Stamps or franking?

A recent discussion on the ABA’s Solosez concerning whether to lick a stamp and put it on an envelope or purchase postage electronically (franking) was of interest. And, one of the participants, Becki Fahle, of San Antonio, TX, gave me permission to quote her:

There are very good reasons to use stamps rather than franking:

1. Stamps simply work better—A piece of mail is almost always more
likely to be opened if it is stamped, vs. franked. This is true
whether you are sending to a home or a business, and whether or not
you are personally known to the recipient. This has been proven,
repeatedly, over many years, by different direct mailers and post
offices all over the world–large city, small city, rural areas. There
is a reason that the US post office provides, and savvy direct mailers
use, a bulk mail “stamp” rather than franking (which is cheaper).

When results matter, use stamps. Since generally, my purpose in
mailing a client or prospect is to get opened and read, I use stamps.

2. Stamps to use—It is also true that a large stamp gets opened
more than a small stamp. A 4-color stamp gets more openings than a
monotone stamp (if you have ever looked at a USPS bulk-mail stamp, it
is in four colors; franking is “always” one color). Commemorative
stamps get opened more. Oversized commemorative stamps and collectors
stamps get opened the most. They are also highly appreciated by
clients who have small children who have developed an interest in
stamps as a hobby.

3. Appearance–“Pretty” stamps are more popular than ugly stamps
(like those awful bugs). Pretty envelopes with pretty stamps get
opened more frequently and sooner than ugly mail or those that are
“business-like.” Also, the mail within gets attended to sooner. (That
is, pretty mail gets opened, and read, and “acted upon,” first). If
you need a fast response, a “pretty” envelope will work “far” better
than a “professional” one.

4. Handwriting–If you are mailing to a house, rather than a
business, hand-written envelopes “will” get opened SOONER, not later.
Again, this is proven fact, still true today, and the recent
development of so-called “hand writing fonts” for direct mailers is
based on this fact.

4a. I will point out, just in passing, that the correct FORMAL method
of addressing mail to a home, is, in fact, BY HAND. Where the idea
came from that typing an envelope was more correct, I’ll never know,
but it is not. The older your clientele, the more likely they will
know this, and any woman educated in the West before about 1965 knows
it as basic education. So, when deciding whether to hand-write the
envelope, consider your audience and purpose. If you sent me a holiday
card in a franked and typed envelope, I’d throw it away as junk mail.
If it is “stamped” and typed, I’ll at least “open” it.

5. Response–A piece of mail is also much more likely to be responded
to (not just opened) if it is stamped rather than franked.

5a. SASEs which are stamped are far more likely to be used than
franked or business reply envelopes (and therefore, if you send a
client a SASE to return an overdue invoice check, use stamps!!).
Franked SASEs are literally throwing money out with your mail; even if
you send them to courts, they will sometimes refrank them!

6. Deliverability and Timeliness–your mail is much more likely to
reach its destination, more quickly, if it is stamped than if it is
franked. In this day and age of electronic sorting, I do not know why
this is still true, but there you are. It may have something to do
with appearing more “personal,” or it may have something to do with
mail handlers being human, and attracted to color stamps over monotone
franking. It may also have to do with some first class mail being
accidentally treated like bulk mail when it is franked, rather than
stamped (most likely explanation I can think of).

7. International delivery–If you are mailing outside the US, using
large, colored stamps is much more likely to result in delivery. To
improve deliverability, especially in less developed nations, this may
be worth doing even if you are using IRCs.

8. Direct mail marketing—If you are using direct mail to market
(business or consumer), franking your mail is literally throwing money
away. You should ALWAYS use stamps–preferably four-color,
slightly-oversized, commemorative stamps–on direct mail pieces to
whomever mailed, unless you have indisputable testing evidence that in
your particular market, with your particular mailer, franking works
better (bet you can’t get it). “Real” direct marketers advocate larger
commemoratives on #10 envelopes, but I do understand the
“professionalism” issue with attorney mail.

9. Oversized stamps–If you are mailing first-class using green and
white envelopes, you can use the very oversized commemorative stamps.
You can also use the smaller dollar denomination stamps (to prevent
“too many stamps” on non-marketing mail), they are very “unusual” and
not often seen, and will therefore garner desireable attention. I
would also use oversized commemorative stamps on self-mailing
newsletters. But it is getting harder, if not impossible, to get
oversized commemoratives.

10. If you are mailing to solo attorneys, you may very well want to
consider franking, since apparently some of them consider stamps
“unprofessional.” Attorneys in larger firms are rarely going to see
the envelope (unless it is attached to the back of correspondence).

11. Other tricks—Upside down stamps get noticed, and sometimes
improve response rate. Cartoon stamps improve response (however,
whether that response would be desireable in a professional context is
another issue).

Attorneys seem to base their choices on personal preference. This is a business, not a hobby or charitable endeavor. Businesses have a desired outcome, and that outcome is profit. Mail also has a desired outcome–usually, that it be opened, read, and acted upon.

Choices should be based on what works and rigorous testing, not on personal preference. Choices should be based on what has been validated to improve the desired outcome (open, read mail, acted upon appropriately). Personal preference and/or convenience should enter into it if, and ONLY if, testing has shown that neither preference and no other option, such as FedEx) has a validatable, discernable effect on the desired outcome.


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