Postal rates are changing. First Class mailing items have gone from 39 cents to 41 cents, and the cost for other types of business mail are also going up, including rates on non-standard pieces like 9" x 12" envelopes and even "bulk rate" for pre-sorted automated mailings.
Although these increases are measured in pennies, businesses such as credit unions that operate non-profit or with only marginal profit are going to feel the squeeze-and at the same time that they are facing pressures to grow their membership and revenues and increase the number of services they offer.
The silver lining to this dark cloud is that while the USPS has raised the rates on certain types of business and promotional mailings, it has decreased the rate for the second or even the third ounce of first llass mail, letting you mail those additional ounces for only 12.5 cents each-and it's been a long time since we could mail anything at that rate.
This opens the door to a new way of delivering marketing materials and other promotional information to your membership. And it means the word "TransPromo"-a catch-phrase for mixing transactional and promotional documents in first class letter mail-may quickly become a common business practice.
There is a great deal of opportunity in developing a plan that puts additional marketing pieces and promotional messages into statements, bills and other transactional documents.
First is the key consideration that First class mail gets opened and bills get reviewed-which means you have a captive audience for the marketing messages you spent a good deal of time and money developing.
Second is that the technologies that make TransPromo possible also provide a way to make these communications more personal and relevant to each individual member.
TransPromo in action
Businesses such as utilities and telecommunications companies have been taking advantage of this concept for several years, even without a name attached to it.
Most people have already received TransPromo materials in their private mail, like the special offers for cell phone deals that arrive with your regular telephone bill.
But TransPromo can also involve highly personalized documents to get even better mileage in terms of calling attention to timely offers like lower mortgage rates, or to promote certain products like credit/debit cards or auto loans.
The secret behind this is to use all the information that you already know about your members-information that is in your database and other member-related files.
To put a TransPromo strategy into motion means combining the member name and address database with other member information files, like loan or savings history, as well as with promotional text and applicable graphics. The mix can create timely and relevant marketing materials that go out with the monthly bill or statement, all in the same package-or even on the same pages.
An example of this would be offering an equity loan to homeowners, or including messages in Spanish to Spanish-speaking members.
With the right type of software, these messages can be highly personalized, can reflect the member's particular interests and can also be printed directly on the billing statement instead of being a separate item, saving even more on paper and postage.
Make a splash
It's time to take another look at the statements you mail. Transactional documents don't need to be boring any more. The advancement of digital print technologies and the software on the market today make it possible to fully personalize documents in order to combine transactional documents and marketing communications more cost-effectively than ever before.
Instead of plain black and white, spot color can be used to highlight certain information in a document, and even full color can be used to print attention-grabbing graphics or photographs. Member information can be gathered from a variety of sources-which often is an issue in these days of mergers and acquisitions-to mix marketing messages and transactional content so that the message will address the member's individual tastes and situation.
This type of relevant messaging has proven to have greater impact on recipients and has generated higher response rates than typical one-size-fits-all promotional direct mail.
Additionally, these documents don't even have to be printed-they can be integrated with multi-channel marketing communications so that you can send your documents via email to members who might prefer this medium, or you can send identical hard-copy and e-mail documents to help members migrate to electronic billing.
Although experience to date from many industries that have offered electronic billing shows that adoption rates have been slow, eliminating even 10% of your printing and mailing costs by switching to electronic billing can translate into significant cost savings-and your members receive exactly the same communications to suit their personal preferences.
The message is service
TransPromo isn't limited to only product marketing materials, either, but can help you deliver more personal service to members. Insurance companies have used it to present and explain complicated ideas like benefits or claims procedures to their policyholders.
Credit unions, like other government-regulated industries, can use it to include the required compliance information for each member quickly and accurately, even if members have different types of accounts or live in different states with different regulations. You can use it to tell certain members-the retirees, the newlyweds, the homeowners, etc.-about whatever new products or services might be available to them in particular.
All of the above can have the beneficial result of adding to your bottom line. And with the new postal rates, it makes further economical sense to add that newsletter or insert and use the white space on the monthly statement to your advantage.
You can use a TransPromo statement to get out information in a timely way and with the high level of personalization that shows your members you know them and are working hard to serve their individual needs.
Credit unions have the reputation for having a more personal touch than traditional banks, and TransPromo is a very effective way to build a relationship with members, generate member loyalty, and get maximum results from your marketing dollars.
And now, thanks to the new, lower postal rates on first class mail, you can send those marketing materials for less money that it would cost to send them separately.
The USPS set the rules of the game and-maybe accidentally-has provided this new opportunity. But it's an opportunity that credit unions can and should use to optimum advantage.
Harry Stephens is president and CEO of DATAMATX, a supplier of printed and electronic billing solutions. For info: www.datamatx.com.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Credit Union Journal encourages reader feedback. Letters to the Editor can be sent to Managing Editor Lisa Freeman at lfreeman<at>cujournal.com. Letters can also be faxed to 561-832-2939 or submitted online at www.cujournal.com.