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5 Roles your print rep should play for YOU!

You may have noticed a lack of action from me over the past couple of weeks. My three year old son has been in and out of the hospital, but I am happy to say we have him home now, and we finally feel like we are out of the woods! This experience has caused me to take a good look at my priorities, not only at home, but also with my clients and prospects.

I sat down when I finally got back to the office the other day, and wrote out a list of how I can play more of a role for lovers of print. I asked myself what can I do to become better and help my clients become better, and here is what I came up with. These are 5 roles your print salesman should be performing for you!

1. Technology.Your print representative should be instructing you of new and creative ways to attract and build loyalty with your advertisers and readers alike. In today’s market, QR Codes, Augmented Reality, Digital Magazine. PURL’s, etc… aren’t right for everyone, but there is something right for anyone. Your sales rep should have a vast knowledge of your company, and be your consultant with new technology to help instruct and help increase your ability to not only survive, but grow as well! Also, there many creative avenues to offer other than technology such as gatefolds, tipping on an ad piece, RPN notes, and the like!

2. Quality Control. This is key in offering you a consistently quality piece. Your advertisers, members, and readers all deserve the highest quality product, after all, you are paying for it! Now I am not saying your print rep needs to stand over the press men to ensure there are no errors, most press men have great talent and an eye for when inks may need be adjusted. Also, with the advances in technology, presses have become very automated. However, they should be reviewing quality control pulls, communicating with you if there is any problems with your PDF files ie low DPI or too small of fonts etc.. Honesty and integrity are key, no one is mistake free 100% of the time, but how they communicate and take responsibility for the mistakes are essential to your business.

3. Cost Savers. Often times you can see a significant savings in some very small changes. With an increasing paper market, there may be an equivalent paper stock for far less cost. You could look at different cover coatings, going from UV to Aqueous typically saves cost. Often times there are sweet spots on how many pages in a form a printer is most economical in, changing your page count to fit this is much more economical.

4. Postal Rep. You thought I forgot about this didn’t you? OK, it could have fit into number three’s category, but I think we all know this deserves its own category! With ever changing postal regulations, rate changes, and the like, your print rep should be instructing you on changes not only now, but what also might be coming in the future. USPS regulations affect everyone, and when something comes along like the proposed rate increase (thank goodness it failed), the droop test, and much more your representative should be showing you how it will affect you, and what is most economical way to come into compliance should you need to. Just because the postal hikes didn’t pass doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be something else on the horizon, I know I have my ear to the ground!

5. Support. Yes, this is a different kind of support that I am speaking of than what I have outlined above. I pride myself on not being a hit and run type of representative. What do I mean? After the sale you no longer see your sales rep, they are like a ghost….hear their footsteps but never their voice! Building personal relationships allows for open and clear communication, also it just makes for a more fun way of doing business. It is nice to know that they are not only working for you, but also with you. Some say family fights more than friends, but to that I say blood is thicker than water!

Evaluate your relationship, these are only some of the things that your print rep should be doing for you. Take advantage of our knowledge, we want to assist you and see print survive! Without you, there is no us, and without us, you are not the best you.

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October 21, 2010 Posted by | Digital Magazine, Mailing, Publishing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We as mailers need a viable and effective postal service.

The exigent postal rate increase proposed back in July was denied by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) on September 30. The news is a great relief to all mailers, especially periodical and catalog mailers. The proposed rate increase had many mailers scrambling to figure out how to absorb the latest financial burden in a sluggish economy.

 The USPS rate increases over the last three years were tied to the Consumer Price Index. This was one result of Postal Reform Act passed at the end of 2006. Since the CPI has only increased 0.6%, the USPS requested an exigent rate increase to help offset a looming financial crisis. The USPS is projecting nearly $240 billion in losses over the next decade. The denial is a serious blow to the USPS financial plan.

 The USPS has proposed a number of measures to meet the projected losses. Internal cost cutting focused on reducing the number of employees, and putting that number more in line with declining mail volume. Unfortunately, mail volume declined much quicker than they could reduce the workforce. USPS was able to cut $6 billion in costs, but it didn’t make up for the $7.7 billion in losses. The USPS is also looking to consolidate facilities, go to a 5 day a week delivery schedule, relief from (and refund of?) the overpayment to the employee pension plan and no longer be required to prefund employee heath benefits. The latter two require congressional approval and the first has been opposed by individual congress people not wanting to lose offices in their district. The USPS will now face a steeper uphill battle counteracting the proposed shortfall.

 Many believe (which apparently includes the PRC) that the USPS financial circumstances were at least partially of their own making. The PRC cited this saying they believed these financial difficulties would have happened regardless of the economy. The PRC did not feel the USPS met the criteria for an exigent increase. All of the following conditions must be met to approve an exigent increase request:

      1. Due to either extraordinary or exceptional circumstances;

      2. Reasonable, equitable, and necessary under best  practices of honest, efficient, and economical management; and,

      3. Necessary to maintain and continue the development of postal services of the kind and quality adapted to the needs of the United States. 

  New and more rigid regulations combined with the internet and the economic downturn helped to drive mail volume down. The new rate structure for periodicals three years ago (which added things like container charges), the huge increase in rates for standard flats a few years ago and more recently the change in preparation requirements for letter sized booklet mailers (coming soon for self mailers), the stricter droop test (poorly timed with many publications a fraction of the size they were years ago) have all combined to make mailing less attractive for mailers. Those that depend on mailing are forced to reduce the quantity or charge customers more to meet the increased processing costs.

  The latest proposal would have heaped a 5% increase on catalog mailers, an 8% increase on periodicals and a 23% increase on standard parcel mailers. This would have resulted in more job losses and possibly put some mailers out of business. The poor timing of this increase was sure to have had a serious if not disastrous effect on businesses.

 Hopefully this will force the USPS (and Congress) to take a hard look at their operations. The likely result will be conditions that will adversely affect the mailer and the USPS. Despite how we feel about USPS handling of these circumstances, we as mailers need a viable and effective postal service. 

-Guest Post by Bill Carter, Distribution Manager at J.B. Kenehan

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Mailing, Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worried about being too droopy?

USPS Deflection or “Droop” Requirements I promised to examine some current postal issues in this column. Since the new deflection test started June 7, and postage “penalties” start October 3, this is a good issue to start with. Deflection refers to the flexibility of the mail piece. The Deflection or “droop” test only applies to flat mail pieces. Flat mail, for the most part, refers to: a) pieces more than 11-1/2 inches long, or more than 6-1/8 inches high, or more than 1/4 inch thick and b) pieces not more than 15 inches long or more than 12 inches high or more than 3/4 inch thick. The USPS requires that flat mail pieces not be too rigid or too flexible.

The deflection test is necessary to help the USPS determine whether a flat mail piece will go their flat sorting equipment. The ability to automate a piece is one of the foundations for USPS discounts. Extensive testing was done to determine these standards. Despite the testing, there is and has been a good deal of debate about whether this test should be applied.

The current deflection test requirements are that flat mail pieces that are less than 10 inches do not “droop” more than 2”. Flat mail pieces that are over 10 inches cannot “droop” more than 3”. The post office will assess non- machinable or non automation rates depending on the class of mail and sortation category. The severity of the penalty varies with the sortation category, but is significant regardless of the category.

 One of the complaints about the new test is that the USPS does not provide guidelines or standards for passing the deflection. A mail piece is tested each time it mails (even if it is the same paper, dimensions and page count). For pieces that are borderline it is possible you could pass one time and fail the next! The USPS will not give pre-approval on a design. With that said, our staff is prepared to work with you to help you figure out what will work.

I have provided some links to the Federal Register write up on this rule and a link to see how the test is conducted. I also have a link to the FSS (Flat Sequencing System) which is relevant to the new deflection rules. Please contact your local MDA (Mail piece Design Analyst) or let me know if you have further questions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEfS2EOnFhc

http://pe.usps.gov/FRN/Deflection_final.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xzHw2b0Nis
(Guest Post by Bill Carter, Distribution Manager, J.B. Kenehan)

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Mailing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowledge is Power….More Changes from the USPS

Over the last 4 years, the rate of change in the USPS has increased exponentially! As the USPS attempts to bring the revenue for each class of mail in lines with the cost (per the postal reform act of 2006) and institute accountability measures (Sarbanes/Oxley accountability act or SOX for short) many new rules and rates are being introduced. For the rest of the year, I will take a closer look at some new rules and or rates that are proposed or enacted. Of particular importance are the proposed rate increase for January 2011, the new deflectance rule for flats that went into effect in June (otherwise known as the “droop” test), and the relaxing of ride along and supplement requirements for periodicals (I need to give you some good news!).  Below are some links where you can get more information on these items. Your local PCC can be an excellent resource for postal information.

Federal register notice for periodical changes: http://pe.usps.gov/FRN/Periodicals_Content_final.pdf

Federal register notice for deflection (droop) rule change: http://pe.usps.gov/FRN/Deflection_final.pdf

Federal register notice for rate changes: http://pe.usps.gov/FRN/Domestic_Jan_2011_Exigent_proposed.pdf

Actual proposed rate table for Jan 2011: http://pe.usps.gov/prices/Prices_Jan2011.xls

September 11, 2010 Posted by | Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments