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Lobcast Podcast: Operational Mail & Orange Margaritas

Mix up an orange margarita and listen in as we divert from marketing mail to talk about operational mail on the Lobcast Podcast. From automation to optimization, we're sharing the best tips and tricks for creating and sending operational mail.

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On this episode of the Lobcast Podcast, we’re sipping on orange margaritas and talking about a different type of direct mail: operational mail! Like marketing mail, this type of mail benefits from automation, integration, and optimization. 

Key highlights include:

  • Organizations sending operational mail can improve results and customer engagement by A/B testing mail formats, and including marketing messages relevant to the customer.
  • Direct mail automation improves workflows, allows resources to be reallocated to impactful work, and provides tracking information for regulated industries.
  • Those sending operational mail need to have quality data hygiene practices in place to ensure mail is personalized and sent to the right recipients.
  • An easy way to increase efficiency with operational mail is to partner with a company that has an expansive print delivery network.

Meet the Speakers

Stephanie Donelson

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Dave Krawczuk

Senior Director, Supply Operations

STEPHANIE: Hello and welcome to the Lobcast Podcast: Mixers and Marketing. I'm Stephanie Donelson, your hostess with the marketing mostess and I'm the senior content marketing manager here at Lob. I'm thrilled to be joined by Dave Krawczuk, senior director, supply operations. Dave, do you mind introducing yourself to our listeners?

DAVE: Not at all! As you said, I'm the senior director of supply operations here at Lob. Basically what that means under my purview is all of our operations for print, letter, shop and mail, and that's up to and including relationships with printers and the post office. And my team manages everything for the logistics and delivery of mail pieces to the USPS and then tracking through to the delivery point.

STEPHANIE: Very exciting, so very different than what I do on a day-to-day basis.

DAVE: It is the other side of the marketing equation very often, meaning, you know, there is the side of coming up with things. And then there is the side of getting it to them, creating it and getting it to them. And that's where my team comes in.

STEPHANIE: Yes well, I am very thankful for people like you who manage logistics, because that is not my strong suit.

DAVE: It does take a little bit of a specialty. But we've got some of the best people in the business to be able to move it forward.

STEPHANIE: Well, and that is why we enjoy having you on the podcast and joining us.

DAVE: Thank you so much.

STEPHANIE: Of course. And listeners, if you want to make the complimentary cocktail that goes with this episode, you're going to need two ounces of silver tequila, one ounce of cointreau, 3 ounces of orange juice, an ounce of lime juice, and one ounce of simple syrup, and then an orange slice for garnish, if you wish. You're going to pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker that's filled with ice shake and pour into a glass. I did skip my orange peel for my garnish, but it's still a delicious cocktail. And cheers, everyone. Welcome to the show. Thank you again, Dave, for being with us.

DAVE: No problem. Thank you for having me.

STEPHANIE: All right. So today we're taking a little time out from talking about marketing mail to talk about operational mail. It's a critical mail type for many organizations, but it's also often heavily regulated. So, Dave, when we're talking about operational mail, what exactly are we talking about?

DAVE: So operational mail is a different subset of mail, which is it's specifically tailored to communication between a company or an organization to a specific group or team or a subset of customers of known group. An example of something like this would be for a customer or a brand that has a specific set of customers that fall into a category that they may need to do some kind of communication to your point also, sometimes this is around regulatory items. You can think about municipalities or HOAs, those kinds of people who have to have a level of communication with a group of people for very specific reasons. And a lot of times they can be regulatory or they can be usually informative or the other side of things. It could also be something as simple as invoices, statements, or those kinds of financial obligation communications.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, I often think of like the tack statements that always come out at the end of in January!

DAVE: Exactly if you think of it, it is kind of know, again, it's a little bit around the process of doing business, you know, in some of those kinds of communications that have to go on.

STEPHANIE: Definitely so do you think there are any industries that send the most operational mail compared to other organizations or areas?

DAVE: Just one you brought up just the biggest one. Tax documentation or any of those types of things. Those are probably going to, I'm going to say, be the biggest ones. Municipalities or, you know, highly-regulated companies that work in those spaces. Telecommunications or jurisdictions. Taxing jurisdictions. Or those kinds of places that have a responsibility to notify or to talk to a specific customer set. Those are definitely the highest ones. I will also say there's a bunch when you have a big customer base of B2C, when a brand has a B2C communication where those customers aren't just transactional, but they are more like subscription-based, they will also experience a lot of operational mail that they will have to send so that they can keep their customers up to date or up to status with, you know, anything from statements to terms of service or, you know, contractual changes and things like that.

STEPHANIE: No, definitely. And I'm one of those people that even though I get the preference center, it's like, we want to just send you emails. I'm like, no, you have to send me a paper statement or I will not read it.

DAVE: Exactly it is a really nice way that you can actually make sure that you receive communications that you want and you notice them and you get them and that you see them. Like I will say, I'm very technologically inclined, but I still like to receive paper statements from a whole bunch of them because it keeps me on track. It makes I make sure that I get it and I see it. And it also gives me good historical volume to be or a perspective to go back to and say, hey, this is what I had from last year. So it really does fit into a lot of people's just psychological way of categorizing what's important and what they need to take care of.

STEPHANIE: Oh, definitely. I love keeping my old water bills so I can be like, Oh wow, we really use a lot of water in June, but we're barely using any in January.

DAVE: It is not the most prettiest thing, but it is so ridiculously help. For it. It really is amazing.

STEPHANIE: Because yeah, again, if I get the email being like your water bill is due, I'm probably going to have opened it and then scroll past. But if I see that bill sitting on my desk, I know like, ooh, I have to get that paid.

DAVE: The inbox is definitely a very scary place sometimes when it comes to what you can have coming in there, it is a little simple to lose that of stuff. Whereas an actual physical product or physical letter or card that you have is a heck of a lot easier. And, you know, one of the other things, famous things I've said for years, you can't throw an email up on a refrigerator to remind you just doesn't lend itself, whereas some of these other communication methods do.

STEPHANIE: Oh, yeah. My husband just put a coupon on our fridge for a restaurant near us that sent us a piece of mail. We're like, OK, we're going to remember to go there someday.

DAVE: Redemption cards. Not this topic, but all redemption offers. Oh, they're so huge.

STEPHANIE: All right, Dave, in your opinion, do you think the form factor is a major element of operational mail? I mean, obviously, some industries like healthcare do need to protect their patients identities and sensitive personal information and will default to letters. But do you see many operators A/B testing different formats in their operational mail?

DAVE: So in this space it is challenging because you do have to be sensitive to the content that is being distributed sometimes. And so that is going to be the big driver out of the gate as to what the content of the notification that is going to tell or drive a lot of decisions. And yes, envelopes do drive a lot of those pieces because of what you said. It is secured inside of a thing that is protecting the information of the person. So you will see a whole bunch of material going into that, that form factor, meaning an envelope form factor. OK, but I have seen like there are opportunities to be able to use other form factors like for instance, folded self mailers where you can have a lot more, a couple of things, you have a lot more space to be able to do things because they're slightly larger than the letter component. They're printed on a little bit of a nicer stock or a nicer material. And they are know, we do seal them up. They do you know, they do folds close. So you can have information on the inside. If it's not very specific information, meaning like if you're informing a group that, you know, something such and such kind of policy is being put in place in a time frame or something is going to be stopping within a time frame for a large group. It's not specific to one person. You can definitely start doing some of in those other form factors. Well, you do have to be sensitive to the content that is in the mail piece. And, you know, that is sometimes people do have a tendency of error erring on the side of caution. So they will put it into an envelope.

STEPHANIE: And I think that's definitely a safe practice too, right? Especially in an era or an area that can be heavily regulated. You want to make sure you've met every regulation possible when sending that piece of mail.

DAVE: There are some of those operational things that will come into play, like you want to make sure that, you know, it did go out to, you know, on a proper timing, that it did go to the right person and that your material and information was secured. And also, you know, sometimes some of these things, people will treat an envelope, a little differently than they will treat some other mail pieces. So they will look at and, you know, like when people look at their mail, they do an instant evaluation. OK and they're going to look at those things. And so one factor will play into that a little bit. And if they see something from, you know, who it's coming from in that front window and then they see an envelope, they're going to probably take a little extra time to look at that as opposed to some of the other forms factors.

STEPHANIE: No, I actually just did that the other day. I got a letter from our fire district about, you know, tax increase or something, and it was in an envelope. And I was like, why is the fire district sending me mail? So of course, I had to open it. Whereas if it came on a postcard, I would been like, meh.

DAVE: It would be a different interaction. Exactly.

STEPHANIE: Very much so. So I know you have a lot of experience in print and, you know, at Lob, we work in automated direct mail. But let's say someone sends operational mail and they're not automating it to route it to a printer. What kind of questions should they ask a print partner before working with them?

DAVE: So there are a whole bunch of things in this can be a little specific to what the people's use case is, and also what their internal structure is like. Where are they getting their, you know, like the first questions that they need to ask internally before they start going outside, you know, where is the data coming from? Where am I going to be able to get that? What is the content that I'm going to be producing and sending out, going to look like? And where is that coming from? And then how am I going to be merging that information together? Are we going to be able to do that or am I expecting the printer to be able to do that? There are a bunch of those kinds of first out of the gate questions, have those questions answered because they're what's going to be asked first. You know, also from the production. But what you're going to want to look for, you know, a couple of things is because this mail is usually, as we said before, a lot of times it's regulated. A lot of times you want to make sure you have to prove when something mailed so you know where it mailed from. How long did it deliver to when does the in-person receive it? You want to make sure of a couple of things. You're always going to want to make sure you talk about timelines. You always want to make sure that you talk about mail dates. When are things going to go through? How are they going to be able to produce this and are they going to be able to feed you back a lot of the information that you need? For instance, when did this mail piece actually deliver to this address? So you want to think about not just, you know, the individual manufacturing things, but you want to figure out the whole entire lifecycle of one of these campaigns so that you can break it apart and also be able to measure and monitor the progression of your mail piece through all of these things so that, you know, if there is some a situation or a problem, you can jump in and fix it. Or you can also prove that, hey, yes, I've made my best faith effort. And you'll always hear that phrase of best faith effort to be able to produce these things and to deliver them and get them to that final recipient.

STEPHANIE: Interesting OK. So we kind of teed up the conversation around automation of operational mail. So we now know what kind of mail, operational mail covers. But let's talk about the technology that makes it happen. How has direct mail automation software changed the game? What was sending operational mail like before technology evolved to automate the process?

DAVE: So for your what we would call variable data printing, because that's a little bit of what some of this is when we're talking about sending a letter directly to, you know, a specific group or a specific individual. That is the convergence of taking data and incorporating it into the creative. Now, four years ago, this technology was pretty much limited to either printers or letter shops. And you had to go to them, let them program out everything that would look for you to have to make sure that everything looked the way that it was, you know, like you did. You dealt with the creative first, but now you had to deal with the data. And what we used to call like, for instance, live read proofs. What did it look like with the data incorporated? There was a bit of a long, drawn out process and you were very highly dependent upon those producers, those print shops or letter shops for them to be able to handle or do the, you know, manage the creative. As technology has been evolving indefinitely, for instance, you know, even in our platform. A lot of this technology is now being able to be brought to the end user. That you're, you know, able to take a lot more control over the creative aspect of the piece in how it looks, and then also how the data interacts with the piece. You're not quite at the mercy, if you will, of some of those print providers. You're able to control it yourself. So that's one of the first good things that technology has enabled. The second thing is with this automation, you're able to and I'll speak specifically about, for instance, our API or API will automatically you set up or you're creative in your data stream correctly. Our technology will take all of this and it will create that proof for you. You're able to see exactly what goes through. But we're also you're tying not just into that creative creation of that PDF or of that piece, but also of all the way in the production process down the line. Because we've built on from being able to create that mail piece to get it to the printer, to hand it to the post office and be able to track it all the way to the delivery at the home front. And you can then monitor all that through our dashboard. So it has what has opened up what was before. Pretty much a little bit of a black box, kind of a workflow that you hoped everything went through correctly. We've now open that up, giving a lot of visibility, give it a lot of transparency to know exactly where each one of these steps are. And it's not just in our process. As I said, it goes all the way through. We utilize the informed visibility system from the post office that tracks and traces every mail piece that goes through the system. And we're able to feed that back into our system. We're built for it, we're ready for it. So it's a really nice add on that allows for all of these things. Whereas before you were really and it's allowed right to the end user instead of having to be dependent upon some of those printers.

STEPHANIE: No I mean, I have worked in print in previous organizations and years ago we were sending, I actually worked for a municipality, and we were sending out a postcard alerting the residents about an upcoming event. And like, you know, I was able to make it on a computer, but then it was sent off to the printer. I had no idea when it got actually put into the mail until I finally got my copy back at the government building. And I was like, oh, this does not match the colors that I expected it to have, but people still showed up, so it all worked out in the end. But I had no idea. I had no visibility into that. It was just. I hope it's in the mail.

Dave: Yeah. Yeah, and that can be a little unnerving in this specific space, you know, like there is in this area that it is sometimes more important to know that it happened and how it happened. And, you know, like having that information really at almost a click of a button kind of thing is incredibly helpful. And also like nerve reducing, like, you know, you you're not sitting there going, oh, my god, what if for what happened, you can really dig in to a knowing and being assured of where things are. And to me, that's, you know, I like knowing things. I like knowing exactly what goes on. So so having that is really, really nice.

STEPHANIE: Oh, definitely. I think everyone in our space likes having that access to that information.

DAVE: We are a little bit a group that's a little bit of a we like to have control. Yes.

STEPHANIE: It is a very good way to put it. All right. So let's talk timing. If someone wasn't automating their operational mail, how much time do they need to account for to get operational mail designed, printed, and into the mail?

DAVE: So this is a highly variable number. Talk about variable print without having some of these things together because you're dealing with a bunch of different groups and a bunch of different people. The timelines, you know, any time you will incorporate a different step into the process or a different group into the process, unfortunately, you're introducing or, you know, delays and also time because you have an entire thing of a handoff, you know, that other team to be able to take and ingest that process, know what they're supposed to do and then execute on it. And each one of them brings a level of overhead to that process that just extends the timeline, quite honestly. So, you know, depending on how and also depending on how often and then how clear the instructions and the objective and the requirements of the job are for each one to understand. It can really start to push out. So like, you know, you could go from days to weeks of being able to actually get this into the mail and then depending on the mail, you know, the execution of the mail into there, you then have delivery time. So your time frames can really get pushed out sometimes again because you're just incorporating a whole bunch of different factors involved into it.

STEPHANIE: Yeah I think one of the biggest factors is the printer that you end up using. Right and I think that's one of the big draws of Lob is our print delivery network. So, Dave, how do you think that our print delivery network has changed the game for those that do send operational mail?

DAVE: So the important thing is what we've done and this is both technologically and also operationally, we have taken all of those things out of the equation. We have pre-negotiated with printers to be able to have capacity at their facilities to produce our mail within a time frame. So we have, you know, our regular network volume that we handle. You send it to us. We have eliminated all of those things that I was just talking about. We've taken away that handoff. We have really prearranged with our print partners. You are going to receive action. We expect you to produce y. And as long as we stay within those channels, which are our now our technology platform. With that overlay is exactly what that does. It keeps the stragglers out of the way and allows us to efficiently hand off to our print producers and they know exactly what they need to do. OK so there's no questions. There's no back and forth. What about this? You don't have those things. All of those questions have already been answered. So that they know that they can go on to the click of a button. So that allows us to know that they can produce X or Y or Z number of pieces in a time frame. And why do we know when that mail is going to go into the stream? That's the first thing that we do. The second thing that we do is we do optimize also our internal routing engine, which is our own developed intellectual property, is going to go through and make a whole bunch of decisions on that mailpiece. From what kind of permutation is it? Where can we produce it? What is going to be the fastest production time? And also when are we going to be able to get that thing in home as quickly as possible? So a lot of decisions there that get made that give you the optimal production path to get that thing in home as fast as possible. And that's inclusive of both our production time but also mail delivery time. So we get really aggressive with making sure that we take the most advantage of entry into the post office for delivery to get it to that home delivery point as fast as possible. And we can do this also on a much broader and national scale. So depending on where some of these things need to go or what the execution looks like, an individual print shop is generally, for the most part, going to be producing from one location, and then it's going to be going out to everywhere in the nation. Our print delivery network is already a nationwide network where we can print, print and produce at different areas and they are strategically aligned into the highest areas that are going to give us the best result of both production and delivery. So that's something that not every single print shop or every single local location has. As a matter of fact, I am going to say that our network is as expansive as almost anyone else in the industry, you know, exclusive of everything. You know, we have one of the best networks out there.

STEPHANIE: No, and actually we did a webinar not too long ago with some of our non-profit partners, United Through Reading. And one of the reasons they came to us was because of the print delivery network, because they're based on the West Coast and they would have, you know, donations coming in from the East Coast and are like, oh, shoot, we've got to get to the printer. They were batching their letters. It was like two weeks could have gone by from the time that person made that donation to when they're getting their acknowledgment. And it was like, we can't wait that long. Like we have to have these donation letters go out and by being able to partner with a printer on the East Coast, boom, that letter is in their mailbox potentially within like a week, five days or even less.

Recommended webinar: How to Automate Your Nonprofit's Donor Acknowledgement Letters

DAVE: You're going to have a lot of that mail that's going to move a heck of a lot faster. I have a little saying. I always like to say it's a lot easier for me to push pixels than it is to push paper. And I don't want to be trucking material from California all the way over to New York and vice versa. I want to be able to get it, you know, moving things across. You know, we want to take advantage of technology and then also take advantage of the proper logistics and have the best melding of both of them. So that's know, when we start talking about intelligent mail and intelligent routing, this is what we're talking about. Make the most logical decision and, you know, make a decision that makes sense and then execute on that through the platform. It's an unbeatable combination.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, though, since we're talking about Intelligent mail already, you know, when I think of automation, obviously one of the first things that comes to mind is increasing efficiency. Dave do you think that's a pretty fair statement to apply to direct mail automation?

DAVE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, every single type of this production can be improved through automation and through the application of these technologies. And while sometimes people will get a little intimidated by it or they think, oh, my god, this is challenging, it's I like to say it's not as hard as always think it is. Once you get involved with it. And then once you do get into it, you know, you start to realize all of the things, the additional things that you can do, you know, like it really is a freeing and a liberating thing to say. You know what? We can do more than just the bare minimum. We we can raise this up a notch. We can be a little bit better. I'm a I'm a huge fan of incremental improvement in everything that we do. And this is one of those things that when you learn to be able to add this technology on top of each other, it just continues to grow and it continues to get better. So you go from what could just be possibly construed as a very basic and minimalistic black and white letter that you're sending out now is a notification. And you can absolutely need to turn that into a multipurpose and full color, even if you want a piece that drives home multiple things and it can be a multipurpose instead of singular purpose, it allows you to be able to take advantage of the production process. It allows you to have better communication to your end users and it returns back to you. It can turn that piece into a much more better and more effective, economically effective communication piece to your end users. You can turn things into win-win wins.

STEPHANIE: Yeah no, I love that. I even think again, going back to the United Through Reading example, they were even talking about just increasing efficiency across their organization because since direct mail had been such a manual process for them, by being able to automate it, they were able to allow their employees to focus on what they actually did best instead of trying to be like, OK, I've got to stuff envelopes and then we've got to drive it over to the post office and get in the mail and like, I'm going to turn around and do the same process week after week, freed up hours of their time doing what they do best.

DAVE: You always want to have your people doing what they do best and what you're paying them for because you don't want to be paying people to do a rote task that something can be replaced. You know, like if you have a technological overlay that can replace that, Oh my god, use it. OK, because you want to then have those people instead of them, you know, the stuffing envelopes kind of conversation. You don't want them doing that. You want to have, you know, gain a technological advantage or a mechanical advantage in production to be able to make sure that those things go through. And it allows you to do more, sooner, faster, and better at a similar or a better economic cost. That's what you want to be able to do, because one thing then also builds on the other, you know, like that's how you continually, you know, back to the continuous improvement. That's how you also continually grow. So you can do more, you have more bandwidth, you have more capability. And also at the end of the day, your customers or the like, the audience that you're engaging with has a better product that they're receiving and you get more engagement. Engagement is what it is all about.

STEPHANIE: Definitely. All right, so we've discussed automation. And now let's move onto the next piece of the puzzle: integration. So, Dave, what types of CDPs, ERPs, CRMs, or other customer data tools do you see used most frequently in the operational mail space?

DAVE: So this is a hard one. I'm going to say. This is a fortunately unfortunately, a very diverse group is the best way that I can put it. There are, you know, in a lot of the spaces that we're talking about, we're going to have a wide variety of technology, both as to sophistication and integration capabilities, because you can go all the way from some places that might have a very manual process like and I'm not kidding when I say this, someone is inserting names and addresses into an Excel sheet and just managing it that way to all the way to up to there are full fledged ERP systems that can integrate into all of these things or you know, or CRM systems that can integrate these things. And there is everything in between, OK, you can have homegrown, you can have SaaS models that you purchase off site, you can have on sites. So there are a whole lot of options in this space, okay? So one of the hard things to deal with this, so that's a hard space to deal with. OK that's challenging because, you know, variety is the spice of life, but it can drive guys like me crazy. So what's really nice? So how do you approach something like this? And I love the approach that Lob has taken for this. So we have taken this statement of saying, OK, when you want to integrate with us, we are going to not work on these very specific platforms or these very specific technologies. We are going to build open technologies that interface with almost everyone across the board. So we have developed. So our flagship technology is our API. Our API is very robust, it is mature, it is well documented. And so all of these different people that we talk to have their own decision and ability to integrate within that API in the way that best suits them. So I don't have to build into one or the other. I don't have to have 10 different solutions. Like, you know, you get to choose your own way to interface, which is I really think is going to be the best approach because it isn't tied in like you have to do it this way. It is something that what is your technology stack? What is your level that you have and you feel? And how do you do that? You can do that, you know, and integrate it through the API. We also have our campaigns dashboard, which is another way that you can do it, which allows for what I would call the low or no code experience.

STEPHANIE: Sign me up!

Recommended reading: The Real ROI of No-Code and Low-Code Marketing Platforms

DAVE: You can come in and you can exactly do it. Exactly right. I like to look at it as, you know, like you have different tiers. You can have the beginner experience through our campaigns dashboard. You can also, you know, that gets you up to your middle tier of, you know, I know a little bit more. And I'd like to do stuff. And I to play with the API, but this allows me to continue to be functionally operational and I'm not stopping my mail from going out. And then you also get the experience of playing out with the API and being a full technology stack of getting something through and you can grow into each one of them. So our platform allows you to be able to do that, start out something and keep your mail moving, but also grow into adding efficiencies into the process as you go along. And it's all right there in one subscription. It's really great.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, no, I love our campaigns. That is my level of what I want to do with mail. But again, I'm coming from the marketing side, but I think, you know, operational mail, they're going to probably put more resources towards engineering to make sure that this mail goes out. They have that opportunity to do a lot more with the API-based version.

DAVE: Absolutely and it is all right there you can go to our website. You can see all of our documentation there. You can read it and see when I say that it's mature and it is robust, you will see exactly what I'm talking about, that you're able to do a whole bunch of things. You get the information that you want and can you get to decide, we put the choice in your hand. We don't tell you how to do it. We put the choice in your hand to be able to do what you want to be able to do.

STEPHANIE: If you build it, they will come.

DAVE: Exactly and they have come in droves. So because it's and it is greatly appreciated by those that team that you're talking about and where they're doing. You know, everybody is under constant pressure, you know, team pressure and resource pressure to be able to do these things. So like when you have a tool like this that is enable you back again. What we were talking earlier, you know, letting your team do the things that they really want to do, really, really driving the needle, moving the needle for them, you know, allowing them and taking away some of that struggle that they had because our stuff can do this. It really is about getting back to that win-win kind of situation.

STEPHANIE: All right. So we were just talking about how Lob's direct mail automation platform makes it a lot easier. Do you think there are other tools out there that direct mail operators can use to make sure that their mail reaches their intended recipients? I mean, again, in industries that are highly regulated, it's imperative that personal and potentially sensitive information makes it to the right person.

DAVE: So this is, again, another one of those things that I say. This is one of the most important things that you can do and that needs to be done and that ensures success. And that is data hygiene. OK so I say this. I have been preaching this for years. It all starts with the data. And if your data is accurate as the are as accurate as your data is as accurate as your campaign is going to be. So a couple of things that you definitely want to be able to do are you want to make sure that it's going to increase the success of your campaigns? Is that, number one, you do want to have controlled data or a controlled process for your data. You want to make sure that what is coming in that it gets validated or verified and that you're not getting unusual or false information in your data stream. One simple example that I can give back into that Excel conversation with somebody typing in zip codes, something that you wouldn't necessarily think being that big of a deal. But there are zip codes that are inside of the United States that start with the number 0. And if you're typing in excel, Excel is going to forget about that for a 0 and it's just going to put in the other four digits. Well, now, all of a sudden, you don't have a valid zip code, you know? Now, there are ways that these things can be fixed and they can be looked at. But like, that's just one example of how you can start to get a little caught up with data input and data integrity. You also want to make sure that you're going through in a lot of print shops do this, but you want to make sure that when you're going through. You're doing a CASS certification on your address list. So that in what CASS certification is, is the automation of making sure that address is a valid address in regards to the post office that, you know, you have the correct pronunciation for or addressing for street or road or boulevard, those kinds of things. And then also that you can have what's called a zip plus 4 attach to an address. And then there's also the NCOA. You'll hear a lot of talk about NCOA, the National Change of Address. Everybody who has moved is familiar with this. It's the little yellow card. You go to the post office, you fill out and you give to them. That gets put into a database. So that if they see that you used to live on one, two, three main street, but you now moved to second avenue, that now the post office isn't going to deliver that mail to the Second Avenue. It's going to get readdressed and send to your new updated address. So these are going to be these are two things that you can always do for your mail campaigns. We do it automatically by default with the work that we do. But you want to always make sure that those are done and you want to make sure that your list is continually updated, that you can have what you have in your database, in your CRM and your ERP or whatever data source that you have this. And you want to make sure that data hygiene is being done. It's being done on a consistent basis, and that your list is as good as it can be. And this is one of those things that, you know, we've started calling it hygiene because it's something that you have to do all the time. It's not a one and done thing. You want to make sure that, you know, data lists fall in and out. You know, of you know, people come in, people move, people do all kinds of different things. There's a lot of updating. You always want to make sure that your list is as updated as possible because that is going to ensure, number one, definitely deliverability to the end point. Personal supposed to receive it is going to get it. It's going to number two. Also make sure that if you do also use your data and you're doing that for some of the content that's in there, that the right person is getting the right information and that if they are not getting it, that you have a methodology for making sure that they, you know, you can redirected or you can also remove those people from your list. So all of these functions, you want to make sure that you have of built in to the process so that you can get the most out of the money that you're spending and paying for all of these mail pieces to go out.

STEPHANIE: Oh, definitely. I've talked on the podcast before about how I'll still get mail. Now I have changed, I changed my name five years ago. I still get stuff sent to my maiden name and I'm like, where did you buy this list? Like, this is not the right person that you're trying to get. I mean, at least they got me at home. But.

DAVE: It is, yeah. You can see the operators in the space who do it. Right and then you also see the ones who are just sometimes just glorious fails. Oh, man. It's like, oh, my god, some of the things that you can see and those fails are the ones that you like. You never want to be associated with that. Like that's not the place you want to be because, you know, not all information that goes out or PR is good PR, you know, sometimes you can really look very bad and you don't want those things to happen. And in the space of what we're talking about, when we're talking about, you know, compliance mail and operational mail, you really don't want to find yourself falling outside of those requirements. So it is really good in making sure that you do the due diligence and the operational functions that you want to have. So that you get the best result at the end.

STEPHANIE: Definitely and I think, you know, both sides of the house, both operational and marketing, we both care about data hygiene. We both want to make sure that our data is clean and accurate. So we're targeting people correctly. And part of that targeting is personalization. So with integration, I immediately think of personalization. But it's also because I'm a marketer and I'm always looking at ways to personalize content, but obviously those that send operational mail want to make sure that they're reaching the right contact. But outside of that, how important do you think personalization is in the operational mail space?

DAVE: Personalization is very important in a whole bunch of reasons why, okay? And I'll start with, you know, so we've been talking about a couple of different pieces, but we've been talking very generically. I'll get a little bit more specific because some operational mail, for example, like this is inclusive of things like we were talking earlier, invoices, statements, a lot of 1 to 1 communication between a company or an organization and an individual. OK so there there's above they're just delivering sometimes like a notification. There is also the importance of making sure that the information in there is correct and getting to the right person. And this can go across like which statements you want to make sure that you're giving them proper and up to date information. And that is going to be valuable every single time because I don't know about what your Visa card looks like, but my Visa card has different charges on it every single month, and I want to make sure that those are going to always be accurate. OK kind of, you know, that kind of a situation, if you're talking in some of the other compliance like municipalities in regards to, you know, regulations you could be talking about also, you know, tickets are violations or, you know, code violations that have to be delivered to people in the healthcare space. You could be talking about a whole bunch of different things of communications, such as explanation of benefits or, you know, information about prior treatments. All of this stuff needs to make sure that it is getting to the right person. And so the data integrity is of the utmost importance here to make sure that the right information in all of the right data is finding itself on the right piece. Also, though, there are other opportunities also. So like that's the operational stuff, but there are also opportunities. The United States Postal Service has come out with a whole bunch of different opportunities for people who are doing mail like this to take advantage of some benefits with and discounts in postage. So like for instance, where we're talking here, they have if you're in what they call the trans promo business where you're sending out statements or invoices, they have a bunch of different things with color, trans promo, or advertising, you know, adding advertising into trans promo where you can get discounts or you can potentially see discounts on some of your pieces. So there's a lot of opportunities in the post office is continually trying to work with this space to give them incentives to continue to mail and continue use the channel. And hey, if you do all of these things which will benefit both sides, again, back to the both sides of the equation, you can do things like that and be able to see a benefit to you when you're doing these things. So there's a lot of opportunity here. And there's also, you know, again, back to that multi-use opportunity that I was talking about earlier. Can you go in and, you know, like if you're using it as a notification, you may and you want to promote or move something else. You can also include that on the piece and you can include, you know, have those types of things and use that marketing vehicle, that the operational vehicle as also a marketing vehicle as well, a two-for-one deal. I think everybody would jump at the chance.

STEPHANIE: I feel like people in the telecom space are very good at that. They send you out your statement and then it's, oh, by the way, do you want to add this package? And you get 20 more channels.

DAVE: There are a bunch of different space companies or industries in here that do that very well. You know, like they one that I will also say too, like casinos. Casinos are very good at doing this. Like they know anybody who's ever been to a casino. You know, it's all about the experience when you're in the casino and you give that little card and you start swiping and, you know, like you, you know, you join also loyalty programs or anything like that. You know, like this is information that they're going to utilize to be able to cultivate an experience for you and make it better. So that because if they make a good experience, you're going to come back and you're going to spend your money. That's what a lot of this is all about. And they are very good at being able to, you know, take that information and do things when you get your reward statement. How many stays did you have? We want to make sure, hey, you're going to know, if you only do two more stages, you get to the next tier. You know, like there's a lot of things like that want to be able to do. And this is in good informational or, you know, marketing that you can take or you can get to people and you're going to try to incentivize them to act. I mean, that is what all of this stuff is about. You're giving them information that you want them to act upon. And the more you get into these things and the better you get at it, the higher the lift in the effectiveness of the campaign is going to be.

STEPHANIE: Definitely, all right. So, Dave, do you see any other let's just call them marketing principles that have been adapted in the operational mail space, like A/B testing, using QR codes instead of printing a unique URL, or instead of pointing people to calling a phone number. Do you see any of that happening in this space?

DAVE: I think that it has been a slower uptake, but I think the reason for it is that back to what I was talking about before, people were much more about just simply having the activity happen as opposed to continually improving the activity. And I do think you're starting to see it, some of it. QR codes is a huge one that I think that it transitions, I like to say, from the physical to the digital. OK and it allows somebody to be able to have what they wanted, which is that communication, that paper thing we were talking about before. But it allows you to transcend into that digital world, which is a lot what a lot of people, you know, marketers, and I'll even call it corporate executives are really looking to be able to have they want to have both of those things. They know that they need to do their business, but they also back to want to be able to motivate people to do what they wanted them to do. So a lot of those things that we are I believe we are starting to see some of that stuff trickle in. We are starting to see that come into that space. And it's becoming more instead of just simply being the notification, it is multipurpose and multi-threaded as to what's going into it. And a lot of the things that we are talking about, you're seeing call to actions going in. You can see about URLs and URLs and that you can get responses and you can really start to drive. You know, they're using this space to really drive the users that they're marketing to or that they're communicating to into all of these varying spaces. So and I attribute it also to the tools are getting easier to be able to use. Back to what we were talking about before, where this automation comes in. If I take away a lot of the time that you're devoting to a rote task because it's painful and you take that away with technology, you are now able to raise the level of the rest of the other can dedicate more time to and raise the level of those other things. So we're starting to see a lot of that come into the space, which is really helpful. And it's exciting for to see that these things are going out there because it's only going to make the space better, it's only going to improve the space. So I'm all about improvement. Let's keep rising the tides.

STEPHANIE: Well, I think both sides of the house need to share lessons learned, what's working so everyone can continue to improve across the board.

DAVE: Everyone should always strive to find not just what works in their own little segment or their own pathway. But you really do want to be aware of all of these other spaces because there is improvement that can be happening across the board. And you know, when you have that cross-pollination and all of those teams coming together, it's great for everybody to understand what's going on. It makes everybody's job a little bit better. And at the end of the day, a better and better employees make a better experience make better customers.

STEPHANIE: Well, I can't think of anything better to end our podcast on than with that. But I do just want to ask you, do you have any final thoughts that you want to share or is there anything that we didn't get to today as it concerns operational mail?

DAVE: I'm going to say, you know, like for operational mail, I think we've touched on a whole bunch of things. The only last thing I'm going to say is that, you know, back to when we were talking about all the different systems that are out there or they're capable out there, you know, it is really hard to touch base specifically on somebody's individual struggle and there are going to be a lot of them out there. So the only thing that I would encourage everybody and anybody listening is like if we didn't touch on something like that, reach out to us, ask the question, raise your hand. You know, like we are really engaged with the space to want to if we don't have a solution to your problem, we're going to want to make one. And so we want to be able to do that. So there should never be a fear of raising your hands in this space because all of the variability and all of the different options and all the different things out there, you know, like people are in all in the same problem. Raise your hand. Ask the question. Reach out. You're you're not going to regret it. You're going to actually appreciate it and you're going to probably get a lot better solutions. So that's about the best thing that I best advice that I can ever give, because you'll only make yourself better.

STEPHANIE: No and I've definitely seen on some of our G2 reviews of people saying like, wow, I had this specific problem and didn't think there was an answer. The Lob team was all over it to figure it out for me.

DAVE: Yeah yeah, it is really. You know, that that's the fun the fun side of being able to see all these different use cases. All the use cases come with solutions. So there's really a good chance that somebody has seen and somebody has the same problem that you do. So, you know, don't think that it isn't out there and don't think that there is in somebody trying to solve that problem.

STEPHANIE: Definitely all right. Well, Thank you so much to our listeners. Thank you for joining us for mixers and marketing. If you do want to dive deeper into the topic of operational mail, please download your complimentary copy of our e-book operational mail handbook to get your operational mail into shape. You can do so over at lobdemo.co/operational-mail that's lobdemo.co/operational-mail. As always, you can browse our library of episodes over at lobdemo.co/lobcast. Otherwise, thanks for listening. And that's all, folks.