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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Elite Envelope & Graphics – The Movie!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 2, 2015 9:32:00 AM

We released our first video a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a “virtual tour” - a look at our plant, equipment, staff and production capabilities and it clocks in at a neat seven minutes and twenty-three seconds.   It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for years and finally got around to.  The impetus was a talented young director, Sara Robin with whom I worked on a music video in my other professional life.  Sara and I are a good team and we came up with a concept which she executed extremely well along with her crew, Kellen Ryan and Yahna Harris.  All of them either attend or are graduates of the Boston University Graduate School of Film.

Making of Elite Envelope & Graphics video

Elite is certainly not the first company of its kind to use video for promotional purposes.  Video is now required to sell or promote pretty much anything. It’s a vital part of the “quality content” which marketers insist upon in order to give a company the best chance to penetrate the public consciousness with its brand.  Like it or not, we live in a visual world. Ironically, the public’s insatiable demand for video content is one of the things that has contributed to shrinking the print and envelope markets.  So, an envelope converter and cold web printer producing a promotional video might seem to some as “sleeping with the enemy”.

One of the recurring themes of this blog is the need for those of us in print, envelopes and direct mail to enthusiastically embrace the digital world.  I find that some in our industry seem to harbor a grudge against the technology they see as being responsible for the smaller and more competitive market.  They seem to relish being late adopters, almost as a badge of honor and resistance to trends they see as working to their disadvantage.  While I sympathize with the sentiment, I don’t see the sense in it.  The internet has made people less dependent on the mail. But while I yield to no one in my belief that print on paper can often deliver a message with greater impact than moving images on a screen, we need to acknowledge that there’s more than one way to do things. We also need to acknowledge that one of the reasons  digital messages have become so popular is they are convenient and inexpensive.  They allow us to do more in less time.

Not much more than twenty years ago, most of us in print sales were using pagers (or “beepers” as we called them) to receive notices from the office that someone had called us.  The next step was to find a payphone, pull over and park, grab a bunch of coins and make the return call.   Anyone want to make the argument that a cell phone is not superior to that scenario?  So, you have to take the good with the bad. But the neat trick is to use the “bad” to make us more productive.  In other words, you can bemoan the fact that “everyone” would rather see a video rather than read a message on paper or you can use a video to promote the message that reading on paper can be pretty cool and quite effective in selling your products and services.

Those of us in the print, envelope, paper and mail businesses are now in the position of swimming against the tide.  This sea-change (sorry!) is a relatively recent development and has happened quickly – mostly in the past two decades.  Whereas in the past our main job was to compete in the market, we now must sell the value of what we do as well as increase our share of a smaller market.  We also have to deal with the widely-held belief that printing on paper is somehow bad for the environment; a bogus claim that is easily countered but not without additional effort.

In order to ensure the viability of our business, we have to make our case as broadly as possible. Using online video as well as the many other technical marvels of our age will help us do that.  The timeless messages that are delivered in print are worth communicating in any fashion.

Topics: elite envelope, printing and envelopes, direct mail printing, envelope converter, cold web printer

The Hybrid Approach to Printing & Envelope Sales

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 12, 2014 3:38:00 PM

hybrid sales and marketingJust checked the calendar and noticed that 2014 is sailing to a conclusion. This shocking realization seems to happen around this time every year. Funny how that works!  Time to squirrel away more nuts for the impending winter I suppose.

 I got my first holiday card from one of our customers; actually it was specifically a Thanksgiving card with the message that we too often neglect to thank our customers for the business they give us and his company sells cards to do just that. I thought it was a great idea actually so take a bow Jamie Bradley from Sophwell.  It’s a great point; a simple thank you when an order or even a quote is received is not only good manners, it’s good business.  I happen to think both of those go hand in hand.

This all has no real bearing on my blog topic today but sometimes when you need to write something you just have to start writing and see what comes out.  So there, I did it!  And now we move on…


Sometimes I think our brains are wired to think in either/or constructs. This is natural when it comes to our tastes and preferences but it can be inhibiting in other areas. Sometimes the best answer is not A, B or C but “D- all of the above”.  When the topic of evolution of the species comes up, it often devolves into a “Tastes Great/Less Filling” argument between those who accept evolution and those who believe in a Creator and creation.  I’ve never seen the contradiction between belief in a Creator and accepting the simple fact that species adapt to certain circumstances and evolve over time as a result.   I also know many people who are energized much more by what they oppose than what they support; often the result of stereotypes and misunderstandings about the “type” of person with whom they typically disagree. 

When I studied philosophy many years ago (the class where I met my wife!) we learned about Manichaeism; an ancient religion which defined the world as essentially a battle between good and evil with no chance of any grey areas.  I think that mindset continues in many ways today in the envelope, printing and direct mail world.  You can hear echoes from those who say “cold calling is dead” or who believe that the only way to make contacts is through e mail or social media.

I happen to think that the best way to make contacts and win new customers is by employing an “all of the above” or hybrid approach to sales and marketing. I think that buying lists and mailing letters of introduction in today’s world can be somewhat of a novelty (the formal letters that is) and can help to differentiate us and even elevate the class of the pitch. I think that following up the letter with a phone call shows persistent, professional interest and, if you’re able to actually reach the prospect, can begin the personalization of the process in a way that a digitally printed “Dear Joe” mail piece probably won't do.  

At that point, an e mail follow up is more easily accepted given the groundwork laid from the previous contacts and attempts. Adding the e mail to your prospect mailing list for sporadic (no more than every other month) blasts on a brief, specific topic can help build the brand and perhaps lower the resistance to the final and essential component, the personal meeting of introduction.

Now, I’ve won new customers and received multiple orders from folks whom I’ve never met. In today's market, with companies doing business all over the world, that’s not so unusual.  But there simply is no better way to build rapport than sitting across from someone and making that personal connection through eye contact, conversation and greater understand of the customer’s needs and how we might bring value.

And once that’s completed and you’re getting regular business, don’t forget to stop by when you’re in the area for an occasional follow up visit to check in on how you're doing and express some gratitude for the business. (always call first – good manners!). It’s easy to take our customers for granted while we pursue the next big prize.

Back to square one and the Thank-You notes or messages. I guess it was all connected after all. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes, printing and envelopes, envelope sales, printing sales

Envelope & Printing Resolutions for 2014

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 7, 2014 11:22:00 AM

new year's eve picture

Yes, I know, this is a topic for a blog article that’s been hacked to death already. Well, as you'll see, one of my resolutions is to stop procrastinating so here goes:

Resolution #1I am going to stop planning to make sales calls and just pick up the phone and make one.  This also applies to all the other daily tasks we humans rationalize with procrastination: “Well I couldn’t do that today, phones and e mails are driving me nuts,” etc.  Yeah, right. I speak from long experience on this topic. As productive as I can be, I’m always putting things off. But each day will have its particular challenges and in the digital world e-mails will be bombarding us no matter what. The secret to breaking the cycle is to stop thinking and immediately start doing it, whatever “it” happens to be.  When I do this, amazingly I get stuff done despite all the “craziness” we’re always complaining about. And while we’re talking about e mails,

Resolution #2I am going to address and answer e mails in the order in which they were received. You know what I’m talking about here. How many times are you in the middle of completing a task; a quote or perhaps a response to a customer when, “bing!” (or whatever the noise is you get when an e mail arrives in your in-box) you look up and…you…can’t…help…yourself…and you click on it, start reading and immediately get distracted from the task at hand. Maybe this is the one you’ve been waiting for to get an answer on that big potential order or maybe it’s bad news you’ve been dreading about an ongoing problem with a job. In those cases, you get a pass. However, and let’s face it, mostly you’re just looking for something to distract you; something new and different from the grinding task you’re working on. Don’t take the bait!

We’re much more productive when we complete what we’re doing before going on to the next thing. And customers need to understand that they may not get an instant response every time they decide to send you an e mail. Otherwise they’ll expect it and will be more disappointed down the road if it doesn't happen. 

Resolution #3I’m going to resist the temptation to use “Green” arguments as part of our promotion to customers. Anyone who reads this blog occasionally knows this is a  pet peeve of mine. There is nothing about printing on paper or envelopes that is harmful to the environment in any way. We all use water soluble inks or dispose of the non-soluble inks or other chemicals in a responsible manner. Paper comes from trees which are a renewable resource. The more paper consumed, the more trees are planted. Trees will die naturally and many forests will be cleared to build malls, houses and other developments if they are not used to grow trees for paper. The privately held forests owned and operated by paper companies are some of the most efficient and well-managed on the planet. You rarely if ever hear of a wildfire on privately held forest land and there’s a reason for that; it’s called the profit motive.  The vast majority of waste paper generated by envelope manufacturers and printers is recycled. It's in our interest to do so.  A significant percentage of paper in general is recycled by consumers. Saying “please don’t print this e mail unless you have to” is a tacit admission that using paper is somehow bad for the environment. We’re not placating anyone by using such defensive arguments in our promotional literature. And don’t get me started on the whole “this was printed with certified wind power” thing. And finally,  

Resolution #4I’m going to find more creative reasons to meet with our customers in person.  Why does this require more creativity you may ask?  Well, in case you haven’t noticed, people are very, very busy these days (some of it because they’re procrastinating or distracted by a constant flow of e mails but, well, never mind!). As a result, it’s just not enough to suggest “stopping by when I’m in the area to say hi” or, worse, just popping in unannounced. The latter almost never works and I’ve always felt it was a bit rude. We need to come up with an actual reason for the meeting, however brief; a reason which includes something of value to the customer or prospect.  I’m sure there are still some buyers who like to break up their day having small talk with a gregarious sales rep but I don’t know too many. There is value to us in putting ourselves in front of a buyer occasionally if for no other reason than to remind them that we’re still around and open for business and better than those other guys. However, you must look at it from the customer’s point of view.  Giving them a good reason to see you will accomplish our purposes as well as give the customer the message that you respect their time and particular situation.

In the digital world, actual face-to-face conversation with customers and prospects is more important than ever to help solidify relationships. It’s too easy to sit at our desks and write e mails (or blogs!). But, like the hit record, there has to be a hook.

In any event, thanks for taking the time to read about some of my New Year’s resolutions. I’d love to hear some of yours. Happy New Year and may you flourish and prosper in 2014!

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes, printing and envelopes, envelope printing, envelope sales, going green

The Real Value of Print on Paper

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 16, 2013 10:46:00 AM

describe the imageSadly, the digital divide exists. There are those who are so facile around a computer, it makes the rest of us sick, or at least highly envious. 

I would characterize my computer skills as above average but still below where I would like them to be. Recently I was doing a simple mail-merge with Microsoft word. I was trying to print labels for our company Christmas cards.  I’ve done this before successfully but not in a while so I had to start from scratch and familiarize myself with how to do it.  It took me over an hour to get to a point where I had merged the address list from the Excel document and it was showing on the label template. However, the spacing wasn’t right which cut off some of the address in each label.  I went back multiple times to see where I had gone wrong. I sought a fix from Google with no success.  There was nothing in the wizard that addressed this problem. Then, I figured out it had nothing to do with the mail merge program but rather with a different window in Word. One click later, all the addresses fit nicely in the template.  

I probably spent the better part of another hour before I figured that out. Someone who had greater familiarity with Word would have known that right away.  Those are the kind of things I hate; we’re so dependent on software, it’s really frustrating when some relatively small thing is holding you back from getting the job done.  The tech wizards of the world don’t have those problems and sometimes I wish I were one of them.

However, my tale of personal technical futility and eventual triumph is a (very) long way to introduce the fact that the tech-savvy among us don’t have all the answers. For those of us in the printing, envelope and direct mail industries, a front page article in December 12th’s Boston Globe entitled: “Business Entrée is still in the Cards” was reassuring in several ways. The reporter attended a conference of high-tech entrepreneurs where just about everyone was exchanging their “lowly” (the reporter’s inaccurate adjective) business cards.  The article described, in interesting detail, why the attendees regarded the printed cards as superior despite the ubiquity of mobile devices.

The reporter pointed out that the super-convenient “bumping” technology between smart phones is not compatible among all devices where platforms differ.  Stopping to manually type the contact info of someone you just met was also characterized as cumbersome and “kind of rude” (kind of? Is this a major newspaper or a high school paper?).  One of the attendees, a marketing manager at a cloud computing startup, remarked that he prefers to leave an event with a pile of business cards that remind him of whom he met and where he met them. He also said, “Often there are raffle prizes if you drop your card in a box.” Try dropping your smartphone in a box pal!

But the money quote from article’s author is right here: “Entrepreneurs who must fight to be taken seriously by prospective customers and investors talk about the sense of legitimacy they get from seeing their names and titles printed on quality card stock.  They say that in the startup world – where businesses often don’t last long – it’s nice to hold something that feels kind of permanent.”  

Aside from the reporter’s annoying use of “kind of” without attribution, there could not be a better statement of the value of print and paper in the digital world.  I’ve written about this (The Permanence of Print – May 23rd, 2012) but it bears repeating. One of the great messaging advantages of print on paper is the simple fact that it is tangible. It exists in a way that most of us instinctively accept as “real”. This gives it greater value in the reader's mind.

 Everyone in the print, envelope and direct mail industry should memorize and repeat that message often.  Legitimacy and permanence are two excellent characteristics for a customer’s story.

Topics: direct mail, printing and envelopes, permanence of print

Bubble Envelopes: Smarter and Better

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 17, 2013 12:46:00 PM

I was going to write about the Post Office raising rates again and paper plants being decommissioned leading to higher paper prices throughout the market. Neither of those things is particularly good for printers and envelope companies although the postal service needs to do something to stem the tide of red ink and there is clearly over-capacity in the paper market which needs to be corrected.

But, hey, the Red Sox are two games away from being in the World Series (hopefully!) plus it’s fall in New England; a beautiful time of year, so we’ll dispense with the gloom and doom for now and instead focus on something positive; a better bubble envelope.  How’s that for a convenient segueway?

Conventional wisdom repeatedly tells us that the digital age spells bad news for paper, envelopes and direct mail. Lots has been written on this topic, including a number of posts in this space,  and I’ve continuously made the point that embracing and exploiting this same technology will make us more competitive and enable us to grow despite the convenience of e mails.

beam me up star trek

 

One of the bright spots for us is the continuing growth in E Commerce. Until Amazon and others figure out a way to use Star Trek technology (“beam up that T shirt to the end-user Scotty”) your purchased goods will need to be shipped in boxes or envelopes. Bubble lined envelopes have become more popular as a result. They are very capable for shipping a variety of materials and also very light which helps on the postage side.

At Elite Envelope, we’ve been working with our customers on bubble-lined envelopes for quite some time and have come up with a product that many find superior to what is typically available. We call it the “Smart Bubble” and here are the advantages:

  • The bubble lining inside the envelope is removable. This allows the recipient to re-use or recycle it. This provides options and convenience for the customer as well as minimizing waste in general.  I don’t know about you but I find bubble products very handy when I’m looking to ship a present or item that needs protection. They are nice to have around for a variety of purposes.

 

  • The removable bubble sleeve fits snugly inside the envelope. Once the envelope is sealed, it works exactly the same as one that is glued in.

 

  • One of the downsides of typical bubble envelopes is the strict limitation on how it can be printed and at what quantity. The reason for that is most companies who make these will glue the bubble liner to the inside of the envelope.  You then need a special press that can print on bubble envelopes; usually on a crash print/letterpress machine which doesn’t provide great quality or design options.  Because our envelopes feature the removable liner, we can print up to four colors on just about any type of envelope you require and in small quantities.

All of this can be done at a competitive cost and generally within a 2-3 week lead time or sooner depending on what you're looking for. So please contact us for a quote or samples.

Smart Bubble envelopes live up to their name!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, bubble envelopes

National’s Demise and the State of the Envelope

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 10, 2013 12:10:00 PM

As anyone who works in the envelope and printing industry is aware, National Envelope has recently been acquired by Cenveo and will face liquidation of some sort. As of this writing, it’s still unclear how much of National’s capacity will remain. Cenveo already maintains approximately 20 envelope plants throughout the US and the overall amount of first class mail has been in decline for the past decade so it says here that most of National’s plants will be closed and sold off in order to solidify Cenveo’s leadership position in the market.

National Envelope was one of those great American success stories. Started by William Unger, a Holocaust survivor who arrived in America on a ship for displaced persons after the war, the company  grew to become the largest privately held envelope manufacturer in the United States. National was known as a quality shop with a very solid market position primarily as a wholesaler. At a time when American manufacturing was shifting away from low-tech products in textiles, shoes and other consumables, envelope manufacturing provided solid jobs for thousands with good wages and benefits.

National filed for bankruptcy over three years ago and was acquired by a California-based private equity company called The Gores Group. At that time, Cenveo was making a bid for the company but it seemed that the Ungar family couldn’t stand the thought of surrendering the company to their fiercest competitor so they saw the Gores offer as the better choice.  It was always curious why a private equity company would consider a company like National a candidate for a turnaround and sale for a profit. The company was over $500 million in debt in a declining industry.The fact of overcapacity in the envelope market was as clear then as it is now. But while Gores closed a few of National’s plants and sold off a bunch of its equipment (at bargain-basement prices) it seemed to keep the same low-margin pricing structure that one could argue was one of the prime causes of National’s decline and eventual demise.

Gores tried to impose draconian production controls on some of the plants. This resulted in some adverse publicity and ultimately did nothing to solve the problem. As anyone who runs a factory is aware, treating your employees well makes for a happier and more productive environment. I also had some fun with Gore’s somewhat lame attempts at spinning the purchase of National and wrapping the package in meaningless MBA jargon.

The news about the second Chapter 11 filing by National Envelope and its impending liquidation earlier in the summer was played by most of the press as the end of an era and symbolic of the decline of the envelope and mailing industry.

Those of us in the industry know that's a convenient media angle but ultimately a superficial take on the story. National's problems were mostly self-inflicted. There's certainly been a decline in first class mail in the past decade but there are still billions of envelopes being mailed and the direct mail industry has seen growth during the same period.

It’s truly a shame that thousands of people will likely lose their jobs as a result of the National bankruptcy. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that the model of the large, high-overhead envelope operation selling its product at commodity prices is mostly over.

We believe the future of our industry lies with the smaller, regional companies that provide value and great service to their customers. While first class mail volumes are declining due to the inexorable expansion of the digital economy, direct mail has remained a viable way for companies to promote their products. The percentage of direct mail as a total of the overall postal volume has increased and continues to do so. Marketers are re-discovering direct mail as a solid (literally) alternative to digital information overload.

The envelope companies who keep their costs at a reasonable level with little leverage, stay lexible and responsive to customer demands, use technology to its maximum advantage, constantly add value to their product offerings and aggressively market and sell will stay viable well into the twenty first century. Print and mail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

In the meantime, RIP National Envelope and may its many fine employees find productive work either in the envelope industry or elsewhere.

 

Topics: direct mail, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, envelope industry, declining mail volume, national envelope

Valuing Trees and Paper for Printing and Envelopes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 1, 2013 11:23:00 AM

think before printing

One of the more regrettable messages we see frequently on e-mails is something along the lines of: “Think of the trees – please don’t print this e mail unless you have to”.  

My grandmother and mother, both of whom lived during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and 1940’s taught me not to waste... well, ANYTHING.  Once I got out of school and hit the playgrounds, backyards and streets of my suburban neighborhood, I don’t think I ever wore a pair of pants that didn’t have sewn-on patches till I was well into my teens (and then, I wore them by choice as it was cool to dress down but that’s a tale for another day).

One of Nanny’s favorite expressions was, “Use it up – wear it out – make it do – do without”.  This was a popular saying of the time as depicted in this World War II era poster. It was also adapted by a band called Odyssey in the 90’s for a title of one of their dance club hits (thanks Google!) .  

I think most of us would agree that conserving, reusing and, in general, consuming based on need and modest desire rather than unthinking whim are sound principles upon which to live one’s life.  So what are we to make of the whole “save a tree” thing?  Is it a legitimate expression of the sensible “waste not – want not” prudence I’ve described?  Or is it perhaps a knee-jerk appeal to the sentimental attachment that most of us feel toward trees for the ultimate purpose of promoting a dubious ideological agenda?

Chuck Leavell is one of the great pianists of the classic rock era. He was playing with the Allman Brothers at age twenty and went on to play with the Rolling Stones where he remains today.  According to his website Leavell is also a “respected authority on forestry and conservation”.  He owns a forest and has written several books on forestry and green issues.    

Aside from being a great musician (check out the rippin' piano solo on the Allman’s track “Southbound”) Leavell speaks in common sense terms about environmental issues. The fact that he uses the term “conservationist” rather than “environmentalist” to describe himself is telling. The former speaks to a prudent use and management of our resources. The latter too often reflects a hostility to man’s place in natural world not to mention a blithe rejection of the need for economic growth and prosperity to improve the lives of the many who still live in abject poverty and misery.

In an excellent short piece from a couple of years ago in the Wall Street Journal, (read it here ), Leavell and co-writer Carlton Owen make the point that unless there is a demand for wood products and paper, forests will in many cases die of insect infestation or simply be paved over for malls and other commercial developments.  Using paper, including printing e mails when required, helps create this demand which prompts paper companies to plant more trees and maintain healthy forests in order to protect their investments.

Leavell signs his e mails with the following:  “It's OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago."  That's not a bad message to repeat to our customers and prospects who may be seduced by the "save a tree" siren song.

So when you invite all your friends to your Arbor Day party (April 26th I’m told), feel free to print a bunch of cards and put them in envelopes and mail them to everyone you know. You’re doing something positive for trees on both accounts.

Topics: printing and envelopes, going green, save a tree, don't print this e mail

Fixing the Post Office and Saving Direct Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 4, 2013 9:06:00 AM

old fashioned post office photo

In my last post, I listed some of the factors contributing to the huge drop in overall mail volume and the sorry fiscal state of the US Postal Service.  Certainly the two are related; any business that sees a precipitous decline in its customer base due to factors somewhat out of its control is going to suffer.

However, this is not the first time a business has declined due to new technologies or its own inefficiency. IBM was once the center of the mainframe computing universe; until personal computing and the incredible advances in microchip technology revolutionized the market. Big Blue’s leadership was supplanted by Apple, Microsoft, Intel and a host of other companies but over time it remained viable by reinventing itself and today remains a major player in the high tech world

Can the Post Office pull off the same transformation as IBM?  Certain factors weigh heavily against that outcome. First and foremost is that there is no free, competitive market for first class mail delivery. The USPS holds a monopoly on this service and in the present statist era it seems unlikely that the federal government would loosen the reins and allow other companies to compete and provide this service as it did successfully with parcel delivery. 

A major factor in IBM’s decline was the 13 year-long antitrust suit initiated by the Justice Department. The after-effects of this litigation paved the way for other companies to compete on equal footing which helped give rise to the proliferation of desk top computing. Antitrust law is based on the premise that monopoly power in any business is not good for the consumer. Of course the government reserves the right to a double-standard but its own monopolies are just as bad.  

What would be the result of eliminating the monopoly on letter delivery? We are told that companies would simply cherry-pick the most profitable routes - mostly those in densely populated urban areas – and would leave the rest of the population to pay higher delivery rates. We usually hear this from those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The problem is the status quo is unsustainable. 

One thing we know about markets is that when people are free to come up with solutions, customer demands are generally met. None of us can predict with any certainty what would happen in the aftermath of a post office breakup. But we can look to the coexistence of UPS, FedEx and the Post Office in parcel delivery as a possible model for a better future.  Maybe we will need a drastically scaled-down version of the Post Office to continue to service rural areas on a subsidized basis.  Maybe the companies that bid for the prime routes will have to accept some of the burden to serve those areas in the same way that cities require developers of prime property to include parks and other public accommodations. Regulated utilities are required to allow smaller, private companies to supply power to households and businesses at a reduced rate. Maybe we can use the existing mail delivery infrastructure to facilitate something like that.

One thing is certain; without some type of radical reform, the taxpayers will be paying billions to bail out a once proud and once necessary institution. Additionally, the companies and individuals in the printing, mailing and envelope industries who rely in large measure on the post office will suffer due to increased costs and declining service.

As always, your comments are very much appreciated and welcome.

Topics: direct mail, post office, printing and envelopes, postal monopoly, post office problems, envelope industry

The Post Office and the Envelope Industry – Part One

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 6, 2013 12:43:00 PM

As anyone who keeps up with current events is aware, the United States Postal Service is in a very bad way.

The price of a first class stamp has just gone up again to 46 cents. If only that solved the problem, then we’d just accept it and move on. However, the Post Office posted a $15.9 billion dollar loss for the fiscal year that just ended in September 30th of 2012. And if that’s not enough bad news for you, they are declaring that they will be out of cash sometime around October of 2013 unless something is done.

As the chart below demonstrates, (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal) the volume of first class mail has seen a precipitous decline in the past ten years. The number of pieces mailed is now about half of what it was in 2002.

Mail Service decline graph

Now obviously the digital world has made a serious dent in the number of pieces mailed. Companies are saving money by pushing their customers to pay their bills and receive statements on-line.  Financial service companies which used to mail huge numbers of proxy statements and prospectuses are now going digital. Back in the 1980's, I was a bank purchasing officer and we bought huge amounts of paper and printing much of which is no longer necessary because of the personal computing revolution. You can’t stop companies from reducing their costs through greater efficiency; especially when it’s what most of their customers find more convenient.

Another significant factor in the decrease in mail is the lousy economy of the past four years. The so-called recovery we have been experiencing is tepid at best with growth that doesn’t even keep up with the increase in new people entering the job market. While the movement away from certain kinds of mail would have happened regardless, robust economic growth would mitigate some of the pain for envelope and printing companies.

In its attempt to cut costs, the Post Office has slowed down first class mail delivery and is considering cutting Saturday delivery service. This is probably the worst possible way to deal with the problem. We are in the age of instant gratification courtesy of those same computers that are driving down the mail business. A recent article in the Boston Globe references a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project concerning people under the age of 35 and the dangers of their hyper connected lives with this warning:  “Negative effects include a need for instant gratification and loss of patience”.   So at the same time that Gen X and Gen Y are moving away from mail partly due to the time involved, the Post Office decides to make us wait longer. Great.

As I’ve suggested in previous posts, the politics surrounding Post Office reform will make it virtually impossible to fix.  Yet, the best solution  for direct mailers and the many small businesses that serve them would be to abolish the government monopoly on first class mail service and allow private companies to compete for that service in the same way that FedEx and UPS have done for parcel delivery.  That would allow direct mailers who provide the biggest chunk of concentrated business for the post office to receive preferred rates which would drive down the cost of direct mail and keep it strong along with the printers and envelope companies who provide the components.

In my next post, I’ll delve into the politics in a bit more detail and also flesh out a simple proposal for reform.  As always, your comments are most appreciated.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, post office, printing and envelopes, postal monopoly, post office problems, envelope industry, declining mail volume

Envelope and Print Diversification – Our Only Hope?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 7, 2013 11:27:00 AM

Happy New Year everyone!  We’re all another year older but at least we’re now in the teens year wise. That makes the decade a lot easier to describe. Remember the “aughts”?   And, of course, we’ve made it through the Mayan calendar end of world. Personally, I place a lot more credence on the predictions of the Farmer’s Almanac.

Is this just a clever set-up for my predictions for the envelope, printing and paper industries? Alas, I have none. I know, you’re saying, this is a blog; take a risk!  Well, the truth is; I have no idea and neither does anyone else really. I think we should acknowledge what we know to be true and that is the industries are shrinking mostly due to digitalization. But I also think it’s safe to say that the industries will not be disappearing any time soon. Printing and mailing will be with us for the future in some significant measure.

So, how do the average envelope company and printer not only survive but actually grow? Well, you can still lure your competitor’s top sales person away with a better offer. That can help a bit until he or she is lured away from you!  You can redouble your efforts to exploit the full potential of business from your existing customer base. You can also use the same technology that has resulted in declining print usage to increase your market share. Those are all valid approaches.

However, I believe the most effective approach to manage the decline for the long term is to diversify our product offerings. I was just reading an investment report on Cenveo which is one of the largest envelope companies around. Since the late 90’s they have been buying label companies and printers in order to increase market share. Lately they have become a player in the growing shrink-labeling market for food products; bottles and such.

Few of us have the resources and capital of a Cenveo allowing us to pull something like that off. But we can use the same approach on a smaller scale in our markets or regions. My company Elite Envelope recently acquired Web Corp; a cold web printer to the trade for 15 years.  We had a relationship with them both as a vendor and a customer.  We found that many of our direct mail customers were buying the type of print products produced very cost-effectively on the webs. Somewhat to our surprise, we also found many of our sheet-fed printer customers outsourced certain jobs to the webs because they were better-suited to run that way.

Elite Envelope cold web printing

So, we decided that being able to offer those cold-web printed products under the same roof as our envelope converting and envelope manufacturing and printing services made sense as a way for us to provide more to our existing customers with no conflict. 

We’ve just begun the process of integration but thus far, results are positive and we believe we have done something constructive that will increase sales, market share and, hopefully, the value of our company.

Ultimately, we can and must focus on those things we can control. The fate of the envelope and printing industry will play itself out. In the meantime, the more things we can do for our customers, the better.

 As always, your thoughts are most welcome.

Topics: printing and envelopes, envelope printing, envelope manufacturing, envelope converting, cold web printing, web 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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