Cooperation Essential With Direct Mail Advertising
Design, Print, Mail Coordination at Heart of Product
BY JAY PARDO
Special to the Business Journal
If you have ever created and sent advertising in the mail you probably know how complicated a process it can be.
Add to that process the coordination with three separate companies, one to design your advertising piece, one to print it, and one to mail it and the challenge can be overwhelming. Today, more and more vendors are recognizing this challenge and trying to simplify things for you by combining design, print and mail under one corporate roof.
When creating direct mail, the relationship between your designer, your printer and your mail shop is close and extremely important. In addition to the capabilities of your print and mail shop, the designers need to be aware of the postal requirements for your particular mailing piece.
Printers need to recognize your designer’s goals as well as what kinds of printed output can be efficiently and properly processed at your mail shop. Mailers also need to understand the goals of the designer and the ability of the printer to provide them with a final product that can be prepared for entry into the postal system.
Although knowledge frequently overlaps between the three industries, if there is not communication and coordination, it can quickly lead to disaster.
On their own, each individual design, print or mail organization may be very capable of producing a top-notch product. However, in order to produce an effective and economical mail piece, it is critical for the different industries to fully understand the direct mail process.
Postal Regulations Are Extremely Complicated
The Domestic Mail Manual, which contains the rules governing all mailed materials, is more than 1,000 pages in length. The benefits of hiring one organization to design, print and mail your advertising quickly become apparent when you try to produce and execute a direct mail campaign.
Using a merged design, print and mail company is very advantageous. Not only is it more convenient during the selection process , picking one company as opposed to three , you only need to communicate with one company during your entire project. Coordinating meetings and checking on the progress of your projects becomes much less complicated.
Frequently, direct mail campaigns are extremely time sensitive. Sale dates, release dates, special offers and sweepstakes are just a few of the reasons to get your mailing out on time. Dealing with one company that can handle your project from A to Z takes the headache out of meeting a mail date. Frustrating delays getting your artwork to the printer or getting your printed mail piece to your mail house are eliminated when all three aspects of your project are being performed at the same site.
Probably the largest benefit of using one shop to design, print and mail your direct mail piece is the cost. Not only are discounts possible by using one vendor, but extremely costly errors can be eliminated by designing and printing at a company that is aware of the postal regulations.
Easily corrected design flaws, if not caught early on in a project, can create huge postage increases later when trying to mail your piece. Improper design or printing of a mail piece can even prevent it from being accepted by the post office at all, forcing you to go back and recreate your mail piece altogether. Using a vendor that is extremely familiar with postal regulations can easily save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars by catching design or print errors before they occur.
In addition, combining steps that might typically be performed at either the printer or at the mail shop may save money. For example, folding printed material at a print shop might be done more cheaply and efficiently at the mail shop, during the automated addressing stage, lowering your cost and saving valuable time.
Saving money on one step of the project doesn’t always add up to overall cost savings in the end. Using a combination design, print and mail vendor can help you identify where spending a little more money on one aspect of your project could lead to larger savings when the project is completed.
The reverse can also be true, cutting corners or saving money on design or print can cost you dearly in postage increases in the end. Postal rules get more complicated each year and it is important that designers and printers understand the rules.
– Avoiding the Pitfalls
Although they may be difficult to find, since they are only just becoming more common, a “one-stop shop” for design, print and mail is well worth using. Unlike vendors who specialize in just one area, a “one-stop shop” is proficient in design, print and mail allowing you to concentrate on the bigger picture while saving time and money.
Pick a vendor that knows the postal regulations and has a good relationship with the local bulk-mailing center. Before starting your project, tour the facility and meet your vendor representative face to face.
Some companies will appear to do all of the work in-house when the reality is that much of the work is brokered out to other vendors. If a mail house says they can print your project, ask to see the print press your job will be printed on.
If a print shop claims they can mail your project after it has been printed, be sure they are familiar with postal regulations and will be responsible if any postage issues arise. Be sure your designer has created mailing pieces in the past and has the knowledge or resources to ensure your mail piece is designed for efficient delivery and maximum postage savings.
The aspect ratio of a mailing piece is the length of the finished piece divided by its height. If this ratio is between 1.3 and 2.5, inclusive, the piece can be mailed without any additional costs due to an incorrect piece size. A simple example of a piece designed incorrectly for mailing purposes is a square mail piece. While your piece is being processed at the post office, the automated equipment cannot determine which way it should be read so an additional charge applies. It is not unusual for a designer to create an extremely eye catching mailer that will cost extra postage to mail because of its unusual size. Sometimes changing the size of the piece by an extremely small amount in either its height or width can result in considerable savings in postage.
A designer or printer experienced in direct mail can catch an error like this before it is too late.
The thickness of a mailing piece is important for two reasons: It will travel at high speed through various pieces of automated equipment at the post office and it needs to be sturdy enough to survive. The proper paper stock should be chosen depending on the size and number of folds in a mailer.
Automation postal rates are usually the lowest and could be lost if the paper of your mailing piece is not thick enough.
Folded pieces require small round tabs to hold them closed so they can withstand the high speeds in the postal processing equipment without popping open and being destroyed. A simple way to design your piece so that additional charges are not incurred at your mail shop is to put the fold at the correct edge. If you are reading the address on the mail piece it should be designed so that the opening is at the top of the mailer and the folded edge at the bottom.
A successful direct mail campaign starts with a properly designed and printed mail piece. Your material should be economical to print and process at your mail shop and provide you the best possible postage rate without sacrificing creative design. By using vendors extremely knowledgeable in postal regulations and by utilizing a one-stop shop, you can help ensure that your direct mail projects go smoothly and are a huge success.
Pardo is vice president and a founding principal of Specialist Printing and Direct Mail.