From Postage to Printing Nine Tips For Getting the Biggest Ban
From Postage to Printing, Nine Tips For Getting the Biggest Bang For Your Production Buck
By Paul Goldberg and Denny Hatch
Every direct mail promotion starts with handing off film to a printer, and ends with finished mailing pieces going to the post office. Where along the way is it possible to cut costs without sacrificing response?
1. Eyeball It
How many times have we heard that a mailing has been totally botched up at the lettershop by mixing the wrong elements in a test mailing. Yet almost everyone today OKs the elements to be inserted—and the order in which they're to be inserted—by fax and assumes the correct pieces will get to the inserting machines in the correct order.
If a mailing of 100,000 pieces costs a small company roughly $500/M or $50,000, this type of mishap would waste $50,000. What should happen?
Send a member of your marketing staff to physically go to the lettershop on the mail date and eyeball the job to be sure the correct pieces are put together in the correct envelopes. You can talk about saving a few bucks per thousand here and there, but if you goof up on the big stuff, the small stuff doesn't really matter.
Said Publisher Alex Agnew: "When we launched Ocean Navigator, and it was all our own money on the day it mailed, I was all over that lettershop like a cheap suit."
2. Eyeball It—Part Two
Some years ago, a garden catalog was mailed to new homeowners. The second line of every address printed was the name of a bank:
Sample A. Sample
Columbia Savings Bank
123 Main St.
Anytown, MI 45678
It turns out that the list compiler sent a tape with the name of the bank from which the new homeowner had secured the mortgage. Needless to say, that mistake killed response.
Had the direct mail manager been on the ball, an nth-name tape dump would have been ordered, so a portion of the list could have been eyeballed in hard copy.
Here is another reason to eyeball a sampling of the names you rent: Let's say you have an offer for a woman. Is her title Ms.? And if so, is her name on a list where every title is Mr.?
3. Demand List Hygiene
U.S. Postal Service (USPS) statistics show that a consumer list goes out of date at the rate of 2 percent a month or 25 percent a year. So, if you use a list that hasn't been updated for a year, you will waste 25 out of every 100 pieces you mail.
Put another way, instead of costing you $500/M, the actual cost of deliverable mail is $625/M. If the list performs well, you can shrug it off. If the list is marginal, you've blown a bunch of money.
By the way, double those poor percentages if you are using business-to-business lists—they go out of date at the rate of 1 percent a week.
4. consider Net-Name Arrangements
When sending out a mailing to analogous lists (e.g., craft magazines, classic car aficionados, fashion-conscious women), chances are many duplications will occur. You might be able to spend 50 cents on a prospect, but what happens to your arithmetic when you're spending $1, $1.50 or $2 on a person who happens to be on four of the 10 lists you are mailing?
When ordering lists, be sure your broker tries to cut a net-name deal with every list owner, so you pay for each name only once. Furthermore, be sure the list owner has guaranteed the list has been NCOA'd (run through the National Change of Address system). But even this, unfortunately, isn't foolproof. For example, you could be told the list was NCOA'd, when in fact it was performed more than a year ago.
5. Get Postal Discounts
The greatest single expense of any mailing is postage. Send out a Standard (bulk) mailing in ZIP code order, and you'll spend $250/M. On the other hand, if you do the lion's share of the sortation work for the USPS, you can save yourself as much as $100/M on postage.
To get a handle on the highly complex business of postal classification and preparation for mailing, check out the USPS Web site: www.usps.gov/
6. Learn More about Printing Processes
A serious lack in the direct mail community is a cadre of knowledgeable print buyers. In their zeal to cut expenses, many marketers and agencies have gotten rid of their own production people and production consultants, handing the work off to circulation directors or direct mail managers.
Do not put yourself into the hands of one printer who promises you good prices on the whole job without first checking other sources thoroughly. Yes, dealing with one source is easier, and occasionally you'll find a printer who has all the right equipment under one roof.
But some printers, for example, are set up to offer very good prices on print runs of 50,000 in two-color. This same printer may kill you on a run of 500,000 in four-color—and vice-versa.
Learn what press is best for what job, and which printers are equipped with those presses. Consider having a job printed at several printing plants and then assembled at a lettershop. And, above all, beware of low-ball bids from a printer with whom you've never worked before.
7. Save Paper Costs
If your job is large enough, think long and hard about letting the printer supply the paper (and take a mark-up) vs. buying your own paper and shipping it to the printer to use.
8. The Direct Mail Strip Tease
The late guru Dick Benson once said: "Adding elements to a mailing package, even though obviously adding cost, is more likely to pay out than cheapening the package."
However, we've also seen as many winning mailings with fewer elements. For example, we've both had control mailings for Archaeology magazine and The American Textile Museum. Both mailings did measurably better when the four-color circulars were removed—a higher gross response and less cost for elements.
That said, every mailing should be looked at to see if it can be brought down to fighting weight. Could your four-page letter do the same job in two pages? Does the circular need to be four-color? Is card stock necessary on the order device when 95 percent of your orders come in via the phone or the Internet?
9. Is That BRE Necessary?
If your mailing package has a business reply card (BRC) as an order device, is an additional business reply envelope (BRE) necessary when doing a soft (bill me) offer?
The card should give you the maximum number of gross orders, and it's cheaper. After all, the prospect simply detaches it and drops it in the mail. Do not, however, give a credit card charge option on a BRC. The prospect's personal account number will be hanging out for everyone along the delivery path to see (and steal). With hard offers, always use a BRE.
For some readers, these cost-saving techniques may seem like basic Direct Mail Production 101. But we once knew of a marketer who had asked his new consultant to look at his printing bills.
It turns out that the marketer had put himself into the hands of a printing broker who was overcharging him to the tune of more than $300,000 a year! Had the client bought wisely and carefully, he could have mailed an additional 600,000 pieces for the same money, and generated that much more revenue.
Denny Hatch, contributing editor to Target Marketing, consultant and freelance copywriter, founder of Who's Mailing What! (now Inside Direct Mail) and former editor in chief of Target Marketing, is the author of "Method Marketing" and "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.methodmarketing.com.
Paul Goldberg, consultant and owner of P-J Promotions, is a long-time veteran of the direct marketing industry. His clients include The Christian Science Monitor, the American Craft Council and others. He can be reached at email@example.com.