Mailpiece Design Part One: The Postcard

Postcard Design

Variable data on casino postcards are a good way to grab your prospect's attention!

Designing postcards for your direct mail campaigns can be both fun and challenging. You have to walk a balancing line between using art to grab your prospect’s attention and the amount of text you include. Too much text and the reader gets bored – too much art and your message is lost. You can have the most awesome design in the world and not get the response you desire if your prospects can’t figure out what you’re offering. Conversely, if you fill your postcard with text, your prospects might not want to takethe time to read it, thus lowering your response.

At CSG Direct Mail, we will work with you to design a postcard for your direct mail campaign that not only draws your prospect/client’s attention, but also presents your offer/information in the most eye-catching, response generating way possible. Our designers are experts at walking this fine line and can create a postcard for you that balances “WOW!” with “I need to call now!”. Or, you can design your own postcard and we will be happy to look it over for you and give you our professional opinion of how well your piece will generate response. Either way, the marketing experts at CSG Direct Mail will work with your team to help make your mailing a success!

Ineffective postcards

LEFT: I don't know about you, but I'm probably not reading all that! RIGHT: Everyone loves baby animals, right? But what do they have to do with your business?

The physical layout of the postcard itself is also very important.

If you are designing a postcard to be mailed, make sure you leave enough room for addressing! CSG Direct Mail recommends allowing a 2 inch tall by 4 inch wide clear space on the right bottom of the mailing panel side of the postcard for addressing. This might seem like a large amount of space, but it ensures that you will have enough space in your address area for your IMB barcode and large addresses that may contain two address lines, a company name, etc. By leaving a large enough address area on your postcard, you guarantee that you will get the BEST postage rates and that the Post Office will not find any problems with your mailing!

CSG Direct Mail is happy to provide vector PDF format layered postcard templates that you can use to design the postcards for your direct mail campaign!

You can download templates for standard 4×6 postcards, oversized 6×9 postcards and jumbo 6×11 postcards and use them in your design programs to make sure that your postcards are worry free and receive the best postage rates possible.

Postcard Template

Example of a mail panel postcard template available from CSG Direct Mail

DOWNLOAD EDITABLE POSTCARD TEMPLATES
(Illustrator CS5 layered PDF)

CSG_DIRECT_4x6_template1

CSG_DIRECT_6x9_template1

CSG_DIRECT_6x11_template1

RAVING Insider Party at the Tuscany Suites

Raving InvitesAre you going to be in Vegas next week?  At the same time the Gaming Expo in Las Vegas is happening Raving Consulting with CSG Direct Mail and others have put together the insider party of the season.   Our Party pulls together the best marketing and gaming folks in the business for great conversation, free drinks, free cigars and music.

This is the best chances you’ll get for valuable networking time with people that matter!

The Party is Wednesday October 5th from 9PM  ’til midnight at the Tuscany Suites & Casino Piazza Bar and Poolside.  But you must be a gamin insider… or know one ;)

Email Me if you need an invite michaelh@csgdirect.com or call my Las Vegas Direct Mail offices at 702-637-2451

New Intelligent Mail Barcode Requirements

Direct Mailing ManThe US Postal Service has come down with some new deadlines for full implementation of Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMB).

Full Text Here: http://csgurl.com/IMB_Requirements

They seem to be putting a huge emphasis on packages, however mailpieces references are sprinkled into all the text as well.

” On January 7, 2013, the Postal Service finalizes the implementation of this final rule by requiring an Intelligent Mail package barcode (IMpb) for all commercial mailpieces that include a tracking or extra service barcode …” seems to refer to all customers using 2 barcodes currently which apply to people using postnet barcodes and planet codes combined. (quit laughing, some people still do this, lol)

We of course have been using these barcodes and developing  new programs around these new barcodes since 2008. It’s nice to see that they are finally asking the rest of the country to step up the plate or get out of the game.

The first deadline is January 2012 with some limited flexibility until July 2012, Then again January 2013 with flexibility until July 2013.  A weak roll-out but they are going to get to embrace their cool new features even if they have to drag all the rest of the public forward.

Government vs Americans on spending and taxation

Government vs the People

This is off topic but important for all of us.

The government as a whole is in big trouble and they want to drag us all down with them.  Pretty rough waters ahead guys.  some words of caution…

There are 4 new back to back tax increases coming our way:
1) The New “Jobs bill” requires 447 billion in new taxes with over 80% planned to come from small business owners like us and that affects you too.

2)  End of tax cuts from last administration’s for small business

3) “Super committee” Tax increases are coming to recover 1.5 trillion over 10 years.

4) New Healthcare Taxes and mandates with increases in your healthcare costs too.

*) We are also getting huge increases in “fees” on everything we buy.

This is a really tough time to be a business owner or employee in America,
and they are just getting started.

This is just 4 new taxes coming and NONE of it will balance our budget so we still will have 19 Trillion to pay back after all this.  19 Trillion will require massive new taxes on top of that.  MASSIVE, CRUSHING TAXES AND FEES ON EVERYTHING will still be needed

This is just the stuff on the surface you see, the government is also buying stuff from itself by printing money in a never ending loop that increases the costs of food, gas, energy and everything else you buy. It creates price inflation on everything you buy so every dollar you make is only worth $.40 after Federal Taxes, Sales Taxes, Gas Taxes and then price inflation on the food you buy.  Geez, this is not going to get better either.

my point…
We cannot pay back the money our government has spent all around the world.
…and they still wont stop spending it every single day.

The government is bankrupt and they would rather drown you and I in a great depression than lose a moment of luxury and power that they enjoy. (politicians)

The government is bankrupt and they think you care more about the American system than you do about the food you put on your family table.

Don’t vote for their crushing new taxes on you, your parents, your job, your grocery store.
Have one clear message when you talk with your friends:
“POLITICIANS need to quit spending your money all over the world”

If THEY go bankrupt than THEY should go bankrupt.  They should not rob the American people for our entire life’s work and tonight’s dinner for our families to bankrupt you and I instead of them.  Remember when you gave $10 billion dollars to that foreign country??
You didn’t do it, you didn’t vote on it, you were never asked…  but they want you to pay for it.

I would rather see our government bk collapse and get rebuilt with the peoples wealth
than to see all of us go bankrupt to pay for a government that just goes bk anyway too.

Lets use the American peoples money (yours) to prop up the American people (you) instead of propping up the bankrupt American government.

What if you got your paycheck without the taxes taken out?
Then just paid sales tax on things you buy (like you do now).

Right now you have money taxed from you paycheck and then they charge you a sales tax when you buy something with your already taxed money.

Demand Tax Reform!!
Cut up their credit cards!
Demand a balanced budget like all cities and states have!

I care about all of you more than I do the Bankrupt American government,
you are family and they are just out of control over-promising elite house of politicians.

This is not meant as a political, it’s a conversation about your wages, the cost of what you can buy with your wages, the taxes coming down on you and me and some thoughts on the big picture of what is more important…  Our Families!

Protect your family, your community and all our incomes
by realizing it is GOVERNMENT –vs- THE PEOPLE.

Don’t let them fool you into thinking “taxing the rich” doesn’t mean “taxing everyone”
Anything they take from Americans takes jobs and increases the costs of things we buy.

Is the Government going to go Bankrupt or the American People?  Which matters more?

Where did all of your customers go?

It’s hard enough to get new clients and even more difficult at times to keep them.
Active gamblers are the bread and butter of every casino and competing casinos work hard to pry your loyal customers away.  This is more than a competition of offers, free-play and room nights.  The heart of thisCSG Direct Mail active-player tug-of-war is a database strategy competition.

How much you know about your guests, how much you record about them in your database and then how well you use that information to your advantage is the art of casino direct marketing. We need to regularly ask ourselves what information about our guests we utilize beyond the simple play tracking and tiers we have created.

The simplest and most productive additional guest information that we need to use properly is the National Change of Address database provided by the US Postal Service. I will tell you that most casinos still today are not using this at all and when they do they are using it incorrectly.  One of the leading causes of lost guests is that 17% of them move per year and casinos are not following them properly and then addressing them with that new information.

In as quick as 3 years 51% of your database has moved.  Take a quick look at your inactive database counts and you know exactly what I am talking about.  Sure, it is not the only reason but if your competition is keeping their database more current than you it is just a matter of time before they crush you in the market place.

Your profits are being mailed to a garbage can.  As you are losing guests and your responses are dropping each month, you are probably mailing more pieces to make up the difference.  This increase in expenses dramatically reduces or eliminates the profits you would have made if you were not spending much more to get your responses back up. The biggest problem with this is that any pieces mailed standard to someone that has moved are thrown away by the US Postal Service.

Here are the main steps you should take to get back on top of your database.

  1. Do a 48 Month NCOA cleanse to go as far back as the US Postal Service goes.
  2. Upload all the changes back into your database  MOST IMPORTANT STEP!
  3. Re-code your bad-address flags to reflect all the changes.
  4. Re-code your Local/Non-Local flags based on their new addresses.
  5. Repeat with upload every 30-90 days with just the 18 Month NCOA Files.

Anything less is just surrendering your best clients to your competition.

We have been performing this process for casinos all over the country. The hardest step and the most important is the upload back into your player tracking system.  If you need help with that please feel free to call us and we’ll help make you shine.

The symbol versions of QR Codes

Each QR Code symbol version has a max data capacity according to the amount of data, character type and error correction level. In other words, as the amount of data increases, more modules are needed to make up the QR code. Let’s say for example you have a rather long web link or you want to include multiple fields in a contact form. This is what makes larger QR Code symbols.

The symbol versions of QR Code range from Version 1 to Version 40. Each version has a different module configuration or number of modules. The module refers to the black and white dots that make up QR Code.

“Module configuration” refers to the number of modules contained in a symbol, commencing with Version 1 up to Version 40. Version 1 is 21 x 21 modules and Version 40 is 177 x 177 modules. As you can see in the image below each higher version number comprises 4 additional modules per side.

Error Correction

QR Codes have error correction capability to restore data if the code is dirty or damaged. Four error correction levels are available. Raising this level improves error correction capability but also increases the amount of data QR Code size. The bigger the QR code, the better chance it has of being read properly without error.

To select error correction level, various factors such as the operating environment and QR Code size need to be considered.
Level Q or H may be selected for factory environment where QR Codes get dirty, whereas Level L may be selected for clean environment with the large amount of data. Typically, Level M (15%) is most frequently selected.

From a graphic design perspective Level Q or H are great to work with. One can remove parts of the code, implement an image, icon, or design and still get full functional readability. On thing to keep in mind while doing this is that most people don’t have a fancy smartphone and may be using an older less effective camera-phone when scanning your code. You want to make sure that the code will work with all smart phones.

You can color a QR code as long as you use dark enough colors that maintain good contrast for the camera to recognize. You can also use the black areas as a mask over a photograph. Indeed you can be very creative with QR and not have the boring robotic look of generic QR codes.

Another thing to keep in mind while designing is to leave the white border around the code. This border allows the camera to zero-out and know what areas to read and decode. A general rule-of-thumb is to maintain a 4:1 scale of white border to the smallest module, or pixel, within your QR code.

State of the Postal Service Part 2

Continued from Part 1

As we continue to review our volume, revenue and financial projections for fiscal years 2012 through 2015, it has become apparent that our financial situation is becoming even more precarious. First-Class Mail volume is declining even more rapidly than we had previously predicted. Standard Mail volume is flat, and in any event cannot adequately compensate for the declines in the much more profitable First-Class Mail that we are experiencing. Therefore, it is clear that we must reduce costs at an accelerated pace.

Our most significant area of cost is in compensation and benefits, and one key driver of those costs is simply the sheer size of our workforce. Therefore, the Postal Service has to be able to reduce the size of our workforce if we are to have any hope of insuring that our costs are less than our revenue. Based on current revenue and cost trends, and assuming a move to 5-day delivery, the Postal Service can only afford a total workforce by 2015 of 425,000, which includes approximately 30% lower cost, more flexible, non- career employees.

Attrition and certain other measures will allow us to achieve a portion of the savings needed to match expenses with revenue by 2015. We estimate that attrition will only result in a staff reduction of approximately 100,000. However, in order for the Postal Service to reduce complement to meet projected volume degradation, we must eliminate roughly 220,000 career positions between now and 2015.

In order to eliminate the remaining 120,000 career positions by 2015, to restore the Postal Service to financial viability, it is imperative that we have the ability to reduce our workforce rapidly. Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between the Postal Service and our unionized employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our workforce by the amount required by 2015. As explained below, it is not likely that the Postal Service will be able to eliminate these layoff protections through collective bargaining, given the nature of collective bargaining and interest arbitration. Therefore, a legislative change is needed to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements.

As a Solution we recommend that reductions in bargaining unit postal employees should be governed by the RIF provisions applicable to federal competitive service employees. These provisions must supersede existing contract provisions and should not be subject to modification or supplementation through collective bargaining to avoid conflicts of law and to maintain necessary continuity among bargaining units.

Applying the federal statutory and regulatory competitive service process to the postal bargaining unit workforce could be done in a manner that would produce the following positive results:

The Postal Service could quickly reorganize and right size its bargaining unit workforce utilizing one set of established rules.
Postal bargaining unit employees would have the substantive and procedural protections provided by RIF rules, but collective bargaining agreements would be prohibited from having no lay-off clauses. Issues related to lay-off and reassignment to lower levels would be removed as subjects for collective bargaining.
Postal bargaining unit employees would challenge their lay-offs or involuntary reassignments to lower levels to the MSPB rather than through the grievance procedure.
Veterans’ preference is preserved.
The Postal Service would have a significant tool to return to financial solvency, thus protecting businesses and the majority of jobs for the hundreds of thousands of postal and other employees in the postal industry.

The recommended statutory change would be to modify Title 39, United States Code, to apply the RIF provisions of Title 5 and implementing regulations governing the competitive service to the Postal Service’s bargaining unit employees and to make clear that collective bargaining cannot modify or add to such rights, nor limit the rights of management that are part of the current federal competitive service RIF process.

In Conclusion We recognize that asking Congress to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements is an extraordinary request by the Postal Service, and we do not make this request lightly. Indeed, the Postal Service generally believes that it and its unions should be free from Congressional mandates as to the provisions of its collective bargaining agreements and that the Postal Service is best served when the bargaining parties can resolve their differences through collective bargaining. However, exceptional circumstances require exceptional remedies.

The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence and, therefore, threaten the livelihoods of our employees and the businesses and employees in the broader postal industry and overall economy, of which the Postal Service continues to play a large part. If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality. Because this option is not available to the Postal Service, we believe that this extraordinary request is a key to securing our future and our continuing ability to provide universal service to our nation.

We are urgently engaged with Congress and the Administration to achieve a legislative resolution that will allow us to best serve our customers. Whatever the outcome, not only will it affect the Postal Service – it will shape the future of the entire mailing industry. Meanwhile, our commitment to providing excellent delivery service and connecting senders and receivers across the nation remains unchanged. We will continue to focus on our customers, and to partner with the mailing industry to ensure that together we are positioned to fulfill the changing needs of American customers.

State of the Postal Service Part 1

Information provided by the US Postal Service:

This recession has been particularly cruel to the postal service, already battered by the popularity of e-mail. Total mail volume is declining and just Last year we saw the biggest decline in mail since the Depression: volume fell by 4.5%, or about 9 billion pieces.

The postal service continues to loose volume in it’s largest, most profitable segment: First class mail. The postal service ended the 2008 fiscal year with a $2.8 billion loss, and the next two years may well be worse.

In response to the continuing decline in mail volume and revenue, the Postal Service has taken unprecedented steps over the past decade to reduce cost in areas within its control, including cost reductions totaling $12 billion in the past four fiscal years. The Postal Service has already identified and is pursuing a number of needed legislative changes that would help to return it to solvency.

Actions have been taken across the board to address the financial situation including: Work hour reductions, distribution compression, national distribution center realignment, facility optimization, equipment optimization and restructuring efforts.

The Postal Service is also undertaking, or has proposed, a number of additional steps to help it achieve the cost savings necessary to restore financial solvency. With respect to its delivery network, the Postal Service has and continues to aggressively pursue an optimization initiative that has led to fewer delivery routes, despite the growth in delivery points, along with more efficient usage of vehicles and fuel. In addition, the Postal service has urged Congress to allow 5-day delivery, an essential step in right-sizing the delivery network to reflect the fact that the Postal Service is now delivering a decreasing amount of mail to an ever-expanding number of delivery points.

The Postal Service is also closely examining its retail network, to identify opportunities where postal-operated facilities can be consolidated or replaced with alternate access channels that are both more cost-effective and provide greater access and more convenience for customers. The first step in this process was recently taken by the identification of approximately 3,700 retail facilities that will be studied for possible closure or conversion to contract postal services.
The Postal Service is also moving forward with efforts to streamline its mail processing network.

Currently, the Postal Service has over 500 facilities where mail is processed. Because of the decline in mail volume, referenced above, and the change in mail mix that has led to fewer pieces of mail requiring end-to-end processing, efforts are underway to continue to optimize this network using Area Mail Processing studies and other consolidation initiatives. We anticipate reducing transportation miles and costs and reducing the number of processing facilities to below 200.

Continue to State of the Postal Service Part 2