your best Direct Mail Marketing strategies start with you understanding your clients and learning how to market to each type of client. If you are not tracking anything how will you ever do that?

Step up; it’s not a game you want to lose.

Direct Mail Marketing Strategies (4 of 5)

I’m sitting down with a client the other day and we are discussing the direct mail giveaway offer and the size of the mailing list. One of the people at the table says, “We’ll if we’re mailing 10,000 people we need to reduce the size of the offer, we cannot afford to give that much away”. This is a typical answer from a newbie.

Strategy #4) Don’t be stingy with your offer

The entire idea is to make sure you offer everything you can to each individual where you maximize profit and results. This is what personalization is all about. If one guest is worth offering $20 to get them in and another person is worth offering $100 to, you can do that easily with variable data printing. If you only offer $20 to both people you usually eliminate the response from the $100 guest and your company is full of $20 guests.

As far as “Everyone showing up” You have to ask yourself how many people are really even paying attention to your offers. Direct mail is a numbers game and the more you water down your offers the fewer the number of people that really even care.

Let’s say for example I was giving away a free car and I mailed 1000 people to give them away.  I would only likely have to give away 50-60% of those at most.  First off there are a huge percentage of people in your database that don’t read direct mail at all. The there would be skeptics, then people that forget to respond, etc.  So you might get a 50-60% response with a free new car.

So when you take your $50 offer and decide to lower it to $15 you are likely taking your 3% and cutting it down to 1% or less. You are also drawing in a much cheaper crowd.  If $15 is important to someone they are not likely wealthy enough to be a good customer buying all your goods and services, are they?

Make sure you use your customer historical sales to manage to offer everybody the most you can, based on what they average to spend.  Then you get sales from all levels of your customers and not just the cheaper ones.  Don’t guide your business smaller and smaller by catering to your cheapest of customers by getting cheap on your offers.

But then again don’t offer the best you have to your cheapest customers either. I hope you are tracking your customer sales and building offers based on their value.  I truly hope you are!

Dot-com Return to Direct Marketing Reality

I just got off the phone with Network Solutions; they called me about some services I let expire. It seems that even the formidable web domain registrar has decided not to count on email broadcasting. They’ve instead moved to reduce lost sales through direct marketing like normal brick and mortar businesses. They actually picked up a phone and called me.

Email Sucks for business communication. You are rarely sure if your customers received it and if they did they may have just deleted it. Sure, it works some of the time but with all the filters and trash that ends up in your email box nobody can count on it as their only form of communication. Dot-com businesses are smart enough to finally give in to the real world reality.

It is just as true today as it has been since before the internet existed, direct sales and direct marketing are still the most effective form of sales today.

ebay paypal direct marketing

It doesn’t stop with Network Solutions either. Last week (the reason I thought to Blog on this) I received a call from Ebay. I had a bad transaction with a seller and I had to file a Paypal claim.  Not only was I able to reach PayPal.com on the phone every single time I called, Ebay also called me after the transaction to see if they could help smooth over the relations with the seller.  No, Really… They called me.

I was fascinated as to why they called me and it turned out that they are trying to protect the reputations of sellers that sell high-ticket items.  But I was most impressed by how Ebay worked to smooth out relations AFTER I was already paid back by PayPal.

Now not all dot-comers have “stepped into the light” when it comes to picking up the phone but I have felt a lot of this lately.  I have had positive real world conversations with Network Solutions, Ebay, PayPal and facebook.  I still have had no luck even finding a phone number for google adwords though.

added: I have also received direct mail from Microsoft, Yahoo, Ebay and more..