Trim Your Global Costs
How to Make More Money on International Mailings by lowering expenses and increasing response
By John Michell
There are always two sides to making more money on your mailings: decrease costs and increase response. When operating domestically, mailers are familiar with and expedient at both. They know all the ins and outs of shaving expenses, and they test everything possible to increase response by even a fraction.
When it comes to international campaigns, however, mailers often are not as diligent, perhaps both because there is not as great a familiarity with the international market and because the mailing quantities are usually smaller for international campaigns as compared to domestic. In reality, though, while some cost-saving tips are particular to international mailing, many are similar to ones undertaken by domestic mailers.
) Reduce the weight of your mailing piece. You pay postage based on the weight of your mail piece: the less weight, the lower the mailing cost. Do you need that extra insert? Test it without. Do you need a long letter? Test a shorter one. How would your recipients respond to a polywrapped catalog rather than one inserted in an envelope? Polywrap weighs less and costs less to produce as well.
) Clean up your database. Make sure you update your database when you receive returned non-deliverable mail. If you currently mail using a method that does not provide you with returned non-deliverable mail, you may want to do a periodic postcard mailing via a first class service so you receive notification of these bad addresses. Also, enlist the services of an international list service bureau that provides address cleansing and formatting for international addresses. While these measures may cost money upfront, you will save in the end when you eliminate bad addresses. And, by cleaning up your addresses, you will gain better delivery, which could mean an increase in orders.
) Mail self-mailers via direct entry. International mailers are usually required to enclose their mailing pieces. Not so when the method of delivery is direct entry, where the mail is transported in bulk to the country of destination and deposited as domestic mail. So, when you opt for direct entry, consider using self-mailers. In fact, if you are not currently mailing direct entry, look into this option. Depending on the country, and depending on the service you presently employ, direct entry can save you money. Even if your postage costs to mail direct entry are higher, some mailers discover they save so much in printing by switching from an enclosed piece to a self-mailer that the overall costs are the same or even lower.
Take, for example, a mailer that used Publishers' Periodicals, an inexpensive and slower method of delivery. While the postage-related cost of direct entry was higher for some of its publications than the cost to use Publishers' Periodicals, this mailer found that by switching to a self-mailer, it would save enough in printing and assembly to offset any additional postage. At the same time, it would receive a far better delivery service.
) Commingle. As with most any business, volume means better prices. The same logic holds in the postal world, which is why postal consolidators often can offer much better prices than companies would receive if they mail directly themselves.
Consolidators commingle their clients' mail to achieve volume discounts from their suppliers. So, if you do not currently use a consolidator, investigate that option. In fact, even if you are already using a consolidator, there are ways to lower your postage costs. Discuss with your consolidator such cost-saving options as pre-printing an international permit and international pre-sort.
) Change your method of delivery. We've discussed the possible benefits of mailing by direct entry, but there are other classes of service that can be employed. The world's postal administrations are becoming increasingly competitive, both monetarily and in their levels of service. As such, more and more companies are incorporating the use of multiple delivery methods. Discuss these options with your consolidator, as you may best be served by using a mixture of services that combine traditional mail delivery with more unconventional ones.
Since delivery could be a bit slower than what you are used to, and not all services are created equal (you want to make sure that the services have been thoroughly evaluated), investigate carefully. If you do contemplate making a change, of course, you should test these methods of delivery. If your response rates decrease, you could very well have hurt rather than helped your bottom line.
) Reduce call center costs. There is one other part of the postal equation that often is overlooked: the call center. How does a call center fit in with postage? If you accurately coordinate your in-home delivery date, you know when you need to staff the call center. Domestic mailers are able to predict the in-home date and thus can staff only when necessary, but international mailers often do not have as much control. Of course, if mailers choose an international delivery method that allows them to drop mail in a tighter time-frame, such as direct entry or a priority service, they would gain a great deal of control. These services may cost more, but if they significantly decrease call center expenses, the superior delivery service could very well be worth the cost.
) Product fulfillment. You have mailed your campaign, you received all your orders, now what happens? Many companies use traditional courier and package delivery services to deliver their products, but did you know that, especially for packages that weight less than four pounds, there are other options? For example, the USPS's Priority Consolidation Service (IPA) or Global Priority Mail can offer excellent delivery at greatly reduced prices.
Most importantly, test. Never assume your international prospects will respond in the same manner as your domestic prospects. Different cultures often lead to widely differing responses. U.S. recipients may respond better when mailed a more expensive package while recipients in another country respond just as well to a less expensive one.
Finally, keep this in mind: A wise domestic mailer would never make a major marketing change without first evaluating its effect both on the response rate and on the bottom line.
John P. Michell is president of Johnson & Hayward Inc., an international mailing services company based in Clifton, NJ. He can be reached at (800) 521-0080 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.