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Jan 27, 2014 12:00 AM
Other channels are out there, competing against us. The sales and marketing teams for newspapers, television, radio and digital—they’re all out there, calling on the people who make marketing decisions. They’re telling their stories about how they can attract and retain customers. If we want to win over that marketing manager—or that business owner—we have to talk about our story. We have to talk about the power of mail. We have to talk about why mail is different from other channels. We have to talk about why we deliver such a strong return on investment. And we have to talk about how mail is evolving and becoming better integrated into other technologies.
FOUR KEY AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY
Over the past year, I’ve been speaking about four key areas of opportunity that capture some of the most critical changes:
The first has to do with making mail more personally relevant. There is a tremendous convergence of data and technology occurring in the marketplace. Marketers have really deep insights into individual interests. Those insights need to be reflected in mail as much as they are in online communication. If you receive mail that reflects your interests, you will spend more time with it. You may save it for several days. You will be more likely to act on it…. We need to be sparking conversations about the potential to use mail to deliver more personalized content.
The second area of opportunity relates to making mail more actionable. Every marketer strives to reduce the steps needed to make a purchasing decision. In the digital world, you try to reduce the number of clicks. We have to get into that game.
We need to accelerate the speed to purchase. If you see something in a catalog or a postcard, you should be just one or two clicks away from making that purchase with your smartphone or tablet and having it delivered to you. If we make mail more actionable, it becomes more valuable. We are seeing a lot of promising experimentation in this area, and we are trying to speed up that integration with smart devices. It’s simply a matter of marrying the data and the technology. We’re all heading in this direction and can drive growth throughout the industry, so look for advances and updates, and think about how this might impact your business.
MAIL MUST BE INTERACTIVE
A third area of opportunity is about making mail more functional. The amount of technology that can be embedded in mail is growing very quickly. QR codes are just the simplest example. Mail should be able to interact with smartphones and smart televisions. If you get an offer from your bank, you should be able to tap your phone and connect with a representative. If you get a menu from a local restaurant, you should be able to tap a device and get a reservation or a carry-out order. These kinds of technologies are being developed, and they will be powerful. Most importantly, they will dramatically improve the value of mail for both the sender and receiver.
The fourth idea is this: We need to make mail more creative. Mail that stands out gets attention. People spend more time with mail if it’s creative. You know what’s interesting? A single piece of mail doesn’t compete for your attention with the Internet or whatever’s on your television. It only competes against whatever else is in the mailbox. Creativity gets attention. Mail should be more colorful. It should carry more images. We see a tremendous amount of creative energy at work in the digital arena. Our industry needs the same focus on creativity.
The Postal Service is pushing hard to facilitate the development and use of new technologies. We want people to use their smart devices when they interact with mail. The more we can bring mail and the digital experience together, the more opportunities we create for people to buy your product, or donate to your cause, or enhance your message, and that leads to better value for your organization.
There are tremendous opportunities to drive growth if we make decisions as an industry and if we quickly adopt best practices. We always preach about the power of integrated marketing campaigns. New uses of data and technology will tighten that integration, making marketing much more effective and giving mail a more important role in marketing campaigns. This is why the Postal Service is investing in digital solutions and looking at new product platforms such as secure digital messaging. It’s all about investing in the future.
ESSENTIAL BUSINESS MODEL CHANGES
The Postal Service has accomplished quite a lot over the past few years to build a more efficient mail processing network, to upgrade our tracking capabilities and other systems, and to improve core offerings. We’ve been very successful in driving costs down while maintaining record high levels of service. There aren’t many organizations out there that I know of that have reduced the size of their workforce by more than 200,000 employees and reduced their annual cost base by $16 billion—all while functioning at a high level. We are a strong organization that accomplishes amazing things every day. Unfortunately, we cannot break the cycle of financial losses without comprehensive changes to our business model. I’m hopeful that Congress will be able to pass a bill this year that puts us on a sustainable financial path. It’s hard to say what the final legislation will look like, but the important thing to know is that it will reduce the pressure to raise prices.
THE RIGHT LEGISLATION
Our industry suffers every time the Postal Service puts out a negative quarterly earnings release. Our financial losses are a dark cloud that hangs over the mailing industry. Unfortunately, only Congress can fix our business model and get rid of that dark cloud. If the right kind of legislation is passed, the Postal Service will be in solid financial shape for the next decade. I believe we will see a big shift in perception about the future of our industry when that happens.
POWERFUL MARKETING CHANNEL
We are an $800-billion industry that delivers enormous value to the American public and American commerce, and we provide a powerful marketing channel for America’s businesses. With a financially strong Postal Service at its core, and by effectively leveraging data and new technology, mail will be that much more powerful and competitive with other marketing channels.