Talon Mailing & Marketing, Inc.
561 Acorn Street, Deer Park, NY 11729
Welcome to the Talon Mailing & Marketing June 2003 Newsletter:
By Ed Scheibel, Sales Manager, Talon Mailing & Marketing, Inc.†
The post office will be strictly enforcing tighter standards for mail pieces. If a mailing is not designed or addressed correctly it will be assessed additional postage. With a little planning these problems can be avoided.†
To save clients a substantial amount in postage Talon assembles a zip+4 (plus two additional digits) and prints a barcode on each piece of mail.† The barcode is read by the post office and if their scanner interprets it correctly† a machine can sort and process the mail without human intervention.† Each sorting machine can sort over 100,000 pieces per hour so the cost savings for the post office is enormous.† To encourage the use of barcodes the Post Office passes along a portion of the savings by providing postage discounts to mailers.†
When a barcode is out-of-spec the post office cannot scan and sort the pieces.† To make matters worse, by accepting the mail at it's facility the post office has already provided the barcode postage discount.†
To remedy this problem and to insure that mail is prepared correctly the Post Office has started using MERLIN (Mail Evaluation Readability Lookup INstrument).† MERLIN performs 23 different tests on First-Class and Standard mail (formally known as third class) to ensure that it can be read on the high-speed sorting equipment.
MERLINís readability standards are substantially more stringent than those of the automated sorting equipment it is designed to support.† MERLIN can be expected to fail mailing pieces that the USPS had previously accepted.† Not only is the placement of the barcode important but now the clarity of the barcode as it goes through the USPS scanners is equally important.
Dots Per Inch (DPI):
There are many lettershops that still use old inkjet equipment imaging at 90 - 150 dots per inch.† Talon uses high speed inkjet and laser equipment that can image and address at 600 DPI.† Our barcodes and text look razor sharp and our state-of-the-art equipment assures you that the barcodes will meet MERLINS new standards.† ††
In order to qualify for automation discounts there will be less leeway in the design of your mail piece. For example a standard # 10 window envelope begins Ĺ inch from the bottom. In order to get the automation discount using a barcode, the USPS will now require that the barcode is at least 5/8 of an inch from the bottom.
You can avoid this problem by placing the barcode on top of the address or avoid the issue altogether with a new product from envelope manufacturers called a Fast Forward Envelope.† With this envelope the window starts 11/16" from the bottom. We feature this envelope and with our digital imaging machine we can print a typical envelope at a very competitive rate.† Best of all this envelope is MERLIN compatible.
For other pieces such as postcards, catalogs and self-mailers there will be a stricter adherence as to where the barcode is placed and its quality.†† In order to make sure your piece will meet the MERLIN requirements please fax or send us a PDF file with the design of your piece. We can also send you a free USPS template that shows where the barcode has to be positioned to obtain the discount.
With MERLIN the post office will now be strictly enforcing the standards for mail pieces. If a mailing fails it will be assessed additional postage.† How does Merlin affect you? Within reason, you can mail almost anything, our goal is to see that you take advantage of ALL available postal discounts.
With a little planning and help from Talon these penalties can be avoided.
By Dean Rieck
Thereís an old joke about the six phases of every project: ď1) Enthusiasm. 2) Disillusionment. 3) Panic. 4) A search for the guilty. 5) The punishment of the innocent. 6) Praise and honor for the nonparticipants.Ē
You laugh, but thatís what happens at a lot of companies, maybe yours. Unfortunately, I canít do anything about your wacky corporate culture. However, I can help you deal rationally with a direct mail test that unexpectedly goes south. So here are a few ideas for figuring out what went wrong and what to do next:
Ł Check your data. Are your telemarketers entering tracking codes properly? Are response cards being sorted carefully in the mailroom? Do you have enough responses to make your results statistically valid? Have you done your math correctly? Do any of the numbers look way out of line? Are you tracking all the statistics you need to evaluate success or failure? They say numbers donít lie, but thatís only if youíre careful in collecting and calculating them.
Ł Check your data again. Because even though I just told you to check your data, you just glanced at your spreadsheet didnít you? Seriously. Check it. Then check it again. Then have someone else check it.
Ł Look at your samples. I donít mean the samples from the printer. I mean the samples that arrived in your mailbox. Because youíve seeded your list with the names of everyone on your marketing team, right? Is your mail getting torn up by postal equipment? Is it covered with rubber stamps and corrected barcodes? Did you consult with your postal consultant before finalizing design?
Ł Consider the obvious. Is your phone number correct? Is the return address correct on your reply envelope? Did you include an order form? Does your order form fit into the envelope? One of my clients called me and said a self-mailer was bombing badly. When my sample arrived, I discovered that a new piece of printing equipment had inverted the barcode so that the tall lines were short and the short lines were tall. Once corrected, results looked great. (What was really surprising was that the USPS actually delivered some of the mailers even with the screwy barcode!)
Ł Revisit your offer. Technically, just giving your price is an offer. Itís just a lousy offer. I canít possibly stress how important a good offer is. Thereís not a product in the world that canít sell more with a better offer. How about a free trial? Stronger guarantee? Free gift? Time limit? Better terms? Introductory discount? Your choices are endless. Be creative and aggressive.
Ł Evaluate your product. A few years ago I created a subscription mailing for a newsletter that produced 100% more orders, 60% higher net revenue, and a 55% reduction in cost per order. However the client was upset that the return rate went up to 30%. And they were furious when I suggested it was because they were selling a lousy product. I doubled their sales (even with the higher returns) but lost the client. Go figure. You have to be clear-eyed, honest, and ruthless when it comes to your product. If it needs improvement, improve it. If it canít be improved, sell something else. Great advertising will kill a poor product every time.
Ł Examine your list. Are you mailing to the best prospects? Are there other lists you should be testing? Is the data recent and reliable? Does the list need cleaning? A bad mailer will work if mailed to a good list. But a great mailer will fail if mailed to a bad list. Iím saying you need a good list. And you wonít know whether a list is good until youíve mailed to it. And you wonít know what list is best until youíve mailed to a lot of lists.
Ł Retest. If youíve identified some basic mistakes, make changes and retest. Even if youíre not sure whatís wrong, retest anyway. Always retest any time you see dramatic results, good or bad. This will help you determine if your results are valid or not. Any valid result is repeatable. Itís better to have two mailings that bomb than to have varying results you canít explain.
The eminent historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author Daniel Boorstin once said, ďThe main obstacle to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.Ē So when a direct mail test fails, donít weep and gnash your teeth. Take advantage of the opportunity to set aside your assumptions and learn something significant. It may be a hard lesson but I assure you it will be a valuable one.
Copyright © 2003 Dean Rieck. All rights reserved. Dean Rieck is an internationally respected direct response copywriter, designer, and consultant. He is president of Direct Creative, a direct marketing firm that provides creative services for direct mail, ads, e-mail, and more. He may be reached by phone: 614-882-8823 or by e-mail: DeanRieck@DirectCreative.com. Visit DirectCreaive.com for free access to direct marketing articles, tutorials, and resources.
Talon would like to welcome the following new clients this month to our growing roster of clients:
††††††††††† Mailing Clients:
New Mailing Lists Housed at Talon (we house over 600 mailing lists)
∑ Primedia Ė Religious Conference Manager (we house over 100 Primedia lists)
Mikeís Favorite Links:
Here are some links you probably are not aware of:
Did you know Talon offers the following services?† Click on the links below to see samples.
Do you know of anyone else who would be interested in receiving our newsletter?† Please let us know
†by email:†† firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about our company, please visit our web site: www.talonmm.com or contact Michael Borkan at (631) 667-5500 x 303.