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NEW YORK – If you’re scrambling for ideas to help ease the recent postal rate increase, consider it practice for the next hike. Dick Goldsmith, chairman of The Horah Group, believes the increase which took effect Jan. 8 will be followed by an even larger boost. Goldsmith is author of “Direct Mail for Dummies” and leads the Direct Marketing Association’s Direct Mail Strategies seminar. “Most businesses seem to be accepting the increase,” he says. “We haven’t had an increase since 2002. But there will be another, even greater hike next year. The money in the postal increase this year is simply to cover the cost of retirement for people who were in the military and now work for the postal service. “They are the only organization in the private or public sector that has to pay for military retirement benefits. That’s $3 billion they have to put into an escrow account.” The next increase, he continues, will come because of higher costs and shrinking revenues. One of the biggest costs in delivering that newsletter or statement to Jane and Joe credit union ember is fuel. If you’ve pumped gas into your own vehicle lately, it’s no surprise the price of gasoline to fuel those familiar red, white and blue trucks has also risen. At the same time, 18 million new addresses are added every year with each address getting fewer pieces of mail to offset the cost. That translates into less money for each stop the carrier makes at a box. Goldsmith urges businesses to clear up their mailing lists and make sure they have the correct addresses. Be certain every newsletter, statement or promotion is delivered where the credit union wants. “To update their list they can try sending postcards and see how many come back,” he suggests. “That will give a pretty good idea of what shape your list is in.” What about a community-chartered credit union that can offer membership to residents in perhaps a dozen counties? Suppose I want to mail a promotion that isn’t necessarily restricted to current members. “First and most important, target your message appropriately,” Goldsmith advises. “Don’t send it to everybody in a particular area just because they live there. Send to people who, based on who your current members are, will be interested in what you are offering them. Take a look at who your members are and from that who would make your best new members.” So if the great bulk of your current membership falls within certain income and other demographic profiles, you may be wise to target specific neighborhoods matching those profiles. If there are areas you’ve been marketing to without success, stop marketing there. As Goldsmith puts it, don’t go hunting for elephants where none of them live. In addition to not making sure their mailing lists are clean, Goldsmith also sees businesses sending mail without an offer and focusing on themselves. “People don’t care about you. They want to know what’s in it for them. People (marketers) don’t talk enough about that. `Our credit union has 20 branches.’ `Our credit union has $5 billion in assets.’ What does that mean to me? They don’t take those features and translate them into benefits.” Goldsmith adds to the list of ways to cut costs: Use lighter weight paper. Can you print front and back? Will three color be as effective as four color? David Martin offers some other tips. He’s president of Lenzi Martin Marketing in Oak Park, Ill. The firm specializes in integrated marketing, combining traditional media with new electronic media. He predicts postal increases will drive more marketers to use e-mail. He believes the growth of spam-blockers means people are more receptive to e-mail than they were a year or two ago. New laws provide that marketers must offer e-mail recipients an easy way to opt out of future e-mailings. There are some other new e-mail developments businesses may find attractive. One is certified e-mail. That will give the recipient even more confidence they’re not getting spammed. “It would be advisable for credit unions to make sure they have as many of their members’ e-mail addresses as possible,” he says. “I’m advising companies not to use purchased e-mail lists, but to rely on their own self-generated lists.” Does all this mean direct mail is headed for Dinosaur Hall in some museum? Not really, Martin says. “Credibility of mail promotion messages is still higher than any other vehicle you might choose to reach out. For example, direct mail has more credibility than a newspaper ad. You have to weigh cost against credibility. Putting the information in an envelope is still the best way to explain a complex story.” -

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