On March 13 and 14 in Milwaukee, Quad hosted its 23rd Quad Postal Conference, bringing together clients with a focus on addressing the challenges facing business mailers, including rising postal costs. We convened representatives from marketers, publishers and other major mailers, as well as the U. S. Postal Service, along with Quad postal experts, to take a deep dive into the future of mail distribution. We caught up with Quad CEO Joel Quadracci at the event to get his quick take on what marketers and publishers can expect next in the postal solutions space.

Q. A major subtext of the Quad Postal Conference is about rising costs of being in the mail, given that marketers and publishers have seen dramatic increases in postage rates over the past few years. What is Quad doing to mitigate the increases?

Quadracci: One thing Quad has continued to do is advocate on behalf of our clients. Because we do a lot of work with the U.S. Postal Service, we help make sure our clients are heard in Washington.

We’ve mainly worked with Senator Tammy Baldwin and Senator Susan Collins, who have historically supported postal reform. Baldwin is a Democrat and Collins is a Republican. A lot of times the postal-reform efforts have been bipartisan, so this is one of the few places these days that feels like we can get bipartisan cooperation to try to make sure the Postal Service remains a viable channel for marketers and publishers.

Quad helped draft a letter that is going to the U.S. Senate. The idea is we want to get it in front of the USPS Board of Governors to try and get them to hold the Postal Service accountable for the impact these unprecedented rate increases are having on the industry, including driving down USPS mail volumes — to relax the incredibly large cost mailing increases that marketers and publishers have had to deal with.

Q. Beyond advocating for its clients in Washington, Quad has been helping clients reduce costs through technological and logistical innovations for decades, right?

Quadracci: Yes, in the postal solutions space, we’ve innovated for many years. That goes back to 1991, when the Postal Service started to incentivize work-sharing programs. In other words, programs where we as the printer would do a lot of the work for the Postal Service on behalf of our clients to make their mail pieces more efficient as they go through the postal system.

So, that started many years ago and we continue to iterate to make the mailing process even more efficient for our clients and, in the process, obtain discounts from the Postal Service.

The newest innovation we are designing will allow us to take multiple items from different mailers that are going to the same household and combine them all into one recyclable package. So, instead of the mail carrier coming to the house and dropping off one of each separately, Quad will provide the carrier one package to put in the mailbox, which can provide our customers with significant postage discounts and more control over “in-home” dates for their products.

And that’s important because we continue to innovate on behalf of our clients, and we can’t just manage this with postage increases, we have to manage it with effectiveness. In other words, we’re innovating not just within print, but in terms of how marketers spend their marketing dollars — in terms of how they get the most bang for their buck.

Q. Quad’s innovations surrounding ad-spend effectiveness are all about data, right?

Quadracci: Absolutely. Quad has been going way upstream on the data side, not only helping our clients analyze how to reach audiences efficiently, but also where to buy media efficiently to maximize effectiveness. Because when you have cost increases, the thing that offsets that better than anything is an increase in response rate for each dollar marketers spend — wherever they spend it.

And it’s a constant jigsaw puzzle, because you have to figure out, “Where do I spend? And how much should I spend?” Our job is to put the right advertisement in the hands of the right person at the right time. In today’s ecosystem for marketers those goals are not always top of mind. A lot of it is not transparent. And, quite frankly, there’s a lot of spend that marketers should not be doing because it’s not going to the right customer. So, Quad is very much innovating on the side of integrating media spend for marketers — by using data to help them understand where to spend, how much and in what combination of channels that will help get the right message in front of the right customer at the right time in the right combination of media channels.

Q. That’s a very sophisticated process. Is there a simple way to explain the thinking behind that integration effort?

Quadracci: Well, all marketing wants to be data-driven now. And, ultimately, our ability to integrate a data viewpoint for marketers across multiple channels is the silver bullet. At Quad, we’re very committed to the transparency of media spend, backed up by data. A lot of our marketers don’t actually get the confirmation that they’re buying the right media. And so for us, it’s all about making sure that they are.

Q. One last question: What have you been hearing from clients at this year’s Quad Postal Conference?

Quadracci: This is always a great conference because we get a lot of live feedback on new ideas. We’ve had lots of great conversation around what our customers need to be successful and how we can develop solutions for them to meet their goals. These conferences end up driving innovation because we’re dialoguing with huge mailers that are responsible for a lot of Postal Service volume, and we’re having live conversations about how to tackle problems. So out of these conferences, we come to new solutions.

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