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July 19, 2016

Don't Make These Common Production Mistakes



Let’s face it: direct mail campaigns have a lot of moving parts.


Between the data, designing, and producing all the components while staying within postal regulations, there’s a lot to keep track of.  We’re sharing some of the most common mistakes that have caused costly delays for our clients’ direct mail projects.


1. Failure to Consult

Consulting with your mail and print vendors in the planning stages of your next direct mail campaign is probably the single best thing you can do to prevent production missteps. Here at Streamworks, we see it all the time: clients send us beautifully designed print pieces they clearly invested a good chunk of their budget to produce.


The only problem is that they didn’t consult with us before getting it printed and unfortunately, the beautiful piece doesn’t meet postal regulations, which means, it will need to mail at higher nonmachinable rates. For a large campaign, that can really add up.  

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2. Providing Incomplete Instructions

We’re all busy, so it’s really tempting to jot down a few bullet points as instructions, fire them off to your direct mail vendor and call it good. Your vendors will do their best to secure all the necessary info for a project, but taking a few minutes to craft a complete mail matrix and detailed instructions at the start will undoubtedly save you headaches (and costly delays) down the road.


3. Making Last-Minute Changes

We get it. Stuff happens and sometimes changes simply cannot be avoided. While it’s true that, for the most part, changes to a campaign can be made until the mail is in the hands of the USPS, they can be costly.  


The changes will almost certainly add to the cost of your project and most likely cause you to miss your initial deadline. That’s why it’s ideal to get all the specs for your campaign nailed down and documented at the start of your project and keep the last-minute changes for the true emergencies.


4. Sending Dirty Data

Taking the time to make sure your data is as buttoned up as possible before sending it to your direct mail vendor will always pay off. After all, your data is the engine that drives the success of your direct mail campaign.


If you don’t have the bandwidth or know-how to manipulate your data files, don’t fret: most likely your direct mail vendor can do that for you (depending on the expertise of their programming team). Just make sure you allow enough time for it to be accomplished in your mail schedule.


5. Setting Unrealistic Timelines

In a perfect world, you would be able to send a new project to your direct mail vendor and have it be offset printed, lasered, folded and inserted … the next day. You may have a pretty good idea of how long things will take to get done depending on your level of direct mail production experience, but your vendor is going to be the best one to tell you for sure.


Again, discuss your desired timeline for your project with your vendor at the start; they will let you know if it’s achievable and may be able to recommend efficiencies that will save time.


6. Glossing Over Sign-Offs

Sign-offs are the surefire way to know your project is being produced correctly and to your specifications. Make sure you’re reviewing them with a keen eye; this is your last chance to catch potential mistakes before it’s too late. Get sign-offs for each version and split and take the time to review piece codes, variable fields, call phone numbers and test URLs, email addresses and key codes.  


USPS Postal Rate Guide/Direct Mail Planning Tol


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