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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Apr 11, 2017 8 min read

Direct Mail Gets An Upgrade From The USPS: Digital Marketing Plus Or Minus?

Whether Youre Doing Inbound Marketing Or Demand Generation, This Should Get Your Attention

InformedDelivery.pngIt’s called Informed Delivery™ and it’s a new service from our friends at the USPS. The way it works is participating consumers receive an email containing grayscale images of the outside of their household’s letter-sized mail pieces that will be arriving soon.

The U.S. Postal Service is calling this an unprecedented opportunity to engage users through an integrated mail and digital marketing campaign that generates additional consumer impressions, interactions and insights.” I’m looking at this from both sides (their side and the direct marketer’s side), but I’m also looking at this from the consumer’s side. This might just be my opportunity to block all that unwanted junk mail.

Here we go.

From The Consumer’s Perspective

If this goes well, I’ll know what’s in my mailbox before I even get there. This appears to have some positive and some negative implications, depending on your perspective. First, if I’m waiting for something important (like my new passport or IRS refund check), it sounds very positive.

If this service is going to evolve into a form of ad blocker and I’ll be able to reroute mail I am not interested in receiving back to the sender and/or potentially block unwanted mail from ever making it to my mailbox, that also sounds potentially interesting to me. This might require a third-party application because I’m not sure it’s in the best interest of the USPS to offer this. However, it doesn’t seem like science fiction to me.

The USPS shouldn’t care if I block mail or not. They still received the postage to deliver it and if I block it that means their carriers would have less mail to deliver and they would have still received the postage. This puts the pressure on mailers to stop mailing people who block mailings and to maintain the efficiency of their direct mail programs.

From The Marketer’s Perspective

Informed Deliverty Marketing TacticI can see how marketers will like this initially. It’s going to look like additional impressions, and digital impressions to boot. They’ll get better data on the impressions and be able to use those impressions to better support the ROI of direct mail.

Marketers will start leveraging the real estate on the mailer to drive additional messaging and even to take action, like I described above. I might now read the mail, but if I see the image in my inbox and like what the images says, I could potentially click or visit a URL from that image to see what’s included in the mailing.

As I mentioned above, blocking mail is one of the potential outcomes from a service like this. As a marketer, you could look at that as Armageddon and the death of mail, but you could also look at it as an efficient way to cut out anyone not open to getting marketing messages via the mail. Now marketers won’t have to waste money mailing to people who are not responsive and they can focus on those who read mail, respond to mail and invite mail into their world.

Let’s be open and honest about our marketing tactics and not pretend that people are still watching TV commercials, viewing print ads in magazines, clicking on banner ads and happy about our unsolicited mail or email. Let’s ask our audiences how they want to be marketed to and then let’s design campaigns that match their preferences.

From The USPS’s Perspective

You have to look at this from the USPS’s perspective. Good for them to finally start innovating the U.S. mail system. While I think the U.S. mail is still an amazingly efficient way to get paper from one place to another, it needs an upgrade. Making my mailbox digital is a great place to start.

If they’re looking for additional revenue opportunities (and they should be), giving me extra services I can purchase that might make my mailbox a little less cluttered is right up my alley. I pay extra for the commercial-free version of Hulu, so why wouldn’t I pay the USPS extra to cut out all my unwanted junk mail?

What Should You Do Next?

Are you ready to go all-in on direct mail again? Slow down John Wayne, not so fast. While this might seem interesting, it’s still too early for me to suggest this is a better way to target people in their homes. Basic human behavior is not going to change. I’ll still walk out to my mailbox, sort through the mail and toss everything that’s not a bill or a personal note into the recycling box before even getting back inside.

If consumers see these images in their email box, are they more likely to hold onto the mail when they get home, or are they more likely to throw it out without even looking at it because they already saw it? We know people have a limited attention span online and are constantly distracted by email popups, website pages and advertisements.

The process of signing up was problematic. The post office attempted to verify my identity and appears to have confused an old work address with a residential address, thus making it impossible to sign up online. Now I have to go into one of two local post offices for offline identity matching. I like that they’re trying to reinvent and innovate a prehistoric industry, but this might need more testing before its ready for primetime.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.