The direct mail industry has faced massive postage rate increases over the years and many digital brands that are new to direct mail don’t realize that postage often exceeds the print costs, especially if they’re mailing postcards, trifolds, or catalogs with small page counts.
As a direct mail consultant, I help clients plan and execute their direct mail campaigns. Part of the strategic circulation planning process includes analyzing customer metrics, projecting catalog sales attribution rates, and helping clients reach their sales and/or acquisition goals within their budget constraints. And within that framework, I often partner with them as they work with printers to spec out various options for quotes.
When I’m not working on catalog circulation plans, I’m usually performing a direct mail audit. Direct mail audits typically expose missed revenue opportunities and highlight areas where the company can reduce expenses. In this scenario, cost-saving opportunities are usually related to data segmentation, address hygiene and merge/purge.
So how can you manage or reduce your direct mail costs?
The following tips can help you reduce your direct mail expenses:
Tip # 1 – When planning catalog page counts, request quotes for several page count options. You might be pleasantly surprised by the similarity in pricing. For example, sometimes it’s cheaper (or the same cost) to print 24 pages instead of 20 pages and postage doesn’t increase either.
Tip # 2 – Request print quotes for multiple print quantities, especially if it’s a much smaller print run. For example, the cost per piece is much lower when you print 15,000 pieces rather than 5,000 pieces. Much of the cost built into a small print run involves setting up the job. Once the presses are running, it’s more economical to keep them going. A larger print run allocates these fees more evenly and lowers the cost per piece.
Tip #3 – From a creative perspective, the catalog trim size, the location of the address block, and the weight of the direct mail piece all have implications on your postage rate classification. Work with your printer to make sure your direct mail design is efficient. Sometimes it’s as simple as trimming the catalog width by ½ inch or moving the address block location to run parallel to the spine. These types of changes can decrease your postage rate significantly.
Tip #4 – Some companies split their mailing into multiple drops because they need to manage cash flow, have limited fulfillment capacity, or work with a printer that is unable to mail everything at once. In this situation, make sure the mail file is split geographically and not randomly. Concentrating your mail file by geographic location helps lower your postage bill and improves deliverability.
Tip #5 – Run address hygiene such as CASS and NCOA on your mailing list and drop invalid records, vacant addresses, closed po box accounts, moves without a forwarding address, and non-zip 4 coded records. Postage is higher on records where a zip+4 cannot be appended to the address. And mailing catalogs to customers who are no longer at the address is wasteful and lowers your overall response rate.
Tip #6 – Run merge/purge on your mailing list and avoid sending two or three (or more!) copies of your direct mail piece to the same recipient. A deduped mail file is your best friend.
Finding ways to decrease direct mail costs is a worthwhile endeavor, but sometimes you should spend a little bit more because the payoff is great…
Bonus Tip – When evaluating direct mail quotes, don’t be laser focused on one format. For example, requesting trifold quotes because you assume it’s much cheaper than a catalog. I have witnessed instances where it only costs a few cents more to switch from a trifold to a 16-page catalog. Yes, it costs slightly more but the increased sales and profits turn it into a win-win situation.
If you’d like a catalog assessment or need support running direct mail campaigns, contact us today to set up a call. We can also provide you with a quote for data hygiene services such as CASS or NCOA.
And if you enjoyed reading these tips on how to reduce your direct mail expenses, scroll up to the top of the page and sign up for the blog. Upcoming topics include how to calculate breakeven, how to attribute sales to catalogs (and other direct mail pieces), hold-out tests, and how to calculate catalog sales attribution by segment.