How an Inch Can Save You Thousands on Your Direct Mail

Cost-saving tips that you might be missing

First, let’s make something clear. The post office will mail just about anything.

For a price, that is.

So just because your customers are receiving your direct mail pieces, it doesn’t mean that you’re not paying way too much for the process. And sometimes you might not even know it!

Now you may say, “Surely, between our advertising agency, our in-house marketing team, our printer and our direct mail house, someone is making sure that our mail is not costing us more than it should!”

Well, maybe yes, maybe no.

I can tell you that I see hundreds of pieces of mail, from every size of casino and hotel, that come across my desk oversized, with premium postage, and not printed correctly. That’s costing some marketing departments way more than it should.

Hopefully these pieces are not from YOUR organization.

It’s not a question of technology or spending more money. You can be the hero in your organization and save thousands out of your marketing budget by insisting that your print partners have their eye on YOUR ball for you at all times.

So let’s make sure of that. I’ve created a short checklist that you can use to audit your processes. This is always my first step with any new property that we work with.

Direct mail review checklist

1. Are you sending out the right mailing class?

What’s the difference between First-Class and Marketing Mail? They don’t look different. Your customers won’t notice the difference, but your bottom line will.

The difference in cost between First-Class and Marketing Mail (the old Standard mail classification) is approximately 30%. What does that mean to you? If you’re sending out about 10K newsletters per month, that could be a savings of $15,840 or more per year!

How do you take advantage of Marketing Mail? Marketing Mail takes longer to get to its destination. So if you stick to an advanced marketing schedule, then it’s no problem. Be sure to allow adequate time for design, data prep, proofing, production, and mail travel time. All postal mail can be tracked, so you can build your marketing schedule on reliable data.

2. Are the dimensions of your mailer costing you more money?

Did you know that even a ¼-inch in length or height can mean that your mail piece is going to qualify at a higher postage rate? A small consideration could possibly cost you thousands of additional dollars in postage and mail production costs.

See, if you design something for the letter-size category, you can take advantage of the best postage rates. Even a slight deviation will put your mailers into the flat-size category, the category for oversized mail pieces. Sadly, if you don’t audit your postage costs, you may not even know that you are getting billed at a higher rate.

Keep your mailers no taller than 6 1/8 inches and no longer than 11 ½ inches for a postcard, or no taller than 6 inches and no longer than 10 ½ inches for a self-mailer, with the longest edge on the bottom, and your mailers will meet letter-size postage qualifications.

In addition, check with your printer to see if there would be any savings in reducing the size of a mailer by a small amount in order to print more on their press sheets. Printers come in different sizes, which means different press sheet sizes. Make sure that you are maximizing the use of paper resources.

3. Design of your mailer

As mentioned above, you can design a postcard and if it is slightly off size, you won’t be able to take advantage of the best postage rates. But there are other design elements as well that you may not know about. Here are a few.

If your advertising agency designs a really stunning piece, and just say that the area where the address goes is in a really dark color, then postal machinery won’t be able to scan it properly. If the postal machines can’t read it, all those pieces have to be hand-processed and you will be charged a surcharge for each piece. If, for any reason, your mail piece can’t be processed by postal machinery, you will end up spending an extraordinary amount on your simple mailer and look at much longer delivery times.

Watch for other issues like reflectivity, which is using a paper material that is too shimmery, or placing the return or destination addresses in incorrect locations, or not leaving adequate space for barcodes. If your mailer includes a reply piece, make sure that it is designed to meet automation requirements, or your entire mailer may receive a non-automation upcharge in postage.

4. Features of your mailer that are costing you extra

Do you send out monthly coupons to your clients that you don’t require them to physically bring in? Do you still have these coupons perforated? Perforation is just another additional cost in your printing that adds thousands of dollars per year. Not to mention the additional production time needed.

Consider your paper choices. Use more common and robust paper stocks for postcards and folded self-mailers. Let’s be realistic, the machinery at the post office can be pretty tough on those types of mailers. Don’t spend money on fancy stocks that may get scuffed or smudged as they travel through the postal system. Use the fancier stocks on the high-end mailers going in the envelopes where they are protected.

5. Finally, your Gold Mine, your contact list

One of the largest cost savings an organization can take advantage of is maintaining their database. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” you say, “we know this.” But list maintenance is a lot of work, and frankly, should get more attention than you might already think.

Mailers should be performing a CASS certification on all data used for a mailing. This process confirms the address provided exists in the master postal database. A move update, like NCOA (National Change of Address), needs to be performed on a mailing list within 95 days of a mailing to make sure that a person hasn’t moved or changed their mailing address. Once you have the updates obtained through these processes, are you incorporating the changes back into your master database? If you aren’t, you will eventually lose contact with your players.

Since you are mailing at Marketing Mail rates, pieces addressed to an incorrect or invalid address are destroyed by the Post Office. Make sure that your marketing dollars aren’t going in the trash.

There are also additional – and very affordable – processes for finding records for deceased individuals, for appending demographic and geographic information to your existing player records so that you can more specifically cater offers to the right players, and for appending email addresses so that you can further support your marketing efforts at a lower cost.

Lastly, are you considering whether a player is “active” when you construct your mailing list? A player who hasn’t visited your property in an extended period of time might qualify for a different type of mailer than a player who plays regularly.

In summary

  • Be proactive and set up a schedule to take advantage of the lowest postage rates.
  • Check that your templates and designs reflect the most up-to-date postal requirements.
  • Evaluate the design of your mailers and stop paying for add-on processes that are not benefiting your ROI.
  • Clean and update your postal database to reduce waste, and look at additional inexpensive processes to enhance your marketing efforts and increase ROI.

If your direct mail partner is not auditing these systems for you, not offering advanced services to help schedule your mailings, not providing programmers to help clean up your database and do triggered mailings and emails (we’ll get to this in a future article), then give us a call or send an email. Our team is happy to do an audit of your direct mail program and check all the items that could be costing you unneeded expense.

Lorrie Hellekson
Lorrie Hellekson 2 Articles