Whether you’re a seasoned direct mail professional or embarking on your very first campaign, working your way through a checklist can reduce the risk that you forget to do something important on a mailing.   From developing the most effective designs to leveraging postal logistics, this handy checklist includes 8 essential cost-saving tips and budget-breaking pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Plan (farther) ahead. Instead of thinking about the single job ahead of you, brainstorm potential ways this project could fit into an annual plan. Certain direct mail components – such as envelopes and return envelopes – are typically the same for each mailing, and gang printing will result in much lower costs long-term. Contract pricing also comes into play. When you find the right service providers, can you negotiate the price down in exchange for guaranteed work next quarter? Consider these opportunities ahead of time.
  2. Design a cost-effective piece. Work closely with your designer to choose the right stock and finish to maximize effectiveness without incurring unnecessary upcharges. Consider any insertion clearances during the design process, beware of intricate manual folds, and generally avoid any odd shapes and sizes, which can quickly ramp up both production and postage costs.
  3. Choose the right printer. Do your research and learn the core competencies of each printer you’re considering. Ideally, you’ll find multiple printers that specialize in the type of printing you’re looking for. When it’s time to compare bids, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples – don’t be fooled by disparities in paper quality, postage charges, or set-up fees.
  4. Expect the unexpected. With so many moving parts, it’s crucial to anticipate potential problems and have plans in place to either prevent or quickly recover from them. Always conduct a thorough preflight inspection before sending anything to the printer, looking at everything from typos to font sharpness and postal compliance. If you’re doing a large production run of a 4-color or special print job, consider doing a press check as well; check for color proof accuracy, press sheet registration, sharpness, bleeds and blemishes.
  5. Choose the right mail shop. Just like a printer, you want to choose the best mail shop based on your specific size and automation needs. If you’re mailing millions of pieces, a mail shop specializing in large mailings will likely have the high-speed insertion equipment and other automated tools necessary to provide the best price and fastest turn-around time. Going to a larger shop for a smaller mailing, however, could result in excessive set-up costs. Finally, ensure the shop is familiar with the latest postal regulations and is able to comply with low-cost postal strategies.
  6. Double-check your data hygiene and merge purge processes. Sending a duplicate or undeliverable piece of mail is literally throwing money away.
  7. Leverage postal logistics. Both drop shipping and commingling strategies take advantage of the U.S. Postal Service’s work share program, resulting in significantly reduced postage rates. If your mailing qualifies, you can manually sort, sleeve, tag and strap each piece of mail and hire a freight company or drop shipper to deliver your mail to a postal facility close to its ultimate destination. This process, known as drop shipping, typically results in postage savings between 12% and 20%.  Alternatively, you can partner with a commingling company who will pick up your unsorted mail, mix it with mail from other sources, sort it according to strict USPS regulations and ship it to its correct facilities. This option usually results in postage savings of about 12% and completely eliminates additional labor and freight charges. Commingled mail is also delivered an average of 2.4 days faster than if it was dropped off at the nearest bulk entry unit.
  8. Reflect. At the conclusion of each project, take a moment to think about what went well and what didn’t, and identify potential ways you can improve your process for the next mailing.

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