Is snail-mail marketing about to make a comeback?
Last week, the U.S. Postal Service began easing rules on so-called “simplified addressing” for bulk mail. The move allows marketers to send letters, flyers and parcels to every home, business and post-office box on a city delivery route—known as saturation mail at the post office, and junk mail by consumers—without using exact names and addresses.
While the rates for bulk mail haven’t changed, the new rules are expected to reduce costs for smaller businesses by eliminating the need to buy pricey mailing lists, along with the onerous task of addressing every envelope. (Before, marketers needed an address, even if the recipient was “Current Occupant” or “Resident.”)
Until now, the service was only available to government agencies, and on rural or highway routes.
The changes come as many small businesses have abandoned traditional direct-mail advertising in favor of cheaper e-marketing and social-media strategies.
Under the new rules, marketers can simply put “Postal Customer” on every envelope or parcel intended for a designated route, though they will have to provide enough items for every active address on the route.
Paul Vogel, the post office’s chief marketing officer—who still touts direct mail as the most effective marketing channel, bar none—says he hopes the move will serve as an “on-ramp” for smaller businesses trying to reach customers in a target area.
Of course, even though they aren’t named on a letter or parcel, recipients can opt out of receiving mail with a simplified address by notifying their mail carrier.
What’s certain is snail-mail marketing is far from obsolete. According to Mintel Comperemedia, a research firm that tracks direct-mail marketing, major credit-card firms mailed out 1.2 billion new card offers in the third quarter last year, up from just 391 million over the same period in 2009.