4 Great Holiday Mail Tips

The holiday season is quickly approaching. Are you ready to send direct mail that gets you better results than last year?

holiday mail
“Mail Direct,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by frankieleon

The holiday season is quickly approaching. Are you ready to send direct mail that gets you better results than last year?

Both customers and prospects are on the lookout for great deals during the holidays. So now is the time to get started planning yours. Staying ahead of your competition is important this time of the year. Are you ready to get started?

How to create great holiday direct mail:

  1. Target — Make sure that you are targeting the right holiday messages to the right people. Yes, your offers need to be targeted. But if you send a Christmas greeting to a Jewish family, you are missing out on a great opportunity to connect with them on a more personal level. The better you target and personalize, the better response you will get. So really look at your data to make sure you have enough information to target correctly.
  2. Fun — Have fun with your mail pieces! This time of year is full of fun, so join in and create a mail piece that is not just an offer, but a really fun experience. Think outside of the box about what you can do differently to have more fun with your prospects and customers. It does not have to be super expensive. Think about adding some texture as a way to make your piece feel different or fun folds that keep on going.
  3. Savings — Make sure you are offering great savings to your prospects and customers. This time of year, they expect it. Remember, it’s all in the wording of the offer. Interpretation is the key, so a higher percentage off a lower-cost item is seen as a better deal than a lower percentage off a high-price item. Target the discounts based on things they are interested in. You can use variable data to make a highly targeted coupon.
  4. Sharing — Offer a way for people to share the savings with friends and family for the holidays. This time of the year, people love to share. So you can have your message expand well beyond your list when they do. This can really help to increase your ROI and make customers and prospects happy they can share.

Great holiday mail incorporates all four of the items above. It is a special time of year that is also reflected in the special types of mailings that get sent out. Don’t just send a postcard — be extra creative for the holidays to not only stand out in the mail box, but to get people to respond. Also, don’t wait for December. Send something for Halloween and Thanksgiving, too. Really get into the holiday spirit and have fun. Customers will appreciate it.

If you have a little extra funds for the holiday campaigns, consider using video or fun cut-outs. Anything you can do to make your mail more interactive and staying on message will help increase your ROI. Make sure that as you are brainstorming ideas, you continue to look at it from the customer’s perspective. You need to focus on what they will respond to and enjoy. If possible, get some customer feedback on your ideas before you launch — just to make sure you are on the right road.

Are you ready to get started on a fun holiday campaign?

PMG Fights Congress on Postal Reform

The U.S. Postal Service reiterated this past week—in hearings before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee—just how crucial it is that Congress undertake reforms that are necessary for the USPS to accrue the savings to restore its fiscal state. There should be no “half measures,” Postmaster General (PMG) Pat Donahoe stated

The U.S. Postal Service reiterated this past week—in hearings before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee—just how crucial it is that Congress undertake reforms that are necessary for the USPS to accrue the savings to restore its fiscal state.

There should be no “half measures,” Postmaster General (PMG) Pat Donahoe stated.

First, PMG Donahoe questioned draft “discussion” legislation being devised by Rep. Darell Issa (R-CA) to enable USPS management’s bold efforts to “right size” Postal Service costs and infrastructure to volume trends. As Direct Marketing News reported on July 17:

“The draft did not appear to meet the full approval of the PMG, however, who is adamant that any new legislation remove the U.S. Postal Service’s obligation to prefund employee health and retirement programs. Issa’s plan calls for future payments to be made on an actuarial calculation that will reduce the Postal Service’s annual $5.7 billion prefunding payment, which it defaulted on last year.

“‘We are seeking the authority under the law to control our healthcare and retirement costs. We can completely eliminate the need for Retiree Health Benefit prefunding if we can move to our proposed solution,’ Donahoe said, addressing Issa directly.”

The Postmaster General maintains that being allowed to set up its own healthcare coverage for retirees programs would lower premiums paid by employees, while delivering up to $8 billion in savings annually. Donahoe also is asking Congress to return $6 billion in USPS “overpayments” to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).

At this juncture, Rep. Issa’s discussion draft does not include provisions for enabling these savings in full, and the Postmaster General says time is running out-or more defaults will be in the offing. (The next default on payments likely will occur this September, Reuters reports.)

Next, the Postal Service is seeking Congressional approval—and likely Postal Regulatory Commission approval as well—on a five-day delivery plan for residential mail delivery, and the estimated $2 billion in savings it estimates it would achieve there. The false start earlier this year—USPS unilaterally announced its five-day delivery intent beginning August, and Congress promptly shot those plans down the following month—doesn’t mean that five-day delivery is dead. On the contrary, USPS management believes such savings are crucial toward keeping delivery costs in line with volume and revenue: First-Class Mail volume, in particular, continues its decline, despite an improved U.S. economy.

Some of my contacts in the mail industry say that five-day residential delivery is probably (1) inevitable, (2) something direct mailers can adapt their production and transportation schedules to live with, and (3) perhaps necessary for long-term USPS viability, as the PMG reports. While postal unions—and their supporters in Congress—are still not for it, the need for cost-cutting and right-sizing USPS delivery infrastructure remains. Alternate proposals for achieving $2 billion in savings (or revenue from new and existing product lines) so that six-day Ddelivery can remain so far remain elusive.

All in all, PMG Donahoe wants that $20 billion onto the USPS bottom line to come from somewhere—and he knows it can’t come from higher postal rates, not at least until the Postal Service is more lean.

As the PMG told Congress this past week, “The Postal Service continues to face systemic financial challenges because it has a business model that does not allow it to adapt to changes in the marketplace, and it does not have the legal authority to make the fundamental changes that are necessary to achieve long-term financial stability.” (Reuters, July 17).

Harte-Hanks has published an informative discussion of current postal reform efforts, and I encourage interested readers to take a deeper dive: http://www.harte-hanks.com/postology/Harte-Hanks_PostologyReport_2013_July.pdf

We’ve been waiting for Congress to act in a serious manner on postal issues since 2006-if not before. How much longer?