Part 1: Decoding the Intelligent Mail Barcode
Recently, a direct marketing agency was hiring for a new candidate to manage the mail offers sent to a customer database. In the applicant pool were Ivy League and MBA degrees as well as years of direct marketing experience. But in the end, the agency hired a candidate with very little on her résumé, aside from one bullet point: psychic.
Yes, that may be a tall tale, but a psychic could very well outperform a seasoned direct marketing veteran when it comes to navigating the gray areas of a direct mail campaign, such as: When did the mailing hit in-home? Which mailings were sent to wrong addresses? When can we follow up with an e-mail?
Luckily, there is no longer a need to hire a mind reader to support your marketing staff now that the U.S. Postal Service is rolling out its Intelligent Mail Barcode system (IMB), a 65-bar image used to sort and track letters and flats with greater visibility than ever before. Reviewing the IMB rules and regulations below will help you to achieve compliance in time for the May 2011 deadline. For ideas to reap the creative benefits of IM, stay tuned for part two of this article in our February issue.
Time Line and Planning
Although the USPS has already begun accepting IM barcodes for its pilot programs, the official starting date is in May. The deadline for implementing IMB is May 2011, and up until then, the USPS is going to accept POSTNET and PLANET barcodes for automation discounts. The two-year transition period allows the USPS to make subsequent updates and enhancements to its system.
"Between now and 2011, you can qualify for automation discounts by using both IM and POSTNET codes. In the late fall of 2009, we're going to provide an increased incentive for full-service IM. After May of 2011, you must use either a basic or full-service IMB format in order to qualify for an automation discount," explains Thomas Day, senior vice president of Intelligent Mail and address quality for the USPS.