After all, the losses have been mounting year over year primarily because of the volume of mail that continues to dramatically decline. But with every challenge comes new opportunity -- or perhaps better stated -- untapped opportunity.
In March of last year, the Postal Service initiated a soft product launch to attract small business by providing a streamlined and cost-effective mail product that serves the needs of small business owners. Every Door Direct Mail is a business-friendly offering that eliminates the need for special mailing permits, registration fees and marketing lists. And the program is gaining ground.
"We know of small business owners who would spend upwards of $600 or $700 a year to register and establish their USPS permit and purchase an address database without even having sent out a single piece of mail," said Lorne Counter, U.S. Postal Service Business Development Specialist.
Counter has been working throughout the region promoting the program at local libraries and community centers. He conducts a one-hour "Grow Your Business" workshop to help educate folks about the benefits of this program. There were nine in attendance at the Feb. 17 workshop at the Lynnwood library. Counter said that some of the sessions run between 25 and 30 participants, and often, it's the first time participants had even heard of the program.
The greatest appeal from a small business owner's perspective is the simplicity of the service. Processes are streamlined, target markets are based on each individual mail carrier route, and the price of 14.5 cents per piece is roughly a third that of a first-class letter. Combine this with the generous weight cap of 3.3 ounces (a first class standard letter is up to 1 ounce) and it's no wonder that some small business owners become enthusiastic.
"I like to share this concept with owners: easy in, easy out," said Counter. "There are no long-term or annual contracts. The minimum commitment is one mailing to one carrier route of the business owner's choosing. The maximum is daily distribution for this program is 5,000 pieces."
This program provides a low-cost, low-risk opportunity for a business owner to test the waters to see if the service will pay off. It also provides an alternative to the mix of advertising that is typically spread quite thin amongst Internet, electronic, print and mail.
"We've had reports from small business owners that indicated response rates up to 6 percent, which is great when you consider that traditional direct mail often times registers closer to 2 percent," Counter said.
He believes that the better returns are based on the refined target mapping and the fact that the business owners are closely connected with the community they serve.
I visited the Every Door Direct Mail website and tested the demo. It was easy to navigate, very intuitive and provided tools to assess the best approach to target a well-defined target.
In fact, the carrier routes can be identified individually or a business owner can map a radius to their location and then simply select who should receive the mailing. Your choices include active post office boxes, residential customers, business customers or even those served by rural route or contractors, which is not common in urban settings. The demo then calculates the estimate for the mail service.
Counter also mentioned partnerships with local UPS stores and Minuteman Press that will provide print services, delivery and pickup and filing of all paperwork for the small business owner. So it is possible for a business owner to set the entire mailing up with one visit to a local print shop.
Making it easier for small business owners to engage in direct mail advertising is a smart move. Perhaps it isn't the magic bullet to turn the fortunes of the Postal Service, but in just one year, 1.5 million pieces of mail were circulated in the Seattle Postal Service District under the program. And this was done without the benefit of splashy headlines or a massive marketing initiative.
To learn more about the Grow Your Business workshops, visit the U.S Postal Service website (www.usps.com) and click on the business tools tab. You can also check with your local postmaster to learn of the next workshop in your area.
Juergen Kneifel is a senior associate faculty member at Everett Community College in the business program. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
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