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Episode 36 – Industry Corner Podcast

IN THIS EPISODE: Guest Mark Fallon, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Berkshire Company joins us to discuss the importance of workflow automation and mailing industry education, we'll also review the results of the 2019 USPS® Promotions and discuss the latest in Informed Delivery® and Informed Addressing.

Links to the resources mentioned in the podcast.

Informed Delivery

Informed Visibility

The Berkshire Company


Chris (00:00):
Hi everyone. I’m Chris Lien, welcome to Industry Corner, a podcast where I discuss postal industry news to help you stay informed. On today’s podcast, Mark Fallon, the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Berkshire company will be joining me to discuss the importance of workflow automation and mailing industry education. We’ll also review the results of the 2019 USPS promotions and discuss the latest in Informed Delivery and Informed Addressing. So let’s get into it. Welcome to the podcast, everyone! Today we have a guest speaker and I’m pleased to bring Mark Fallon, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Berkshire Company into the conversation today. Welcome to the podcast, Mark!

Mark Fallon (00:43):
Thanks Chris. I appreciate being invited.

Chris (00:45):
Well, we’re really glad to have you here and I know you’ve got a lot of great information to share with our listeners today. You may not be familiar, Mark is a frequent speaker with the National Postal Forum. If you’ve ever attended the National Postal Forum, you’re certainly probably have heard of him before. So The Berkshire Company is pretty well known in the industry. Mark, could you give us a brief introduction of what The Berkshire Company does?

Mark Fallon (01:05):
Sure Chris. So we’re an independent consulting firm that specializes in the print and mail industry and we work with implants, mail owners, mail service providers in a variety of ways. It might be to review their operation and recommend improvements. It might be choose the best technology and the best vendor partners, and then most importantly – how to implement meaningful change.

Chris (01:31):
Excellent. Well that’s certainly very important and applicable to a lot of our listeners and as I said before Mark, if you’ve ever been to the National Postal Forum in the past, you certainly should know Mark from there. Mark is a big proponent of education and we’ll talk about education at NPF a little bit later on in the podcast, but before we get to that, I thought it’d be important just to let our listeners know what the latest is with the 2019 promotions and then also talk a little bit about Informed Delivery and Informed Addressing. And I want to start with promotions because right now we’re starting to get some information from the postal service on how they did last year with these, and I want to start first with something that I’ve talked about before on the podcast, which is tactile, sensory, and interactive promotions. It really leverages that high touch that mail has activating all the haptic nerves and your olfactory nerves, and with smelling and everything that goes along with it. Because direct mail stimulates the brain in ways that digital really can’t touch. Now for 2019 for that particular promotion, there were a lot of increases. Participants – there are 167 groups that participated in that particular promotion and that’s a 6% increase over 2017. And just to remind everyone listening to the podcast, 2018 we didn’t do promotions because we were still waiting for the Board of Governors to be seated, to have a quorum to be able to approve those. So we’re going to be comparing to 2017 but that was a 6% growth in terms of participation. For volume – 1.4 billion pieces, so that’s an 18% growth over 2017. So I think the message is starting to be heard that direct mail or physical mail has that advantage over a digital only does. And of course more volume means more revenue for the postal service, $320 million in revenue.

Chris (03:09):
Now the postal service does do surveys after their promotions and they shared that of the 67% of the mail service providers that participate in that, they’re likely or very likely to include tactile technology into their future mailings. So I think that’s good news and good indication that again, a high touch mailpiece presents great foundation, particularly for multichannel marketing. And that multichannel marketing can of course include email, strategically timed communications, and that’s really what the Informed Delivery promotion was all about. As a reminder to the listeners, Informed Delivery is that daily email of what’s going to be arriving in the mailbox. And there are some great ways to be able to enhance or excite and delight the end recipient of that mailpiece with a color replacement image or click through, which the postal service calls a ride along. I think that’s really a bad choice for a name because that means something different for people in periodicals, but by clicking on that you can engage with the mailpiece before it even arrives.

Chris (04:00):
Now in the Informed Delivery campaign, there were 478 participants and this is again a new campaign for 2019 to really leverage where Informed Delivery is at right now. That’s 2.6 to 8 billion pieces of mail that were involved with that and generating nearly $600 million for the postal service, so a very, very successful Informed Delivery campaign. Of the surveyed participants, 33% agreed that the 2019 Informed Delivery promotion increased the effectiveness of the customer’s direct mail campaign. Very important. Again, as we look to see if we can expand the wallet share for marketing spending towards direct mail again – trying to get it back up out of that 8, 9% into the 12% and even higher by linking together that physical and digital connectivity. 60% of the respondents stated that they plan to conduct Informed Delivery interactive campaigns outside of the promotion period. So this is going to continue on folks, and I expect that to continue to grow. 39% of the respondents have assessed the campaign performance metrics from their participation in Informed Delivery campaigns. So already we see great participation in leveraging Informed Delivery. We see that the mail supply chain is beginning to look at this data, leverage the data, are planning on using that data. And that’s really, really important. Now for the other promotions that were done in 2019, they were all down compared to 2017 both in terms of volume or participation. And my thought on that is it’s most likely because everyone was taking advantage of Informed Delivery. The postal service is still trying to keep these promotions separate or isolated. So you can’t do multiple promotions at the same time. So I’ve been talking a lot about Informed Delivery. Just a couple of updates on that. 22 million users now, according to Postal Service, and this is data that they shared with us at the Mailer’s Technical Advisory Committee meeting back at the end of January. There’s 22 million users now across 18 million households and the open rate continues to be an incredible number at 61%. That’s huge folks; your typical email open rate, you know maybe 20% or a teens, something like that – to have a 61% open rate says a lot about this program and one of the reasons that they’re getting such great adoption on that 22 million that’s significant is the internet change of address. So as people are changing their address online, they are effectively opting-in to Informed Delivery. They can choose to opt-out of the program, but most people are opting-in and it’s really a great service for those that are leveraging it.

Chris (06:23):
There are a couple of pilots that are underway right now, a February pilot for select ZIP Codes to provide mail delivery notification. And I find this very fascinating because it’s taking advantage of some of the geofencing technology – some of these mobile delivery devices the carriers have – to be able to let people know that “Hey, the carriers out for delivery right now and you should expect that mail moment closer and closer to the actual time that you’ll see that in your mailbox.” So a great way to be able to build more anticipation with that. In March we’re going to see a pilot for the improved package notification and that’ll include an opportunity for some replacement images. Also in March, the postal service is going to be again enabling multiple addresses for a single Informed Delivery account. Sometimes people have more than one physical address and they want those all connected, they want to be able to have one single view of all their addresses. Maybe they’ve got a PO box with a physical address or maybe they’ve got a summer home or a winter home. So this could be a great opportunity to be able to get more information into a centralized account for the postal service. And then looking ahead to April, the postal service is going to begin to start converging together these two different data feeds, Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility. So Informed Visibility, the mail tracking. A lot of our listeners use our Track N Trace® service with BCC Software. That’s where we’re getting this information provision to us as the Informed Visibility channel. With the postal service now making some of the campaign data available through Informed Visibility that comes out of the Informed Delivery that could present a great opportunity for growth for a lot of mailing service providers.

Chris (07:48):
One more thing to talk about before we get back to the National Postal Forum and the education is Informed Addressing, and Informed Addressing sort of came out of this Informed Delivery campaign. It really is an opportunity to start looking at email to physical address because keeping in mind that. Informed Delivery is all about the email. So at MTAC at the end of January, Gary Reblin, who’s the USPS Vice President of Product Innovation, was very passionate about this idea that the postal service might be able to provide a service that would provision an encrypted address in the event that somebody provided an email. So envision that all you’ve got is the email address for Chris Lien and Chris’s involved in Informed Delivery. And so you send that email address to the postal service and then from the postal service you would get some kind of an encrypted physical address of where I live. And that encrypted address could then be used in campaigns. It would be unique for a very short window of time and I’d be able to put that on the mailpiece and then the mailpiece would go out to me and if I responded to the mailpiece, then now I have a relationship where I can begin to add that into my database. So it’s a pilot concept. I can see that this is one way that the postal service is starting to leverage maybe some of the data. Um, it’s interesting as I was listening to Mr. Rebin talking about this, of course, top of mind for me were things like privacy concerns and Title 39 section 4-12, but as I listened to him I realized this is not provisioning name and address data it’s really just the address itself. A lot of work to be done on this, and there’s an MTAC workgroup that is also exploring this, but I anticipate we’ll hear a lot more about Informed Addressing and Informed Delivery when we go to the National Postal Forum. And so I want to bring Mark back into the conversation here because speaking of the National Postal Forum , Mark you are not only speaking there, but you also do something pretty interesting at the National Postal Forum as well.

Mark Fallon (09:32):
Yeah. So Chris, we started several years ago, the Berkshire Company sponsors a Habitat for Humanity build. So, you know, the National Postal Forum officially kicks off on Sunday for people who can come in early on Saturday. We partnered with the National Postal Forum and this year it’s with the Greater Orlando & Osceola County Habitat for Humanity. And so we’ll be working on helping build a brand new house. It’s a new construction for a really well deserving family. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do that day. Uh, our crews have done everything from painting walls to putting in insulation. And last year we were doing siding in Indianapolis. We’ll be announcing exactly what we’ll be doing. And so transportation to the site, breakfast and lunch is provided by the Postal Forum. We do ask for a $25 nonrefundable fee to participate. And that’s to help offset the cost for the transportation. But everything collected, all the money after expenses all goes to the Greater Orlando & Osceola County Habitat for Humanity. And I’ve already heard from several task participants and they already signed up. We have this core group that comes every year, is about 10 to 15 of those folks. So we have room for about 10 more. You can reserve your spot on the crew on the NPF website, that’s npf.org. So after registering for the conference, you’ll see a tab that says “Networking Events” and you just click on that and select the habitat. And if you’ve already registered you can go back in, edit your registration and add that event. It’s just a great way to give back and a great way to start your time at the National Postal Forum.

Chris (11:20):
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much Mark. And again for our listeners, the National Postal Forum you mentioned that’s being held in Orlando, right? Can you tell us a little bit about the dates and maybe the model for the NPF this year?

Mark Fallon (11:30):
Sure! So the NPF this year, it’s at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida. And the Orlando World Center is a new convention center. So everything will be taking place under one roof. So your hotel room, the main sessions, the trade show floor, the classrooms will all take place at the World Center. You don’t have to worry about getting on buses in the morning to go anywhere. And the motto for the NPF this year is called “Innovating the Journey”, which means the customer journey. And as you were talking earlier, Chris, how physical mail is so important to that. You know, in addition to having good websites and having ease of use at checkout, you’re still using mail to drive people there -it’s so critical. So you’ll hear about that at the opening session. There’ll be Senior Officer led sessions and then there’s over 130 educational classes being presented. And of course, I know very important, BCC Software and the other vendors! There’s a hundred vendors on the exhibit hall floor that you can visit over three days. That includes dedicated time. So there’s time set aside on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday where there are no classes being held. But it’s a great time for you to get on the floor. And then of course, just as important is networking with your fellow mailing professionals. There’ll be events every night. And you know, Chris, on Monday I spoke with Maureen Goodson, the Executive Director of the NPF. If you remember last year there were over 4,000 attendees.

Chris (13:04):
Yeah, it was a great turnout.

Mark Fallon (13:05):
Well, this year the registration numbers are trending higher than they were at this time last year. So I think it’s going to be a great, great conference.

Chris (13:14):
Wow! I agree Mark, you know, and I’m really thrilled, you know, 130 education sessions, a hundred vendors, the exhibit hall, record attendance at a beautiful brand new facility. I think that’s fantastic and certainly the education is foundational for this industry, but I would absolutely encourage everybody, not only do you want to come early for some of the education because as you said, it kicks off officially in terms of the education tracks on Sunday morning, but you want to come early and be there on Saturday. As we talked about before, Mark is helping, you know, really kind of lead with this Habitat for Humanity in the Orlando area. So make sure that you book your flight when you’re going to the National Postal Forum to come early to help out on Saturday and come with an open mind and take advantage of some of the education, 130 sessions. And I know some of the education that the postal service is also providing their is certification – USPS certification courses that are available at the National Postal Forum. And they’ve done this before but they continue to expand it with some new content, including the Certified Direct Mail Professional, that’s the CDMP. It’s $160 for the exam fee. So, uh, you know, very reasonable price on that. But you’re going to learn of all about omnichannel marketing. You’re gonna learn about list and database management, mailpiece creation. You’ll talk about response rates and technology and testing as well as media attribution. And that’s really, really essential. So when we talk about multichannel marketing, when we talk about the power that direct mail has, that is certainly something that you’re going to want to look at. There’s also the Executive Mail Center Management, the EMCM, session as well that you can get certified for. That’s $180 again final exam fee, a very reasonable investment for education to do that. That’s got 14 different sessions and that’s going to cover a whole broader aspect. So if you are a mail center manager and you want to take your game to the next level, you’re going to want to look at this. It Includes information such as improvements in sales and marketing, basic mail design, finances, people management, technology tools or resources. So a great way to be able to, as they say, “sharpen the saw”, get a little bit better in your management skills and really understand a broader picture of what the mail center can do. And then finally, something that I’ve always thought is sort of foundational for anyone in this industry is the Mail Design Professional certification. MDP. It’s a $95 final exam fee. It’s very affordable, very easy to take this course. It covers all the classes of mail, talks about the processing categories, bar coding formats, how to design automation mail effectively, and it helps to understand the difference between machinable and non-machinable criteria. And the mail design professional, USPS Mail Design Professional certification, is really, really important. It gives that great foundation. In fact, for BCC Software, we require all of our customer support representatives to earn and maintain this MDP certification. It’s a two year certification. If you join up at BCC Software for example, it takes about a year to be full level customer support representative, really understanding the products and how the industry works, but you need to be able to be certified as an MDP to be able to do that. Now Mark, I know that The Berkshire Company is a big proponent of education and improved automation. Let’s talk a little bit about workflow automation and talk about some of the importance of education that you see with The Berkshire Company.

Mark Fallon (16:28):
Sure Chris. You know Chris, I know that’s one thing about you and I, we both share a passion for education. In fact, I’m pretty sure we first met when I attended one of your classes at the NPF maybe 20 years ago, maybe longer, right?

Chris (16:43):

Mark Fallon (16:43):
This was, you know, when I was listening to you talk about everything that’s with the, the different opportunities with the postal service. I mean, you think of Informed Delivery, Informed Visibility. I mean we were excited when the +4 was added to the ZIP Code and POSTNET barcodes were introduced. And now there’s so much going on. So if you’re going to call yourself a professional in this business, you need to keep up to date and continue your education. And that may be the formal classes at the NPF, your local postal customer councils, or the USPS certification programs you just covered. But that has to be supplemented. And of course your listeners know this cause they’re listening to your podcast – and you have to listen to podcasts, read the trade publications like Mailing Systems Technology, and of course networking with your fellow professionals. The Berkshire Company partners with the NPF to hold webinars several times a year on different issues like management, like the rate change, so people can learn without even leaving their desk. So there’s a lot of different ways to learn. So choose the one that best matches you, but remember it stops. And with workflow information that can take different forms for different types of mailers. But it generally, it allows operations to move and track work in their shop. For example, it could be using software that when they receive an address list it automatically runs through BCC Software before every job. And that removes the need for a human to remember to do it. And maybe software that transfers the print file so they can process them, any type of printer. And then on the finishing side, we’re now tracking the status of every single piece as they’re processed on inserters and binding equipment. And in today’s environment with the focus on data security and protecting information, workflow automations help managers reduce the opportunity for human error and at the same time increase productivity.

Chris (18:48):
Thank you Mark. I, you know, I’ve talked to people who have used your consultative services and I’ve seen some great improvements in their mailing operations. So, so workflow automation is really, really important, particularly today. It’s one way that as a mailing service provider you can continue to stay competitive and relevant to your customer. And of course, you know, Mark, you had mentioned the Postal Customer Council events as well as the National Postal Forum. And, and folks, I gotta tell you, if you have not had a chance to attend one of Mark’s outstanding presentations, you are absolutely missing out. You’ve got to find out where he’s speaking and attend that because it’s not just about the workflow automation, which The Berkshire Company does a great job with that, or just some of the good information in education that we talked about. Mark is really an inspirational speaker, a motivational speaker. Love the relevancy of the industry, you know, Mark you talk about your dad at times. I just love it! You’re a great presenter, which is why you’re a frequent speaker at these events around the country and certainly for the National Postal Forum in Orlando, April 25th through the 29th. So thanks Mark, big fan of yours. I’ll continue to attend your sessions as well at the Postal Forum and have various PCCs. So any final words Mark before we wrap up today’s podcast?

Mark Fallon (19:55):
Well Chris, you know it is a mutual fan club. I see your classes as well. In fact, you and I are normally bumping into each other at PCC events all over the country. So I really appreciate this opportunity. I really enjoy this podcast and I look forward to seeing you and all the listeners at the NPF in Orlando.

Chris (20:14):
All right, great. Thank you so much, Mark. And again, for our listeners, please do check out the National Postal Forum. You can learn more information about that or any of the events that BCC Software’s participating by visiting our webpage at bccsoftware.com, or give us a phone call. Thanks for listening everyone, and have a great day.

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