In this episode, I talked with the U.S. Postal Service’s Chlovize Washington, Senior Sales Mail Executive.
I welcomed the opportunity to connect with her as a representative from the USPS to find out more about their incentives program for using direct mail as well as other issues.
We discussed the benefits to mailers for using the six technologies in the USPS’s 2023 Promotions and Incentive Programs.
As Chlovize explained, USPS has created a new, 1-stop shopping portal to streamline the process of applying for mailings to be reviewed and approved:
Among the many topics we covered at length:
- Her background in the postal service
- The value of USPS Informed Delivery to mailers
- Getting started on political direct mail for 2024
- Why direct mail works
- Industry trends for the years ahead
Here are some questions and answers (edited for clarity and space):
- Let’s talk about USPS promotions. I love them because they’re all about pushing the envelope for new tech that makes direct mail more valuable to consumers and businesses. How many are running this year and what’s new for 2023?
Currently, we have six different types of promotions and what’s new right now is the Reply Mail, the IMbA [promotion], and that’s for First Class mail only, and it’s a 3% to 6% discount.
Also, another new promotion is Retargeting. That’s where let’s say you are on a website and you are interested in something and you put it in your shopping cart, but go all the way through. You may receive an email that says, “Oh, you left something in your shopping cart”. Well, let’s go a step further and send you a mailpiece with the coupon code just to get that customer to engage a little bit more and maybe even purchase a little bit more. And that is a savings of 5% discount.
- And I would love to just kind of do a recap of some of the ones that have been doing and explain a little bit about what they are.
We have a Personalized Color Transpromo, and that’s where you can get a 3% or a 4% discount. And what that is, it really benefits more like banks, credit unions, financial institutions. [T]hat’s where you have multiple colors on your information inside the mailer. Of course you wanna make it personalized. And we found that adding a personalized message creates a connection between the company and the individual.
Another promotion we have is Tactile, Sensory, and Interactive. The benefit of that is you really wanna engage the senses. So for example, I have this sample mail piece here and it actually has a little texture on it. And what I like about this piece, it has the hot sauce inside. It’s a scratch and sniff. Who doesn’t love that? It reminds me of being a kid when we have the scratch and sniff.
As a consumer, you can smell the hot sauce and be like, “Oh, that sounds like that would be really good”. So it’s a way to get your consumers to purchase more and a way to engage using the mail, because it’s visual too, as well as tactile. And that leaves a greater impression on the brain. So it’s more memorable.
And, so what we have now, we have the Mail Portal as another way to submit your mail pieces for review and approval. Whereas before, we would have an email, a separate email for each promotion, so now we just have a one-stop shop. And that’s our Mailing Portal. Now, you will have to still go on Business Customer Gateway and you would select incentive programs, and then once you receive an email saying that you have access to that, then you can go ahead and start the process.
And I wanna let the marketers know that they can find all this information on PostalPro. It has webinars, it has step-by-step, it has a checklist, just all the helpful information on how to walk you through each and every mailing promotion.
We wanna make it easier for our mailers cause I know for me, if it’s not easy, then I may not use it. And that’s the whole point. We want you guys to use it.
So the next one is Emerging Technology. And the promotion period is May 1st through November 30th. And that one, you can save up to a 3% discount. So with that you can add like a QR code.
And you can also do a Voice Assistant. I thought this was really cool. You can set up through Google or Amazon and you can direct your donors to give a donation. I just thought that was really cool to add and enhance your mail piece.
And then I was talking a little bit about the reply mail, the IMbA and so what the IMbA is that’s an automated solution where it does the counting and the invoicing and the building for you. So previously, we had a business reply mail clerk that would hand count those pieces. This takes out the human error, and it also speeds up the process. At the end of the promotions, the accuracy rate is much, much higher because it’s automated. And with that, you can save 3-6%. So that’s really good, especially if you’re going to use your BRM anyway.
And then this one I’m really excited about: Informed Delivery. That promotion period is August 1st through December 31st. Now, the great thing about Informed Delivery is that you can use it outside of the promotion period, and we found that with Informed Delivery, there’s a 72.5% email open rate and a 4.92% email click-through rate. So that’s more touches just on one mail piece.
So currently we have 54.6 million users. And another added benefit is that you can do a pre-campaign analysis and then you can do a post-campaign analysis. So that way you can really test to see how well your mailing campaign actually did as far as the return on investment.
You can also use a zip with your current mailing list to see how many people on that mailing list are already signed up. And you can see the average of what’s the potential opening rate of the people that have already signed up … so with the Informed Delivery discount, it is a 4% discount for that.
And that’s First Class mail and Marketing Mail. And you definitely wanna make sure that you add a ride-along image. And what that is, it’s an interactive element where when you see an image, you’re gonna receive an image on your phone or your desktop of what’s coming in your mailbox that day.
So let’s say you’re traveling, but you still wanna know what’s coming in your mail, or maybe you’re expecting something really important, you’ll be able to see that right then and there. You’ll be able to engage right then and there. So that’s why I love Informed Delivery.
- Let’s continue on and talk about political mail. 2024 will be here before we know it. So a question that often comes to people too is what do voters look for or think about when they see political advertising, all this direct mail that comes into their mailbox two months, three months before an election?
I believe the voters wanna know that the candidate cares about what they care about. And so how can the candidate get that message to the voters?
And like I mentioned before, the reason why I love mail is there’s a way to tell your story, right? So you can start off with a bio piece and just tell a little bit about yourself. And that can also bring a connection between the candidate and the voter. Another mail piece is an issue piece. Do you support the same issues that the voter supports? And then another piece may be a comparison piece. Why should you vote for me as opposed to my candidate? And then I think, adding that emotional engagement.
Just knowing like what’s on the table, what’s really hot, what could be a little polarizing, but how do you get that message across where you bring that connection between you and the voter? And we always recommend doing more than one piece. So having this variety of pieces is very helpful.
And of course you want to get out the vote. You also wanna have an advocacy piece. So what that is, like, you already, you may already have a list of supporters, so you can send information to them just to remind them like what you’ve done for them, what you’re going to be, what your plans are for the future.
You don’t wanna lose the advocacy. And so something that we also have is called Share Mail. And so with Share Mail …you can send maybe like five postcards to your advocate. And include maybe a note, like if you really support what we believe in, or you, you know, you like our message, send these out to five of your friends.
And then you as the mailer, you only pay for the mail pieces that are sent out. I mean, that’s why we have so much success on Yelp and other reviews. Because I know for myself, like I look at the reviews, I wanna see what other people think, what other people are saying. And then if it’s someone that I know, I’m gonna pay greater attention.
So it could be like in a booklet, similar to this. And then you have your breakout of your postcard.
Another level of direct mail that I wanna talk about is like what if you have a small budget and you’re like, I don’t even have a mailing list, but I want people to know who I am … you can use Every Door Direct Mail. And what I love about that is the cost right now is 0.19 cents.
Again, like I said, you don’t even need a mailing list. And the variety of sizes, the price doesn’t change. So the most common size is 6-1/2 by 9. But you can go as large as 8-1/2 by 11 or 12 by 15. And the price is still the same. So with that, can you imagine, I’m gonna go get my mail, and then I have this 8-1/2 by 11 mailpiece, that’s gonna stand out to me.
You can also do kinda like a newsletter. Doesn’t go over 3.3 ounces in weight. This will be considered Every Door Direct Mail 0.19 cents. It’s a really great way to get your message out there.
I also wanna remind, if you’re doing a political campaign, to use the Red Tag. This is not mandatory, but it’s highly recommended because as a post office, we have a staging area for the political mail … If we don’t have this Red Tag, your mailing may just kind of get, you know, loaded along with all the other pieces.
And a lot of times mailers may use Presort Standard as opposed to First Class. But we treat political mail the same priority as First Class mail, right? So you wanna make sure you have this Tag 57 to highlight that importance.
We also have Political [Mail] Notice. So with that, you can sign up. It’s an additional form of customer service. You’re letting the local post office know when you’re gonna drop your mail pieces, how many pieces you’re gonna drop, and you’re even gonna provide a sample. And how many times have you tried to contact somebody to find your missing mail piece and you’re like, I don’t know, who do I talk to? But the Political Notice is the perfect way to just add that additional form of security and customer service.
- So thinking about political campaigns, what kinds of things should anybody be doing, like in the next couple months, to plan and to start getting ready to have winning results for their campaign with direct mail?
Definitely Informed Delivery. We also have Informed Visibility, which is another way to track your mail pieces, right? You can actually see when it’s leaving your hands or the mailhouse and going to Susie Q’s address on this date.
I would also include the Share Mail and definitely start reaching out to those that are already supporting. You wanna start out with awareness and use data too, like voter demographics. Use that to see who is your target audience, who’s voted in the last election, who voted early, who’s maybe nonpartisan. That you might be able to impact as the swing voter. So it’s all just laying the groundwork with those types of pieces. And then I would say, to dovetail back to what you talked about before, the more impactful pieces can come later, the comparison pieces for example.
One other thing is I would say there’s probably like a ton of information for campaigns on USPS.com, but we also have a dedicated site for political mail.
We have white papers, case studies, and that’s on DeliverTheWin.com. We have two white papers now on the site, like how to reach the Latina voter, Black American voter, how to reach women voters, and how to stand out with millennials. We just have a lot, a lot of information.
- So talking about just direct mail in general, what would you say is the best value proposition? Why does it work so well?
I guess it depends on the end result. So let’s say you want to develop a loyalty program. So a value proposition, as an example, might be where you say that while most companies focus on new customer acquisition, they often overlook loyalty.
In most cases, they are leaving money on the table. As a general rule, 80% of companies’ revenue comes from the top 20% of their customers. It costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Then you can introduce that you have … ways to communicate loyalty programs for your company.
There’s so many ways that you can incorporate the mail with the Loyalty Pro program. I’ve seen birthday cards, special discounts on your birthday or anniversary that maybe you signed up as a subscriber, it makes you feel exclusive.
So just so many different ways to engage that customer. I know every time I get a Bath & Body Works coupon, even though I have a whole bunch of stuff already, I’m like, I gotta use it. I just have to use it. Too enticing when it’s a good discount.
- So what trends do you see unfolding from your point of view?
What I found interesting, I don’t know if it developed from the pandemic, but definitely I saw more of it: the resurrection of the QR code.
And so for me, I feel like the ongoing trend is that pairing of print with digital. I mean, we definitely wanna say, “don’t do digital”, but just incorporate the print if you have a greater variety of communication, it’s definitely going to leave a lasting impression on the brain with the consumer.
So that’s what I see. Definitely incorporating more digital and Informed Delivery is a great example of that.[M]ail is a way to cut through that digital clutter. Because also through the pandemic, I just get an onslaught of emails where I can’t even keep up. But with the mail, I’m gonna check my mail. Cause you have bills and so I’m gonna check my mail and I’m gonna look through it each and every piece. And looking for the piece that makes a difference.
Here is our conversation (with all questions and answers). We’ve added timecodes for your convenience.
Thanks very much, Chlovize, for sharing your perspective and your expertise! To learn more about USPS, visit their website at www.USPS.com.
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