New US Postage Rates 2016

The First-Class stamp has increased to 47 cents as of April 10, 2016. The US Postal Service has officially announced the postage rates for the 2016 mailing season. The Post Office has recently switched from doing large postage increases every 4 years to a smaller increase each year to keep up with costs and industry fluctuations.

This April we actually got a postage PRICE REDUCTION.

CSG Direct likes to keep you informed of changing postage rates!

Add Drive Time Distance to your Customer Database

Did you know you can classify your customers based on the drive time distance to your business? You can use drive time distance to configure offers, analyze trends, and identify marketing opportunities inside your customer database.

Some of the distance, drive time and address data we can add for you:

  • Drive Time (based on shortest route)Drive Time Data
  • Distance(as bird flies)
  • Longitude/Latitude
  • Zip+4
  • Address Verification (CASS)
  • National Change of Address updates (NCOA)

We offer this  valuable service as an offline bulk process or as an automated daily update to your in house customer database. Your database can be cleaned, verified, and updated daily, weekly or monthly – keeping it completely current despite your customers changing address.

We can also help you add triggered automated direct mail and/or emails to compliment this service! You can call us at 800.881.2150 or request a quote at csgdirect.com to discuss your specific needs.

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New Automated ACS Services Free

ACS servicesAddress Change Service (ACS) is a trademark of the US Postal Service.

CSG Direct has built and is providing some of the newest and most cutting edge services based on our development with the USPS ACS Services.  These are so hot and new that we still consider them stage 2 beta testing services and they are free for all our customers to enjoy.

Traditionally you would have to signup for your own MailerID, plus setup and manage your own Address Correction (ACS) services with the US Postal Services.  Well we have eliminated all that hassle for you.

With our Free ACS Services, instead of getting a stack of mail returned with yellow stickers on them, you get an email instead.

We are also offering 48 month NCOA as our primary National change of Address service.  That means you will get more pieces delivered to your clients and very few pieces ever returned to you.

But when you do get a piece back….  It’s lean and green if you know what I mean.

We’re always at the front of the pack for you.  You deserve the best!

Augmented Reality in Marketing

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a new image recognition protocol that can launch a mobile device to your website, social site, search tool or shopping system.  Think of the QR Code and how you use it now.  Well that ugly black QR Barcode square is replaced by your logo or any picture you so desire.

Because it can be ANY picture, you usually have to tell people to scan the picture in some way. Where the QR barcode was obvious, augmented reality is not obvious unless you make it that way.

Augmented Reality is very cool and it will be trendy in the future so don’t be afraid to play with it!  Creative marketers always find a fun way to use these special interactive ideas with their guests. You can do anything with augmented reality that you could with a QR barcode and the future is bright in image recognition with cell phones.

In Conclusion, Augmented Reality (AR) is a programmable image that works much like a Quick Response (QR) barcode

Marketing Automation Database Driven Solutions for everyday problems

Marketing Automation Database Driven Solutions for everyday problems

How many times have you heard someone say “If I could clone you we could get so much more done”?  It’s been said many ways but the question always revolves around cloning someone because they are already so busy and their skills are needed somewhere else as well.

A dream we all have is to take our most motivated and driven staff and clone them instead of hiring and training other people that may or may not be as driven or as capable.

What if there was a way to free-up your most valuable personnel?  What if you could set them free to work in other areas?  You COULD get so much more accomplished each day!

This is where Marketing Automation comes in

What if every report, every direct mail campaign, every post-forma and every possible daily task was automated to happen wither someone came in to work or not?  Think about it.

What if you could put all your daily struggles on cruise control and your entire team got to focus on new guest experiences, contests, expansions and community outreach?

I’m not saying it’s 100% possible… But What If it was?

It would be like you just cloned your entire staff and the they all got to focus 100% of their time on those new pressing issues on the top of your internal bucket lists.  Think of how much more you could do if they were not stuck on mundane daily paper pushing, database queries, reports and spreadsheets.

The Big Bonus is that you only pay 1 set of wages even though you are getting the work done of an entire extra cloned department by automating as many tasks as possible. Then, if you have staff turnover all those items are still being completed as planned without any skipping a single beat.

Where do we start?

The best way to get started is to let everyone know that you are forming an automation task force to audit all the redundant, mundane but critical tasks that keep us at our desks and not in front of guests or directly working on refining and building promotions.

Have your IT department create a full audit of every report that is created by every person in every department. Document the time spent on building post-formas, mailing lists, email blasts, data entry, creating redemption codes and every other daily, weekly monthly task that involves your staff’s time.

Have an ongoing contest across your entire property to identify redundant tasks that could be automated even if they all seem like they could not be done at first. Offer rewards and incentives for the people that find the largest blocks of time that could be saved.

Don’t forget to automate this incentives program as well.

Many ideas will see unreachable at first but with all these ideas on the table at once it will be very easy to identify large blocks of time and energy that could be spared by programing them to be automated.

Low Hanging Fruit

The reason we start with an audit of all tasks is that we can quickly identify the largest savings of time and energy. For example, many reports can be combined into 1 report and generated on a timed basis in SQL and emailed daily/weekly to everyone that needs it.

Many decisions you would make based on that report could be automated as well so that the logic doesn’t change from day to day.

Imagine that every day a list of inactive guests is queried and an excel spreadsheet is generated.  You then forward that list to your hosts for them to call on.  They in return call those guests and offer them a special room rate.  The next step would be to mail those guests a special offer to get them back in.

Automate it!

Instead of the last scenario you program SQL to generate that exact same call list and forward it as an excel spreadsheet directly to the hosts themselves on a timed basis.  That same data is automatically transferred to our automated direct mail facility where those direct mail pieces go out daily. The host says “I’m sending you a special offer” and those personalized offers are already in the mail.  Hosts spend more time on the phone with guests and you just freed up expensive talented staff to do something else important.

Direct Mail Automation

You can call it “Triggered Mail” or “Timed Mailings” but what we’re talking about is putting your mailings on cruise control while still offering the same level of personalization and more.

Don’t wait until you have time to get to your customers that are going inactive.  Address it immediately, without any required labor; through automated offers triggered by events the database can track.  Don’t wait for a mailing of 1000 when you can reach out to every single declining play or declining trip customer with a mailing as small as 1 piece that goes out daily.

Why are you waiting to reach out to that client?  I know, “you’re too busy”.  Automate it!!

Setup a small data transfer every morning from your player database to our data center and your personalized direct mail art merges with your data and prints automatically on one of our digital Presses.  We then cut, fold, insert and apply postage and your new member, birthday or inactive mailers go out every single day.

With automation you also receive an email summary each morning of how many pieces were mailed with an opportunity to review the variables used in your mailer.  Records are also automatically cleaned and compared to the US Postal Service for accuracy as well as to make them look better in your mailer.

This is an easy service to setup and you can focus your time and energy on your more complex promotions where you need to be focused.
Think of all the marketing programs you can automate:
•    New Members
•    Birthdays
•    Inactives or trip frequency decline
•    Increased or declining play offers
•    Monthly Mailers

You can easily automate personalized Letters, Postcards and Emails with Variable Print, Variable Offers, Variable Images and variable Envelopes.

If you want Blackjack players to receive blackjack images and Keno people to get pictures of Keno just build that in.  In many ways automated direct mail can be much more personalized than the manual tasks you do now.

Automating your redundant marketing tasks may be the biggest no-brainer in marketing. It can eliminate the response-rate rollercoaster ride of all the manual methods you’re doing now. You truly get something measureable and consistent month after month and year after year since it is automated and not influenced by staff changes along the way.

Casino Triggered Automated Marketing

Everyone in the casino industry has struggled with new player signup bounceback mailers.

  • Can we send them something to bring them back?
  • How soon do we send them something?
  • How many man-hours can we spend on this each week?

Everyone wants to mail them daily but doing so is a distraction for your marketing department when you are short-staffed and have 1000 other things to get done.  So most casinos try and make sure they send them every 2 weeks or monthly.

Sadly, many casinos don’t mail them at all and lose the “Welcome to our Party” opportunity.

This is where Marketing Automation comes in

You can call it “Triggered Mail” or “Timed Mailings” but what were talking about is putting your new player welcome mailings on cruise control while still offering the same level of personalization and more.

We setup a small data transfer every morning from your player database to our data center and your personalized direct mail art merges with your data and prints automatically on one of our 9 Digital Presses.  We then cut, fold, insert and apply postage and your new member mailers go out every single day.

You also receive an email summary each morning via email of how many pieces were mailed with an opportunity to review the variables used in your mailer.  Records are cleaned and compared to the US Postal Service for accuracy as well as to make them look better in your mailer.

This is an easy service to setup and you can focus your time and energy on your more complex promotions where you need to be focused.

Once you have New Members automated, think of all the other “holes” in a marketing program we can automate.  Our automation works great for:

  • New Members
  • Birthdays
  • Inactives breaking trip frequency
  • Increased or declining play offers
  • Much Much More…

Letters, Postcards and Emails

We offer 4 different automation mailer sizes:

  • 6×9 Full Color Variable 4/4 Postcards
  • 6×11 Full Color Variable 4/4 Postcards
  • 8.5×11 Full Color Variable 4/0 Letters and Envelopes
  • 8.5×14 Full Color Variable 4/0 Letters and Envelopes

We offer email triggered marketing as an add-on to any one of these too.

Variable Print, Variable Offers, Variable Images, Variable Envelopes

Nobody out-variables CSG Direct so we make this VERY EASY to be VERY Personalized.  If you have 4 letters for 4 tiers or different offers for non-locals vs locals… We build that in.

If you want Blackjack players to receive blackjack images and Keno people to get pictures of Keno, slots, etc..  We build that in.  At only $485 1-time setup this is maybe the biggest no-brainer in casino marketing.

Personalized Envelopes???  That’s impossible!  Right?

Something truly unique that our programs offer is full-color variable envelopes. This means we print your letterhead and envelopes on the fly with your offers and you can do variable tag lines and variable images, return addresses and more in the same program.

Do you want a picture of your players club card with their names on it on the front of an envelope in daily mailings of 1 piece to 500?  That’s what people come to CSG Direct Mail for…  The Good Stuff, Cheap.

All kinds of great casino services and innovations are coming out of Nevada from CSG Direct Mail. We are the Largest Digital Printer in Nevada with a reputation for better results.

Reach out to us and tell us about your new member mailers.  We’ll automate them!

SQL Address Correction over the web (CASS)

I just wanted to share that we have finished building our Address Correction program to CASS certify records directly inside SQL over the internet.

We have deployed it into our daily triggered mailings so that every record a customer transfers to us is cleaned and updated to the USPS Addressing standards, zip+4 etc

We are updating Canadians in the same pass.

To Expand on the possibilities…
This means that we could connect this CASS program directly into a timed process with any customer to clean their internal databases as well.

What if a Casino uploaded their new signups to us each day, me cleaned and mailed them, then they import those database changes back into their system?  This would be easy to do at this point.  Too easy.

I would suggest going deeper and query:
SELECT TOP (1000) *
FROM dbo.PLAYERS
WHERE [ZIP] EXCLUDES *-*

They could send us 1000 records per day where zip+4 has not been coded.
This could be a nice daily cleansing ritual that runs Hands-Free and over the course of 30 days their database would be pristine. Plus it would continue to check for records to clean each day so it always stayed pristine.

Another milestone of capabilities for us here at CSG.

Never stop learning and growing!

Your favorite direct mail piece may be obsolete

Your favorite direct mail piece may be obsolete

We’ll it’s that time of year again.  The holidays are behind us, there is snow on the ground and the US Postal Service just rolled out their new postage rates.  Yes, it’s a seasonal change that now happens every year about this time.

Every year the US Postal Service evaluates their efficiencies and adjusts their rates according to what kind services and mail-pieces cost them the most and what types of mail-pieces are most efficient.  This year is no different.  The new postage rates for 2013 take effect on the 27th of January. A CSG-Simplified 2013 postage rate chart available HERE.

Here are some changes you really need to know most:

MAILER MUST OPEN AT THE TOP
The US Postal service has determined that the type of mailer that gets stuck in their equipment the most is a mailpiece that opens “under the address area”.  We call these “Open on the bottom” mailers and they always required more tabs on these.    Make sure all of your mail-piece designs are folded so that any tabs to seal the mailer are above the address area, not below it.
If you present the wrong type of folded mailpiece it will be rejected, so be careful on this one.

MINIMUM OF 2 TABS
It used to be that we either had to apply 1 tab on the top of a mailer or 2 tabs if we had to seal the bottom of a mailer.  Now we have to apply 2 tabs on any self-mailer and you cannot seal the bottom of a mailer or even mail that type of piece (see above).  This additional sealing is so your mailing travels smoothest to its destination through postal automation equipment.

POSTNET BARCODES RETIRED
Finally, Really!  This is a good thing.  The new barcodes have been around a long time and yet so many companies had not adopted them yet.  The new barcodes are called “Intelligent Mail Barcodes” and between these barcodes and the QR “Quick Response” barcodes Direct Mail is regaining its throne in the marketing and response world.

The wrong barcode you will cost you your automation discounts, make sure you are covered.

6×10.50” POSTCARD SIZE LIMIT
OK, this might be the one that will catch the most people off-guard.  In the Casino world we are all familiar with the “Oversized Postcard”.  Well the maximum size of that postcard has just been changed. If you present a postcard bigger than 6×10.5” it will be considered a flat and your postage could triple.

This could be additional income to the US Postal Service but these expenses would be lost income to you,  so it makes a lot of sense to get this information to your design teams right away.

For greater details on these changes you can check out more of our blog or give us a quick call.  We are always happy to help you with your direct mail questions and guide you in the right direction.

New Direct Mail Folding and Tabbing Requirements

New rules for Folded Self-Mailers (FSMs) and Tabbing become effective January 5, 2013.  Are you ready?

Yes, you read it right.  More changes from the post office.  This time they say the changes will reduce damaged mail pieces and keep the high-speed postal machinery from jamming and slowing processing.  Well, that sounds good!  There will be no grace period, so get with your graphic designers and pass on the new requirements.

What is a Folded Self-Mailer?  It is a mail piece comprised of panels created when a single sheet or multiple sheets of paper are folded together and sealed to form a letter-size mailer.  It does not go in an envelope and is not bound in any way.  Any mailer that is bound in any way is a booklet and the new tabbing rules do not apply.  Mailers with discs have been reclassified and have different rules.

Here is a summary of the most important new rules for Folded Self-Mailers:

  1. Height maximum is now 6 inches (Minimum height is still 3 ½ inches).
  2. Length maximum is now 10 ½ inches (Minimum length is still 5 inches).
  3. Maximum Weight: 3 ounces.
  4. Final fold must be at the bottom of the mailer or on the leading edge (right side) of the mailer for oblong pieces.
  5. Limited to 12 total panels.
  6. Final folded panel creates the non-address side of the mailer as folded bottom to top or leading to trailing edge.  Address panel can no longer be on the very top panel.
  7. Mailers with 4 panels must be printed on 28 # bond stock (70 # book) minimum.

Here is a summary of the most important new rules for Tabbing:

  1. Perforated tabs are no longer accepted.
  2. Minimum size of tab is one inch in diameter.
  3. Minimum number of tabs is two.
  4. Placement of tabs is dependent upon the design of the mail piece.
  5. Tabs can no longer be placed on the bottom edge of the mail piece.
  6. 2 one-inch tabs may be used for mail pieces weighing one ounce or less.
  7. Mail pieces weighing over one ounce must use two 1 ½ inch tabs.

Have questions or concerns or need help with a tricky mail piece?  Give us a call and send us a copy of your artwork before you go to print and we’ll help make sure you have it right!

Call us at 800-881-2150… We’re here to Help!

Or here is our online request form

New Postage Rates for January 2013

New Postage RatesThe US Postal Service has released it’s January 2013 postage rates proposal.

The cost of a First-Class stamp is rising to 46 cents, up from 44 cents currently. That is a 4.5% increase starting in 2013.

One of the more common postage rates we all pay as direct marketers is the 3-digit and 5-digit barcode-automation rates.  Those rates are scheduled will increase to 26.6 cents and 24.7 cents respectively. Those rates have only been raised 2.2% for 2013.

If you would like to do some comparisons here are the 2012-Postage-Rates.

It’s a smaller increase then expected

A lot has been said in the news lately about the US Postal Service having trouble with reduced mail volumes and the cost of pension payments. With all that hype you would think that postage would be doubled in the coming year to help make up the shortfall.

That is just not the case.

Interesting new programs proposed for 2013

Some of the other programs being planned for the coming year include:

  • Direct Mail Mobile Coupon/Click-to-Call
  • Earned Value Reply Mail
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Picture Permit
  • Product Samples
  • Mobile Buy-It-Now

These programs will continue on the successes of the QR Promotions offered summer 2011 and 2012 that we helped our customers take advantage of.  Both programs earned customers discounted postage for active QR-based hyperlinks to websites.  The rules have changed along the way so we will have to wait to hear more about these new programs in the months ahead.

Branded Postal PermitsPicture Permits

An interesting development on the branded permit problems we told you about in recent months is the “Picture Permit” promotion planned for 2013.  It looks like they swept us out of our fancier designer permits recently so they could bring it back as an income opportunity.

Intelligent Mail Barcodes Required!

IMB-BarcodeWell the day has finally come that the US Postal Service is requiring everyone to be using the new Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMB).  CSG was a pioneer in these “Intelligent Mail Barcodes” and have launched some very detailed tracking systems including our CSG direct mail app in the iTunes Store.

These new barcodes allow for twice as much data as the older Postnet Barcodes and replace the double barcoding that was done in years past with Planet-Codes.

Unlike direct-mail-centered digital print shops, many printing companies have struggled to keep up with this new technology.  CSG Direct has led the way in maximizing the opportunities these new barcodes present for you.

If you would like a direct mail quote from a direct mail company on the bleeding front edge of technology, you can get a digital printing and mailing quote here.