Delivering business success
Post office essential to rural businesses
When Steve Givan and his wife Jana started Spencer’s Books in their home nearly seven years ago, they didn’t realize how quickly it would grow. The couple now operates their Internet business from a warehouse in Plainfield – a small community at the crossroads of historic Lincoln Highway and Route 66.
“The post office is essential to what we do,” said Givan. “The main reason is that 70 to 75 percent of all our shipments are shipped Media Mail. Most of the large Internet retail platforms like Amazon, eBay, Half.com, Alibris and so on give sellers like us an average shipping credit of $3.99 for each item. That allows us to get products to our customers in the stated delivery timeframe, at or close to, a breakeven standpoint.
“If the Postal Service didn’t offer the Media Mail product, dealers like Amazon would have to raise the pricing they charge their customers,” Givan explained. “Media Mail is an outstanding product for customers who don’t have to have their merchandise right away since delivery times are two to 14 days. Last month we sent several thousand packages out all over the United States and our average delivery time for Media Mail was four-and-a-half days.”
The Postal Service has long been a champion of small businesses like Spencer’s Books and recently announced a new marketing campaign to promote easy-to-use and affordable shipping service and direct mail advertising.
Dave Symons, warehouse manager of Phoenix Leather Goods, agrees and says he uses Priority Mail and First-Class Mail to ship the products his company sells online.
“We are an e-commerce company that sells leather goods, travel items and personal products on five different Internet market places,” Symons said. “We have two websites – Beltoutlet.com and GoInStyle.com. We also sell our products on Amazon, Buy.com and eBay.
“Our company has been in business 15 years,” said Symons. “We ship approximately 250,000 packages annually and 90 percent are shipped using the Postal Service. They have been a reliable service for our company from the very beginning. They pick up our shipments every day, Monday through Saturday, and we can always depend on them.”
In both cases the Postal Service took into consideration the customer’s needs, goals and expectations. And with these criteria came a team of postal professionals.
“Spencer’s Books had been using our competitor and they were looking to find a carrier that would offer reliable delivery while reducing costs,” said Postal Service Shipping Solutions Specialist Stan Karcz. “I worked with Delivery Supervisor Annette Crain. We focused on the customer’s needs and were able to provide the products and services that this company was looking for.”
For Symons and his e-commerce business, Karcz identified a Priority Mail opportunity that would meet his expectation as well as reduce the bottom-line cost.
“The customer was looking for an economical way to ship ties, belts and other clothing accessories,” said Karcz. “I presented a Priority Mail International solution for some of his shipments by developing transportation and logistics plans based on his needs. He was impressed with our efforts and made a commitment to switch carriers and begin shipping his products with the Postal Service – domestically and internationally.”
Not only is the Postal Service reaching out to small businesses to provide reliable and affordable shipping solutions, but they are also providing businesses serving local clientele the opportunity to get the word out about their products and services.
“Every Door Direct Mail is designed for small businesses,” said Paul Vogel, President and Chief Marketing/Sales Officer, U.S. Postal Service. “For less than 15 cents apiece, our customers can send fliers, menus, brochures and advertisements in highly targeted ways. By using a simple Web-based service, small businesses can send advertising to new and existing customers without the need for names or addresses.
“The mailings can be dropped off at a local Post Office,” he continued. “The Web tool is free and easy to use, enabling restaurants, doctors’ offices and other small businesses to map their coverage areas online, so they can really zero in on the streets and neighborhoods they want to reach.”
Every Door Direct Mail was launched two years ago and has proven successful for small businesses as well as the Postal Service.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and the Postal Service plays an important role in enabling their growth and commercial success,” Vogel continued. “We are providing a suite of mailing and shipping services tailored to the needs of small businesses to help them compete for customers and run their operations more efficiently.
“The key to helping small businesses prosper is being innovative and responsive to their needs and ensuring that our products are not only simple to use and affordable, but also offer our customers a way to generate positive return on investment from their marketing campaigns,” said Vogel.
Often employees help identify businesses in the community that might benefit from what the Postal Service can offer says Plainfield Postmaster Cindy Lyons.
“Customer Connect is a program for city carriers and Rural Reach is for rural carriers,” she explained. “We have four city routes and 45 rural routes. That’s a lot of employees out in the community delivering mail to businesses just starting out and ones that are established, but using another delivery service. When I get a lead from an employee I turn it into our Business Service Network.”
When ATC Supply Company was located in Naperville, for example, Letter Carrier Pensky Chen approached its owner and asked if he would like to find out what the USPS could offer. ATC Supply is a distributor and wholesaler of replacement laptop batteries.
Eight years and two moves to larger facilities later, ATC President Tim Xu says he is very pleased with his experience dealing with the Postal Service. “We are now located in a 16,145 square foot facility. Ten people handle orders every working hour and more than 97 percent of our customers are very satisfied with our shipping,” he said. “We use Priority Mail and First-Class Mail services.
“The Postal Service also provides free Priority Mail and Express Mail packaging to its customers,” Lyons added. “There is no charge for package pick-up either – no matter how big or small an order.”
Always looking to improve
“There are three things about the Post Office that are better than when we first started using them,” said Givan. “Same day pickup has really been a blessing for us. Our business is somewhat seasonal so at certain times of the year it’s really a benefit to have them come to us versus us going to them. As a small business there are only so many hours in a day and you want to use every tool available to you to maximize those hours.
“The second thing they have done – which is again recognizing a customer need – is come up with more flat rate mail boxes that accommodate different product sizes,” said Givan. “Lastly, when you sell on the Internet there is a vacuum between you and your customers as far as knowing they really did get their product. Being able to use automated tracking is really essential because it allows us to know if something has been delivered.”
“We want small businesses to make the U.S. Postal Service their shipper of choice,” said Vogel. “We are doing that by developing smart tools and product offerings that help businesses grow – both theirs and ours.”
For more information about small business solutions, contact your local Post Office.