USPS

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

You may or may not have heard about the recent postage update from USPS. If you haven’t, we’ll fill you in. The new maximum size for mailing First-Class mail postcards has increased from 4 ¼” x 6” to 6” x 9”. This means you can now send postcards as large as 6” x 9” at the postcard rate of $0.40. But – before you get excited, let’s dig a little deeper into this. As experts in the mailing industry, we’ll help you decide whether or not you should be taking advantage of this change, or if you should continue business as usual.

The USPS Update: The Facts

You may or may not have heard about the recent postage update from USPS. If you haven’t, we’ll fill you in. The new maximum size for mailing first-class postcards has increased from 4 ¼” x 6” to 6” x 9”. This means you can now send postcards as large as 6” x 9” at the first-class postcard rate of $0.40, 30% less than before the change! But – before you get excited, let’s dig a little deeper into this. As experts in the mailing industry, we’ll help you decide whether or not you should be taking advantage of this change, or if you should continue business as usual. 

The $0.40 per postcard price is the price you pay for simply dropping a card in the mail (no sorting necessary). However, if your quantity of cards exceeds 500, you’ll save more if you sort your cards. Why? Because the post office gives you a discount for doing some of the work for them. For first-class presort, you’ll pay between $0.30 and $0.35 per postcard, depending on how your mail sorts. The higher the density, the lower the price. 

You sort standard-class (bulk) mail the same way you sort first-class mail – and if you do, the cost for the same 6” x 9” postcard will run between $0.245 and $0.31. Again, the cost heavily depends on the density of your distribution. For instance, if you’re sending 500 postcards to one neighborhood, it will cost less than sending 500 postcards to several different areas around the country. 

Sorting your mailings and sending them standard-class will save you an additional 15% over the comparable first-class rate, a substantial amount for any large mailing. 

So, what does this all really mean for you, and what is the best choice for your mailing? 

The Perks & Problems of First-Class Mailing

So, here’s the “perks” of first-class mailing. With first-class, you can send impactful postcard mailings at an affordable price – to anywhere. There’s no 500-piece minimum, and there’s a 30% discount on regular first-class mail. You’ll know exactly what your postage rate is going to be at – $0.40 each. 

Quantities larger than 500 can be sorted and will likely get to your regional audience faster than they would with standard-class mail. You’ll pay roughly a 15% premium over the cost of standard mail to do so. 

With that said, the post office has yet to fully recover from issues related to the pandemic. Although we’re hopeful this will change over time and that it will return to its prior state, the possibilities are always in flux. Without knowing when things will return to “normal”, it’s hard to depend on mailing delivery times. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve experienced delivery time issues with first-class mail. For this reason, we’re recommending a “wait and see” approach with the post office as it applies to estimating delivery dates. 

Counter intuitively, for a company whose in-home date is important – the idea of first-class can be a bit of a trap, and even more so with pre-sorted first-class. The post office will often handle it in the same way as pre-sort standard-class. If in-home dates are important to your campaign and your mailing is large, then there are better ways to get more predictable in-home delivery and save money. 

Our Alternative

Since we’ve found some pitfalls in this new update – we’d like to share a little about Strata’s tools and tactics. For large mailings, we’re able to use standard-class mail and predict the delivery date plus or minus one day, in most cases. How? After years of experience, we’ve come to use alternative methods and have taken out several variables. These methods are not allowed by the USPS for first-class mail – only for standard-class mail. Therefore, most of our customers are better off sticking to standard. 

We don’t see us ever recommending this new program for large mailings. Standard mail will always cost at least 15% less, allows you to send many mail formats including even larger than 6” x 9” sized postcards for the same postage, and provides in-home date that will always be more predictable when using our methods. 

Conclusion

If you’re a local company and want to send out mailings in your region or have quantities of less than 500 – this sizing and pricing update is something you may want to take advantage of. 

If your in-home dates are somewhat less critical and you’re mailing regionally, then you may be able to get faster service at a somewhat higher postal rate and, again, may want to try this program. 

If you have non-critical in-home dates and your mailings are at quantities of more than 500, standard-class is always going to be less expensive, and you won’t see much difference in delivery times. 

For large mailings, first-class is less predictable and more expensive than optimized standard mail. Strata has standard down to a science for these bigger quantities. In all cases, standard service will still save you at least 15% and will provide you the option to send even larger cards and mail formats at the same rate. 

Consider this guidance when you’re thinking about taking advantage of this update in USPS services and deciding if it’s right for you. 

Interested in working with Strata to ensure your mailers get in-home when you expect them to? Give us a call. 

From QR Codes to Concise Copy

Direct mail trends can be difficult to forecast, and even harder to use correctly and efficiently. However, you’re in luck, because as direct mail experts, we’re providing you with the top 10 direct mail trends – from QR Codes to concise copy – that have and continue to dominate 2021.

1. QR Codes

In the last few years, QR codes have really built a name for themselves. Not only because of their quick, digital nature, and the 2% postage cost break that comes with them, but because of their data-backed effectiveness. When a QR code is included in a way that makes sense- it provides a time-saving benefit to the customer while letting the company lead their customer exactly where they’d like them to go.

Although the year 2020 was detrimental for most industries and marketing tools, the QR code flourished. During a time where we didn’t want to physically touch anything, QR codes made up for physical marketing pieces like menus, signage, print ads, and flyers, leading customers from physical to digital – and quickly. The more QRs were seen, the more used to them we became (similar to our newfound familiarity with masks and hand sanitizer). And they’re still going strong in 2021.

Like we said, QRs lead customers to wherever a company would like them to go. They can provide helpful information, send the customer to a website, or even lead them to purchase.

2. Postcards on the Rise

Envelopes – they’re great and all, but let’s be honest, they add a few seconds (at least) to the time it takes to open (and read) direct mail. These days, it’s often better to send a postcard due to its more creative, eye-catching nature and faster access to information. Making it easier to read your call-to-action can often make customers more likely to respond to an offer or even visit a website or landing page for more information. Plus, they’re lower in cost – which means a better chance of higher ROI for your campaigns. As you can see below, postcards pushed past self-mailers and envelopes this year by quite a bit.

3. B2B Dimensional Mailers

These fun, three-dimensional, interactive mailers are the perfect way to stand out and cut through the clutter of everyday mail. “On the B2B side, dimensional mail is working well; because we all receive so many packages today, prospects want to open it and see what’s inside,” says Grant Johnson, Owner and CEO of Responsory. Although more costly and demanding in terms of postal handling, dimensional mail has the best B2B response rate at 8.51%. Check out our blog on the best secrets to a successful dimensional mailer campaign to get started on your own.

4. Better Segmentation with Data

“Accessing 1st and 3rd party data to further segment an audience will continue to play a huge role in a DM campaign’s success. If you’re able to align targeted messaging and great creative with those different segments, then that’s a recipe for increased response rates. Furthermore, surrounding that DM send with a similar message/offer through various digital channels will only add to that campaign’s success. Being able to hone in on delivery dates and putting an emphasis on speed to market are big contributors to making a direct mail/digital integration program thrive.”

– Mike Efstathios, Business Development at ICS Corporation

Data, data, data. It’s all everyone can talk about these days – and for good reason. Enriching your data qualifies your audience, and in turn, increases your ROI. And, if your marketing strategy is multi- or omnichannel, the customer experience becomes even more successful. While better segmenting your data may cause your audience to shrink, it will definitely cause your engagement to grow. Like we always say – it’s better to target the right people than all the people.

5. Increased Personalization

88% of marketers recently reported seeing better campaign metrics after using personalization in their advertising. More than ever before, the need for marketers to make human connections is extremely relevant, and some may even say necessary. The majority of our population feels they’ve lost personal connections and relationships due to the pandemic. Because of this, 2020-2021 has been the time to make up for lost connections by personalizing materials to bond with your audience and make them feel seen, heard, and human. Check out our blog on the best ways to get personal, here.

6. Higher Response Rates

Since the beginning of 2021, we’ve seen a rise in direct mail response rates. Why? More time at home means more time to go through – and even pay attention to, mail. And as the trend of working from home and staying at home has continued and even increased, response rates don’t seem to be dwindling anytime soon.

However, high response rates don’t just come from people staying put. They come from quality tracking, targeting, design, and audience awareness. For more tactics to increase response rates, visit this blog.

7. Interactive Direct Mail

In today’s world, we’re surrounded by technology. And with all of this technology, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be incorporating it into our direct mail efforts. 2021 brought new technology and an abundance of data that empowers companies when targeting audiences and crafting content. Next time you’re sending direct mail – think about how far you can go with it. Can it include a scratch-off? A game? A free kit or item? A contest? It’s pretty limitless.

8. Digital Prompts

Direct mail isn’t only a way to reach customers, but an excellent way to reinforce online efforts. Simply use social icons, QR codes, or other prompts to send customers to social platforms, websites, menus, forms, landing pages – you name it! Marketers are definitely catching on to this direct mail tactic, as usage of digital prompts has doubled in the last four years. Take a look at the chart below to see how the use of digital interactions has increased.

9. Concise Copy

It’s one thing to know what you want to say, but knowing how to say it is the real key to direct mail effectiveness. Throughout 2021, we’re seeing shorter sentences, smaller paragraphs, fewer bullet points, and obvious CTAs. Your audience’s attention span is only so long, so catching the ears and eyes right away is crucial.

Below is a great example of how Amazon has practiced this and changed their copy to be more concise and clearer. Even at just a quick glance, the message is less overwhelming and more approachable.

Need some help with your direct mail copy? We’ve got a blog for you on ways to write action-inspiring content.

10. Investing in Direct Mail Tools

Although it’s not always top of mind, the right tools are one of the most important components of great direct mail. If you haven’t looked into or invested in marketing and data tools, you should be, because they can take your direct mail from general and stale to effective and exciting, and in turn, save you time and money. Instead of targeting the wrong contacts or using the wrong design elements, the right tools will ensure your mailer looks great and is sent to people who will actually open and engage with it.

Consider changing your format, ink, paper, or finish. Update your branding, content, or calls to action. Or, try technology like USPS Informed Delivery to reach consumers in a modern way.

So, there you have it! 10 effective direct mail trends that took off this year. If you’re interested in learning more about enhancing your direct mail, feel free to contact the experts at Strata. We’re happy to get you started with some great direct marketing materials.