The mailing industry has traditionally relied on large batch jobs. Mailers receive a name and address list or print image file from an internal or external client. They create letters, transactional documents, postcards, or self-mailers for each name on the list. While batch mailings continue to be important factors in the mailing business, mail service providers shouldn’t ignore the opportunities associated with mail triggered by individual recipient actions.
When I was working in the service bureau industry, one-off mail pieces never fit into our production mail workflow. They were exceptions — work we had to accept from clients to win the large monthly batch jobs our facility was set up to handle. We usually set up a manual, non-standard process to create these low-volume daily jobs. Today, print/mail facilities have access to technology that enables those types of mail pieces to be integrated into the daily work and handled by the same processes as the batch jobs. Print/mail service providers can overcome the challenges we faced back in the day.
With a white paper document production workflow, you can add a single piece of correspondence to the rest of the day’s work without too much trouble. Document print and mail operations should consider a different approach to mailed communications and tout this ability to prospective customers as a selling feature.
Embracing Mailing Trends
We all know mail volumes are dropping. Companies and their customers have embraced digital communications as a cheaper way to communicate. Eventually, the elements remaining in the postal mail will be considered items of importance, where the document owners see a benefit by delivering the messages on paper. Organizations willing to spend the money to produce physical documents will expect a return on investment beyond simply delivering a bill or notice.
One way to improve the ROI of any mailed communication is to ensure it arrives at the right moment. Many factors connected to individual consumer circumstances play into determining the right time. You and I may receive the exact same mail piece from our insurance company, for instance, but at different times. The ideal date to send this information could depend on our respective policy renewal dates, our birthdays, the time since our last claim, where we live, or almost anything else.
Old Barriers Removed
Many of the limitations that led us to process documents as monthly batch jobs no longer exist. I believe some of the batch volume will eventually transition to daily triggered activity because it’s better for the issuing company.
Consider scenarios like these:
1. A customer visits an e-commerce website, adds an item to their shopping cart, and neglects to check out. Today, abandoned cart behavior triggers online re-marketing ads and email follow-ups which may be blocked or ignored, but what if the company could send a postcard? Variable data postcards featuring discounts or incentives connected to the item in the shopping cart are going to get noticed by the consumer, but only if it arrives promptly. I would expect the conversion rate on such mail pieces to exceed the electronic reminders on which retailers currently rely.
2. A company’s customer retention strategy focuses on content delivered via email, but some customers do not open the messages. Perhaps the consumer no longer uses the email address the organization has on file, the messages are going to spam folders, or the customers are simply overwhelmed with too many emails. Failing to open emails after a set number of attempts could trigger a direct mail communication to re-establish contact with the consumer. Postal mail, with its address correction and move updating features, becomes a more effective way of re-confirming a customer relationship that can then be enriched in digital channels.
3. Anyone subject to an IRS tax lien, a matter of public record, is under pressure to resolve their tax situation and may benefit from some professional guidance. Tax attorneys or other financial experts can begin courting new clients long before their competitors by sending helpful material immediately following the public filing. Waiting until the end of the month to contact all the new prospects may cause them to lose market share.
Making Mail Better
You can probably think of dozens of other examples where communicating by mail at the ideal time can lower costs, boost sales, or improve customer satisfaction for your print and mail clients. All these instances make mail more valuable to the people paying for it, which is important for preserving the physical mail channel as a viable and profitable way to communicate.
Creating daily mail sparked by outside triggers requires some new ways of thinking about how to process and track documents as they progress through the print and mail workflow. The batch, once thought of as a large group of identical documents sharing a cutoff day, becomes a collection of mail pieces from multiple clients or applications that need to be distributed on a certain day. In some formats, such as enveloped letters or flats, the capabilities of inserting equipment will limit some choices relating to document design and envelope selection. However, the technology that enables companies to make these adjustments already exists. All that remains is a study conducted by each print/mail center to decide if investing in triggered mail production is right for your company and your clients.
Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.