Monthly Archives

March 2023

Concerned About Data Privacy? Look for HITRUST CSF-Certified Vendors.

By | Direct Mail

For years, compliance with data privacy regulations involved completing an annual audit and checking some boxes to satisfy industry requirements. You’ve probably heard of major regulations and standards, including:

  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) for health information.
  • The Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA) for banks and financial institutions.
  • The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) for companies that handle credit card information.

Today, data privacy is a day-to-day responsibility of not only the IT and compliance folks, but all employees, business partners, and vendors. Regulations enacted in recent years, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act, and the New York SHIELD Act, have broadened the scope of data privacy requirements and introduced new consumer rights with regards to controlling and accessing their data.

Given increasingly stringent data privacy rules, severe penalties for noncompliance, and a number of high-profile data breaches, it’s no surprise that 44 percent of CEOs rank data privacy among the three policies that are most impactful of their business, according to a 2020 PwC survey. Nearly seven in 10 are “very actively” looking to shape data privacy policy.

What Is the HITRUST-CSF Certification?

The Health Information Trust Alliance Common Security Framework (HITRUST CSF) is a framework of controls and standards created to help organizations satisfy security, data privacy, and compliance requirements. HITRUST CSF covers a wide range of security functions, from access controls and disaster recovery to endpoint protection and third-party assurance.

Key systems and infrastructure within Direct Mail Depot’s operation have earned the HITRUST CSF certification, which means we have to prove to the HITRUST Alliance that our security systems and policies meet their strict standards. HITRUST CSF certification means exactly what the name implies – you have a high level of trust that your data is being protected.

HITRUST CSF was originally developed in collaboration with leaders from the healthcare sector. Early adopters were mostly healthcare organizations, and HITRUST CSF is the most widely adopted security framework in the U.S. healthcare industry. As a result, many people mistakenly assume HITRUST CSF is just another fancy word for HIPAA.

In reality, HIPAA is a law. There is no certification process. HITRUST CSF requires companies to go through a rigorous process and implement a wide range of controls and policies to become certified. HITRUST CSF also incorporates the requirements of PCI, GLBA, ISO, NIST, and other regulations and standards to ensure data privacy is maintained by a wide variety of organizations.

This is especially important when you’re trusting a third party with your customer data.

Data Privacy Must Be Engrained in the Company Culture

At Direct Mail Depot, security is a priority at every level of the company. Every employee must go through security awareness training. Instead of simply being handed a security manual, for example, the team goes through weekly security training, including real-world phishing tests that show employees how cyber criminals are trying to fool them.

The HITRUST CSF certification has required us to implement strict controls for the storage and transfer of data, both internally and externally. There are nearly two dozen categories of IT security policies and procedures that we maintain, such as mobile and wireless security, configuration and vulnerability management, and audit logging and monitoring.

Security also extends from the IT environment to the physical environment. The production plant has strict access controls, visitors need to be escorted, and nobody is all allowed to take photos or videos in that space, which prevents data from being accidentally captured.

Data privacy rules are growing in number and complexity for all companies, not just those in heavily regulated industries. It’s important to partner with companies that not only have the right technology and controls in place, but also have security baked into the company culture.

Do you have questions about how Direct Mail Depot protects the privacy of your customer data? Contact us to schedule a consultation.

Data Proves Why Direct Mailers Need to Get on Board with Informed Delivery

By | Direct Mail

If you could send advertising to potential customers with the expectation that more than two-thirds of them will look at it, would you do it?

This is just the beginning of the compelling business case for making Informed Delivery part of your direct mail marketing strategy.

What Is Informed Delivery?

Informed Delivery is a free service offered by the USPS that allows residential consumers to see what’s coming to their physical mailbox and manage the delivery of packages. Each day, people who sign up for this service receive an email with scanned images of incoming mail. These images can also be viewed through an online dashboard or mobile app.

For example, if someone is waiting for an important document or bill, or they’re worried about a valuable package being stolen, Informed Delivery will tell them when to expect it so they can take action.

Informed Delivery Users Love the Service

That could be an understatement, actually.

According to a USPS Informed Delivery User Survey from January 2020, 93 percent of users are satisfied or very satisfied with Informed Delivery. 94 percent would recommend the service, up from 77 percent in 2019.

Data provided by the USPS in February shows a six-month average email open rate of 69 percent. How high is that open rate? Well, the average open rate for all types of marketing emails in 2020 was just 18 percent.

Why is the open rate so high? 73 percent of Informed Delivery users check their physical mailbox every day or almost every day. 87 percent said they’re almost always the primary household member who retrieves mail.

The point here is that Informed Delivery users aren’t just looking forward to checking the mailbox and going through their mail. They want to know what they’re getting before it arrives. Informed Delivery builds on that anticipation.

Direct Mail Marketing Opportunities with Informed Delivery

Informed Delivery allows businesses to capitalize on high user engagement and satisfaction by creating an additional touchpoint for their mail and integrating digital and direct mail into omni-channel marketing campaigns. This translates to more impressions, more interactions, greater awareness and recall, and higher response rates.

Direct mail marketers can use Informed Delivery to get a color or black-and-white digital image of their mailing in front of the customer before they grab the physical copy from their mailbox. They can also include a call-to-action in the email to drive recipients to their website and other digital content.

According to the USPS, the average click-through rate for interactive campaigns with Informed Delivery is 7-8 percent. This dwarfs the click-through rate of all marketing emails in all industries, which averaged just 2.6 percent in 2020.

Informed Delivery provides businesses with valuable pre- and post-campaign data, including:

  • Density and Email Statistics: The number and percentage of users who choose to receive Informed Delivery emails.
  • Email Open Rates: The number and percentage of emails opened for each campaign.
  • Click-Through Rates: The number and percentage of users who click the image to access digital content as part of an interactive campaign.

The numbers speak for themselves. If you want to get better results from direct mail marketing and integrate online and offline campaigns, you should be exploring ways to incorporate Informed Delivery into your strategy.

Have questions about using Informed Delivery to enhance your direct mail marketing? Contact Direct Mail Depot today to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.

Modern Direct Mail Testing: More Versions, Lower Costs, Faster Printing

By | Direct Mail

Traditional direct mail testing commonly involves an A and a B version.  You would print one or two static Forms, put it on a laser or inkjet printer, and personalize the piece using black toner.   This is the method used for the majority of direct mail campaigns today.

Any changes in the offer or text were accomplished using black print alone. If you wished to have an entirely new color mailer, you’d need to change the plates on the printing press, which means more proofs and setups, more print versions to manage, and the creation of more mail cells that require commingling or higher postage costs.

If you’re printing 10,000 pieces or only have A and B versions, this approach is somewhat manageable.

However, what happens if you want to print 100,000 or 1 million pieces and go beyond A/B testing to create C, D, and E versions?  When you take into account preprinting forms, setup time, waste, and different forms being stored in your vendor’s warehouse, this traditional method can be costly and time-consuming.

This is one reason why direct response marketers often settle for just “A/B” or “either/or” testing. They’re reluctant to push the envelope. Many have never been shown how to use modern technology to easily execute complex testing in a way that’s not only fast and cost-effective, but also can deliver better intelligence and long-term results!

How Direct Mail Testing Became Smarter, Faster, and More Efficient

Modern digital printing has taken direct mail testing capabilities to a totally new level.  With recent developments in print technology, paper, and ink, the cost has gone down considerably, while the quality has improved to near litho print quality.

High-definition digital inkjet printers introduced in just the last few years print at speeds never before possible. They also make it possible to swap out an unlimited number of offers and images on the fly in stunning, high-resolution color.

For example, if you have 100,000 pieces of mail, you can produce 100,000 unique versions since the process is driven by your data, business rules, and any images that you wish to include.

Also, keep in mind that the traditional approach requires that you break your mail file into separate postal sorts every time you create a new print version. This reduces the concentration of your mail, causing your postal costs to increase. You can use a commingling service to get a postal discount, but this can cause a delay in meeting in-home delivery dates.

Using this digital print idea, we essentially commingle versions right on the press to achieve the maximum postal discounts possible, with zero setup, waste, or storage.

The Missing Ingredient in Most Direct Mail Tests

There’s a critical component to direct mail testing with modern technology that most organizations are missing – experience.

Anyone can buy technology, but you need to have the experience to build an image library in a way that lets your data automatically pull in the right image for each piece. You need to know how to format your mail to optimize costs. And you need to understand how to track and analyze the results so your direct mail testing provides meaningful insights that enable optimizations of future campaigns.

Direct Mail Depot brings this expertise to the table for every client.  In addition to offering the right tools, we have the right people who have successfully planned and executed hundreds of complex, high-volume direct mail campaigns and can walk you through the process.

Real-World Examples of Modern Direct Mail Testing

One emerging form of insurance is pet insurance. Testing is typically A/B with a generic dog version and a generic cat version. If you know what type of animal each customer has, why not take customization and testing a step further?

For example, instead of simply having a dog version, create versions for each breed of dog that your prospect owns – German shepherd, collie, poodle, black lab, etc. Pet owners will be drawn much more to a photo that resembles the pets they love, which improves the open, engagement, and response rates.

If you’re offering auto insurance, you can run tests using an image library of not only different styles and models, but different colors of each vehicle.  For example, instead of having images of just a sedan, SUV, and pickup, you can include images for specific models in a variety of colors and customize your mail accordingly. This can all be based on the unique characteristics or desires of each recipient.

Auto insurance affinity programs for college alumni are also very popular. Rather than simply using a black-only school logo, you can use a full-color logo with a photo of a signature building on campus to grab the attention of the recipient.

For financial service companies promoting low mortgage rates, you can customize your offer and terms for each individual in full color.  Even if you’re promoting something as specific as a VA mortgage, images and offers can be customized to appeal to veterans of different generations with the goal of creating more interest and increasing open and response rates.  The added benefit is that high-speed digital print technology cuts production time in half so you can get to your prospect’s mailbox faster than your competition!

Modern technology overcomes the challenges of limitations of traditional A/B testing, while Direct Mail Depot’s experience enables you to expand your direct mail testing with confidence.  If you’d like see examples for yourself and discuss what’s possible with direct mail testing, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Commingling Direct Mail

By | Direct Mail

“I don’t want my mailing showing up in someone’s mailbox on the same day as my competitor!”

This is a common objection we hear from companies as they plan their direct mail campaigns. They’re hesitant to commingle their direct mail because they’re afraid of sharing mailbox space with competitors.

For example, if mailings from Liberty, Geico, and State Farm are commingled, they could arrive in the same mailbox at the same time.

Of course, the same thing can happen if you drop your mail separately. In other words, a competitor’s mail could still be sorted together by the USPS and arrive on the same day! There’s no surefire way to avoid it.

The difference with commingling through Direct Mail Depot is the opportunity to save on postage. Let’s take a quick look at commingling and when it makes sense for direct mail marketing.

What Is Commingling?

Commingling is a process that involves combining, or commingling, the mailings of multiple companies to targeted areas in a way that qualifies for USPS postage discounts. A commingling provider like Direct Mail Depot can sort your mailings and deliver them to the destination Sectional Center Facility (SCF) and/or Network Distribution Center (NDC). SCFs and NDCs are USPS mail processing plants across the country.

As a result, you bypass intermediate processing facilities, reducing the number of stops your mail makes on the way to the households or businesses on your list. This saves the USPS a lot of work, which is why they offer postage discounts for commingling.

For example, pieces, you , which works out to about a penny per piece. If you’re mailing a million pieces, commingling could save you more than $10,000.

The USPS will essentially go through the same sorting process even if you don’t commingle through a provider. It just happens at a different time in a different facility and you’ll pay more in postage.

By commingling, you get the best postage rate because your mail is mixed with millions of other pieces of mail destined for the same NDCs and/or SCFs.

Again, even if you don’t use our commingling services, your mail could be mixed with competitor’s mail anyway. If Liberty, Geico, and State Farm are sending direct mail, and one household is on all three lists, all three mailings could be in the same SCF on the same day and delivered to the same mailbox at the same time.

The only difference is you won’t receive a discount on postage for commingling.

How Direct Mail Depot Approaches Commingling

The decision to commingle does not have to be an “all or nothing” proposition. Direct Mail Depot will analyze your mail to determine the most efficient way to ship and maximize your postal savings.

For example, we try to avoid dropping all mail locally, which the highest postage rate. It might make sense for you to drop-ship a portion of your mail and commingle the balance. Each mailing strategy is customized based on the density and geographical nature of your mail file.

The key takeaway here is that commingling is nothing to be afraid of. Just make sure you partner with a direct mail provider that knows the ins and outs of the USPS and how to optimize your marketing campaigns.

If you’re not sure if all or a portion of your direct mail should be commingled, contact Direct Mail Depot. We’ll analyze your mail file, explain your options, and help you minimize your postage costs.

Saving 2% on Postage with USPS Promotions Is Easier Than You Think

By | Direct Mail

Every year, the USPS announces its promotions and incentive programs, which are designed to encourage marketers to incorporate new technology and print techniques into their direct mail campaigns.

It’s a win-win situation. You can increase engagement and response rates by enhancing your mailings, and you receive a 2 percent postage discount if you meet a few simple requirements.

Many large marketing agencies express interest in taking advantage of USPS promotions but decide not to move forward. More often than not, they feel overwhelmed or hesitant about using new techniques, so they revert back to the strategies they know well.

In reality, it’s fairly simple to execute campaigns that are eligible for USPS promotional discounts, especially when you partner with a company like Direct Mail Depot that’s experienced with these types of campaigns.

Here are three USPS promotions for 2021 with explanations of how easy it can be to qualify.

Tactile, Sensory, and Interactive Engagement (now through July 31, 2021)

This direct mail promotion involves the use of innovative paper stock, inks, interactive elements, and finishing techniques. The easiest way to meet the promotion’s eligibility requirements is to simply use a textured envelope.

Real-world examples used by Direct Mail Depot include:

  • A soft-touch envelope with a velvet-like texture, used by a communications provider to add prestige and impact to the mailing.
  • A textured envelope that replicated the bumps and ridges of a basketball, used by an insurance provider to connect with sports fans. This can also be done with a baseball or football texture.

Not only would these mailings qualify for the promotional discount, but they stand out in the mailbox and grab the attention of the recipient. They appear special and important compared to standard mail. Other options for this promotional category include everything from popups to scented mailers to augmented reality, but a textured envelope could be the simplest technique to execute.

Mobile Shopping (August 1 – December 31, 2021)

The mobile shopping promotion focuses on using mobile technologies to drive online purchases. Qualifying for the discount could be as easy as using a QR code or another type of mobile barcode that links to a website where the recipient can make a purchase.

QR codes and barcodes are easy to set up, they typically add no cost or production time to your direct mail campaign, and you can save 2 percent in total postage during the campaign!

Because the mobile promotion runs from August through the end of the year, this is an excellent opportunity for retailers to reach their target audience during the holidays as both online and mobile shopping continue to increase.

Informed Delivery (September 1 – November 30, 2021)

Running an Informed Delivery campaign is as simple as providing us with an image that will link to your website. Not only can you save 2 percent on postage, but you essentially double your advertising exposure for free!

Informed Delivery is a free, optional service from the USPS that allows residential consumers to see what mail and packages are arriving soon by reading a daily email. In that email, the recipient will see a color or black-and-white image of your physical mailing before it arrives. Keep in mind that everyone in the household can receive this email, not just the person on the address label.

Not only does the household receive the physical mailing, but they see a digital copy that links directly to your website, creating another important touchpoint.

Informed Delivery has extremely high customer satisfaction rates and email open rates. Why not try Informed Delivery during the promotional period from Labor Day to Thanksgiving and save 2 percent on postage?

See the full 2021 USPS promotional calendar here.

Still a little unsure about incorporating these techniques into your marketing strategy? Let Direct Mail Depot guide you through the process. We’ve executed these types of campaigns and can show you how it’s done. Contact us today to find out which tactics make sense for your campaigns, how to qualify for postage discounts, and how to achieve the best possible results.

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