With all the turmoil upending the economy over the past seven weeks, many American businesses are suffering sharp losses—and that includes the US Postal Service.
Yes, as it turns out, the United States Post Office (USPS) is a business. Back in the 1970s, this publicly funded federal agency was turned into an independent organization—expected to become self-sufficient and cover its expenses by charging for postage and other services.
But, as Congress was informed last week, the USPS will “run out of cash” in September unless the government provides some support to make up for the sharp drop in revenue caused in part by plunging mail volumes.
Pardon the pun, but this must be addressed—and soon. If the USPS is expected to meet revenue targets, its leaders need to be far more creative in developing new ways to generate income so it can continue to operate. That’s how all business leaders are expected to think right now.
So let’s push the envelope: here are five ways the USPS can boost revenues using what it already has, so it can continue to be a viable business well into the future.
Earn advertising revenue
Mobile advertising seems like a no-brainer. The USPS could deploy this instantly by partnering with a company like Firefly or Clear Channel.
And, when you consider the approximately 140,000 vehicles in the USPS delivery fleet, each vehicle could become its own traveling outdoor bill. You see signage on the top of many taxi cabs in many cities, so why couldn’t the USPS sell the same promotional opportunities to other companies?
Sure, the USPS should be selective about who can buy advertising space on the top or the side of a vehicle, but right now postal vehicles look rather boring. Local advertisers would love to have the opportunity to promote their businesses on trucks that visit every household in the United States at least once per day, six days per week.
Additionally, think about those ubiquitous mailboxes located in areas of high foot traffic. If all those 141,000 blue collection boxes were placed side by side, that line would span 58 miles! Again, local advertisers would likely seize the opportunity to promote themselves on those collection boxes.
There may even be opportunities for integrated campaigns sponsored by the USPS, for example, a “your mail in March sponsored by . . .” campaign could span across all vehicles, collection boxes, and perhaps even buttons worn by mail carriers.
Deliver more local services
Sure, the USPS delivers mail, but why stop there? If 75,000 letter carriers are visiting every home every day, those carriers have a huge opportunity to provide additional services at little to no additional cost to the post office. For example:
- Home monitoring:
Anyone going on vacation or traveling for a few days (well, maybe not until this viral pandemic dies down) could pay a small fee in exchange for their local carrier to make sure all is well at home. Carriers could report suspicious activity and, if a resident asks, perhaps even take a quick look at the perimeter of a property or even take a quick peek in a few windows to make sure all is well. This could be tied into a mobile app for ordering the service and getting daily updates.
- Wellness checks:
We all worry about elderly relatives who still live on their own. But, local carriers could check in on those folks to provide reassurance that all is well and no medical assistance is required.
- Market research:
Here’s an opportunity for companies to purchase marketing research data at a hyperlocal level—by the household. Plenty of advertisers would pay for data on specific households that can easily be gathered by postal carriers—for example, which homes have solar, what type of car is in the driveway, who might need landscape services, and more. This information would be easy for postal employees to provide through mobile devices.
Partner with local organizations
Many organizations could benefit from a close relationship with local post offices. Imagine how easy it would be for a postal worker to stop at the local library to deliver books to residents based on the route they already travel, and then return those books when they’re due.
Hospitals and medical clinics could enlist the USPS to conduct health surveys, deliver medical supplies to prevent the spread of disease, or even deliver additional food to senior citizens. That would make it a lot easier for organizations such as Goodwill or local food banks.
Turn post offices into retail centers
With rents being so high, today’s retailers are struggling. In some cases, entrepreneurs don’t rent a store, but do business from kiosks that cost a lot less.
There are 31,000 post offices throughout the country. Why not allow local retailers to sell products such as stationery, gifts, cards, and other small goods? The USPS generates no rental income at post offices today, so even a small amount of rent (which retailers would certainly appreciate) would add revenue at very little additional cost.
Heck, the busiest time of year for the post office is during the holidays, so why not encourage impulse buying? Retailers could benefit from all that foot traffic while providing patrons with some eye candy while waiting in line.
Provide routine banking services
I know many of us can hardly remember actually walking into a bank, but plenty of people—a segment we call the “underbanked”—don’t have bank accounts.
Yet, this population still needs to cash checks and borrow small amounts of money from time to time. Post offices and letter carriers could provide these services for a small fee. That would make it a lot easier for customers who don’t have access to traditional banking services or may prefer the convenience.
These are five ways the USPS can boost revenues at little to no cost. Sure, you might think they’re nothing to write home about (sorry, another pun I couldn’t resist), but let me know if you have any other ideas.