Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Visit to the Post Office

Last week I took a visit to our local SCF. It wasn't like I had a particularly large package to deliver...they were offering a tour (and offering BBQ). While the prospect of spending a couple of hours watching mail being sorted would run many people screaming towards the hills, it actually warmed the cockles of my DM-loving heart.

While we've all heard about the post office running big deficits - and the email marketers among us snarking about how "snail mail" is really just a Dead Man Walking - the visit was jarring on a couple of levels.

First off...there are no young people working at the Post Office (at least at this SCF.) To call the staff here "veteran" would be an understatement. It looks as if the Post Office' seniority-based employment model has resulted in lots of older folks behind the machines. Not that this is a bad thing but hey, these people are going to retire soon. Who's going to come in and lead the next generation of workers?

Second...there's way too many Post Offices. Maybe an obvious statement, I know...but this SCF is HUGE and not humming at full capacity. I would think that it's better to run one plant on two shifts rather than two plants on one...The Post Office has to do some serious roll-backs of physical plants in order to ever hope of making a profit.

Third...nothing but bills and commercial mail. We can blame email for this one (and maybe text messaging.) So if that's the case, why deliver mail every day? Who cares if your bill/magazine delivery date is off by a day or two? I live approximately 20 steps from my mailbox, but there's nothing that comes to make me run out every day and check the mail. I could certainly live with every other why not have one ZIP Code on MWF and the other on TThS?

Fourth...on the good news side, they're working hard to make use of technology. Handling mail - especially hand addressed mail (have you looked at your handwriting lately?) - is laborious. The Post Office has developed some pretty cool technology to cut down as much as possible on the hand work. Maybe they can use technology to handle to coming employment gap.

Lastly...I love direct mail. As a marketing tool, it's not as encompassing as it used to be, but it still can have a solid role in your marketing plan (just don't ask the emarketers for advice...) It's trackable and can reach people who don't like or respond to email (yep, they exist!). It is a lot "stickier" than online. It allows you to present your brand in a way that emarketing simply cannot approach. It would be great if one of our direct mail vendors could come up with some data on how direct mail drives online search activity...that way, the eventual blending of the worlds can finally start to happen.


  1. Funny! And, you make some great points. It's wonderful to see another direct marketing blog. Congrats on your new venture, too. Will come back often.
    Suzanne (Obermire) Ortiz

  2. As usual, you lend a witty, yet warm-hearted viewpoint to the world of direct marketing. However, you need to stop hanging out at the post office. Not good for the health, I hear. : )

    Nicely done!

  3. First time reader first time poster. Good insight. I found this stuff on the USPS web site but it answers some of the questions around direct mail and gives "some data on how direct mail drives online search activity" Thanks.

    Google: USPS Direct Mail Research: Mail and the Internet, The Role of Mail.