Harry’s Corner – Adding Value with 3-4-1 is Another Win-Win

Submitted by Harry Stephens, President/CEO of DATAMATX
October 5, 2015

I have just finished my usual round of September travels—starting with the Major Mailers Association, the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC) where I serve on the board, then on to the INg workshop and finally a visit to Graph Expo to see what is new. I always learn a lot on these whirlwind trips and this one was no exception. This year there was a great deal of buzz around inkjet technology and how it makes it more affordable to add color to our documents to keep print alive and relevant. It is a proven fact—color delivers value. Of course we still need to find a way to communicate the value it has in order to charge for it. That’s why the leaders in our industry are gathering as much information as possible on how to produce color at a reasonable cost—and work to make informed decisions on investing in equipment that allows for more affordable full color capabilities.

Delivering value was also the buzz at the NPPC meeting. James (Jim) P. Cochrane spoke to us about the need to make mail more relevant. We have to find ways to add more value to mail in order to keep it in the system. Jim is a 41-year veteran of the USPS and has been acting chief marketing and sales officer and executive vice president (CMSO) since April 2015. He reports to the Postmaster General. What I liked about Jim is that he understands the need to be flexible and change things if needed. He directed the advancement of new mail intelligence, engineering systems, information technology systems, payment technology, secure digital solutions and corporate information security to meet the changing needs of today’s marketplace.

As Jim spoke about relevancy and value, what immediately came to my mind was “2-4-1 and Everybody Wins.” It was the title of a column I wrote for this very publication four years ago. 2-4-1 came about at a Major Mailers Association meeting where Paul Vogel, the president and chief marketing/sales officer for the USPS at the time, spoke about improving the USPS experience for its customers. After his talk, one member brought up the idea that perhaps the USPS would approve allowing business mailers to mail a two-ounce piece at the one-ounce rate. Every major mailer at the meeting liked this idea, the USPS implemented it and it was highly successful.

I began to think about all I have been learning about inkjet technology having been at the recent Inkjet Summit and its ability to lower the cost per page; and if 2-4-1 was a success in increasing mail by making mailing more documents affordable, why build a better mousetrap—just make it larger by now allowing three ounces at the one-ounce rate. That would give business mailers a little more latitude and alleviate the worry of losing the discount to mail at the single piece rate if they were slightly over the two ounces—adding value. It would help support the demand for creating (and mailing) more documents in color—adding value. It would allow mailers to get the mail to the recipient faster as 3-4-1 would be at the threshold of the cutoff for Standard Mail—adding value. Of course, it would require a 6 x 9 envelope, but many folks are used to receiving transactional bills that way already.

As it turned out, adopting the 2-4-1 suggestion on the part of the USPS was easy. First, there were no legal restrictions to worry about and it didn’t need the PRC to rule or Congress to approve, as it was not a rate increase or a mandate. So adopting 3-4-1 could happen just as smoothly.

At these meetings, we openly discuss ways to create more value with printed mail. So after Jim spoke, I made the suggestion that moving up an ounce to ‘3-4-1’would be a serious additional stimulus for marketing via First Class. As I said earlier, I think Jim Cochrane is a person who welcomes changing things if it makes sense—and 3-4-1 certainly does. In 2011, in this very publication, I predicted 2-4-1 would be a win-win for mailers and the USPS and it was. I think 3-4-1 will be a win-win as well—providing the extra value needed to keep printed mail relevant.

What’s your opinion on 3-4-1? I am interested. You can email me at hstephens@datamatx.com. I hope to hear from you!

Until next time – Harry

Harry Stephens

Harry Stephens is President/CEO, and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation’s largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Board Member of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC), Member of Major Mailers Association(MMA), and member of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service . He is also president of the Imaging Network Group (INg), an association for Print/Mail Service Bureaus. As an expert on high-volume print and mail, he has frequently been asked to speak to various USPS groups, including the Board of Governors, about postal reform and other issues affecting business mailers. Find DATAMATX at www.datamatx.com.