In March of 2020, I prepared an article for this publication, and it focused on educating organizational leadership on the value of mail. Given the current events impacting our industry (COVID-19, the changing economy, and supply chain challenges), I thought it would be interesting to revisit the same topic through the lens of today’s environment.
I believe deeply in the value of mail. I evangelize about this all the time. It pains me when I find postage being wasted and a general lack of organizational understanding of mail and postage. When optimized and managed aggressively (proactively and from a strong knowledge base), there is no better way for organizations to realize very large savings.
Does it take work? Is that work easy? We all know the answers. In my experience, the most difficult work is to get organizational leadership to:
Listen: Truly listen and understand that postage is not a “necessary evil.” Hear this: We do not have to pay the full rate postage so many in leadership feel are “fixed costs.” In the hands of a knowledgeable mail professional, postage is something that can be a competitive advantage and deliver incredible ROI. One executive told a peer of mine after some years of “postal education” that he had finally realized that there were two types of currency in the world: Cash and postage! Quite a different statement than what he asked in their first meeting: “Why in the world is postage included in my budget?”
o COVID: While you may not get the chance to meet in person, there are plenty of virtual options to facilitate these 1:1 meetings. COVID cannot change this.
o Economy: Listening is free! As the economy changes, every expense should be examined. Postage represents a large dollar number for most organizations. Optimizing postage expense provides organizational savings that would be unrealized if not for your efforts.
o Supply Chain: Postage is an expense that does not rely on factors included in traditional supply chains. While it is true that organizations may have production affected by the supply chain and that those effects may influence how and when an organization mails, these factors only create more demand for postal optimization withing an organization.
Learn: Once you have their ear, it is your job as the subject matter expert to teach. It is not enough to simply “feed them fish.” If you do that, they believe it is easy to do, and your efforts are diminished. When you actually “teach them to fish,” they appreciate you much more. They understand the plans you are laying out for them and can make excellent decisions based on fact (actionable data), knowledge, and realistic expectations. As you justify adding staff to expand the effort, they can understand the impact of their decisions on your recommendations. Better yet, they will understand the impact of delaying the recommended actions, which is also a win for you as a professional.
o COVID: To my knowledge, COVID has not affected leadership’s ability to learn. There is no reason I can think of to delay this education. You need to push for it and use any available resources and tools to keep it moving forward.
o Economy: Same thing here. Economic conditions will demand leadership’s time but so must your desire to educate them. Delivering money (in the form of savings) should interest them a great deal in any economy.
o Supply Chain: Not to be a broken record, but your efforts and their value should not be affected by any supply chain issues related to the business. As stated above, your optimization should be valued more in challenging times.
Believe and trust: Organizational leadership is smart. They make good decisions and reward superior performance. Once they have learned what you have to offer, they will want you to do more and find more savings (which are always there). As regulations and rates change, the organization needs trusted leaders who have historically delivered results. For you, that means cost savings through postal optimization. Each effort will build belief and trust in your ability to plan, execute, and deliver results. By delivering the savings time after time, you reinforce your value (and all those who support the efforts) to the organization.
o COVID: COVID cannot erode belief or trust. Once established and appreciated, leadership will deeply value the optimization efforts and the measurable results.
o Economy: No economy can affect these either. The more challenging the economy, the more leadership is looking for people to deliver savings opportunities. Period.
o Supply Chain: The more challenges, the more your efforts will be rewarded and relied on within the organizational leadership team to “make up” for deficiencies that the supply chain has created.
I often describe postage savings opportunities as pristine fruit on the ground. Rather than going bad, we can pick up the opportunities anytime and realize the savings. Organizational leadership can choose when and what “fruit” they want you to pick up. It is all about which levers they will support you pulling to optimize postage. On top of the day-to-day responsibilities, mailers must convey to executives and decision makers that postage is a powerful tool that can be utilized to establish a competitive advantage to attract and retain customers, rather than as an expense alone.
This simplistic model does not change during a pandemic like COVID. It is also unaffected by economic changes because there are always opportunities to optimize postage based on the latest rates, rules, and economic conditions. Finally, the supply chain does not affect these efforts. Businesses still need to mail out information. While it seems counterintuitive, organizations need to focus on mailing more (and smarter!) rather than less during these challenging times. What helps drive this message is how efficiently we teach leadership about postage as currency. Your efforts to establish the relationship by measuring and reporting savings will drive recognition, appreciation, and dependence on your knowledge.
In my previous article I stated: “Executives are particularly interested in opportunities related to regulatory/compliance impacts so they can act to protect their organizations against risk.” As mailing professionals, we have the knowledge, data, and ability to deliver this to them.
Our “wrapper” is attractive because it also delivers cost savings and strategic actions that can be adjusted/delivered deep into the future. Our current landscape is challenging but has not significantly impacted our value proposition. Going forward, take every opportunity to work with your executive leadership. Get their ear(s), educate them, deliver success to deepen their belief in you, and build their trust in you and your abilities!
Mark Rheaume is a Services Engineer, Enterprise Services Sales Engineering, at Ricoh USA, Inc. He has over 35 years of industry experience developing, designing, and implementing solutions. Mark is and has been an active member in several postal industry associations as a board member, speaker, and writer. These associations include: MTAC, Idealliance, NPOA, PCC, MSMA, Mailcom, NPF, and Printing Industries of Minnesota. He can be contacted at Mark.Rheaume@ricoh-usa.com.
This article originally appeared in the November/December, 2021 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.