A story in today's Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Postal Service is looking to "junk mail" as its salvation. Certainly something must be done to keep the U.S. mail moving, as the Postal Service continues to rack up huge losses. Even eliminating Saturday deliveries doesn't seem to be enough, according to reports.
But junk mail -- officially called "standard mail" by the Post Office -- is seen as a way to keep the huge machine operating even as first class mail volume continues to drop. First class volume declined by 7 percent from a year ago, and it has dropped by more than 30 percent from ten years ago.
Looking at the mail that comes into the office every day, I see almost all of it lately is what we would consider junk mail. I still do get some payments and bills by mail.
Other than that, however, I get very little of real importance in the mail anymore. Almost all business correspondence is now via email. Some magazines that used to come in the mail now arrive via email, and m more of my vendors are now sending their invoices via email.
Sorting through the mail used to be an interesting part of the daily routine. Now, it's pretty dull as I quickly sort through a few flyers and irrelevant catalogs. Today I put aside the new Dell flyer, just to look at later for fun to see what's new and how cheap the stuff is becoming. But thinking about all the mail I've received this week, the Dell flyer may just be the highlight.
And here's the Postal Service encouraging businesses to send out more "junk." Most of it will simply become more paper to go -- unread -- into the recycling bin.
The challenge for marketers using mail is to make the content as interesting as possible. Great pictures and graphics can be a big first step in avoiding the trash can. But once you get past pretty pictures or exciting graphics, there's got to be some reason for me to open the piece and look through it.
If there's real content -- not just sales hype about a product or service -- but other information that might give me an idea or help me save time or money, I may stop and read it.
Some direct marketers are doing this already. The Postal Service itself has a piece I see periodically that talks about ways smaller businesses have found new business by using "solutions" from the post office. I can't recall the name of the piece, but it looks and reads more like a magazine than an ad flyer.
Pendaflex, the office filing folks, have material that goes beyond the simple catalog or flyer. It shows interesting ideas for keeping organized and the graphics are inviting, especially when you consider they're talking about mundane things like file folders.
So the challenge for marketers goes far beyond getting the material into target hands. The post office will happily help with that part of the process, and with new rules and incentives outlined in the Wall Street Journal article, that process can now be a bit easier and less costly for businesses.
The real challenge is in getting the target consumer to actually open and look at the piece. And that still comes down to creating content that is inviting, informative and relevant.
So, be warned. Clear out your IN box because more "standard mail" will be coming your way. For the smarter marketers, their portion of the new deluge will go to places other than the trash bin.