You probably get direct mail postcards and letters in your mailbox on a daily basis. You throw the majority away, but every now and then one will grab your attention, right? Direct mail marketing can be powerful and effective when done well. In fact, it’s been a canvas for many of the greatest ad copywriters—from Robert Collier to Eugene Schwartz—and for good reason.
Direct mail can be an inexpensive path to achieving incredible results. The majority of the money you’ll spend on direct mail will be on postage costs. If you haven’t done much work with direct mail, that may surprise you since you'd likely assume graphic design or list selection would impose the greatest costs. But no matter the design costs or the class mailing you choose or whether you presort or use Every Door Direct Mail, postage will consistently make up the greatest portion of the cost.
Cutting some of those postage costs will lower your cost per acquisition, which can be vital for small business mailers or others with more limited marketing budgets. Many of these postage cost-cutting measures will actually occur during the design and printing process. Here are some of the best ways to reduce your direct mail postage costs.
Clean Up Your Direct Mail Lists
In direct mail marketing your mailing lists are your most valuable tools. It’s important keep those lists uncluttered and “clean”. The more mail you send to non-existing or incorrect contacts, the more money you waste. Make a point to periodically remove any duplicates, deceased individuals, or past customers that have moved away. Nearly three-quarters of businesses that use direct mail say they trim their lists at least twice a year.
The US Postal service can help match your list to the NCOA (National Change of Address) list to clean up your data. If you don’t have much direct mail experience, this can be a challenging task. Some businesses outsource their list management in an effort to maintain the best quality lists possible. Whether you use a third-party or handle it yourself, it’s critical to remember this step of the direct mail process.
When configuring your printed mailer with Conquest Graphics you can use your own mailing list or build a new one using our mail list compiler, and then you can choose to automatically run your list through the NCOA database to clean it up and/or dedupe your list by names or addresses.
Plan Ahead To Avoid Mistakes
When you advertise or post a blog article online, it’s easy to go back and fix mistakes. But, it’s not so easy with direct mail. If you make a mistake with your direct mail, you’ll have to pay to recreate it before sending. If you’ve already sent it out, you may opt to resend a corrected version to a new set of recipients. These types of mistakes can be costly and could ruin your cost per acquisition.
By planning ahead, you give yourself more time to catch errors and to prevent them from happening in the first place. Even though you can usually approve your printing with digital proofs, you may want to order a physical sample or seed yourself into the mail list, so you can hold it and actually see what it looks like in your hand.
One of the other key considerations to keep in mind is that your mailer aligns with your existing marketing strategies. An uncharacteristic mailpiece can can be off-putting and push customers away by making them question their perception of your brand. Making sure that your messaging aligns with your marketing strategies beforehand will prevent any potential brand confusions among your recipients.
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Size Matters With Direct Mail
Postage costs are often based on the size and weight of each piece being mailed. Before deciding on a specific direct mail piece, you should check the rates on the different sizes. A postcard costs less to mail than a catalog. A smaller envelope will likely cost less than a larger envelope. A lot of it is common sense but there are a few sizes and weights that are more tricky.
While size is important, you should still consider what you’re trying to say to your customers and what you want them to do. Do you want them to order from your mailings or visit your website to order. The fewer components there are to your direct mail, the cheaper it will be to send. Just make sure you’re not sacrificing an more expensive option that works for a cheaper option that doesn’t. When in doubt, take a sample piece to your local post office and ask about the mail rate. Or go online to USPS.com to calculate postage in advance.
Presort For Direct Mail Discounts
The USPS offers bulk mail discounts if you presort your direct mail. When you presort, you create less work for the post office, so they’re able to pass the savings to you. One way of using presorted mail is to print IMBs (Intelligent Mail Barcodes) which allow for automation discounts. To use IMBs, you simply attach the barcode to the outside of the package when addressing the mail.
You can also presort by separating your mail by zip code, delivering bundled items directly to postal distribution centers, or combining multiple mailings into single pallets. There are many different ways to save money by sorting your mail. It may be worthwhile to use a mailing service, where they know the best ways to optimize your mail and how to get the best discounts.
Allow Direct Mail Recipients To Unsubscribe
Even though you want your direct mail to connect with customers, you don’t want to waste resources trying to reach people who are absolutely not interested. Sending repeat mail advertising pieces to residents who will throw them in the trash is a waste of your money. Some companies send out two mailings–for instance, a full catalog to frequent shoppers and a postcard to less-frequent shoppers.
When you allow recipients to unsubscribe, you’re basically letting them fine-tune your list for you. It’s not good for you or the recipient if they’re not interested in your mail but they’re getting it anyway.
To collect the addresses and recipients who you should eliminate from you list, simply provide a short URL on the mailed piece that links to a webpage that provides an easy form for the recipient to submit their name and/or their address so you can build a suppression list for your next mailing. Even if you don't have a website on which to post the form, you can always use a service like Google Forms to easily make a form and collect responses.
Stay Within USPS Regulations
There are a lot of mailing options available with the post office. Staying within their guidelines can be confusing and frustrating. But, if you know how to navigate their regulations, the mailing process will be smoother and your costs will drop. Here are some general guidelines to help you stay on track:
- Letter size is inexpensive. You’ll find savings if you stay within the 3” x 5” to 6” x 10” range. Above that and they become “flats” which can cost double the price of letters.
- Address tri-fold mailers correctly. To qualify for automation discounts, your tri-fold pieces must be addressed on its center panel.
- Make room for the address. You need to leave some clear space on your mail for the address and barcode. You should be okay if you leave a 4” x 2” space open. You can have an image in this area as long as it’s light enough in color to meet the USPS.
- Fold it correctly. For folded pieces, the final fold should be below or to the right of the address. Other layouts may be acceptable but additional costs will be incurred if it's not a standardized specification on the USPS' list.
- Keep the weight down:
Be mindful of coatings and textured materials. The ink used for addresses doesn’t stick well to some coatings and may rub off during the mailing process. To avoid this, stay away from coatings or ask your printing rep what coatings are okay to use. Using high quality papers with heavy textures can impact the readability of the barcode. When the barcode can’t be scanned properly, you’ll face extra charges on top of your base postage rate.
Watch for inconsistencies. For automation discounts, your pieces must have consistent shapes and thickness. That means all mail within a single mailing needs to be the same size and weight. You must also stay away from bumps in your mailers. Bumps could be from pens, keys, coins or even paper clips and string.
Stay away from wrapping. Any wrapping or cover you add to your letter-sized mailings will earn an additional charge.
Don’t go too thin. Although it seems counterintuitive, the post office will charge you more if your mail is extremely thin. By keeping your paper thickness at 0.009 inches and above, you’ll avoid extra costs.
- Mailers under an ounce only require 70 lb paper and one inch tabs
- 1-3 ounce mailers require at least 80 lb paper and larger tabs
- 3+ ounce mailers require an envelope
Remember that these are general guidelines and they may change. To be sure you’re getting the lowest costs possible, call USPS or your mailing service representative.
Decrease Your Direct Mail Costs For Incredible Results
To have an effective direct mail campaign, your messaging needs to be engaging and compelling. Your designs and images should work with your message to create an emotional response from the recipient.
One of the best ways to do this is by personalizing each mail piece for its intended recipient so they feel like your company or brand is speaking directly to them. The more you incorporate personalized touches to each of your mailed pieces, the more likely the recipients are to respond to your campaign by taking whatever action you point to in your piece's call-to-action.
Including things like short links to your social media sites (or even just the icons to indicate your on them if your brand's page is easy enough to find) can help you bring in even more leads and potential customers for the future
But, you can make your efforts more rewarding and your campaign more cost effective by decreasing the cost of printing and mailing your mail, too. Clean up your mailing lists and take measures to prevent mistakes in your mailing lists or variable data datasets, and you’ll avoid unwanted costs. You should also understand the regulations for direct mail automation and what choices will save you money.
To get help, contact Conquest Graphics at 800-707-9903 and tell us what you’re looking for.
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