USPS Implements Load Leveling

In a March 5, 2014 Federal Register notice, the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) announced they will make changes in the delivery service standards for Standard Mail® Destination Sectional Center Facility (DSCF) rate mail, effective April 10, 2014.

Delivery Standard Changes
This service standard update changes the current three-day delivery standard for Standard Mail to four days for Standard Mail mailpieces that are eligible for DSCF rates and are properly accepted before the day zero Critical Entry Time (CET) on a Friday or Saturday. Essentially, this means that drop shipped Standard Mail that is accepted at SCF’s before the CET’s on Fridays or Saturdays will now see in-home delivery on the following Tuesday or Wednesday as opposed to the current Saturday through Tuesday delivery window. DSCF mail accepted at the SCF in San Juan, Puerto Rico which is destined for the US Virgin Islands or American Samoa would see delivery times change from the current three to four days to the new standard of four to five days for mail accepted prior to CET”s on Fridays and Saturdays. Keep in mind that these are delivery standards only, not guarantees of delivery time.

usps delivery<br />

(Source WindowBook)

Managing change
The Postal Service is not always looking out for the marketer’s best interest.  Many mailings are carefully planned to arrive at an SCF location on specific dates to help control the delivery of time sensative material.  Whether you are holding a private sale, or have a weekend only event, or do not like mail delivering late in the week or on weekends, this new rule will add another level of complexity when it comes to timing mail delivery.  To help manage the new USPS rule, we suggest some of the following ideas:

  • in-home date planning and in-home date requests that are included on the mail piece or any USPS documents
  • reviewing transportation and logistics planning
  • adding mail tracking to your mailings
  • using full-service intelligent mail

Additional information
More detailed information regarding this change, such as a PowerPoint presentation from a recent webinar and a Frequently Asked Questions document, may be found on the USPS RIBBS website.


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Postal Regulatory Commission Approves Exigent Rate Increase

In true holiday spirit, late on Christmas Eve afternoon, the PRC announced its decision on the Postal Service’s request for an exigent price increase.

In general, the commission granted the USPS request for additional revenue as a result of recession related losses.  As a result, the rates contained in its exigent price filing would be allowed to take effect on January 26, 2014.  However, the PRC did not agree that the rate increase should be permanent, and so directed that the rates should be implemented “as a surcharge.”  The USPS was further directed to submit a plan for the eventual removal of that surcharge.

New rates are available here:  2014 rates

Source:  AMSP

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Postal Rates Scheduled to Increase January, 2014

On September 25, the Postal Service’s Board of Governors filed requests with the
Postal Regulatory Commission that would yield a 5.9% rate increase. Of that amount,
about 1.6% would be derived from a filing (R2013-10) under Postal Service’s existing
CPI-based rate authority with the remaining 4.3% coming from a second filing
(R2010-4R) under the “exigency” provisions of the 2006 postal reform law. The
agency expects to generate a total of about $2 billion in additional revenue as a result
of these price changes.

2014 Proposed Postage Rates

The CPI case should be reviewed under the applicable PRC process, which essentially
is limited to ensuring the proposed rates comply with the specifications of the CPI cap
regime. Barring any problems, those rates should be approved for implementation
when the USPS has planned, at 12:01am on Sunday, January 26, 2014.
However, the separate “exigent” filing showed rates that reflected the total 5.9%
average increase (including the 1.6% sought under the CPI cap) and the Postal Service
did not identify a separate effective date for their implementation, meaning it hopes
the PRC will review and approve its “exigent” request quickly, allowing for an implementation
of the total rate increase on the planned date.

Source – Association of Marketing Service Providers

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Save Postage and Increase Sales with USPS Buy It Now Promo

The Mobile Buy It Now Promotion is just around the corner.  Registration for the Mobile Buy It Now promotion starts on September 15, 2013.  

The promotion provides an upfront postage discount to qualifying mailers who use mobile technology on their mailpieces that drive mobile purchases.

If you missed the August 2013 Mobile Buy It Now webinar, it is available for viewing at or on the website at  This webinar provides mailers with important program and participant requirements.

For questions or help, just give Commercial Letter a call – 314-231-6006 or email us at

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Direct Mail: Return To The Future

Integrated direct marketing has been a buzzword for many years and hotly debated. However, one thing remains clear: it’s not a fad.

Having said that, direct mail is still an integral part of a 21st-century integrated marketing campaign. In fact, for many decades, it was the only way to reliably reach prospects at their residences and was used extensively because it was so efficient.

Perhaps it was used too extensively because over the decades consumers became increasingly turned off by all of the “junk mail.” (Except when they found a coupon to their favorite restaurant, of course!) For that reason, some direct mail clients became disenchanted with the medium, even though it still retained a great degree of effectiveness.

However, in a “return to the future” development, physical direct mail is making a comeback in the minds of both marketers and clients. You see, in today’s digital age, prospects are bombarded with email, web banners, mobile ads, texts, TV and radio spots all day long. Studies have found that people have moved past their prior disdain to direct mail and are responding again to receiving a piece of physical mail.

Indeed, studies have shown that 85% of prospects pick through and read chosen direct mail pieces every day. 75% of consumers say they are looking at their mail more seriously during the past year to hunt for coupons and other offers. 40% of consumers report they have visited a new business after getting a direct mail piece, and 70% have re-established relationships with businesses they had previously stopped patronizing.

While customers might be receiving less USPS direct mail, they’re receiving more accurate direct mail — offers that have appeal and value for them individually. That’s because direct mail marketers are getting choosier about what they mail and who they target with it. And that’s why direct mail is making a comeback in the arsenal of integrated direct marketing mix.

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The eternal conundrum: email or direct mail?

We marketers are too often faced with an all-or-nothing decision when planning strategy. Because of a limitedless number  of channels and marketing tools we have at our disposal these days, we’re forced to make tough choices because of a limited number of resources.

Making those decisions, however, can be a challenging and lengthy process. For example,  if you already have a database overflowing with leads, you might want to determine the best way to convert them into actual customers.  The options might be:

  1. Send an email blast
  2. Send direct mail
  3. Engage with them in social media
  4. Tell your sales team to reach out

But how do you determine which option is best?

The data, of course.  And some recent data from the Harvard Business Review analyzed the effectiveness of email marketing compared to direct mail, as well as a hybrid of both. The article outlined the advantages of email marketing vs. direct mail, which includes its low cost, measurability, and the choose-your-own-internet-adventure path a recipient can take once they open it.

The article then walks the reader through a brief case study on a national retailer’s experiment to compare the results from executing a combined direct mail and email campaign, a direct mail-only campaign, and an email-only campaign.

According to the article the results were clear cut: email rules.  That’s because of a “multiplier effect,”which takes into account non-internet sales which were stimulated by online marketing initiatives like email, which indeed are dirt cheap. But take a look at the data and decide for yourself:

To our way of thinking, Average Order Value and Dollars per Name Mailed tell the story. And the story is that a combined direct mail and email campaign is the actual hero of the evening — and all the days to come. Will it be so for you?  Give Commercial Letter a call today at to find out if a combined email/direct mail campaign is right for you!

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Better Together: Email and Direct Mail

So which medium is more effective at inspiring consumers to take action? A well-crafted, snail-mailed direct mail piece or an email with a pithy subject line?

You may as well ask, which variety of wine is better: Syrah or Riesling?

The answer, needless to say, is “it depends.” When it comes to print vs. email , both have pros and cons in certain circumstances.

But unlike the cabernet vs. chardonnay match-up, where you ordinarily wouldn’t drink both with the same meal, the print/email comparison is often a distraction from the real insight, namely, to use both in the same campaign!

That’s right — studies have shown that campaigns which use both media fare better than campaigns which use just one. In other words, direct mail and email complement one another.

While 90% of consumers strongly prefer one medium over the other, combining both tactics does not seem to bother most of them. In fact, they are 50% more likely to respond to their preferred medium when it is joined with its opposite. This number rises to 62% when digital campaigns are linked with direct mail.

Here are just a few of the ways the two media help each other:

* Printed mail pieces provide more substance, while email delivers easily absorbed bullet points;

* Email is typically opened up right away, while direct mail may linger on kitchen counters and tables;

* Printed mail can stimulate responses for weeks while email responses rise quickly, then drop just as rapidly

While all of this points to the effectiveness of a cross-channel email/snail mail marketing campaign, there are several caveats. For example, don’t simply repeat the identical message in both media. Use the relative strengths of each to create a balanced, effective campaign.

You might send a long letter to your target audience, then email the same folks a reminder about it. Or, on the other hand, you might email your target market and tell them an informational piece is on its way so they can be watching for it.

Indeed, it might even be a savvy move to send out an email blast, wait for the response, then ONLY mail to those prospects, as opposed to your entire target. Not only will you boost your response rate, you’ll save advertising and marketing dollars by not mailing to your entire list.

If you do plan on using both media, it’s important for each medium to reference the other. In other words, if you snail-mail a piece to a prospect who has responded to an earlier email, be sure to remind them of this so they don’t think they had simply been chosen at random. (Even though, as marketers, we know that no marketing communications piece ever goes out to anyone chosen at random!)

Reference their earlier response to your email to boost your reponse rate through the well-known phenomenon of “brand-bonding by self-selection.”

One final caveat: attempt to determine your prospect’s preference for either email or print, then send them more of it, and less of the one they don’t prefer. In fact, it might be wise to ask them point-blank which medium they would like NOT to receive, then honor their request if they do so. While cross-channel marketing is an extremely effective tool, it should under no circumstances come at the expense of alienating your audience members who are completely put-off by either of these two media.

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Response Rate? Or ROI? It’s really no contest…

What is a good Response Rate? How can I maximize my Return On Investment? Before launching a marketing campaign, many business owners struggle with these questions. There are no easy answers to these questions. The bottom line is that when it comes to how many postcards to send out, quantity matters. When it comes to response rate though, quality counts.

There isn’t a magic number for a successful response rate, and a good ROI is not necessarily about getting a massive response.  Marketing is a complex process, but direct mail is a time-tested and proven method of getting results. When you understand the process of postcard marketing, you will know that when you get responses, they will be the best quality and lead to more sales.

• Imagine a business owners invests in a marketing campaign that uses marketing gimmicks to attract responses. He gets 1,000 responses, but they are only semi-interested. Only a handful actually decide to give him their business.

• Now imagine the same business owner uses a well crafted postcard marketing campaign. He gets 50 responses that are calling because the postcards they received were designed to build trust in his company and told them how his company could benefit them. He closes 10 of these prospects, because the quality of the marketing produced a more organic response.

The takeaway:  it’s not all about the response rate. This concept directly relates to ROI. You could spend $1000 on a postcard marketing campaign and only gain two new clients, but those clients are bringing in $10,000 of revenue. Even a small response can make the investment more than worth it.

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Direct Mail Miscues in the “Hall of Shame”

When done right, direct mail in the St. Louis area can be a highly effective resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially when coordinated with an email marketing campaign. However, there are some common pitfalls that occur so regularly, they should be grouped together in a “Direct Mail Marketing Hall of Shame”:

1. Call to action is bad or nonexistent: Once you’ve got them reading your piece you’ve got to tell them what you want them to do.

2. Forgetting to test: Direct mail marketing is the art of constant testing. You’ve got to be committed to trying different approaches in everything from design and copy to packaging and offers.

3. Too much fluff and hype: If you sound too much like a used car salesman you’ll end up in the garbage faster than you can say garbage. Practice the art of generating excitement without using too much hype.

4. Bad grammar and no proofing: U R probably aware the entire universe is writing in text message-ese these days but don’t allow your direct mail copy to read like it should be contained in a thought balloon.

5. Can’t grab their attention in headline: They simply won’t read further. Period.

6. Not studying what works: Direct mail marketing has been around for many, many years and thousands of companies have made a lot of money. Before you do any direct mail marketing you should study what has worked and what has not.

6. No follow up plan: Congratulations. You’ve just sent out a direct mail marketing to your target customers. Now what?

7. Design that doesn’t work: Too much “design” can get in the way of effective communication. If your design isn’t directly relevant to your message, ditch it.

9. Bad copywriting: Arguably the most important element of the entire piece. You’ve got to know when to be clever, witty, funny, serious, etc. Know your audience.

10. Targeting not on target: Speaking of knowing your audience, do you really know them? When’s the last time you did customer research to figure out what motivates them?

11. Going cheap on the postage: Sometimes it makes more sense to pay a little more to arrive a certain time. Is it worth more to spend more if you ultimately make more? You know the answer.

14. Lost opportunity to drive traffic to Web and blog: A follow-up to the previous direct mail tip, but today it’s a natural fit to use direct mail marketing to drive people to a Web site, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, etc.

15. Contests that fail: Contests are a great way to get interaction with your customers. But if the contest doesn’t prompt someone to participate, something went wrong and it can destroy the campaign ROI.

18. Going one and done: If you’re going to just send out one direct mail marketing piece and then expect huge results, don’t waste your time. All you’ll do is create more trash for the earth. Direct mail marketing is a commitment that pays off over time.

19. A direct mail printer/consultant that doesn’t understand your business or customers: Yes, it matters. An experienced direct mail partner can make all the difference because they may be able to offer great strategy and insight where you lack experience.

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2013 Postal Service Promotions

Part of the Postal changes taking effect in 2013 includes a series of promotions that offer savings for mailers who participate.  Registration begins on January 15th for the first two spring promotions.

Direct Mail Mobile Coupon & Click to Call.  This promotion provides an upfront 2 percent postage discount on the integration of mail with mobile technology and will promote the value of direct mail in two ways. First, it will encourage customers to integrate hard-copy coupons in the mail with mobile platforms for redemption. Second, it will drive consumer awareness and increase usage of mail with mobile barcodes that provide click-to-call functionality. Registration is Jan. 15, 2013, to April 30, 2013.

Earned Value Reply Mail.  First-Class Mail Business Reply and Courtesy Reply mailers will receive a $0.02 postage credit for each Business Reply Mail (BRM) or Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) piece that is scanned in the postal network. This promotion is designed to encourage mailers to promote First-Class Mail as a primary reply mechanism for their customers and to keep the CRM/BRM envelopes in their outgoing mail pieces by providing a financial benefit when the CRM/BRM envelopes are used. Registration is Jan. 15, 2013, to March 31, 2013.

Full information on these promotions can be found HERE.  Call you Commercial Letter representative today to find out how you can apply for additional postage savings!  314-231-6006

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