8 Easy Steps to Fix the U.S. Postal Service
It looks like the USPS is back in the news again: The five-day workweek issue has reared its ugly head. The post office is claiming that declining revenue from reduced mail volume is the culprit.
The USPS bit the hand that fed it way too many times with its rate increases. It drove some mailers completely out of the market and others to look at alternative methods of customer acquisition and retention. Loosely translated, it helped many marketers shift their dollars to the internet — to the point where I'd hope that the folks from Google sent the USPS a thank-you letter.
If Postmaster General John Potter and the post office want to get out of this mess, they need to take action. Now, I’m not naive enough to assume that my prescriptions to heal the USPS are alone a cure, but hey, it’s a start.
So here in simple form even a government-run bureaucracy can understand are eight ways the post office can increase revenue:
- Do everything in its power to seek out the customers it lost and woo them back.
- By wooing them back, I mean come up with ways for these lost customers to lower their postal costs to the point where they can mail profitably again.
- I love the concept of mail sales and discounts; keep that stuff up.
- That said, don’t make the rules so hard and the criteria so restrictive that the average mailer doesn’t get to take advantage of sale prices.
- Create promotions for smaller companies. When I say smaller companies, there are two kinds I'm referring to: companies that stopped mailing when prices went up, and companies that don’t mail because they get sticker shock looking at postage and printing costs.
- Get postal ambassadors out to all local and national direct marketing groups and clubs, plus internet/social media clubs, to promote the heck out of small business discounts, first-time mailer discounts and so on.
- Have those same representatives of the USPS start teaching more companies how to do direct mail “by the book.” I know they do some of this now, but it’s not nearly enough. Focus on analysis — the 40/40/20 principle and how to do mail right.
- Attracting new mailers and winning back smaller ones will eventually create larger mailers.
The bottom line is the USPS has damaged its image, and it needs to rehab it. It must create products marketers can grow with using direct mail, promote the heck out of them on a national and grassroots level, and it'll eventually get volume and revenue back.
Jim Gilbert has been creating direct marketing programs that drive superior ROI for almost 30 years. Fluent in consumer or B-to-B, creative, operations, and analytics, he marries the strategic and tactical sides of direct and social media marketing in a seamless fashion that gets results. He's CEO of a multidiscipline direct marketing agency, Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., which focuses on direct mail, catalogs, DRTV, telemarketing, print, alternative direct marketing media and social media marketing. Jim has been involved in start-ups, expansions and turnarounds, and is an expert in helping multichannel marketers get to the "next level." He's a former adjunct professor, teaching direct marketing at Miami International University, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim loves to talk direct marketing, and has done many lectures on direct and social media marketing.