With a little bit of help from Direct Mail Beginning to End –Production and a lot of coordination you, your printer, and your designer have created a direct mail piece that is creative direct and won’t make you choose between printing it or making your car payment. Now it’s time to tackle the other major cost of creating your direct mail campaign, postage. Depending on the mailer either your printing or your postage could be your primary cost, and every creative decision you made will affect your postage now.
The size of the piece, the weight, if it folds, how many tabs need to hold the folds in place, if there is an envelope, and how the address is oriented relating to the shape of the mailer are all factors that will affect how much it costs to mail your campaign. There is no way to begin to scratch the surface of everything you need to know about navigating postal regulations in a blog post, and I am not going to try. The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) published by the post office is over 1,000 pages. It covers everything you need to know from how the size of your mailer dictates the postal class it will mail in, to the permitted saturation of colors used for printing the background of your address block. While the post office has been kind enough to post it online (note the shiny blue link text) there are so many rules with the mail the only way to be sure you are getting the best rate, short of reading it from cover to cover three times, is to work with a direct mail house. Get an expert (Remember last week I told you I would use that phrase again!)
Lots of printers these days are doubling as mail houses trying to offer a convenient one stop location for direct mail needs. There is nothing wrong with an all in one print house and mail house. It’s convenient, and can save time and money by eliminating the need to ship your printed stock to another location, but be sure they truly understand the mail regulations. I know of one case where a restaurant chain was mailing 2,500 5 3/4” x 11 5/8 mailers a week through a printer who was moonlighting as a mail house. The printer was simply trying to offer a convenience to the restaurant and make a little extra money on the side so it sounds like a good deal, but all postage is NOT the same. After about six months the restaurant chain was approached by sales rep for a mail house who told them that if they changed the size of the mailer to 5 3/4 “ x 11 ½” they would save 0.13 per mailer. Making that change took less than 5 minutes to implement, had no effect on the cost of printing, and no customer noticed the difference saving the restaurant $325.00 a week. The restaurant switched mail houses, and started looking for a new printer. I don’t know if the designer picked the size of the mailer, or if the printer suggested the size. I do know that no one looked at the specifics of presorted first class letters and presorted first class flats until the direct mail expert talked to the restaurant.
The best intentions can backfire when someone gets involved who doesn’t know what they are doing. A mail house should know direct mail, and a print shop should know printing. Places that do both printing and mailing should know both printing and mailing. The designer, the printer, and the mail house should be able to communicate with each to solve problems in the creation process and reduce cost. As the business you might need to be the intermediary unless you find a direct mail company that offers design, print, and mailing as a package, and (I’m going to say it again…) has an expert in each field.
This is the last post in the Direct Mail Beginning to End Series, but it is far from my last post. If you have questions, and you probably do since this series was designed to be an overview of the direct mail process, post them in the comments and I will answer them or I might just write a whole new post based on your questions!