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Marketing: Star in your own postage stamp

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Looking for something new to dazzle customers and prospects this holiday season and make a branding breakthrough for your biz? How about making yourself or your business the star of your own postage stamp? This is not the metered variety, but a full-color, printed picture stamp. It’s official U.S. postage that can carry your business logo, brand, website URL, address and more.

Heck, it can carry just about any image you want, including your own smiling face, your product, your employees — whatever you want to promote.

Several suppliers are now offering the new custom stamps, with U.S. Postal Service approval, including Zazzle in partnership with Pitney Bowes (www.ZazzleStamps.com) and Stamps.com (www.PhotoStamps.com).

The new customized postage for business use gives small business owners a unique new way to market their brand and show customers another level of creativity. Custom stamps were introduced for consumer use last year but only recently got the USPS go-ahead to include business brands and logos.

The custom stamps can be used to mail letters, postage or packages and come in many denominations, including 24 cents for postcards, 39 cents for first-class letters and up to $4.05. Each sheet of 20 ZazzleStamps in the 39-cent first-class denomination costs $13 if you buy at least 100 sheets. That’s 65 cents per stamp, or an extra 26 cents per stamp over and above the cost of the postage.

But you don’t have to buy multiples of the same design in order to get quantity discounts. You get the discount on multi-sheet orders even if you use a variety of different designs.

And if you have a direct mail campaign in mind, special pricing is available for large orders. PhotoStamps, for example, are available on production rolls for higher-volume mailings.

The impact of seeing yourself or your logo in blazing color on an official U.S. postage stamp is significant. And if you are sending, say, holiday greetings, thank-you cards or other correspondence, Zazzle can outfit your business with printed cards to match your stamp (or vice versa).

All types of small businesses can benefit from the individuality and creativity custom stamps provide, including car dealerships, realtors, restaurants, designers, service professionals and many others. It’s an innovative way to extend your business brand into a whole new realm.

The online ordering process is fairly simple and offers leeway to design just the type of stamp you want. You upload your digital photo or business logo and use the online design tools to position it (including zoom, move and rotate features) and finish creating your custom postage. The large-format stamps can be customized in a broad array of colors, layout and text styles, as well as in vertical or horizontal orientation.

And because of the authentication technology used to print the stamps, most postal machines will not leave postmarks on the postage, so your recipients will see your creation unblemished.

Ironically, some small Internet companies that rely mainly on e-mail for communication have been first to jump on custom mail postage.

Be aware, however, that the postage com-panies are picky about intellectual property. You must own or have a proper license for the logo or image you want to print, and you could be asked for proof of that ownership or trademark.

— Daniel Kehrer, editor, www.work.com
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