The New Year is right around the corner and you know what that means: while others are party planning, marketers are busy budget planning—searching for extra nickels under the couch cushions and studying past campaigns to find ways to spend less while achieving more.
We feel your pain—and we’re here to help. Before changing entire strategies to save a few bucks, your first step should be to look for ways to lower the costs of things you already do. Print production is one of the best places to start.
Below are eight tips for stretching print production costs in the coming year, increasing ROI and freeing up your budget for future initiatives.
1. Gang Running
Every time a new print job is set up, new prep and production charges are incurred—including press plate changes, staffing, make ready time, etc. Pre-production is also a significant factor in the turnaround time of your job.
Gang running simply batches similar print projects together to run on the same print sheet, spreading the costs across several jobs. As a result, you can dramatically reduce costs and downtime—streamlining production, reducing paper waste and saving money along the way.
Gang running has a few downsides, so it won’t be right for every project. Because projects run on the same sheet, you’ll be forced to use the same paper stock for all gang-run projects. So your matte finished invitation cannot be gang-run with your glossy direct mailers.
Likewise, because the press is set up just once for everything, color options will be limited by the capabilities of the press it's running on. Keep in mind: if you need to reprint just one of the jobs on your initial gang run, those reprint costs are going to be higher than if it had first been printed alone.
2. Pre-Printed Shells
For recurring pieces that share a similar branded format—like a monthly newsletter, weekly flyer or loyalty direct mail promotion—it may make sense to design and print color “shells.” Using a newsletter as an example, you might design and print a shell that included a full-color masthead, logo, tagline and any other common information that would remain static with each new offer or mailing.
The shell would include enough white areas for you to print—in black ink—customized content or promotions that can be refreshed each week, month or quarter. Remember, print is a volume business: the higher your print run, the lower your cost per piece. By printing and storing a year’s worth of color shells in a single run, you can save big on your color printing and setup costs.
If you’re looking to experiment with new direct mail templates in 2019, we encourage you to check out Launch Room, our collection of direct mail inspiration and ideas.
3. Digital vs. Offset Printing
Both digital and offset printing have their advantages. Understanding which is right for the job at hand can go a long way toward ensuring you get the biggest bang for your buck. The key factors driving your decision are quantity, format, color and time.
As we discussed above, offset printing can have significant pre-production expenses. If quantities are low, this can drive up unit costs. However, as quantities increase, cost per piece goes down. So for high volume runs, offset printing makes a lot of sense. For shorter runs, consider going with digital.
Offset printing also offers more flexibility than digital when it comes to printing surface, image quality, and size formats. It’s also a cost-effective choice for one or two-color pieces.
However, digital printing offers serious set-up savings for full-color projects. It is also the most affordable option for variable data printing. If you’re tight on time, digital projects can almost always be turned around more quickly than offset jobs.
4. On-Demand Printing
Some commercial printers now offer print-on-demand services for clients with consistent, repeat business. With this service, print templates can be customized for your company and built to your specifications, giving you complete control over the personalization and ordering of marketing materials.
This allows your team to print pieces on an as-needed basis, so you aren’t wasting resources or creating oversupplied—and eventually obsolete—inventory. Print just as many copies as you need, never any more and never any less.
This process is usually handled through an online platform, whose software streamlines the lag time between a request for materials and delivering them to team members in the field. As a result, you can create greater efficiencies within your marketing funnel, enforce brand compliance among regional offices and speed up your time to market—all benefiting your bottom line.
5. Intelligent Inserting
Intelligent inserting uses cameras and 2D barcode technology to send variable components to each record on a mailing list. Using selective inserting allows you to accomplish in one mail stream what would otherwise take multiple jobs to accomplish without the right technology. Choosing to work with a mail vendor that has intelligent inserting technology will allow you to achieve greater targeting at a lower cost for your direct mail campaigns.
6. Integrated Reporting
Using the same camera and barcode technology, an intelligent machine can scan and verify that every mail piece in the stream has been printed and produced correctly. Not only does this create efficiency through verifiable accuracy, but the machine uses integrated reporting software to generate a comprehensive data file that can be used to integrate the direct mail campaign with other channels or provide proof of mailing for organizations in regulated industries. Integrated multi-channel marketing gives your campaigns more power.
7. Database Cleanliness
Simply cleaning up your database and list segmentation can help you gain back some efficiency in your direct mail program. An “unclean” database is more likely to contain duplicate contacts, missing data points, or outdated information—all of which waste resources.
Don’t waste money mailing to an old address or contacting someone about the wrong product. Append data and data hygiene practices to update your database and start sending more highly targeted, integrated campaigns in 2019.
8. Consult Your Vendor
One of the most common direct mail production mistakes is failing to consult your vendor before sending a campaign to print. Few things turn the stomach quite like finding out at the last second that your beautifully designed new campaign doesn’t comply with postal regulations—which usually means it will have to mail at higher rates (if it can be mailed at all).
To save yourself time, money and headaches in 2019, loop your print vendor in early in the process of developing a new campaign—or even outsource the design process to them altogether, if they have the capability. Your print vendor's expert knowledge of USPS regulations will increase efficiency in the long run.
For more tips on making your print projects more cost-efficient, download our free Direct Mail Production Checklist.