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Consider these mailing trends to avoid postal angst

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Direct mail doesn't have to be a shot in the dark. There are number of steps that direct mailers can take to make their marketing efforts easier and more effective. Here are four:

1. Get smart with barcodes. Although most people probably won’t notice, their direct mail increasingly is sporting a clever and better barcode. It’s called the Intelligent Mail barcode, and it's a primary tool for tracking mail delivery and reducing the amount of undeliverable mail.

Early next year, all bulk mailers that want to achieve the best automation discounts will switch to the new information-packed barcode, but forward-thinking mailers already are coding up. The benefit? Dollar savings, as fewer pieces of mail come back “undeliverable as addressed.”

In addition, however, Intelligent Mail barcodes let mailers code and trace every piece of mail that enters the postal stream, down to the envelope. Services such as OneCode Address Correction Service also are integrated, allowing the Postal Service to automatically inform mailers of address changes electronically. This is good both for the environment and the bottom line.

2. Be a co-pal. Co-palletization combines trays of letter-size mailings onto the same shipping pallet, including trays of mail from different mailers. Once co-palletized, all the mail qualifies for a bulk mail center (BMC) or sectional center facility (SCF) postal discount.

Co-palletization cuts the Postal Service’s handling and distribution costs, allowing the USPS to charge less for mail entered at a BMC or SCF. All mailers that employ the strategy get the savings, not just large mailers. Mailers with as few as 5,000 pieces can achieve discounts for which they would not normally be eligible.

3. Go green. Look for green printing and direct mail production practices to gain strength. Because the relationship between printing and direct mail production companies often is symbiotic, they have a responsibility to help marketing managers choose products that minimize the environmental footprint.

Working with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)- and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)-certified production companies is just the start. Other steps that reduce environmental damage and waste include frequently purging mailing lists, using variable data printing to effectively target direct mail recipients and choosing lighter-weight paper stocks.

4. Get more and more personal. Direct mailers that find ways to personalize communications, either through variable data printing, customized micro-Web sites (also known as personalized URLs, or PURLs) or even simulated handwritten notes, continue to see better responses.

That’s why the friendly little sticky note will be a popular choice for those wanting to capture attention and maximize results. For example, according to Post-it Note manufacturer 3M Corp., in one test Bell Atlantic reported a significant boost in response from mail pieces adorned with a Post-it Note. Of 100,000 letters mailed, 10,000 featured the note, and that test group garnered an 18% increase in response compared with those who received the letter alone. Consider stickies if you want to convey a tidbit of information (a Web site, a phone number, a discount coupon) that can be saved long after the mail piece is tossed. Remember, too, that sticky notes can be personalized and printed in a variety of fonts that say, “Hey, check this out!”

Crystal Uppercue is marketing manager at EU Services (www.euservices.com). She can be reached at cuppercue@euservices.com.

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