Did you know commercial postal rates will decrease April 10, 2016? (Learn more here.) That got us thinking: besides postage, what other insider tips and tricks are out there to keep your direct mail budgets in check? Read on to learn some creative ways to lower costs and best practice reminders to make sure you’re maximizing your direct mail dollars.
Be Flexible With Size
Being flexible with the size of your direct mail components can add up to big printing savings. The goal is to find the optimal size that allows you to get as many pieces as possible on one press sheet. The more you can fit on a press sheet, the lower your printing costs will be (this holds true for both offset and digital printing).
And we’re not talking drastic changes – tweaks in size as small as a half inch could mean the difference between being able to print four versus three up on a press sheet. A change that small will most likely not make a difference to the aesthetic or impact of your direct mail piece but (in this example) could yield a savings of 25% or more in your printing costs.
It pays to be flexible. Talk to your print vendors to see if there are small design changes you could be making to be more efficient.
Be Willing To Share the Press Sheet
If tweaking the size of your direct mail pieces won’t work and quick turn times aren’t critical, talk to your print vendors to see if it’s an option to gang your projects with someone else’s to essentially share the printing costs.
This may be a cost-saving option for you if your pieces use a fairly common paper stock, you’re flexible on the type of paper being used (i.e. coated vs. uncoated, brightness, whiteness, etc.), the pieces you need printed leave open real estate on the press sheet, or the pieces you need printed are smaller and could easily fit into those open spaces.
Plan Ahead and Combine Print Jobs
Better yet, plan ahead and print artwork for multiple direct mail campaigns at one time. You’ll dictate the turn times and paper stock while saving on set ups and run charges.
Consult With a Postal Expert Before You Design
Knowing the ins and outs of the USPS’ design requirements for automated postal rates can be confusing. That’s why it’s always a good idea to consult with a postal expert before designing a new direct mail campaign.
Failing to consult with a postal expert in the planning stages means you may end up with a beautifully designed and printed direct mail piece that doesn’t meet postal regulations. So what does that mean for you? It could mean you’ll end up paying higher postage rates, or worst case scenario, you have a beautiful direct mail piece that the USPS will not let you mail.
Missteps like these can be a budget blower in more ways than one including higher postage rates, missed deadlines, additional labor costs or needing to reprint stock.
Check Your Specs
This can be an easy one to forget, but overlooking small details can throw a wrench in your budgets and cause deadlines to be missed. Common mistakes with direct mail production specs include: choosing envelopes that aren’t machinable; using paper that isn’t laser compatible (if the direct mail campaign will be personalized); and failing to check to ensure your mailing and printing vendors’ equipment can run your stock.
A few phone calls or emails at the beginning of your project can save money and wasted time in the end.
Make Sure Your Data Is Clean
Dirty data is a money waster than can easily be avoided. Mailing to records that are old, invalid or incomplete means you’re paying to mail a piece that will never reach its intended recipient.
At the very least, you should perform basic list hygiene before each mailing such as CASS address validation, NCOA (national change of address updates) and duplicate removal. In fact, the USPS requires that all first class and standard mail lists be run through their NCOA database at least once every 95 days to receive automated postal rates.
If you aren’t running your mail lists through the NCOA database, you run the risk of not only mailing to outdated addresses but paying a postal surcharge.
Don’t ‘Spray and Pray’
Instead of mailing to your entire database, take the time to review the segmentation of your contacts and cater your offers to those segments. Not only will you be lowering quantities, which should lower printing and postage costs, but your response rates should increase because you’re sending relevant, targeted offers that compel your contacts to act.
Keep It Personal
Your database is marketing gold – make sure your direct mail campaigns are leveraging it to its fullest potential. Research shows that direct mail campaigns that contain personalized messages have a 1.5 times higher rate of return than those with generic messages.
Increased response rates mean a lower percentage of advertising costs for your campaign. Use variable data printing to include offers for products based on a customer’s purchase history, information about their geographic area, or about their sales team – whatever information you have available in your database that makes sense to the strategy of your campaign.