A Panhandler’s Trick You Might Profit From

Recently, I was struck by how marketing savvy a panhandler was on the NYC subway. Like all panhandlers who enter a quiet subway car, he assured straphangers that he did not want money for drugs but for food. What really made me take notice was what he said next:

“I am envisioning a Shake Shack hamburger,
fries and soda.”

Panhandler dreaming of a burger

Smart move! The panhandler revealed how he was going to use the money — just to buy a simple, inexpensive meal. So now his captive audience could put a specific monetary value to his ask: about $10. And as he walked around the car to see if anyone’s heart would open, guess what happened — a young woman handed him 10 bucks.

Wow, his marketing tactic worked! If this panhandler had not relayed a picture of what he wanted, he still might have gotten some loose change, but probably nothing like $10.

My takeaway: I couldn’t help but see how this transaction relates to tactics used by nonprofits to increase donations. I call it Transparency Impact. When you list in your direct mail (or email) exactly how the money would be used with a dollar amount next to it, it helps you gain a level of trust. This transparency lets the potential donor know where their hard-earned money can directly help, thereby translating into higher giving amounts.

For example: Say you are trying to raise money for a school in a third-world country. You may list:

$10 will help purchase books
$30 will buy a knapsack
$100 will pay for one child’s tuition

Don’t you feel more inclined to give when you see the direct impact of your donation?

I sure hope the $10 the panhandler received bought him a nice meal at Shake Shack. It’s fun to see how direct mail tactics can be used, even by people you least expect to use them!.

2019 USPS® Money-Saving Promotions

Don’t miss: 6 big ideas & cost-cutters for your Direct Mail budget

Looking to pump up response, even with a tight budget? I have 6 ways for you, along with an ally that can help you cut costs: the United States Postal Service. Take a look below, and please note USPS deadlines. Want to explore but don’t know where to start? Just contact me and I’ll be happy to direct you to the right USPS representative.

1. Keep Using Reply Mail Envelopes & Cards!

You know BRMs, CRMs, or Share Mail envelopes and cards in your direct mail packages increase response – so why stop using them when you can reduce the cost?


New participants in this USPS promotion earn a 3 cent credit per counted reply piece. Are you a repeat participant? Earn the 3 cent credit by meeting a threshold equating to 95% of the volumes counted during the same period in 2018.

Earned Value Reply Mail

April 1-June 30

Feb 15-March 31

2. Think Personalized Color on Bills & Statements

Color messaging in bills and statements just might get you better results. Worth testing, right?


Enjoy an upfront 2% postage discount on First-Class Mail Presort and automation letters that meet the promotion requirements.


Personalized Color Transpromo

July 1-December 31

May 15-December 31

3. Explore Tactile, Sensory, and Interactive Options

Direct mail can take advantage of one aspect that no digital channel can ever use — the senses, such as touch and smell. So why not see what the latest print innovations in paper, inks, interactive elements, and finishing techniques can do to stir up more interest for your message!


See how you can be eligible for an upfront 2% postage discount on Marketing Mail letters and flats that meet the postal requirements.

Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mailpiece Engagement

February 1-July 31

Dec 15-July 31

4. Let Informed Delivery Give Your Mail a Warmer Reception

You’ve heard about this new USPS tool that can get your direct mail package much more attention when it arrives in the mail. Now it’s time to give it a try! (Want to refresh your memory about Informed Delivery? Read about it in my post here.)


Include Informed Delivery in your direct mail campaign and get an upfront 2% discount on postage. Save by using Marketing Mail letters and flats, and First-Class Mail presort or automation letters, cards, and flats that meet the promotion requirements.

Informed Delivery Promotion

September 1-November 30

July 15-November 30

5. Stand Out — with Use of Virtual Reality, Video in Print, and More.

The same old, same old might not do the trick. Incorporate some of the new technologies – such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, Video in Print, and multichannel mail integration with Addressable TV or digital assistants – into your direct mail campaigns and make your message really memorable.


Take advantage of an upfront 2% postage discount on Regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats, and First-Class Mail presort or automation letters, cards, and flats that meet promotion requirements.

Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion

March 1-August 31

January 15-August 31

6. Team Mobile Shopping with Your Direct Mail

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus when it comes to making the holiday season more profitable for you! Start by leveraging one of the many new mobile barcode formats by integrating it into your mailpiece, in addition to using payment QRs.


Get an upfront 2% postage discount on Regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats that meet the promotional requirements.


Mobile Shopping Promotion

August 1-December 31

July 15-December 31

Here's where to register for the Promotions

Free 30-Minute Creative Review

Schedule a free, no-obligation 30-minute review for tips on how to make your direct mail, web design, or print collateral more effective.

A Powerful, New USPS® Direct Marketing Tool

INFORMED DELIVERY® by the USPS® is an exciting new marketing tool for direct marketers that:

  • Offers an email open rate of 70% (USPS data)*
  • Generates multiple impressions from a single mailpiece (digital + physical)*
  • Drives consumer response with interactive content related to mailpiece*
  • Can potentially increase your ROI*

To help my clients and colleagues gain insight into the benefits of INFORMED DELIVERY and learn how one can get started I spoke with Adam Avrick, President of Design Distributors one of the top direct mail suppliers in the country. Read below to see the answers Adam gave me to my many questions…

MERYL: Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is INFORMED DELIVERY?
It’s a service one can sign up with from the U.S. Postal Service, where first thing in the morning, people receive an email that lets them digitally preview in black & white their mail (see image above) and manage packages scheduled to arrive soon. This information is also accessible on the USPS website and INFORMED DELIVERY Apps.

MERYL: Is this service available nationwide? And how many people have signed up?
As of February 5, 2019, there are  15,000,000 people signed up.

MERYL: Is the U.S. Postal Service actively promoting INFORMED DELIVERY to get even more consumers to sign up?
Yes, and it’s also growing organically.

MERYL: How would this help direct marketers?
It’s a new marketing tool. Businesses and nonprofits that are mailing can supply full color interactive content that will ride along with the digital preview. This enhances the customer call-to-action and reinforces a direct marketer’s message. It also allows the message to be changed and enhanced while the mail is en route. The possibilities are endless.

MERYL: Can you give me a specific example of how it would benefit direct marketers?
Let’s say a nonprofit organization that focuses on disaster recovery has a spring appeal with us (the printer) and it will be mailing in the next couple of days. Then an earthquake brings destruction to an area. Wouldn’t it be great to tie that occurrence to the spring appeal? Now they can with INFORMED DELIVERY. A message can be added here to let the recipient know. This is called a ride-along.

MERYL: The image below is an example taken from a USPS PDF of a ride-along. Could you please explain it more, so everyone is clear.
A ride-along can be a clickable button with a call to action, or anything that would enhance the direct mail piece you are sending. The image below also shows how you can swap out the grayscale image with a new color image.

MERYL: Can a marketer know who on their list is using INFORMED DELIVERY?
The USPS is very careful of any information that they share with a marketer. To start out though, they will allow you to upload your mailing list and they will run it against the current registrants. They will tell you how many people on your file are registered with Informed Delivery, however they won’t tell you who they are.

MERYL: Can a marketer gain any significant data?
Each marketer will receive a report that provides the general results of an individual campaign. It includes information on the number of physical mailpieces processed, the number of users/mail recipients that were sent an email, the email open rate, and the number of click-throughs.

MERYL: How does a marketer get started? Is there a cost?
 They can sign up on the USPS website. Currently there isn’t any cost to use the system. My company, Design Distributors, is happy to assist with the setup. Or, Meryl, I’m sure you can help them also.

MERYL: I and others are amazed how this works. Can you please briefly tell us the technology behind it?
 To begin with, every piece of First Class Mail gets scanned when it arrives at the Post Office. INFORMED DELIVERY  just builds on that. Now, to be able to sync the color image or ride-along image you need to add mail.dat. Mail.dat is data generated by me (your printer) that I supply to the Post Office after I presort your mail. This data then needs to be added to your INFORMED DELIVERY job. Once that is done, images that go along with the mailpiece are synced up.

MERYL: For personal use, why should someone sign up for it?
It’s very helpful in a variety of ways. It’s a great way to know when specific bills, credit cards, and important pieces of mail are arriving. In addition, if there are mail offers that you look forward to seeing you will know when they are arriving. Helps you keep an eye out!

MERYL: Anything else you would like to add?
INFORMED DELIVERY is a win-win, for the both marketers and recipients. For some of the Gen X people who may have a hesitancy to go to the mailbox each day this product can certainly draw them there more frequently.

MERYL: Thanks, Adam, for all this great information!

Clients and colleagues: If you have any additional questions, or would like assistance getting started, let us know. Below you can find several useful links.

Adam Advick
President, Design Distributors
Offering the most diverse lettershop and printing services in the New York Metropolitan area. They handle client programs from the time the artwork is received until it hits the mailbox.

Meryl Randman
Creative Director, Meryl Randman LLC
Contact Meryl



INFORMED DELIVERY App available free for iOS, Android, and Windows.

*According to https://www.usps.com/business/pdf/informed-delivery-overview.pdf

An Easy Trick to check U.S. Letter Mail Aspect Ratio

Here is an easy trick to check U.S. letter mail aspect ratio. Just divide the width of your envelope or postcard by the height. If your results are great than 1.3 and less than 2.5 you are good.

Why is letter mail aspect ratio important? It’s the key to getting the lowest postage rate, by ensuring the package can run through the USPS automated mailing equipment. When considering the aspect ratio you must also follow the sizing guidelines from the USPS.

Please use this as a guide only. To make sure that your documents follow the proper sizing guidelines check with your local post office.