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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Sidestep Postage Increases with Direct Mail Production Best Practices
By Shannon Murphy, Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey

Year after year, the cost of printing and mailing traditional direct mail campaigns continues to rise. Now with postage rates undergoing their second increase in as many years, a number of organizations are faced with cutting programs that can potentially bring support and revenue to their causes.

But taking a closer look at direct mail programs can uncover creative means of saving clients money, which can offset rising postage costs. By examining all components of a direct mail package and enacting production best practices, many organizations can dramatically reduce costs while continuing to deliver high-quality campaigns.

Below are a few production best practices that can help your organization compensate for increased costs throughout virtually every stage of the direct mail process.

1. Analyze each file to determine the most cost affective way to mail. By looking more closely at each and every mailing, you can offset rising postage prices. Commingle, CoPal, SCF/NDC sort select the method that is best for your customers' file, which could be a combination of methods. Additional savings are available to nonprofit organizations due to the nonprofit letter mail rate.

2. Look at your program as a whole instead of job by job. Planning ahead and printing for multiple campaigns or multiple clients at one time can offer volume discounts, too. For example, printing similar campaigns on similar materials at the same time can deliver significantly reduced costs for each client.

3. Make sure your data is clean. The USPS reports that 40 percent of the people who move do not fill out change of address paperwork, resulting in undeliverable mail. Run your customer files through an undeliverable as addressed database to update records and obtain good addresses.

4. Involve your suppliers in a project early. By working closely with printers and other suppliers from the onset of a project, you can identify additional ways to reduce costs that might not be evident. Involving suppliers early can also lead to creative solutions for special requests. Rather than waiting for specialty items to be ordered and shipped, potentially delaying the project, your vendor may be able to accommodate other processes to achieve your client's vision and remain on schedule and under budget.

5. Be open to altering your component size. Changing component sizes slightly can lead to big savings. Work with your printer to determine if varying the finished file size makes the printing process more efficient. Also closely evaluate paper weight and finishes to determine if lower-cost alternative can deliver the same visual effect.

6. Seek out suppliers who do not mark up their services. Maintain and prioritize relationships with vendors who pass costs on directly to their customers. Also look into high-volume discount programs with printers and other suppliers. The guarantee of additional work can lead to additional savings on direct mail programs.

Exercising a mix of these practices can help you achieve phenomenal direct mail campaign results for your clients that are sure to offset any future postage increases. For example, a large advocacy organization budgeted $15.5 million for its direct mail fundraising packages. Through implementing cost savings initiatives, the program came in $2.67 million under budget, a savings that added to their net bottom line.

While your organization might not operate with budgets this large, the results are noticeable with any size campaign. By more closely examining your direct mail production practices, you can deliver significant cost savings to help offset rising postage and other expenditures.

About the Author:
Shannon Murphy, senior vice president of production with Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey (www.ccah.com), offers her insight on the potential impact of the rate change and other developments at the USPS, including tips on how non-profits and other organizations can cut costs for direct mailings.

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