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.
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!
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.