March 11 2013 12:23 PM

Everyone at postal headquarters has been tasked with the job of significantly increasing revenue. Unfortunately people at the top (survivors of years of postal conformity) have had all vestiges of creativity and ingenuity removed from their persona by a system that severely penalizes people for consistently thinking outside the box.

So what do bureaucrats do when forced to be inventive? Postal employees' answer to this dilemma has been to look around, see what their partners are doing and try to take customers, market share, and revenues away from those partners. They tried to provide print and mail services (The Direct Mail Hub) because companies were getting rich off of web to print technology (joke's on them). They decided to expand tracking of mail and provide not only raw data but also the analytics and mapping that is done so well by many companies in our industry. They moved into data services such as providing address cleansing and data prep (presort) by developing an IMsb tool, in direct competition with many mailing companies and software vendors already providing these services to small businesses.

So how can the Postal Service generate new revenue rather than destroying the direct mail industry it is supposed to serve?

Google dominates a medium (the Internet) with its ability to deliver a large number of ads to consumers. The Postal Service also dominates a medium: physical direct mail. With the Postal Service's IMb and a third party's unique technology, this physical medium has the capability of delivering demographically and/or geographically targeted mobile ads to every consumer in the United States.

The technology, seen at the National Postal Forum in 2012, is capable of reading postal IMb barcodes as if they were QR Codes. Unlike QR Codes, a proprietary app connects a smart phone to an ad delivering server. With the information contained in the IMb and limited information (recipient's name, the MID, and sequence number range) provided by a marketer, the app can display personalized landing pages. These landing pages include a prefilled form and delivers ads, white papers, and/or coupons. The landing pages are also able to collect additional voluntary information from consumers through their mobile device.

This is how this unique service is being promoted by the company that developed the technology. But the potential of this technology is much, much more and could provide a significant, alternative revenue stream for the Postal Service. Since nearly every piece of mail now has an IMb on it, it is possible for the USPS (using this or similar technology) to deliver a mobile coupon or Internet link with every piece of direct mail it carries. Most importantly the technology requires no pre-loading of consumer information. Using its reverse look-up capabilities, the technology is able to provide the physical address of mobile consumers to a marketer when the consumer scans an IMB barcode. It is also able to capture information such as the name and email address of consumers that provide such data in exchange for product information or coupons.

The USPS delivers approximately 632 million letters and flats with an IMb barcode daily. Each one represents a potential for delivering a mobile ad. Actually, one IMb scan can deliver any number of ads, links, or coupons depending on how the ad servers are set up. If the USPS produced as many IMb consumer scans as Google registers click throughs (0.4 %*), and the scans were valued at $1.04* each (as in a study in 2011 of a select group of marketers), the Postal Service could generate $2,528,000 dollars per delivery day, or $728,064,000 per year. In fact the potential revenue generated from selling mobile ads is only limited by the Postal Service's ability to sell advertisers on the concept.

The delivery of mobile coupons based on IMb scans not only has the possibility of delivering additional revenue to the USPS, but of significantly increasing the value of every direct mail piece that enters the mail stream. Think about how much longer the marketing message on a mailpiece might be exposed to consumer's scrutiny if there was the possibility of a 50% off coupon for a favorite restaurant hidden in the IMb. Imagine how long direct mail pieces might lay around the house waiting for someone to take the time to scan their IMb's looking for high value coupons before throwing the pieces away. Just think of consumers holding on to direct mail until scanned during the Sunday afternoon ritual of going through the newspaper looking for grocery and other ads.

Just imagine the ad revenue the USPS could generate, if they would think outside the box and support new technology and potential partners. Think of the mail volume the USPS could generate if it was to truly support, not compete with, existing partners!