Priority Mail: USPS Emphasizes Direct Mail for Small Business

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is continuing its emphasis on programs to introduce new business mailers to direct mail marketing. The programs are:

  • The Direct Mail Hub
  • Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM)
  • 2nd Ounce Free
  • 2012 Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion

The USPS is clear on the intent of all these programs: to acquaint small business customers with the benefits and value of direct mail marketing, to counter misconceptions about direct mail, and to remove barriers to using direct mail that small businesses may have experienced in the past. Ultimately, the intent is to promote growth of mail used for marketing purposes. Preliminary results released by the USPS indicates that the programs are being used, though mail volume overall has continued to decline.

While applauding the USPS initiative to boost mail volume, the mailing community is concerned that two programs–The Direct Mail Hub and EDDM–have features that will eventually eliminate the need for the services now being provided by commercial mailers.

The Direct Mail Hub

The Direct Mail Hub (https://uspsdmhub.com) is aimed at small businesses that haven’t used direct mail in the past because it was too complicated or time consuming. At the Hub website potential mailers can choose between a quote service provided by DirectMailQuotes (a business unit of Mailers Haven, a list broker serving the mailing community) to which commercial mailers can subscribe; and DirectMail2Go, an online template-driven print and mail service offered by First Marketing in Pompano Beach, FL.

During the pilot, USPS executives were sensitive to the fact that using preselected contractors created the appearance of competition with commercial mailers. Michael Makin, president of Printing Industries of America, wrote to Postmaster General Pat Donahoe to encourage the use of Print Access, the online database of association members, to expand the listing of mailing service providers at The Direct Mail Hub.

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM)

EDDM (http://www.uspseverydoor.com) is designed for “local” mailers—businesses whose target audience is businesses and/or residents located in one or more ZIP codes. Two distinguishing features of EDDM are that the mail piece can use the simplified address format (Postal Customer) which eliminates the need for a mailing list, and can be mailed at the DDU saturation rate (currently 14.5 cents per piece).

There are two versions of EDDM. EDDM Retail is a do-it-yourself product that does not require the mailer to have a bulk mail permit and allows entry of mail through the “front” or retail counter of the post office. EDDM BMEU is for mailers who have a permit and enter through the bulk mail entry unit.

Since launching EDDM in April 2011, the USPS has been promoting it heavily with mailings to small businesses and by deploying its Business Solutions Specialists as an outside sales force. Though the USPS claims otherwise, it appears that the target audience for EDDM promotions was assembled at least in part from the ghost permits of commercial mailers.

In 2011, EDDM sales were $270 million; the goal for 2012 is $1 billion in sales according to USPS vice president of sales Cliff Rucker. To reach this goal, the USPS has expanded its list of target audiences, to include alliances with printers.

The mailing community is split on whether EDDM provides a benefit or is another example of USPS competition. Of interest, but not yet determined, is whether EDDM is truly bringing in new customers or whether the sales represent a shift from mail that would have been part of the mail stream anyway. There is also some concern that EDDM Retail may be enabling mailers who would have used a commercial mailer to move to do-it-yourself.

2nd Ounce Free

Effective January 22, with the rate increase, the USPS is allowing first class presorted and automation letters weighing up to two ounces to be mailed at the one ounce rate. This program is aimed at transactional mailings (such as bills, invoices, and statements) and enables mailers to include marketing, informational, or survey material at no additional postage cost. No registration is required, there is no annual minimum threshold, and no payment rebates are needed. The new pricing is for presorted mail only and does not apply to letters mailed at the single-piece rate or to residual first class mail from a bulk mailing.

A fact sheet on the 2nd Ounce Free program is available at https://www.usps.com/business/first-class-mail-for-business.htm. Look for the clickable link under the Calculate Business Prices bar.

2012 Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion

In July and August of 2011, the USPS offered a three percent discount on standard and first class postage for mail pieces containing a 2D mobile bar code—better known as a QR code. The purpose of the promotion was to demonstrate how mobile technology can be integrated in mail campaigns. According to the USPS report submitted at the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), customer participation far exceeded expectations. In the 2011 promotion, more than five billion pieces were mailed; generating a savings to mailers of $34 million.

The details of the 2012 program were announced in February 2012. The program will be held again in July and August and include first class and standard mail letters, cards, and flats; the discount has been dropped to two percent; the mail piece must include a call to action referring to the QR code; and the QR codes must link to a mobile-optimized website or a PURL. Only Intelligent Mail barcodes will be allowed (i.e., no PostNet) and the Statement of Mailing must be submitted through eDocumentation (Mail.dat, mail.xml, or Postal Wizard). Non-profit mailers can participate, but periodical mailers are excluded.

For the specifics on the program, including eligibility and registration requirements, go to https://ribbs.usps.gov/index.cfm?page=mobilebarcode. Registration begins May 1, 2012.

Nancy DeDiemar is a former chairman of NAQP and Printer of the Year. She is the co-publisher of Printips (www.printips.com), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy91762@gmail.com.

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