The mailbox isn’t dead, it just took a vacation…

If you’re a music buff like I am, you might recognize that saying. It’s actually a paraphrase of a comment made during the Eagles first reunion tour back in the 1990s. One of those concerts was recorded and produced on DVD for posterity. The late Glenn Frey opened the recording by simply saying “For the record, we never broke up, we just took a 14-year vacation,” and with that the Eagles resurrected their image, brand of music, and legacy.

If you consider the mailbox standing at the end of your driveway or in the lobby of your apartment complex, it has followed a similar fate.

With the advent of electronic delivery, everyone from the mailman to mainstream media believed that the printed document, as we know it, would soon be dead. Soon after the launch of the Internet, all types of web-based services exploded. The Internet growth of the early 2000s was dominated by the creation and failure of numerous dot-com companies. In our Nation’s Capital, the landscape of several tech corridors was dotted (pardon the pun) with dot-coms. They seemed to spring up overnight, and—just as fast as they arrived—they closed their doors again, leaving unoccupied offices and pink-slip parties in their wake. Through all of this, the concept of electronic delivery survived, and companies reaffirmed that the printed document was soon to be dead.

But close to thirty years later, the mailbox remains. The paperless society that was hailed as a foregone conclusion never arrived. The mailbox is surviving and, in fact, it seems to be gaining renewed focus as the volume of mail is leveling out.

So, what happened?

  1. The e-delivery wave didn’t take into consideration the small business. Adopting an e-delivery initiative takes time and money–not to mention the fact that capturing and maintaining email addresses is hard to do and requires consistent management. Think about it: a person may change his or her email address 5 or 10 times over a span of time, while few people move that often and most small businesses tend to remain in the same location for a long period of time. Meanwhile, mail offers a way for people to leave a forwarding address to ensure delivery can follow you to your new location; email, not so much.Furthermore, small businesses typically have paper-based accounting systems, where they track incoming receipts, bills and statements. Rarely does a person do everything electronically, so basically if you’re going to print out the bill yourself, you might as well have someone else print it for you.
  2. Only a handful of people use e-delivery on a consistent basis. If you were to look at adoption rates across the board, the typical adoption rate ranges around 5-9%, with perhaps a spike here and there to 20%. That means only 1 or 2 out of every 10 customers are using e-delivery for receiving and paying bills or critical communications. E-delivery is still not widely adopted and perhaps will never be. Unless your business forces people to go to e-delivery as the sole delivery option, not all your customers are going to adopt.
  3. No one considered the baby boomers. Baby boomers grew up watching their parents walk to the mail box. It was a special event to open the mail box and find a card or letter from a relative. Receiving a bill or statement in the mail was a reminder. Baby boomers remember a time when their parents opened the front door to find a dozen eggs, fresh milk or even a can of Charles Chips. Do you really think Baby Boomers are going to fully accept receiving bills, statements or other critical communications via the internet? Not in their lifetime.

Combining all of these factors with the fact that we have baby boomers just entering retirement, pending tax changes that could lead to a growth spurt in the small business sector, and more and more people becoming exhausted by losing their “real” email in a flood of spam, and I’d bet that over the years to come that mail volumes will level off or steadily increase. With the potential growth in the number of small businesses, individual entrepreneurs, and organizations comes additional challenges, but one will remain finding alternatives for printing and mailing lower volumes of mail.

Thankfully, the same industry that predicted the end of the printed document also gave rise to Internet based print-to-mail services.

What are print-to-mail services?

In an earlier post, we explained the differences between print and mail and print-to-mail services.  But in short, print-to-mail services offers traditional print and mail services via the internet, allowing small- and medium -sized businesses to outsource their mailing processes.  The efficiencies gained by outsourcing your mail processes not only saves money but also allows your employees to focus on their core competencies.  To learn more, read our earlier post here or visit our home page.

Tim Furr, Director, Business Development

MailXStream is an online print-to-mail service that allows you to control the important parts of the print-and-mail process–your document content and format–with the rest of the nuance and tedium left to MailXStream. For more information, check out mailxstream.com or reach out to us.

How Outsourcing & Collaboration Lead to Growth

As a growing small business or as an entrepreneur, the focus tends to stay on delivering the fundamental offerings of the business and within the owner’s given expertise. Long-term plans for growth and profitability are regularly overshadowed by the realities of winning new clients, meeting deadlines, and maintaining cash flow. As a result, efforts to improve the bottom line can often focus solely on expanding into new products or services, or on hiring additional personnel in an effort to streamline processes and increase revenues. Meanwhile, opportunities to pursue outsourcing and collaboration can be relegated to the bucket of “future opportunities” as owners’ fear losing control or feel they’re not large enough to collaborate on an even footing.

In reality, the results achieved through outsourcing and collaboration frequently prove quite successful for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Whether your business is considering outsourcing work to a third-party provider, or collaborating with a company in a related field to offer bundled or related services, there are multiple paths to achieving expansion and growth. Some benefits include:

  • Saving Time and Money – If your business currently uses internal resources to perform non-core related activities, outsourcing allows you to reclaim those lost man-hours, which can be reallocated to core offerings and/or introducing new or complementary services.
  • Offering New Products – Collaboration offers smaller companies a viable path to scale up without the usual drain on resources. For example, working with a partner to produce one portion of your product on an on-demand basis rather than a purchasing and pre-paying for a set amount of product may lead to a reduction in per-unit costs or inventory-carrying costs, which equates to increased profits and improved delivery based on “just-in-time” processing.
  • Focusing on Core Competencies – Are there aspects of your business that are necessary, yet have no relation to the core competencies that differentiate you from competitors? If the answer is “yes”, then you are likely investing valuable opportunity costs in order to save money short-term. Opening the door to outsourcing and collaboration to delegate secondary tasks to companies that can do the same thing faster and more efficiently allows you to focus on your primary offering, resulting in improved morale, reclaimed resources, and likely to improved cash flow.

As an example of the above, consider accounts receivable. If you are printing and mailing your invoices, statements or general correspondence in-house, chances are that you’re pulling resources away from other revenue-generating activities to print, fold, insert, and meter (or stamp) your outbound mail. These are relatively menial tasks that can more easily and efficiently be handled by an outsourcing firm. Another area to consider is pre-printed forms. If your product or service involves the delivery of some type of pre-printed material consider moving to an on-demand environment, which eliminates the need to print and store pre-printed material. Both of these considerations put resources that would normally be used for manual tasks back into a productive, core-contributing activity.

Until recently, both activities—print and mail and the production and warehousing of pre-printed materials—were highly affected by quantities, with economies of scale only afforded to those companies with larger volumes. With the advent of the Internet, traditional outsourcing companies began to experience significant competition from web-based services and product offerings. The resulting movement in the pendulum now means that economies of scale are available to virtually any type of organization and to organizations of any size.

Print-to-mail is one of those Internet-based service offerings. Where print and mail companies require you to send raw data and often require an extensive conversion process, print-to-mail companies take exactly what you send them, co-mingling your files with other companies of similar complexity and scope, thus building economies one client at a time. These companies often enable small businesses to leverage services that would otherwise not be affordable. In some instances, these print-to-mail companies will also develop customized solutions for you based upon your needs and assist you in moving to an on-demand, just-in-time business model. The end results, with respect to either solution, are increased efficiency, improved economies of scale, reduced expenditures for menial tasks, and a boost in overall employee morale as your employees are focused on their core competencies instead of stuffing envelopes.

What are print-to-mail services?

In an earlier post, we explained the differences between print-to-mail and print and mail services, but in short, print-to-mail services offer traditional printing and mailing services via the internet, allowing small- and medium -sized businesses to outsource their mailing processes. The efficiencies gained by outsourcing your mail processes not only save you money but also allow your employees to focus on their core competencies.

Tim Furr, Director, Business Development

MailXStream is an online print-to-mail service that allows you to control the important parts of the print-and-mail process–your document content and format–with the rest of the nuance and tedium left to MailXStream. For more information, check out mailxstream.com or reach out to us.

Postage Meters: Small Business Necessity or Relic of the Past?

For many small businesses, postage meters (and the associated overhead) were once a necessary evil. In the “old days,” print and mail services were something only the larger companies could afford, so there were basically two choices when it came to mailing invoices and other critical mail: purchase or lease a postage meter, or run to the post office every time the need arose. In the nineties, business owners were offered another option via the emerging world of the Internet and e-commerce: to buy stamps online. But while the Internet has continued to evolve, perceptions of these options have failed to keep pace. Because now there’s another option that enables small businesses to affordably leverage the convenience of online printing and mailing: print-to-mail services.

What are print-to-mail services?

In an earlier post, we explained the differences between “print-to-mail” and “print and mail” services, but, in short, print-to-mail services enable small- and medium-sized businesses to send digital files directly to an external company for printing, stuffing, pre-sorting, and mailing, without the high volume requirements of a more traditional mailhouse. This outsourcing can now be done for smaller volumes at a reasonable cost, resulting in efficiencies that not only save money but also allow your employees to focus on their core competencies.

But I have this meter… what I do I do with that?

Do your research. Start by evaluating what you mail today, including your current processes, frequency, and urgency. Then look at the costs associated with producing the mail. What supplies do you use and who does the mail production and metering? Make sure you don’t overlook the meter itself; there are often fees associated with special inks or annual leasing, and in most instances you must maintain a balance on your meter account which ties up your money. Finally, take a look at exactly how much you spend on postage each month, quarter, or year. Then evaluate online print-to-mail services to determine which ones meet your volume needs and budget.

Problem solved: dump the meter and reap the benefits.

Recognizing that businesses of all sizes face budget challenges, outsourcing continues to be a mainstream topic in the news, in boardrooms, and in offices around the country. For small businesses, outsourcing isn’t always a viable option at an affordable cost, but the benefits when an optimal outsourcing opportunity arises are easily measured. Eliminating the direct fees related to your postage meter is just one advantage; increased processing speed, reducing supplies expense on paper/envelopes, and freeing up your team to focus on higher-value work all make outsourcing of your business mail an easy-to-implement and low-risk way to quickly impact your bottom line.

Tim Furr, Director, Business Development

MailXStream is an online print-to-mail service that allows you to control the important parts of the print-and-mail process–your document content and format–with the rest of the nuance and tedium left to MailXStream. For more information, check out MailXstream.com or reach out to us.

What are Outsourced Print-and-Mail Services?

Print, fold, stuff, stamp, address, and send. Rinse and repeat hundreds of times over and you have completed what modern businesses consider normal in a world full of automation and outsourced services. Most business owners consider the bottom line when it comes to the basic processes needed to keep a business afloat, simply repeating the mantra, “why pay someone else to do it when I can just do it myself?” Outsourcing your mailing could be the easiest way to save you time and money, but there just isn’t enough information out there about how it works.

What does outsourcing your print and mail services mean?

Prior to Print-and-Mail services (and even now), businesses completed all of their print, folding, and mailing in-house, meaning someone in the office is in direct control of creating documents; printing, folding, and inserting the mail; and then getting the mail out the door and to the USPS. When you outsource your print and/or mail services, any part of the steps above could be done outside of your business. Which parts you outsource are entirely dependent on how much work you want to complete in-house and what parts of the workflow you wish to keep control over. In general, there are four different types of print-and-mail services:

1  – Full Composition: Full composition places control over the composition of each document (and the entire process essentially) into the hands of a print-and-mail provider. The Print-and-Mail service will coordinate with the business owner on how they want the document to look, what they want it to say, where to place logos, if there are inserts, and more using templates. The service will then take Raw Data from the business owner and compose, print, fold, and mail the documents.

2 – Outsourcing Mailroom: Though it’s uncommon, an outsourced mailroom is also a type of outsourcing print-and-mail in which an external company is brought into a business to run the entire mailroom. The control of the document is still in the hands of the business owner, but every other step in the print-and-mail workflow is managed by an external company.

3 – Outsourcing Fulfillment: Outsourcing fulfillment allows the business owner to keep control over the composition of a document as well as the printing of each document. After a document is printed, the business owner will coordinate with an outsourced fulfillment service that will take the prepared prints and mail them.

4 – Outsourcing Print-to-Mail: Outsourcing Print-to-Mail allows the business owner to keep full control over the composition of each document. After creating a document and any relevant inserts, the business owner then sends fully composed files, such as PDFs, to a print-to-mail provider, who will then print and mail the documents for the business owner. In some instances, the print-to-mail provider also provides custom print drivers that streamline and automate the delivery aspects of the process.

What’s the difference between Print-and-Mail and Print-to-Mail?

Though they sound extremely familiar and are often used interchangeably, Print-and-Mail and Print-to-Mail services are indeed different. Print-and-Mail can be thought of as an umbrella term that encompasses all services, composition, print, fold, and/or mail, which includes Print-to-Mail services. Services that market as Print-to-Mail will do the printing, folding, and mailing for you, but leave the composition of the document to you, giving you greater control over the document.

Why use Print-to-Mail services?

Online Print-to-Mail offers traditional print and mail services via the internet, allowing small- and medium-sized businesses to control the mailing process from their desk while maintaining the same (or higher) output quality. Depending on how much mail you prepare on a regular basis, it could take a considerable amount of manual labor and could require you to pull people from their regular duties, forcing you to lose production overall. Online Print-to-Mail services concatenate many steps of the mailing process for efficiency and with your mailing services being outsourced, less in-house work is necessary to keep up with mailing demands. This provides economy of scale, allowing your employees to focus on doing other important work and leaving the tedious job of mailing to automation. Comparing base pricing for online print-to-mail services (even without volume discounts) would reveal that outsourced mail preparation is a great deal cheaper than in-house processes, especially considering you won’t need to purchase mailing supplies anymore. And because Print-to-Mail services live on the internet, you can complete a mailing job anywhere in the world with a few clicks of a mouse, eliminating the headaches of having to manage the process.

Problem Solving with Online Print-to-Mail

Going online and/or outsourcing with your print and mail needs can make your business more efficient, enabling you to focus on your core competencies without having to make sacrifices for everyday business upkeep. Even minor tradeoffs in using print-and-mail services can be circumvented using other types of outsourcing that give you the control you need over your business-critical documents. Businesses of any size and with any use case can make use of outsourcing their print-and-mail needs; you just need to find the best fit for your particular situation.

Jordan Kauffman, Freelance Writer for MailXStream

MailXStream is an online print-to-mail service that allows you to control the important parts of the print-and-mail process–your document content and format–with the rest of the nuance and tedium left to MailXStream. For more information, check out mailxstream.com or reach out to us.