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Solutions to Cut Municipalities’ Costs

“We’re Listening” – Needing Solutions to Cut Municipalities’ Costs

Counties throughout the US are hearing the same refrain- CUT costs, Create a balanced budget. Cumberland County PA Commissioners have gone one step further. They have gone online asking residents to take a survey seeking input on cutting costs and improving county government.

Pet Licenses onlineIn looking at mandated pet licensing program, we have noted the substantial benefits to pet owners, and the pets as well as the safety of the general public. Looking from the county’s perspective at the efficiency of pet licensing programs, there is much room for improvement. The pet licensing process involves: notifying owners to license their pet, processing pet tag purchases, collecting and verifying vaccination data, remitting vaccination data to appropriate locality, inputting this data into a system, and easy, immediate access for administrators and Animal Control. For many municipalities this process is done piecemeal; it is time consuming, not efficient, there are inputting errors, no real-time reporting of revenues and licensing volume, and no easy access of data.

When calculating the municipalities’ expense for delivering this service; consider the tasks involved in the pet licensing process, and consider the cost to the pet owner for a tag ranges from $5- $25. Results realized by municipalities for providing this service, is a projected loss on each issued dog tag.

 Are You Listening? Attention Municipalities: “We have listened to our clients (municipalities/ counties) and developed Petztrack as an online solution to simplify and manage pet licensing and vaccination data within municipalities. We heard your pain and targeted ways to cut costs and deliver more effective services to your residents. Petztrack, an intuitive new web application to meet the ongoing pet licensing requirements of municipalities throughout Virginia and the US will save time and money, allowing employees to focus on critical work while reducing overall costs.”  ~ Vernon Berry, Vice President Sales & Marketing, BMS Direct

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Direct Mail as an Impulse Marketing Tool

Think QR codes for personalized coupons and 3D augmented reality experiences within catalogs pages.

Merging digital and physical advertising is going to be the new direction for growth in direct marketing. Mailers receive lower rates for sending direct mail that includes 2D barcodes with a call-to-action.QR code direct marketing

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been offering new programs to compete with cheaper digital channels and to reach consumers in an increasingly digital world and providing incentives to direct mailers to do business with them.

“Right now is a pivotal point for direct mail; it can do things it never did before. It can elicit an impulse buy,” says Gary Reblin, VP of new products and innovation at the USPS. “Direct mail was never viewed as [an] impulse tool at any point in history, but now it can [be one]. We’re trying to evolve the mail to have its place in a more digital and mobile society.”

Marketers must think differently to stay relevant and engage today’s oft-distracted, multichannel customers. Personalized mailings using database technology makes it more expedient to execute mailings, as flexible and easy as email, so marketers can make changes to campaigns in progress based on the results of conversion data and personalized target markets.

 “Marketers today are gathering as much data as possible on customers, taking that information to [compose] relevant communications, and using direct mail as the vehicle,” says Don Jarred, VP of production services at marketing services provider Epsilon.”

Here are 10 tips for clever direct marketing:

1. Deliver your message into the right hands

Consumers expect messaging to be relevant across channels, including direct mail. Marketers often have scores of data about customers and prospects and should use this information to avoid batch-and-blast messages.

“Direct mail is a great way for us to target consumers,” says Laks Vasudevan, director of acquisition at Discover Credit Card. “It’s our most targeted platform, and we use it as an opportunity to understand the consumer more.”

2. Make it personal

Combine transactional and profile data to make sure customers get a message that is right for them. Marketers also use predictive analytics to craft and send communications that they anticipate will do well with a particular individual.

“Analytics tools are essential to creating smart databases that can self-mine and identify”¦the responses [marketers] are looking for,” says Grant Miller, global VP of operations and product management at Pitney Bowes.

The USPS’s Reblin emphasizes that personalization is vital to the effectiveness of direct mail. “Direct mail still gives the consumer the idea to check out a product, unlike when they do a Google search and have to come up with the idea themselves,” he says. “But it has to be targeted to get the customer’s attention.”

3. Remember those special days

Triggers like birthdays are especially effective for connecting with customers on a personal level.

“Birthdays are very personal to all of us, and we like to have the personal touch by sending something in the mail,” says Kelly Cook, SVP of marketing at DSW. “A customer may love getting an email from us for fashion tips or to let them know about a triple points offer, but their birthday is different.”

4. Integrate direct mail with other marketing channels

Use direct mail as part of an overall messaging program that includes TV, radio, billboards, contact centers, and online.  Consumers are introduced to messaging through TV ads and billboards, but direct mail serves as the catalyst to drive sign-ups either via your call center or an online application.

“Direct mail is a critical part of a communication plan,” Vasudevan says. “But we believe that it’s important that we use multiple channels to close the loop.”

5. Plan holistically

When using direct mail as part of an overall multichannel effort, it’s essential to consider how each channel will impact the others. For example, adding QR codes to a direct mail piece is a great way to catch a customer’s eye, but if it leads to a website that’s not optimized for mobile, then it could turn customers off instead of spark a sale. Or, when using direct mail to encourage customers to go online and register for an event, the PURL (personalized URL) should lead directly to the sign-up page, not the brand’s homepage.

“Direct mail is no longer just a mail piece,” the USPS’s Reblin says. “If you want it to be more effective by integrating it with other channels, then you need to think about the whole experience.”

6. Use 2D codes wisely

Adding a 2D barcode such as a QR code can bring a static piece of marketing to life. During the 2012 political campaign season, politicians used direct mail pieces with QR codes to deepen the conversation with citizens. After scanning the codes, the recipient could watch a video of the candidate speaking on a specific issue, for instance.

“Mail is a great jumping-off point,” USPS’s Reblin says. “It can encourage people to go deeper to find out more.”

7. Push the envelope

Mailers are rethinking how to use the envelope as a marketing tool. Discover, for example, uses images of its cards on its direct mail envelopes. Its mailings go out when the brand is already running ads on TV, radio, and billboards, so the customer may be more likely to open it to see what offer Discover has tailored for them.

“Marketers should experiment with the envelope to get a customer to open it and not dispose of the mailing,” says Pitney Bowes’ Miller.

Using full color on envelopes has gotten easier to print thanks to new wrapping technologies, which build envelopes quickly and efficiently out of one roll of paper around the mailers” without driving up costs.

8. Think customer-first

As with all marketing, direct mail should be inspired by the customer. “Gone are the days of blanketing the universe with one offer,” Epsilon’s Jarred says. “We’ve become much more analytical and send creative that is backed by a real understanding of the customer.”

Demonstrating that understanding means that marketers must get back to basics: make sure their lists are current, their mailings are targeted, and their promotional offers are meaningful so their message will resonate with the recipient.

9. Increase production with new technologies

New innovations in ink jet technology make it easier and more cost effective for marketers to produce high-quality mailings and get them out quickly. With these innovations in direct mail production, the channel has more in common with email than it has in the past. Although, in general, direct mailers still plan ahead for campaigns, it’s easier than ever to test campaigns in progress and change them during the execution based on how recipients are responding.

Improvements in database integration can also help speed the mailing cycle without risking the personalized experience. “In the past you would print out a whole bunch of pieces and have them in warehouse ready to distribute, and then add envelopes,” says Pitney Bowes’ Miller. “New analytics tools allow you to sub-segment and fine tune your market, coming out of the blocks without requiring a lot of extra effort to identify your target market when you get into physical production,” he adds.

10. Marry mail and mobility

Consumers are used to getting direct mail pieces with coupons or toll-free numbers on them. Mobile offers ways to simplify both. Inspired by Google Wallet, this month the USPS is launching a new promotion to encourage mailers to send direct mail pieces with coupons that can be uploaded to a mobile phone.

The USPS is also encouraging marketers to add QR codes that feature click-to-call triggers. Recipients can scan the QR code and the phone number will automatically pop up on their phone. All they have to do is click to reach the company’s contact center. “This is a great way to solicit an inbound telemarketing response,” says Epsilon’s Jarred. “By allowing consumers to capture information more quickly, direct mail is staying nimble.”

 

Check out the details on these 10 tips in a recent article in Direct Marketing News by Dianna Dilworth

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10 Steps to Optimize Invoice Processing [Infographic]

Providing value to its clients has been a priority of BMS Direct. Utilizing their state-of-the art equipment BMS customers receive an advanced invoice processing service that delivers accuracy and productivity.  James E. LaPrade, Sr. President, BMS Direct explains the value to BMS clients.

“We have had a number of client requests over the years to outline how our invoice processing services increase efficiencies and reduce costs. This infographic simplifies the 10 steps BMS Direct utilizes during the production process to ensure our clients’ invoices and statements are processed in the most efficient manner.  As an added benefit, the utilization of our invoice processing services will increase cash flow for our clients. I look forward to learning how our services may help your organization.”

10 Steps for Optimizing Invoice Processing

10 Steps for Optimizing Invoice Processing

With regard to accuracy and efficiency, BMS Direct Vice President, Leif  Aagaard, Jr. explains the expectations of BMS customers,

“Over the years, the accuracy and efficiency of our invoice processing service has been refined to ensure 99.9% accuracy with each mailing. Our SSAE 16 compliance guarantees the privacy and security of your data while our state-of-the-art equipment ensures the most cost effective data processing services obtainable.”

For your convenience, we have also created the 10 Steps to Optimize Invoice Processing [Infographic] in a PDF file you can download. For additional information on our invoice processing services or to find out how BMS can help your organization please contact us.

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Traditional Direct Mail Statistics

Here’s a great article on direct mail statistics by Jean Grunert,  of Demand Media, some pertinent info for business mailings and some interesting stats.

comstock-gettyimagesAlthough all the attention in recent years seems to be on digital marketing, traditional direct mail remains a viable and profitable channel for many companies. Traditional direct mail offers a personalized method of communicating valuable offers to both businesses and consumers. Several direct mail statistics underscore its continued importance in the marketing mix.

Response Rates

A response rate refers to how many people responded to a direct mail offer. According to DM News, in 2012 the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4 percent for both business to business and business to consumer mailings, considerably higher than industry expectations. Envelope-sized direct mail letters achieve a 3.4 percent response rate when mailed to a house list, and a 1.28 percent response rate when mailed to a prospect list.

Amount Mailed Annually

According to the non-profit group 41 Pounds, in the United States the average adult receives 40 pounds or more of traditional direct mail each year. The average person receives 16 pieces of traditional direct mail per week. For every 16 pieces of direct mail marketing received, adults receive about 1 personal or business envelope. More than half of unsolicited direct mail is thrown out without being opened.

Cost Per Lead

The cost per lead is how much a company spends on a traditional direct mail program in order to achieve a lead or response. The 2012 Direct Marketing Association survey indicates that the average cost per lead across all channels is about the same. Traditional direct mail has an average cost per lead of $51.40 for a general mailing list and $54.10 for postcards. House lists lower the cost per lead to $19.35.

Production Statistics

Production statistics demonstrate the labor, time and expense in producing direct mail. The U.S. Postal Service website lists production costs as the cost to create, design, print and mail all aspects of traditional direct mail. The non-profit group 41 Pounds states that approximately 100 million trees are needed for the paper used in direct mail annually. Transportation costs for direct mail are approximately $500 million or more per year. The U.S. Postal Service estimates the costs of direct mail creative production at .20 cents per piece.”

http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/traditional-direct-mail-statistics-21263.html

 

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USPS Delays 5 day Delivery Plan

The U.S. Postal Service says it will delay plans to cut Saturday mail delivery because Congress isn’t allowing the change.    

The U. S. Postal Service said in February that it would cut back to five-day-a-week deliveries in August,  for everything except packages, as a way to hold down losses.

But a statement  from the Board of Governors notes that Congress has passed a spending bill that will continue the long-time prohibition against reducing delivery days.

As a result, the Board says it believes that Congress “has left it with no choice but to delay implementation” of the five-day-a-week plan.

Statement From the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors:

“The Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service met April 9th and discussed the Continuing Resolution recently passed by Congress to fund government operations. By including restrictive language in the Continuing Resolution, Congress has prohibited implementation of a new national delivery schedule for mail and packages, which would consist of package delivery Monday through Saturday and mail delivery Monday through Friday, and which would have taken effect the week of August 5, 2013.

“Although disappointed with this Congressional action, the Board will follow the law and has directed the Postal Service to delay implementation of its new delivery schedule until legislation is passed that provides the Postal Service with the authority to implement a financially appropriate and responsible delivery schedule. The Board believes that Congress has left it with no choice but to delay this implementation at this time. The Board also wants to ensure that customers of the Postal Service are not unduly burdened by ongoing uncertainties and are able to adjust their business plans accordingly.

“The Board continues to support the transition to a new national delivery schedule. Such a transition will generate approximately $2 billion in annual cost savings and is a necessary part of a larger five-year business plan to restore the Postal Service to long-term financial stability. According to numerous polls, this new delivery schedule is widely supported by the American public. Our new delivery schedule is also supported by the Administration and some members of Congress.

“To restore the Postal Service to long-term financial stability, the Postal Service requires the flexibility to reduce costs and generate new revenues to close an ever widening budgetary gap. It is not possible for the Postal Service to meet significant cost reduction goals without changing its delivery schedule – any rational analysis of our current financial condition and business options leads to this conclusion. Delaying responsible changes to the Postal Service business model only increases the potential that the Postal Service may become a burden to the American taxpayer, which is avoidable.

“Given these extreme circumstances and the worsening financial condition of the Postal Service, the Board has directed management to seek a reopening of negotiations with the postal unions and consultations with management associations to lower total workforce costs, and to take administrative actions necessary to reduce costs. The Board has also asked management to evaluate further options to increase revenue, including an exigent rate increase to raise revenues across current Postal Service product categories and products not currently covering their costs.

“The Board continues to support the Postal Service’s five-year business plan and the legislative goals identified in that plan which will return the Postal Service to financial solvency. The Board additionally urges Congress to quickly pass comprehensive postal legislation, including provisions that would affirmatively provide the Postal Service with the ability to establish an appropriate national delivery schedule.”

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Postal Service Announces New Delivery Schedule

The United States Postal Service announced plans today to transition to a new delivery schedule during the week of August 5, 2013, that includes package delivery Monday through Saturday and mail delivery Monday through Friday. The Postal Service expects to generate cost savings of approximately $2 billion annually, once the plan is fully implemented.

The plan to change delivery from six days a week to five would only affect first-class mail. Packages, mail-order medicines, priority and express mail would still be delivered on Saturdays, and local post offices will remain open for business Saturdays.

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Congressional Inaction Heightens Postal Crisis

Statement from Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe:

Postmaster General, Patrick Donahue

Postmaster General, Patrick Donahue

“The 112th Congress adjourned without having passed postal legislation. Such legislation could quickly restore the Postal Service to profitability and put the organization on a stable, long-term financial footing. This lack of action is disappointing.

The Postal Service has worked closely with the Congress over the past two years to advance a framework for a viable business model that will allow us to quickly respond to the evolving needs of our customers.

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Intelligent Inserter Improves Invoice Processing

Improving invoice processing services helps maintain integrity and consistency

intelligent mailing servicesMaintaining the tradition of utilizing state-of-the-art technology for its direct mail and invoice processing, BMS Direct, Inc. has recently installed the Bell & Howell Forerunner 13, the latest intelligent inserter.  This investment of $250,000 will improve the overall efficiency of its statement processing service by increasing the speed and reliability, moving toward ”zero defect processing,” and reducing costs.

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Seven Best Practices to Efficient Invoice Processing

ocr invoice processingSwift efficient transport of invoices for OCR processing is key to maintaining your cash flow. Linking invoices with purchase orders, avoiding duplicate payments and getting a quick return are primary to a well run system.

Experience shows there are seven best practices that will ensure invoices are processed swiftly, and you get paid on time. These practices will help your organization avoid collection problems as well as tighten internal controls surrounding invoice handling.

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Discontinuance of POSTNET Barcode

USPS files final rule to discontinue POSTNET barcode

The Postal Service filed its final rule on the discontinuance of the POSTNET barcode to go into effect on January 28, 2013.

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