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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

New Years Ruminations & Some Good News for Mailers

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 24, 2017 10:05:23 AM

First of all, Happy New Year to all those who follow and read my blog. I wish everyone the best for success and happiness in 2017.  Despite the fact that I write this in a cold weather climate (Boston) and the days are short, there’s always a certain positive energy associated with a new year at least to me. It’s a clean slate; time to refresh the screen and figure out what’s possible.  Of course the figuring-out part is a lot easier than the executing part.  I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck in the mud. Oh well, it’s always worth a try! 

I always wonder how far into January you go before you stop wishing people happy new year. I write this on January 22nd. This will definitely be the last week where I’m extending those wishes.  Don’t ask me why. It just seems about the right time to end it.

Of course before we know it, everyone will be saying, “I can’t believe it’s March/April/May already”.  So the moral is, make the most of 2017 because it will be over before you realize what happened.

One last thing on New Year’s and good intentions; one of the hardy perennial new year’s resolutions is to be more organized. With the amount of raw data most of us are bombarded with each day, I think it’s more important than ever to be able to sort through the never-ending amount of digital messages we receive and still have time to be productive.  My friend Lorena Prime has a very successful company called “Clearly Organized”.  Her website has lots of useful information and Lorena does seminars and consulting for business and individuals.  Lorena’s great and I encourage anyone who has that problem or runs a business where it’s a problem with staff to contact her.

So, as we know everything in life involves trade-offs. The information overload and fatigue it can cause is one side of the coin. The other side is how much great information is out there literally at our fingertips which can help us and save us time and money. 

I happened to come across a great article by Adam Lewenberg of Postal Advocate in Wayland, MA.  Adam writes for Mailing Systems Technology magazine and has analyzed and broken down the new postal rates that have taken effect on January 22nd, 2017. 

Overall, the rate increases are minor and they contain some good news for direct mailers and direct marketers as well as those that supply direct mail printing and printed envelopes for direct mail. 

Perhaps the biggest and best news is that automated (pre-sorted) mail will have a single, flat rate from 1 ounce up to 3.5 ounces.  This will enable marketers to put a lot more in the envelope for the same price.

Adam’s article has a whole bunch of useful information about the new rates along with some tips on how to save money on your next campaign.  Kudos to him for laying this out in such a clear and concise fashion.

So again,  Happy New Year (for the last time in 2017) and may all your direct mail campaigns be smooth and effective!

Topics: elite envelope, direct mail printing, printed envelopes, direct mail, post office

Envelope Manufacturing at the Smithsonian

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 17, 2016 3:22:07 PM

On September 13th, the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum launched a new virtual exhibition, "America's Mailing Industry", telling the story of the partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private industry, which together have helped American citizens and businesses communicate and conduct business for more than 200 years.

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The website is very well done and contains a great deal of historical information about mail, direct mail, the Post Office and the various businesses that support mail communication and delivery.  With regard to envelope manufacturing there are many interesting tid-bits about how envelopes used to be made (by hand mostly) and the advent of the first machines which could get up to 150 envelopes per hour (!).

Aside from envelope companies, printers are well represented and there’s a neat little summary of the history of printing in the United States marked by the various technological improvements along the way.  There are additional sections on letter shops, paper companies, graphic designers, non-profit fundraisers, newspaper publishers, catalog and mail order companies and many more. Each section has a succinct description of the business, its history and how it relates and the contribution it makes to the flow of mail.

I’ll admit to having some mixed feelings when reading through the site.  Usually when you say something “belongs in the Smithsonian” it means it’s a historical artifact of a bygone era. For instance I’ve driven some cars that looked like they “belonged in the Smithsonian”. (and had a lot of fun driving them I might add).  Those of us in the print, mail and envelope industries spend a lot of time talking about how the industries are still relevant in the digital age – and they are.  Print, paper and mail are still the medium of choice by millions for selling and communicating. But there is that nagging thought that the industries are not what they were 50 or even 20 years ago and that maybe the next step is to start writing the history as if they are in the past tense. 

So seeing our industry featured in a Smithsonian exhibit (in a web site no less!) can stir some of those thoughts.  But the Smithsonian also features exhibits on the aerospace industry and other thriving businesses.  Its purpose is to provide history and context and demonstrate what initiative and ingenuity can do through individual and cooperative effort.

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I urge you to check it out at the link above.  Now it’s time for us in the business to get back to making more history!

Topics: envelope manufacturing, direct mail, post office

Envelopes, Paper and “Green Washing”

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 26, 2016 11:36:17 AM

At the end of my e mail signature is the line “Feel free to print this e mail. Paper is a renewable resource”.  More than a few people have commented on that and every comment has been in the “atta-boy” category.  Now admittedly, the audience for my business e mails, comprised overwhelmingly of people in the business of making and buying printed products on paper, is not exactly a representative sample of the general population.  But those of us in the envelope converting, direct mail printing, and paper and printing industries in general have been unfairly maligned over the past twenty years or so for doing something that is supposedly bad for the environment so it’s time for a little push-back.

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The notion that not using paper somehow “saves a tree” has become a persistent canard.  The argument goes something like this:  paper pulp is made from wood which comes from trees. So, the less paper used, the fewer trees cut down. Now this is obviously true but like many simplistic and tendentious arguments, it omits many salient points. The most obvious omission is that trees are not a finite resource. When one is cut down, another seed can be planted.  If you own a paper company and your business relies on a regular supply of trees for wood pulp it’s in your interest to ensure that for every tree used, another one or more is growing to take its place.  And while trees can be beautiful and decorative and necessary for the ecosystem, they are also susceptible to disease and blight and will eventually rot and die on their own.  The financial incentive to grow and maintain healthy new tree stock for paper companies is a strong one.  It’s not a coincidence that forests owned by these companies are among the most productive and best managed on earth. You rarely if ever hear of wildfires affecting them.

The demand for paper in the marketplace ensures that these forests continue to flourish and are maintained for the purpose of growing trees.  If less paper is used, many of these wooded areas will be leveled for development of some other sort. So it’s not at all certain that by not using paper, you are “saving a tree”. In fact, the opposite may be true.

Have you ever heard anyone making an argument that not eating fruits and vegetables “saves” an apple or a tomato?  Neither have I. Doesn’t the same logic apply there?  We grow crops season after season in order to supply food to nourish our bodies. Some of this farmland was probably forest land before it was cleared to grow crops.  And yes, I understand that unlike food, paper use is somewhat discretionary. But paper plays an important role in our lives in education and commerce in general. 

And speaking of forest land, it’s a fact that there are more trees in the US today than there were a hundred years or so.  And a recent study estimated that there are over three trillion trees on earth which was a 750 per cent increase over previous best estimates.  Oops!

There is a certain positive social cachet associated with being seen as environmentally conscious.  Corporations eager to be seen in this light by customers have rushed to embrace green issues often as a justification for doing what’s in their financial interest.  Examples of this abound.  For years banks have been suggesting that their customers “go green” by getting their account statements sent on line.  Saying, “get your statements on line and help us reduce our costs and improve our bottom line” just doesn’t have the same impact.

The ubiquitous message below so many e mail signatures imploring us to not print the e mail is part of this desire to be with the spirit of the times.  I don’t necessarily disagree with the sentiment.  We shouldn’t print things for no reason. These days there are fewer reasons to print documents and printing something unnecessarily is a form of waste which should be avoided.  However, the premise underlying this message, as I’ve suggested, is not correct and perpetuating false information should also be avoided. 

One organization that’s taking it upon itself to correct these false impressions is Two Sides based out of Chicago.  Their website provides a trove of information on the topic of paper and the environment and is very useful in putting these matters in their proper context.  The President of Two Sides Phil Riebel will contact individuals and companies who use these messages in their PR and provide them with information that, in some cases, has changed minds.  As their name implies, Two Sides takes a light and logical approach to the debate which I believe is more effective in the long term.  No point in countering one heavy-handed message with another as emotionally satisfying as that might be.

Two sides brings to the argument balance which in all things, including nature, is essential.

 

Topics: direct mail, envelopes, going green, save a tree, paper and trees

New Year’s Envelope, Print & Mail Wishes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 5, 2016 10:18:34 AM

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Random comments on where we sit in 2015 and some hopes for 2016:

2015 was a pretty good year for envelopes and print. Each company has its unique story and set of circumstances but it seems that the print market contraction, greatly exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008/2009, has leveled off with fewer players which was an unfortunate necessity.

The demand for direct mail components is a big part of where the business is coming from these days.  In the past, the ease and negligible cost of e mail led many marketers to believe that they could solicit new clients on the cheap. In most cases, the results confirmed the adage that “you get what you pay for”.  Despite the higher cost, the ROI for direct mail is greater than e mail which has led to an “all of the above” approach with direct mail firmly in the mix.

Social media has become a big part of business marketing – some say an indispensable part.  While I think that’s true for some companies, I don’t think it’s as true in the envelope, printing and direct mail world at least in my experience.  I’m open to being persuaded that Elite Envelope & Graphics should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. But I have yet to hear a good argument that takes into account how we (and thousands of companies like us) actually do business on a daily basis. I still believe that my time is better spent speaking to a customer on the phone or meeting or even e mailing with them than Tweeting something out.  Social media stresses a personal connection to the audience. While establishing those close connections where possible and where appropriate have always been a part of building customer loyalty, it isn’t essential in our business.  There’s also the lack-of-time factor: both the time I’d need to spend posting interesting content and the time required by my customers to be checking Facebook or Twitter during work hours in the course of their mostly very busy days.

A noticeable trend in our industries is the movement toward smaller quantities.  The information age allows everyone to be their own corporation with their office in their pocket.  At the same time the revolution in digital printing has “lowered the entry bar” just as the advances in personal and mobile computing have done for start-ups in general. We all need to adjust our business models to be able to produce smaller quantity jobs profitably.

Another boon to the envelope industry in particular related to the many small “Etsy –type” businesses out there is the need for shipping materials.  The demand for heavy duty envelopes like Tyvek and Herculink along with bubble envelopes and board mailers has increased dramatically in the past five years or so.

What end of year blog column would be complete without a New Year’s wish?  Mine is for the Post Office to be reformed in a meaningful way which would allow it be more streamlined and cost effective for the demands of the new century.  As readers of this blog are aware, I favor a complete break-up of the first class mail government monopoly. I think it’s an outdated model and its bloat and inflexibility is a real danger to the direct mail industry which relies on it to move things efficiently at a reasonably competitive cost. While even partial privatization seems like a pipedream, perhaps the younger generation moving into Congress will look at this in a new way and can come up with a compromise that would help ensure the health of direct mail and the envelope and printing businesses that rely on it.

In any event, best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016. Happy New Year!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelopes, post office, tyvek envelopes, smart bubble envelopes

Envelopes and Print in the Digital Age

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 6, 2015 11:19:00 AM

I just happened to catch the last part of the Nightly News last night; something I used to do with some frequency along with many others.  The final segment was about the resurgence of music on cassette tape and it brought a smile.  It featured a company that has now virtually cornered the market on cassette reproduction through buying a lot of the equipment that became available cheap when other companies bailed thinking it was a dying industry.  Phrases like “cassette culture” were bandied about mostly in relation to “hipsters” who wanted to hear their music on tape as a reaction to the ubiquity of streaming and other forms of virtual consumption. The current sales numbers mentioned seemed substantial but I have no idea how they compared to what cassette sales were not that long ago. My hunch is that this was one of those news segments looking for a hook on which to hang a pre-scripted narrative.  Portable cassettes were an advance from the more cumbersome reel to reel and the often malfunctioning 8 track formats.  In retrospect they seem to be more of a transition product between the classic vinyl record and the compact disc.  Their only legacy is the phrase “mix tape” which is now used in other contexts.  I can’t see them ever becoming more than a trendy niche. 

As I write this I happen to be listening to one of my favorite terrestrial radio stations, WFUV out of Fordham University in NY.  Seeing as how I’m based in the Boston area, I’m listening on my computer. FUV is a public station and so must subject us to periodic on-air fundraising. In selling themselves, they regularly mention how superior good radio is to the streaming services where you hear only what you want. I’m a big fan of radio so I’m already sold on that pitch.  But there’s a reason why streaming has become the music delivery vehicle of choice to a significant portion of the listening public.

Envelopes and Mail in the digital age

If you’ve stuck around this far, you’re probably wondering when this preamble (and I do mean amble…) will crystallize into, oh like…a point maybe?  Well, here goes:  In the marketplace, envelopes and print are in a similar position to radio and to a lesser extent, the cassette tape. We are in a period of great upheaval and transition.  Financial institutions are pressing to convert customers to the digital delivery of statements, proxies and other forms which were traditionally mailed.  When I told my thirty-something offspring that I still paid bills with checks in the mail, they reacted as if I went to the backyard to pump my water. The ubiquity of smart phones and apps for nearly everything is becoming the new norm. The Post Office continues its slow-motion implosion by using the necessary budget cuts to worsen service at the very time when envelope manufacturers and printing companies need faster delivery in order to compete.

Direct mail is still a very viable method for companies to market their products.  But it’s now just one option among many and a more expensive one at that.  Studies show the ROI justifies the cost but that can be a tough sell at the conference table when expenditures are being monitored carefully.

But like the public radio pitch, there is value in what we do.  Nothing on a computer screen makes an impression like a printed piece.  Colleges understand this when they send out letters (my 16 year-old daughter is getting several of them a week from prospective suitors) and beautifully printed, full-color catalogs. 

We need to use the wonderful world of technology to make us more productive so we can establish our niche and remain viable within a reasonable cost structure.  I’ve just finished producing a video which will be a “virtual tour” of our facility.  I’m certainly not the first one in the envelope industry to do this but it makes sense as a way to reach a broader potential audience and market for our products. I’ll be following that up with a series of shorter instructional videos about envelope converting, web printing and envelope printing in general. This will allow younger buyers who may not have the knowledge base and experience that print buyers had in the past to better understand what’s possible and what might make sense for them.

E mail marketing, that bane of the direct mail world, should be used as fast way to stay in touch, make short announcements and follow up on printed pieces that have been sent to establish connections. Of course social media is the new darling in marketing circles. I’m not convinced that it’s worth the investment of time at least in the world of envelope converting and commercial printing. There may be some small printers who want to establish a very personal connection to their customers.  But for the most part, having a high profile on search engines is going to get you more orders than a like on Facebook or someone pinning a picture of something they bought from you on Pinterest.

So this is not another lament about the demise of printing.  Reports of that have been greatly exaggerated in my opinion.  The next ten years can be a time of growth as we adjust to the new realities of the market and customer demands. Using technology to our advantage to win new customers and increase market share must be a big part of that effort. There’s still a lot of life in radio and envelopes and printing.  Maybe I’ll make a mix tape of our greatest hits?..Naaah!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelope manufacturing, envelope converting, web printing

The Timeless Appeal of Print and Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 30, 2015 12:26:00 PM

Elite Envelope blog

I have a sixteen year old daughter who, like most kids her age is joined at the hip with her smart phone. She spends way too many hours on that and her tablet sampling the occasionally rich, varied and often stupid content on the net and social media not to mention the constant texting, Snap-Chatting, posting pictures (yikes!), etc. 

It wasn’t that long ago she had a list of TV shows that she recorded and watched on a regular basis. Now, she doesn’t even do that. It’s all internet content.

However, the other day a letter came in the mail addressed to her and she immediately picked it up and opened it.  It was just a renewal slip for her subscription to Teen Vogue which she promptly discarded as she’s no longer interested in that either. But the point is, she was curious to see what was inside.

Now someone born at the turn of the century who’s been marinating in the digital world for much of her sentient existence is perhaps not the best example of a target for direct mail.

Then again, I think she represents the perfect target for direct mail.

According to the DMA 2014 Statistical Fact Book a far greater percentage of 18-21 year olds opened mail immediately in 2012 than they did in 1987 (62.8% versus 46.9%).   This makes perfect sense to me as receiving a letter in the mail in 2012 is really a novelty and a surprise compared to 1987 when it was routine.  I’ve pointed this out before but how many people complain these days about “junk mail”?  Very few. There are far more complaints about e mail spam.

The DMA book is bursting with statistics showing direct mail to be resurgent in today’s world of direct marketing.  Mail has many advantages over digital communication; not the least of which is it exists in the physical world – the “real” world that you can touch and feel. That mail piece will stay on the kitchen counter until someone opens it or moves it somewhere. Just the fact that it’s tangible gives it a permanence that just doesn’t come from e mail despite the latter’s great convenience. 

As more and more payment and compliance transactions are done online, direct mail comprises a greater percentage of total print and mail volumes. At Elite Envelope, we see this to be very true in the composition of our business.  Much of the envelope converting we do every day comes from printers who are producing slick envelopes to enclose creative and colorful direct mail content.  A lot of the envelope printing including much of the four color envelope printing we do falls into the direct mail category including non-profit fundraising mail.

To ensure the viability of our industry into the future, we simply must appeal to millennials and even younger demographics. Getting them to look forward to receiving things in the mail should be high on the priority list for all direct marketers. It’s our future.

As always, would love to hear your comments on this subject.

Topics: direct mail, envelope printing, envelope converting, four color envelope printing

Going Boldly Postal – Pushing the Envelope

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 28, 2015 11:10:00 AM

Postman Zoolander

 

Just got finished reading an article from Newsweek (I thought they were out of business!). The article is entitled “Do We Need a Postal Service?” and is written by Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute; a Washington D.C. think tank.

It’s an interesting piece, filled with data about the Post Office’s indebtedness (maxed out at $15 billion), unfunded medical benefits liability ($50 billion and counting), inadequate capital investment (140,000, 20 year old vehicles in need of replacement) along with the same sad song about its inability to modernize and adapt to a greatly reduced mail volume caused mostly by widespread preference for digital communication.

The tease of the article’s headline gives way to some hedging by Kosar on why the Post Office couldn’t be completely eliminated. He also avoids taking direct responsibility for his implied conclusion by saying the “public” views the Postal Service as a “pointless, environmentally harmful anachronism” which they therefore would be reluctant to bail out once the gargantuan bills come due. 

Certainly those bills will come due and need to be paid and that is a huge problem for the service and ultimately the taxpayers. Unlike a private enterprise which has to be competitive and answer to stockholders, the postal monopoly just keeps rolling along beholden to its political masters; very few of whom have any desire to upset any of their constituencies who might complain about commonsense reforms like doing away with Saturday delivery and closing unnecessary post offices.  The largest single constituency is the postal union which of course will not take kindly to any significant lay-offs or cuts in pay or benefits.

Kosar succumbs to the canard that mail is an environmentally harmful exercise because it cuts down trees which are turned into paper in factories that pollute the air and then delivered in old trucks that do the same.  I’ve never quite understood why some people think that growing trees and then harvesting them for paper is such a bad thing.  New tree growth is an unequivocal positive for the environment. The more paper that’s consumed, the more new trees need to be grown to meet the demand.  On the environmental argument I’d say “don’t get me started” but that’s obviously too late. I’ve posted several times on that topic if you’re interested.

But the larger question is how best to provide the mail delivery service that we still need.  You can make the argument that much of what’s delivered (direct mail advertising) isn’t really a “need” but you can also make the argument that we should all ride bicycles and take public transportation and not drive cars.  The fact is that while the amount of first-class mail has declined significantly over the past couple of decades, there are still billions of letters and packages that need to be delivered.  I don’t think it matters whether those letters are now primarily marketing-related rather than love notes or letters from camp.  There is a market for mail delivery services and that needs to be serviced.

Is the Post Office as presently constituted the best way to do that?  I think not. In an ideal, non-political world (yeah, right!) we’d have private companies competing to deliver the first class mail just as we do for packages.  Pricing would mostly likely be based on the destination and if you lived in a remote area, it would cost more to send you mail which is how it should be.

While that utopian scenario seems far-fetched, ironically I think that the same technology which has caused the mail to be less important than it used to be will actually allow it to be delivered more efficiently in the future. The direct marketing industry should be a driver for Post Office reform rather than defending the status-quo as it too often does.

I also think the country could do with many more hand-written love letters!

What do you think?

Topics: direct mail, postal monopoly, post office problems, paper and trees

Selling Envelopes and Print in the Digital Age

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 30, 2015 11:25:00 AM

Elite Envelope blog

“It was twenty years ago today.”

Yes, I know, a shameless attempt to get you into my blog by quoting the famous opening line from Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  But as I was getting my day going on a 32 degree “spring” morning in late March, I realized that my work life changed dramatically just about twenty years ago. It might as well have been the Stone Age.

 I was in sales at Northeastern Envelope Manufacturing Corporation of Braintree, MA. My boss was not just old school; he was the principal of the old school.  As such he insisted on a daily call report from me which up to that point I had dutifully hand-written and submitted, five at a time, at the end of each week.  

 I had recently purchased and began using my first personal computer sometime in 1994. I was just getting used to it and had heard of ACT contact management software. I decided to give it a shot so in the spring of 1995, I uploaded all my contacts, built a data base and began generating and printing my daily reports.  This was initially not met with enthusiasm by my boss who was still using index cards to keep track of his contacts. However, he eventually (but grudgingly) accepted the reports, and I was off and running into the information age.

My next life-altering experience came later that same year when I got my first cellphone.  Up to that point I had a pager or “beeper” as we called it firmly affixed to my belt. One of the inside staff at our office would call the pager number to let me know that someone had called looking for me.  I would have to find a pay phone, pull out my trusty roll of dimes and call the office to receive the message and then call the person back. This happened many times each day I was on the road.

I remember the first day I used my cellphone on the job. I called a colleague of mine to joyously announce that I was actually walking around downtown Boston talking to her on the phone.  I was so excited!  No longer would I have to use a payphone in the rain while juggling my notes and umbrella and fumbling for the dial. 

Just those two things increased my productivity (and my income) tremendously.  I was a bit of a late adopter but I think it was around twenty years ago that cell phones and e mails started becoming a big part of the daily life in business. 

Well here we are in 2015 and I’m still using ACT (a much later and improved version) and have had a succession of upgraded phones leading to my IPhone 6 which I love.  I can pretty much run major parts of my business through my smart phone.  Technology enables me to do meetings on line, answer my e mail from wherever I happen to be, send links of video to prospective customers and run a fairly sophisticated marketing operation solo.  All stuff I wouldn’t have imagined “twenty years ago today”.  (A second Beatle reference in that last sentence – so clever!)

So what did I spend a majority of my time doing last week? Calling and e mailing customers to set up face to face appointments.  I was able to line up several and each one of them was very productive. In each case I learned something new about our customer’s requirements and how we might be able to better compete to meet them. I also was able to personally express our gratitude for their business and end with a handshake which is not something you can do digitally.

Technology has changed our world and our business. I hear a lot of envelope manufacturers, envelope printers and web printers grousing about how the decline in overall volumes due mostly to computers and software have pointed our industry toward inexorable decline.  There’s some truth to that but print on paper and direct mail are here to stay. 

We need to embrace the enhanced ability to be more productive provided by new technologies and use them to our advantage. At the same time, we also need to remember that ours is a personal business based on strong relationships forged by customer service.  It’s easier to send an e mail and there are many times when that is the best approach. But there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings whenever they can be accomplished either in cultivating new business or cementing existing relationships.  Despite all the great toys and tools at our disposal, successfuly selling envelopes and print in 2015 is not all that much different than it used to be.

To meet the challenges of remaining viable and profitable it helps to remember, to quote from another great song from a different era, “the fundamental things apply as time goes by.”

Topics: direct mail, envelope printing, envelope industry, envelope manufacturer, web printing, envelope sales, printing sales

Elite Envelope Wins Blog Award!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 16, 2014 2:17:00 PM

Elite Envelope wins Blog award

When you write a business blog on a regular basis, you are doing it primarily to promote your particular company. That’s not exactly a secret but it explains why many blogs are virtually unreadable. Commercials can be entertaining; in fact I think they really must be entertaining to be able to get even a whiff of attention from viewers or listeners already overloaded with messages and data in our information overloaded world. But most sales pitches are generally not exactly scintillating; and that’s what your typical business blog reads like.

But sales pitches are different from blogs right?  Well, they should be but ultimately the blog’s purpose is to sell the individual or company. You can do that by providing useful information for people who buy your product or service or for those who may want to in the future. The best business blogs don’t read like sales pitches. They provide information of value which interested people might not mind taking a few minutes of their precious time to peruse.  Presumably, the reader will get the idea that the company knows what they are doing and might be worth considering

Elite Envelope & Graphics’ business is envelope converting, envelope manufacturing, envelope printing and web printing for direct mail and financial printing. In our blog, we attempt to write about these topics in such a way as to increase the understanding of what we do. We also will incorporate other topics that are related to what we do such as the continuing travails of the Post Office and the direct mail industry in general. 

Sy Syms who owned a clothing store named after him in the Boston area had a famous line on one of his commercials in which he said, more or less, “an educated consumer is our best customer”.  Not sure if ol’ Sy came up with that line himself but it’s a good one.  It suggests that the more you know about clothing, the better he looks. It’s an invitation for his customers to flatter themselves which is never a bad thing!

We started the blog after signing up with Hub Spot; a Massachusetts company that was little more than a start-up back then which has grown into a hugely successful public company (check out the recent IPO figures).  At the time, I considered writing a blog to be mostly a waste of time for us. However, my Hub Spot rep convinced me to give it a try as a way to boost our sales.  Following Hub Spots’ very carefully calculated procedures which tie into their very intuitive web design, I’ve since become a believer. The blog has increased the number of hits to our site dramatically and in the past year we’ve started to get regular orders from customers all over the country who find us on search engines as a direct result of our blog.

In addition to increasing my knowledge about the industry I’m in through researching for articles, I’ve also become a fairly capable “in-bound” marketer which has helped me understand the digital world better. One of the main ideas in blog writing is to incorporate those important phrases or “key words” which describe what we do and which get carried out to the world via search engines. You ‘ll notice how I already got that out of the way in paragraph three!

We’re proud of our blog and also of our membership and support of the New England Direct Marketing Association (NEDMA) an organization of which we’ve been a member for most of our almost eleven years in business. NEDMA brings together most of the players in the direct marketing field and emphasizes education with networking among the members as a nice side benefit. It’s the organizational equivalent of a good blog.  Elite’s blog won a silver medal this past June in the “Best Blog Copywriting” category.  We are grateful to NEDMA for considering us worthy and proud to have built and maintained what has become a very useful tool for us and, we hope, for you.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelope manufacturer, envelope converting, envelope printing, direct mail printing

Post Office Keeps Trying – Direct Mail World Keeps Hoping

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 27, 2014 11:06:00 AM

The ongoing mess at Veteran’s Administration hospitals across the country is yet another example of the futility of providing necessary services through a bureaucratic, unionized government monopoly.  In a market-based enterprise, the imperative of good customer service is driven by entrepreneurial energy, the desire for upward mobility and profits as well as competitive pressure.  In the government model, these factors are virtually non-existent and instead are replaced by an unholy alliance of rent-seeking politicians, interest groups, corporate supplicants and union bosses whose primary mission is to preserve the jobs of their members at all costs.

The latter factor was on painful display recently in a recent article in the BostonGlobe entitled “Postal Union Targets Staples over Mail Services Program”.  In 2013, the Post Office entered in a deal with Staples to put small customer centers in 82 of the office supply company’s retail locations.  The mini-postal counters would provide most of the services available at Post Offices.  “Customers like it because it’s more convenient and we’re open longer hours,” said a Staples spokesman.  Sounds like a reasonable plan to provide better service at a lower cost from an enterprise that lost “only” $5 billion in 2013; the seventh straight year of huge losses for the Post Office.

 Well apparently it’s not reasonable to the Postal Workers Union who’ve been picketing Staples stores with signs that read “The US Mail is Not For Sale” (?).  The article points out that the USPS already has deals with over 3,600 small businesses throughout the country to provide basic postal services. I’m guessing that a big, fat corporate target like Staples provides a more useful foil for the protests than the small independently-owned pharmacy. 

 While I’ve been critical of the Post Office in previous posts, I’m a fan of the present Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe who’s been trying to bring the costs of the Post Office in line with current revenues which have been trending downward for many years.  The Staples deal is just the latest attempt to bring about a win-win with two entities that have been struggling with the trend away from paper and mail. The union was able to scuttle a similar deal with Sears decades ago. They are now gearing up to increase the pressure through the teachers and other large unions.  Will Staples management eventually cave?  Will the union ever be realistic about the need for the Post Office to balance its budget for their own long-term survival?  Pardon me for being pessimistic about the likely answers to those questions.

The real victims here, besides the taxpayers who must continue to fund the Post Office deficits, are the direct mail, print and envelope industries which continue to swim against the tide of higher paper costs and postal rates.  According to a recent article in the DMA newsletter, second quarter periodical mailing volume decreased 7.8%. This follows a recent rate increase of 5.9% passed by the Postal Rate Commission late in 2013.  At that time, many in the direct mail industry protested that the increase would depress volume. The Post Office responded that mail rates were “inelastic” or mostly irrelevant to the mailing industry.

Direct Mail Elite Envelope & Graphics

The recent drop in catalog mailing volume may be an anomaly and small increases in mailing costs may not have significant short-term impact. But unless we suspend the basic laws of economics, prices do matter and they will affect the decisions of mailers to mail, printers to print and envelope makers to convert to some extent at some point.  Those effects will be mostly negative unless the Post Office can find ways to end-run Congress and implement the necessary cost-savings measures.

In the meantime: stay strong Staples!

Topics: direct mail, declining mail volume, post office problems, envelope industry, direct mail printing

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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