USPS site gives direct mail help

To a lot of people it is junk mail, but at the U.S. Postal Service it is called direct mail, and it contributes about $15 billion to USPS coffers every year, or about 25 percent of its annual revenue.

That kind of money, combined with USPS' need to protect its turf, is a good reason to promote direct mail, and USPS is doing so through a new World Wide Web site (www.uspsdirectmail.com) where companies can find information about the benefits of direct mail and learn how to conduct a direct-mail campaign.

USPS previously made information about direct mail available at its main Web site but decided to spin that information off into a meatier, stand-alone site that provides more information and useful tools such as the Direct Mail Wizard, an interactive guide that walks a new direct mailer through the process of implementing a campaign.

"This [site] brought some focus about how to really do a good direct-mail campaign," said Bob Martone, Internet ventures manager for USPS. "This is a complete new set of information."

The site is targeted at small and medium-size businesses, which do the majority of direct mailing, Martone said. The site went live in March simultaneously with the publication of Direct Mail by Numbers, a free kit that compiles the information available at the Web site into a binder.

More than half of the site's visitors either download information or request the kit, Martone said. Business managers who are considering direct-mail campaigns can go to the site and find information supporting the marketing method from industry organizations such as the Direct Marketing Association. For example, direct mail generated $421 billion in sales in the United States last year, and every dollar spent on direct-mail advertising brings $10 in sales, DMA statistics show.

Direct mail can be "incredibly targeted," according to USPS, thanks to sophisticated demographic management techniques that enable businesses to personalize messages to potential customers and customize those messages.

In the "Lists and Databases" section, the site explains how to select a mailing list that will reach a desired target. It also instructs businesses on how to turn names and addresses into a "house list" of valuable knowledge that can promote business growth.

The site also gives businesses templates of direct-mail letters along with tips on dealing with companies that sell lists, such as asking 12 standard questions, including who is on the list, when was it updated and how often has it been rented.

USPS has plans to upgrade the site in the near future, which include adding direct links to vendors that sell lists along with links to printers and designers.

USPS also plans to introduce online chat groups and a bulletin board for posting direct-mail questions to postal experts. The revisions will take place after the site, now running on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, migrates to a Unix platform and Oracle Corp. databases, Martone said.

Eventually USPS will offer services to companies that want to conduct direct-mail campaigns online. Such campaigns involve sending e-mail messages to targeted lists of people.

"Right now it is providing primarily the information needed in order to do a direct mailing," Martone said. "Ultimately, people will be able to come online and almost get everything they need."

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www.uspsdirectmail.com

The U.S. Postal Service's new stand-alone site offers direct-mail "how to" information targeted toward small and medium-size businesses, which do the most such mailing.

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