A Different Kind of +1

October 21, 2011

The Official Merchant Services Blog takes a moment to look at a transition in marketing strategies that is extremely relevant to small business : Postage. The United States Postal Service announced this week that it is going to raise its postal rates. Most notable is the cost of the first class stamp is going up one cent from $0.44 to $0.45.

Some other drastic changes are being investigated as well, as cited in that article from Reuters: “The Postal Service has asked Congress for permission to drastically overhaul its business, including cutting Saturday mail delivery and eliminating a massive annual payment to prefund retiree health benefits. The agency also is studying thousands of post offices and processing facilities for possible closure.”

Digital Over Direct Mail

This change is indicative of a shift in how the country does business. And it’s not really all that surprising. The USPS has to react to more than just competition from Federal Express and UPS. Businesses are thriving on the internet. And that makes using more traditional means of marketing –– i.e. print-based marketing –– too little bang for a business owner’s buck.

Which brings us to this interesting article from Multichannel Merchant that suggests that suggests that the postal rate increase is going to cut into the amount of printed materials that businesses mail –– specifically catalogs. Printed direct mail marketing materials, in my experience, have always had a really low impact with customers. Catalogs were usually stronger than other direct mail marketing pieces, for sure. But overall junk mail is called junk mail for the very reason that people ignore it. You send out thousands of direct mail items and are hoping to get dozens of responses, if you’re lucky. So things were already looking bleak for the future of direct mail marketing strategies.

The 2012 postal rate increase only furthers things a long right at the time when internet based marketing strategies are becoming very user friendly for just about everyone.

Social Media Plus One

Social Media can have a much stronger impact with your customers when utilized properly. And there are a lot of easy-to-find resources to help small business owners take advantage of Social Media. Getting tips on how to best use Facebook Ads and Google Ads and Twitter feeds to reach customers organically and generate strong responses to your business and its activities. Host Merchant Services provides some of those resources itself. This very blog is designed with the intent of reaching out to our merchants to help keep them on top of trends and news that help their business thrive. The company also provides an article archive on topics related to the industry so merchants can understand processing better. The company actively keeps its Facebook presence updated. It’s all part of the goal of reaching out to our merchants to help their business run better. The company also provides e-commerce solutions and social media and marketing advice and analysis for its customers. Beyond just the marketing aspects, Host Merchant Services is here to provide its merchants the assistance they need for their e-commerce opportunities.

So take this 2012 postal rate increase as a sign of how marketing for your small business now exists in a very different environment, and you have an opportunity to reach out to customers with the money you don’t give the USPS. You can reconsider reaching out via direct mail and focus on reaching out to your customers through facebook, twitter, your own site and blog, or any combination thereof. At the very least you’ll avoid those higher postal rates, and should be able to drum up just as many points of contact as your mailers were generating.

Print Still Has Its Place

Keep in mind, this isn’t a suggestion to go completely digital. You don’t have to abandon print-based marketing strategies. But you can certainly give serious consideration to adjusting how much you budget for them. If the price increase isn’t worth your money, you can scale back and focus your efforts and resources on something web-based. Use the postal rate increase as a catalyst for boosting your businesses’ e-commerce. Sticking to the most basic plan:

  • You can have your business online, with a website.
  • You can offer your products online, with a catalog.
  • You can process transactions online, through your website and its catalog.
  • You can use a merchant services provider like Host Merchant Services, to handle those transactions.
  • You can then connect to customers and potential customers through social media services like Facebook or Google Ads or Twitter.

From the Multichannel Merchant Article: “Deb Dyer, vice president of marketing for bedding merchant Cuddledown, says the rate increase “won’t keep us from sending catalogs to our house file or prospects, but it will make us look at other digital prospect opportunities and programs.” “

Information Flows Digitally Now

And that’s really what the postal rate increase is most likely going to do for a lot of other merchants. Give them the perfect opportunity to explore the powerful tools they have at their disposal with social media and e-commerce solutions. To put it in perspective, as I was reading the article I link here from Multichannel Merchant, my eyes were drawn to the Facebook “Share” button, Google “Plus One” button and Twitter “Tweet” button that were all conveniently placed on the left-hand side of the article. It’s all right there. One click and you can get yourself involved in a whole new marketing plan for your business.

In short, a lot of people have stopped getting their news from print media. They ignore direct mail sending it to the trash as junk mail. But they’re still consumers and you can reach them with well executed social media marketing strategies. The United States Postal Service is just reminding you that you have this option, albeit indirectly.

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