Dogs and a kinder, gentler (and smarter) USPS

June 11, 2011

photo courtesy ABC News

In their relationships with the United States Postal Service, dogs generally have the upper hand . . . er, paw.  Beyond the fact that postal employees frequently provide a tasty midday snack for their customers’ canines (see photo above), the USPS’s attitude toward four-legged fuzzballs has been surprisingly favorable.  Dogs have been featured frequently on stamps, some postal employees actually own and love dogs, and recently a new USPS program has helped to locate a lost Labrador in Stillwater, NY.

Here’s the story:

When Randi Slocum’s dog Kaylee ran away from her Stillwater, NY, home, Slocum and her friends did what any group of concerned pet owners would do — they formed a search party and knocked on neighbors’ doors looking for the chocolate Labrador mix.

But Randi’s mother, Carolyn, had a better idea — use Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) to notify residents in Stillwater and nearby Schuylerville, NY, of the dog’s disappearance.

Carolyn Slocum, a board member of the local Postal Customer Council, had just attended an EDDM seminar given by Albany District Grow Your Business Coordinator Natalie Dolan. “I knew that the best way to reach every household was through the new EDDM program,” said Slocum. “Since many people work all day, this would be the most likely way to reach them.”

By the next morning, Carolyn had the mailings prepared to EDDM standards and dropped them off at the Stillwater and Schuylerville Post Offices. The flyer helped unleash a series of phone calls, and that helped lead to Kaylee’s safe return.

Source: Postal Reporter News Blog

Long the poster child for government (or quasi-government) inefficiency, the USPS has in recent months introduced a couple of programs that are surprisingly sharp.  Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) is simply not what you would expect from an agency know for volumes of arcane rules.  The postal service calls it a simplified mailing process, and it really is. Basically, EDDM makes it easy to send saturation mailings to reasonably small geographic areas without the need to purchase address lists. EDDM comes in two flavors – regular, for mailing service providers like Gralpharaphics Macon (name disguised to protect the delicate sensibilities of the franchise) and retail, for the DIYer.  The website (https://smp.usps.gov/) is functional and includes a cool mapping feature to allow the user to select by postal carrier route.

Source: USPS

It is important to note that EDDM is the direct opposite of the targeted mailings that Poor Richard’s printshop has been promoting for some time.  EDDM is, in essence, a saturation mailing. No demographics selections are available and because the addressing is generic, it’s not possible to personalize the mailing or direct the recipient to a personalized URL (PURL).  The only select feature allows the sender to de-select business addresses and/or P.O. boxes.

Even with those limitations, EDDM will be great for service businesses and other small businesses that sell to a broad customer base and want to target specific neighborhoods to generate new business.   We are currently working on a saturation mailing in three neighborhoods for a startup lawn service business.  He’s chosen carrier routes where there are few apartment complexes and has eliminated business addresses.  The mailing will be around 1700 pieces, postage will be around $.15 each,  and most of the mailpieces will land at addresses that could conceivably benefit from his services.
On the other side of the mailing spectrum, the USPS has introduced a special discount to run in July and August 2011 to help promote “web-enabled” mailings.  This is another smart move that recognizes the value of cross-channel marketing and the integration of direct mail and internet.  First Class and Standard Mail letters that incorporate a QR or other mobile barcode will receive an additional 3% discount during July and August.  Details can be found on the  USPS website.

Both the US Postal Service and the printing industry as a whole have suffered greatly during the past almost 4 years of decession as cost cutting, business closures, and an accelerated shift to online communication have reduced volumes.  Poor Richard is hoping that the tide may turn again as marketers recognize the value of tangible print messages, especially in combination with impressions from other channels.  It is refreshing to see the USPS taking some intelligent direct action to encourage the use of both direct mail and cross channel efforts.  Want to try any of this out?  Call me or stop by the printshop behind the red awnings on Poplar Street. Bring your dog.


QR . . . U Ready?

December 16, 2009

QR CodeDespite pronounced Luddite tendencies, Poor Richard is intrigued with this bit of innovation. The bit of abstract squiqqle at the left is a QR Code.  QR stands for Quick Response.  Originally used in Japan for parts tracking in automotive manufacturing, the QR code has gone viral there and may be the next “killer app” for your iPhone or Blackberry.

Poor Richard’s Luddite alter-ego questions of what possible use could this oogly scrambled mess be.  Like the British handloom operators of the early 1800s, my first tendency is to trash any new technology that potentially threatens my established and well-ordered universe.  On second thought, though, trashing the power looms in Great Britain earned many of the Luddites  new careers as shepherds down under in Australia, and Poor Richard is not fond of sheep.

The long answer to the question is that the QR can contain text (lots of it) and URLs, which is pretty cool.  Even cooler, the telephonic gadget you carry in your pocket can read the QR code and (if you’re wirelessly attached to the internet) it can connect you directly with the website referenced in the code. It can also be used send SMS messages, geographic locations, and transfer contact info into a database.  All that from a box that looks like a Photoshop aberration . . .

Best yet, this innovation has the potential to actually enhance the value of print (as opposed to replacing it). Think about it . . . how about a poster that automatically directs the reader to the ticket office through their cell phone?  Coupons could carry QR codes to be read at the retail counter for special incentives or a chance to win 10 bazillion dollars.  Personalized URLs could be transformed into personalized QRs, directing a customer to a website with specific information tailored to meet their interests. There are some real possibilities here . . .

You can have fun playing with this one. Poor Richard has found a free app called Quickmark that reads QR codes on the iPhone and will actually let you create codes on the fly to transfer data. There are several websites that will let you create codes one at a time (try the Xzing Project QR Generator).  I’ve also found some software that will allow QR codes to be merged with a database. You can even order a t-shirt with your own personalized QR code message printed on the front.  Poor Richard didn’t spring for one; but if he had, here’s what his t-shirt would have looked like:

Luddite QR Code

Luddites of the world, unite!

Thanks to Andy Selcho of Salt Lake City, UT Gralpharaphics (name altered to protect the delicate sensitivity of the franchise), who introduced Poor Richard and bunch of other folks to QR codes.  Andy has put together a good YouTube video about QR codes . . . Here ’tis: