Direct mail is a highly effective and cost-efficient marketing tactic. Of course, every dollar you can save improves its ROI. The first place marketers look for savings is printing; however, your most significant savings come from postage. It is not uncommon for postage to account for 70% of a direct mailer’s cost.
Among the preferred Shutterfly Business Solutions strategies for reducing postage costs is utilizing direct mail promotions from the United States Post Office (USPS). They save marketers three to six percent off postage costs — but using them isn’t without risks and critical considerations.
Shutterfly Business Solutions, one of the largest direct mail partners in the country (and advisor to the USPS), can provide an expert’s view of using USPS direct mail promotions.
What are USPS direct mail promotions?
Every year the USPS creates a promotion calendar for direct mail. Their goal is twofold. They want marketers to adopt new ideas to make the medium more effective. Second, the USPS wants direct mail to remain a relevant channel. Let’s be transparent; direct mail generates a large portion of their financial revenue. Some articles say direct mail accounted for 23% of all USPS revenue in 2019.
To persuade marketers to be progressive with their direct mail, the USPS provides postage discounts. These often range from four to six percent.
In this post, we’ll cover the basics for each 2023 direct mail promotion and provide links to specific programs. You can also find the latest USPS direct mail promotional programs for First Class® and Marketing Mail® here.
Why are postage savings more important than ever for direct mail marketing?
Traditionally, the direct postage rate sees a general increase of approximately 1.5% to 2% yearly. Not anymore. The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) is in the middle of its current 5-year rate authority. Now, and for the next three years, direct mail postal rates could have double-digit increases each year.
The best defense against these postage increases is utilizing USPS direct mail promotions.
It’s impossible to predict what the subsequent 5-year rate authority will look like. The double-digit increase could continue, or we could return to modest rises. In either scenario, it’s wise to take advantage of any and all sensible savings.
How Does the USPS Choose Direct Mail Promotions?
The USPS knows mail. When it comes to marketing through direct mail, they turn to the experts at the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC).
As the USPS explains, the MTAC provides advice and recommendations on matters concerning mail-related products and services in order to enhance customer value and expand the use of these products and services for the mutual benefit of mailing industry stakeholders and the Postal Service.
MTAC members are the best brains in direct mail. It’s an elite group, and we’re proud that Shutterfly’s Chris Thompson is a veteran member. He and the committee meet four times a year to advise the USPS on direct mail promotions.
What are the USPS direct mail promotions for 2023?
Each year the USPS publishes a calendar of its direct mail promotions. There isn’t a set release date for making these calendars public. However, expect to see the final version to be released late in the year. The 2023 calendar was released in December 2022.
The 2023 USPS Direct Mail Promotions Calendar includes six opportunities and when they are available.
1. Tactile, Sensory, and Interactive (5% discount)
February 1 through July 31: New developments in papers and paper stocks, substrates, finishing techniques, and inks can be incorporated into mail pieces to create a multi-sensory experience through special visual effects, sound, scent, texture, and even taste! Get the 2023 Tactile, Sensory, & Interactive Guidebook.
2. Personalized Color Transpromo (3% – 4% discount)
February 1 through July 31: Highlight marketing messages through color, dynamic variable print, and personalization. Color messaging incorporated in bills and statements enhances the value of First-Class Mail® pieces. Get the 2023 Personalized Color Transpromo Guidebook.
3. Emerging Technology (3% – 4% discount)
May 1 through November 30: Send a mail experience that excites customers by connecting mailpieces with the latest digital technologies to boost brand awareness, show off features, highlight information, send offers, or engage customers. Get the 2023 Emerging Technology Guidebook.
4. USPS Informed Delivery® (4% discount)
August 1 through December 31: Enhance the mail experience nationwide by providing eligible residential and personal PO Box™ consumers with a digital preview of their household’s mail. Get the 2023 Informed Delivery® Guidebook.
5. Reply Mail IMbA™ (3% – 6% discount)
July 1 through December 31: By adopting Intelligent Mail® barcode Accounting (IMbA), Qualified Business Reply Mail™ (QBRM™), and High Volume QBRM™, customers improve visibility, while also delivering easier payment methods and delivery speeds. Get the 2023 Reply Mail IMbA™ Guidebook.
6. Retargeting (5% discount)
September 1 through November 30: Triggered automatically by digital interaction, retargeted direct mail is a dynamically printed, targeted message sent in a timely manner to a customer’s home via First-Class Mail® Postcard. Get the 2023 Retargeting Guidebook.
What are the risks of USPS business incentives?
There is a right and wrong way to take advantage of USPS direct mail promotions. Do it wrong, and you get nothing. So take heed; while the promotions are generous, the USPS is not forgiving if you don’t follow their steps correctly.
You must register BEFORE taking advantage of a USPS direct mail promotion. To qualify, you must register for the specific program and state how your direct mail piece qualifies. Do not think you can register retroactively. You will never be reimbursed by the USPS if you weren’t registered before sending out direct mail pieces.
While registering isn’t complex, it isn’t always easy. Like working with the Internal Revenue Service, the USPS is a government agency. Knowing the process, rules, regulations, and players can make things go smoothly. Registering is one of the significant advantages of working with a direct mail partner like Shutterfly Business Solutions.
Tips for using USPS direct mail solutions
Budget: Never lose sight of your direct mail budget.
This happens a lot. Clients see discounts. Clients make changes to qualify for discounts. Clients end up spending more than they saved with the discount. Some opportunities, such as the 2023 Personalized Color Transpromo discount, are easy. It doesn’t cost any more money to implement, and design file changes are minimal. Conversely, some options for the Emerging Technology promotion are very expensive to create and implement. You’d likely spend more than you are saving. So always, always, always look at the bottom line of using the promotion versus not using the promotion.
Plan: Outline your direct mail creative in advance.
In many cases, it is costly to alter direct mail creative enough to meet the USPS promotion criteria. It can also make a piece feel forced. Instead of trying to change after the fact, we suggest examining the direct mail promotional calendar at the start of the year. Identify ideas that make sense, and ask your creative team to incorporate them in the initial concepts. You’ll find the final piece is almost always better, and the strategy is greatly improved.
Strategize: Focus on the primary goal of your direct mail campaign
Sometimes, companies will chase savings at the cost of the strategy. They can get so caught up in adding functionality to the direct mail piece that they never consider if it hurts the original purpose. If you are not careful, you can create a direct mail piece with a splashy augmented reality brand experience that overtakes the original purpose — fast lead generation.
Partner: Work with professional direct mail experts
We’ve identified some of the most common ways that USPS direct mail promotions can create a negative outcome. But there’s a lot more. Working with a seasoned direct mail partner like Shutterfly Business Solutions is the best way to avoid mistakes. As mentioned, we work directly with the USPS creating these programs. What’s more, we’re not just a direct mail provider. We’re also a direct mail user. While we’re advising you, we also put our guidance into practice with all Shutterfly shipments. We’re unique in seeing the direct mail program from three distinct perspectives (shapers, advisors, users).
Improve your direct mail program with Shutterfly Business Solutions
The strategic integrations of USPS direct mail promotions will play a big role in lowering your postage costs and improving performance. They really do push marketers into using direct mail in all new ways.
As powerful as it is, USPS direct mail promotions are just one solution. Shutterfly Business Solutions has thousands more that are ready to deploy. Using our expertise, scalability, nationwide presence, and massive Shutterfly platform will maximize your communications.
Capitalize on Shutterfly Business Solution resources and workflows to solve your communication challenges.