Archive for the ‘Mail Delivery’ Category

If Discouraged, Try Something Different

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Day 5, Bill Ruesch recession-recovery diary

Dear Reader,

Some may wonder if I’ve been sitting on my hands the last two years. My previous blogs could lead you to that conclusion, but you’d be wrong. For a quarter century (doesn’t that sound painfully long?) I semi-specialized in direct mail printing. Most of my customers were either DM agencies or in-house marketing departments of companies communicating with their customers through the mail.

We all know what happened when the recession hit and companies en masse pulled back on direct mail. We could see it coming. The Internet was making promises of delivering tons of new business at a fraction of the CPM. The post office, thinking in government logic, decided to bump up their rates to solve their cash flow problems. This awful triad of recession-fear–the Internet rainbow–and postage costs all but killed direct mail.

I said we could see it coming and we could, but no one thought it would happen so fast. It was literally almost overnight. One day DM was thriving, the next, BOOM the bottom dropped out.

In an effort to prepare my business for the coming crash, I had already been looking in new directions. I asked myself what I love, and determined that I love books. Wouldn’t it be nice to help authors print books and get samples for my personal library in the bargain? Yes, but moving into new markets takes time. It requires making new connections, and building trust.

To shorten the time I decided to begin blogging. I reasoned that the Internet would provide me with a minimal cost platform. It does, but the competition for attention is overwhelming.  I read somewhere that 17 thousand new blogs are started every day–e v e r y day.  That’s over 6 million a year!

There are many, many Internet “gurus” that for a fee, promise to show you how to drive readers to your site and earn you more money than God while you are sleeping peacefully on your yacht. I don’t know about you, but I shy away from these kinds of promises. I may be old-fashioned, but I truly believe that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

The problem still remains, how do you make an impact on the Internet when the odds are so staggeringly against you? The answer for me is to keep chopping at the tree. No one knows how many cuts it will take before it topples, but for certain it will never come down if you don’t wield the ax.


 

Is Printing Injured, Maimed, or Dead?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Don't be so quick to place the marker.

The Internet has been buzzing with reports of the demise of printing. The book industry in particular has been all aflutter about The Kindle, The Nook, and iPad. Are they right? Have electronics finally won? Is printing dead?

I am old enough to remember all of the predictions of a paperless office. Computers were supposed to eliminate the need for paper. Instead, printing flourished at a time when the era of paper was sure to be over.

It is different this time. Although I think it is too early to write off printing, I do believe that the boom we saw with the advent of computers won’t repeat. The business climate has changed, not only for now, but also for the future. There are several reasons for this:

  • Direct Mail Advertising has been wounded–not fatally, not yet.
  1. The first arrow to strike was postal charges. Unfortunately, the post office has a blind spot when it comes to pricing. They don’t understand that there is a direct correlation between rising prices and declining customers. The higher stamps cost, the more people turned away.  The US post office has been the greatest friend email could ever have.
  2. The second arrow was the Internet. Websites provide options that ink on paper can never duplicate and at incredible prices. Electronic advertising has eliminated much of the need for media. No paper. No ink. No presses.
  3. The third arrow was the recession. Companies of all sizes hunkered down behind walls of cash refusing to spend until the customers were ready to buy. The customers, of course, having lost jobs, having had salaries decreased, and in a tightening credit market find themselves unable to buy. It’s what is known as (with apologies to our neighbors south of the US) a Mexican standoff. Where were the easiest places to cut their budgets? Printing, particularly direct mail.
  4. The fourth arrow is book readers. Book readers are coming on strong. I myself, love books. I have a well-stocked home library, but there are books I can get free and others that I would like to be more portable. I, the defender of printing, will get a reader for myself. Actually I already have one in my iPhone, but every book bought electronically is a book that isn’t printed.
  • Form Printing and Envelopes have taken one to the chest.
  1. Nearly everyone uses on-line forms to pay bills, buy something, or get credit. It’s quick, user friendly, and no one has to buy a stamp or wait several days for delivery.
  2. The changes is bill paying greatly reduce the need for envelopes. From the millions upon millions of envelopes purchased by the financial industry alone to a bare trickle.
  • Catalogs, Newspapers, and Magazines are dropping dead in their tracks.
  1. Pundits warned us of the paperless office, but they didn’t tell us about the paperless home. Who could have predicted a family breakfast scene without the father figure sitting behind the daily news? Oh sure, we still have many of the same magazines, but their page counts are down to half or more. And their sell price has gone up. They raise prices and just as surely decrease buyers.
  2. Catalogs are experiencing the same problems as magazines. It costs too much to mail, so they reduce their page count. The point where catalogs split from magazines is the Internet. Newspapers and magazines have served for hundreds of years as paid information sources. Information on the Internet has been free. People expect the Internet to be free and therefore they are unwilling to pay. Catalogs never had, and never will have a paid subscriber base.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Printing has changed and many of the changes are permanent. All that being said, I’m optimistic about the future. There are innovations introduced all the time to make printing, better, cheaper, and faster. The Internet for all its puffery and bluster has been proven to be less effective than direct mail as an advertising medium. Yes, you can get a great CPM (cost per thousand) but there is such a massive overwhelm that customers have learned to tune the advertising out. If you want a buyer to pay attention to your message, put something in their hands.


 

My Beef with the Post Office

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Ire at the post office isn’t a new thing, but it seems to me that in recent years they deserve it more. I attended a postal conference where I sat at a table with higher level post office managers. At the time I had been involved in a direct mail project that had such little response that we questioned whether it was actually mailed. So I asked, “Is it possible that the mailing didn’t go out?”

“Not likely,” I was told, but “anything could happen.”

Really? I was taken aback. “What about the mail carriers creed, ‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds?'”

“Well, that really isn’t the post office motto, it is just an inscription written on the General Post Office building in New York City.”

“So what is the post office’s obligation to deliver the mail?”

“To use our best efforts in processing and delivering in a timely manner.”

“And if the mail doesn’t deliver at all, what recourse does the injured party have?”

“None.”

“You mean my customer spent over $15,000 in postage, which we strongly suspect went awry or somehow undelivered and they can’t even get their money back?”

I suppose proving mis or un delivery is the bugaboo. Just a terrible reponse doesn’t prove anything. We can say that the list was carefully selected. We can say that the package was attractive and inviting. We can say that the offer was good, but none of that constitutes proof. We offered to go to the post office and search to see if we could find the pieces, of course, that wasn’t allowed. The only course of action really allowed was to sit and stew.

If you haven’t noticed, the post office got a pass on postage rates a couple of years ago. What that means is that whenever they want to raise rates they don’t have to go before a government regulatory agency and prove why they need it. The result? Every year since the cost of postage has gone up, and the service–well how has your service been–noticeably improved?

This News Release was issued by the post office March 20, 2009. Release No. 09-028

Postal Service Continues Aggressive Steps to Cut Costs

Closing administrative offices, eliminating positions, offering early retirements

WASHINGTON — With no signs of economic recovery in sight, the U.S. Postal Service is taking bold actions in response to its ongoing financial crisis. Today the Postal Service announced it would be closing six of its 80 district offices, eliminating positions across the country and offering another early retirement opportunity. These actions are expected to save the Postal Service more than $100 million annually.

The six offices closing — located in Lake Mary, FL; North Reading, MA; Manchester, NH; Edison, NJ; Erie, PA, and Spokane, WA — house only administrative functions and will not adversely affect customer service, mail delivery, Post Office operations or ZIP Codes. The functions of these six offices will be assumed by 10 district offices within close proximity.

Additionally, administrative staff positions at the district level nationwide are being reduced by 15 percent. More than 1,400 mail processing supervisor and management positions at nearly 400 facilities around the country also are being eliminated and nearly 150,000 employees nationwide are being given the opportunity to take an early retirement.

In the past year the Postal Service has taken very aggressive cost-cutting actions, including:

  • Cutting 50 million work hours;
  • Halting construction of new postal facilities;
  • Negotiating an agreement with the National Association of Letter Carriers that adjusts letter carrier routes to reflect diminished volume;
  • Freezing salaries of all Postal Service officers and executives;
  • Instituting a nationwide hiring freeze;
  • Reducing authorized staffing levels at postal headquarters and area offices by at least 15 percent;
  • Selling unused and under-utilized postal facilities;
  • Adjusting Post Office hours to better reflect customer use; and,
  • Consolidating mail processing operations.

The Postal Service is streamlining operations and improving efficiencies across the board in order to protect its ability to provide affordable, universal mail service. By modifying networks, consolidating functions and restructuring administrative and processing operations, the Postal Service is adapting to meet the evolving needs, demands and activities of its customers.

My question is if they have found ways to save $100 million dollars a year, do we get a decrease in postage? I wouldn’t count on it. What I would count on is in May of 2010 there will be more increases.


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© Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.