So now you have a great list of prospects and with a little help from last week’s post, Direct Mail Beginning to End – Design, a clever professional looking design that people will want to read your direct mail campaign. This week it’s time to take your creative to a practical place and, sadly, allow real world considerations to start affecting our final outcome. Things like size, shape, paper quality, color, weight all affect what your final costs will be. I know is sounds complicated but if it was all intuitive I wouldn’t need to write this blog would I?
Let’s start with paper quality and finishes. This decision should focus on your aesthetic preference and what impression you want to give to your customers. Do you want to have nice textured 130 pound paper or would 60 pound text paper work for your mailer. The quality of your paper speaks to the nature of your company. If you go with the cheapest option your decision to use low quality materials will be obvious to you prospects. Selling a luxury car with uncoated paper that tears as you turn the page will not send the message of quality and status that ultimately sells a $50,000 car. The better quality paper you use the better your mailer looks, but even if you can stand in front of the owner of your business and justify why you spent three dollars for each postcard you mailed you may want to reallocate that funding somewhere else. High quality paper sends a message of quality but too much quality can send the wrong impression. For example, if you use a very expensive stock in a donation direct mail campaign for a local charity you may find that you have sent the impression that the charity has extra income so donations may not be needed after all. Your paper choice should be affected by the message you are trying to send. If this doesn’t make much sense to you talk to your designer. If you have a good artist working for you they will understand what I mean and offer a suggestion or two regarding paper and finishing.
The paper finish: gloss, matt, coated, uncoated, etc. effects the impression your mailer has on a customer, so you need to consider paper finish as part of your impression but the bigger concern is durability. It doesn’t matter what paper you choose if the mailer is destroyed by the time it reaches its destination. Once I made the mistake of printing a direct mail campaign on a gloss finish paper without using a protective coating. By the time it made it thought the mail it looked like someone had used it as sand paper. You can save a little money if you decide not coat the paper with a protective finish but make sure it can survive the post office’s automated processes. You may not need to use coated stock if your mailing goes in an envelope, but any surface of the direct mail piece that is exposed in the mailing process should have a protective coating to avoid damaging the ink.
Now let’s talk about the ink. The more colors that you need to print the more expensive it is to print. Printing one color of ink is going to be your cheapest option. You have options of printing 2, 3 or 4 colors as well. 4 color printing is also called full color since you use cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) to reproduce the full spectrum of colors. If you are printing 1, 2, or 3 colors you are probably using a spot color. Spot colors are inks that are mixed before they are put into a printing press to get a certain color and are generally not mixed. That ends today’s remedial ink 101 lesson. With direct mail your printing options are only limited by your budget, but remember the more inks you need the more your cost will be. There are some very creative and eye catching designs made using 1 or 2 color printing so don’t let the concern of ink costs limited the quality of your art. To make sure you are getting the best materials for your money you need to be sure the printer you are working with understands their business and knows when digital printing is better than off-set printing. Get an expert (pay attention to that expert line I’m going to use it again in next week’s post).
Printing is the first major cost of producing a direct mail campaign. There are decisions that need to be made at this stage of the process that have wrong answers. Very costly wrong answers so get a printer that knows what they are doing! Get an expert ( I guess I used this line sooner than I thought. It must be IMPORTANT!) Make sure your printer is willing to discuss options with you. They should be willing to talk to you about the printing process, and discuss options on what kind of printing would work best for you. Allow them to make recommendations, but make sure they can tell you why they made those recommendations. Make sure you know how long it will take to get your materials printed. Once you get your mailer printed you will need to deal with the other major cost of a direct mail campaign, postage, and I will deal with that next week in Direct Mail Beginning to End – Postage.