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Smarter Direct Mail: Advances in Print That Can Boost ROI

April 22, 2013 By Charley Howard
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There are many sources of pressure to reduce or minimize the cost of postage in hardcopy mailings with commensurate hurdles at every turn. Over the years, postage has been mitigated with workshare discounts that depend on mailing list density, file hygiene, currency of the mailing list and mailpiece shape and design. As the USPS attempts to remove unnecessary costs and employ automation to the max, mailing requirements increase—such as heavier more expensive paper, more tabs or glue, and other creative and preparation demands that can increase costs.

Another pressure is to mail only to those that return an adequate return on the cost of the mailing among existing customers, while at the same time allowing for the prospecting of potential new customers. Add to this the alternate media channels that may be employed in each campaign and the pressure on hardcopy mail increases as does the difficulty in meeting minimum requirements for postage discounts. Nevertheless, direct mail remains an important and viable part of virtually any brand's multichannel mix.

So where is the next realm of postal efficiency and savings going to come from?

There are current solutions out there that have been developed to meet precisely this challenge; commingling, co-mailing, co-palletization to name a few. All of these combine pre-existing mailpieces at some level to achieve better penetration and lower postage rates. They are useful for many marketers - but they may not be applicable for all.

Some brands recognize a more urgent need to communicate in a targeted way that drives improved results; (still) qualify for maximum postal discounts; and, importantly, increase speed to market.

For these marketers, achieving higher returns from direct mail may lay in the capabilities of the latest digital print technology. New high-speed digital color presses increase customization, maximize operating and postal savings, and automate the marketing process while allowing customers to craft personalized offers and messages quickly and easily.

I've been seeing more brands incorporating digital print - also known as print on demand - in their communication and marketing mix. Here's why:

  • Increased customization with 100% variable content delivered at full press speed and quality - customers (and prospects) can receive differentiated images, text and offers based on available intelligence derived from data about those customers.
  • Time and cost savings because of less waste and spoilage, and there is no needed plate changes and no preprinted stock inventory to be stored. Production processes are far more efficient, and overages are absent.
  • Deeper postal discounts thanks to electronic, automated mail piece commingling that is done prior to printing.
  • Decreased time to market via a complete high-speed digital production process that starts with white paper and ends with fully customized mail - in line and without job stops and starts. In some vertical markets - retail, real estate, financial services, for example - speed in communication matters, depending on the purpose of the communication. Having such speed in hardcopy communication can elevate customer engagement and response.

With this latest advancement in personalized direct mail variable data print, direct mail makes a serious impact. For example, the HP T230 Inkjet Digital Press, HP pigment and inks and HP print heads produce sharp text, images, graphics and 100 percent variable content in high-quality, four-color (CMYK) production print. (Other manufacturers have similar offerings as well.) That's not something printers could do 10 years ago.



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