The United States Postal Services has developed a complex rate system based on whether pieces can run on their automated machinery and the efficiency in which the pieces can be sorted. This rate system makes it complex to determine the postage rates for both standard and first class mail. At Action Mail we will make sure you get the lowest postage rate your piece qualifies for, but the design of the mail piece will have a large effect on the postage rate. It is best to have your artwork and design approved by a mail house prior to printing. To be even safer have Action Mail print your piece to ensure that it meets all USPS guidelines. We can even get samples approved by the post office to ensure that they will run on USPS machinery. The design of your direct mail piece is important to generate response but it should also take into account that it can effect the postage price. It is best to have your mail house review and print your mail pieces to ensure that you are not wasting money on postage.
The orientation of your address panel on a booklet is very important because if this is done incorrectly you could pay much more in postage. The address orientation also depends on the size of the booklet, as well as how you would like the booklet to be mailed.
There are two size option, the first is a large option which the USPS classifies as a flat and the second is a smaller option which the USPS classifies as a letter. Booklet Flats are typically 8.5x11 and letters flats are typically 8.5x5.5.
Letters: Letters generally speacking have a width of 6.125" or smaller and require tabbing/wafer sealing. Typical tabbing for a booklet would include two tabs on the leading edge and one tab on the trailing edge. Letter postage is usually much less than flat postage. For letter size booklets the address will need to be orientated above the longest edge and parallel to this edge. If the longest edge is also where the bind is the address will need to be above and parallel to the bind. If the bind is on the shorter edge the address will need to be to the left of the bind.
Flats: Flats are larger than letters and do not need to be tabbed. If you hold the piece with the bind in your right hand the address will need to be in the page facing you. The address can be orientated in any direction except upside down. If you address a letter size piece using these techniques it can be classified as a flat, this will most likely increase the cost of postage but you will not need to tab the piece.
Tabbing and address orientation for booklets and self mailers can be a bit complex, so it is best to send a mock-up to your mail house for review prior to printing your booklet. There are also other options like inserting booklets into envelopes or polybags which can also change the address orientation requirements
Shipping products internationally can be very expensive as well as take a long time for them to be delivered. There are a few things to consider when products are ordered from international customers in order to evaluate the best shipping options.
The country where the product is being shipped is very important as the delivery time and reliability of deliver differs across different countries. There are also different customs requirements you will need to take into account.
The product. The size, weight, and value of the product will help determine the best type of shipping needed to reach your international destinations at the most cost effect, timely and secure rates. The product will also determine the customs requirements needed for your product.
Timing. Setting expectations for long delivery times on international shipments can help you reduce shipping costs but some items need to be received as soon as possible. Understanding your clients' expectations can help to reduce shipping costs
With these factors in mind it is possible to estimate shipping costs and determine the best method to ship internationally. Below are a few methods but depending on your needs it may be necessary to explore a few more.
Local delivery: The most cost effective manner is to ship the products to the country of delivery and inject them in the local mail stream. This saves money but many times the local mail systems is unreliable and can take a long time for delivery
USPS: USPS First Class Mail is another option which is more expensive but more reliable than local delivery. For some countries the USPS will actually have better rates than inkjeting into the local mail stream and is often more reliable. USPS also offer expedited delivery but this can be very expensive
Carrier like DHL, UPS, and Fedex: These carriers are usually more expensive but are more reliable and have options for expedited delivery. Their tracking is also often more detailed and can get you a better idea of when the package will arrive.
International shipping can be very expensive and often times difficult to navigate but with the right information you have various options to work with and can expand your market and get your products to your international customers
Digital images are made using RGB (Red Blue Green) while printed images are created using the CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow Black) colors. The differences in the mixes of each of these color spaces can create slightly different color tones. Since the images on your screen and those on printed paper are not made the same way there will be slight variations in the color. Another reason why your images on your computer monitor will look different from printed images is due to the settings of your monitor. Each monitor can have different settings and calibrations which can also lead to variation across monitors and computers.
The best way to determine the exact color of your printed materials will be to view printed proofs or to calibrate your monitor using special tools. Even viewing printed proofs colors will look different when viewed in different environments with different lighting. If you do have print that meets your color expectations make sure that the proof is used to calibrate the printer as there are sometimes variations in print colors due to environmental settings.
You can save a lot on postage and shipping costs if you can get the weight of your package under 1 pound. Shipment under 1 pound are eligible for first class parcel shipping rates which range from $2.61 to $4.30 per piece depending on the weight of the piece. This service will deliver your piece anywhere in the US for a flat fee, you do not have to worry about postal zones or where the piece is being shipped to. This service will also deliver your shipments in 1-3 days. Once you get over 1lb your piece is no longer eligible for first class parcel rates and the next best option is priority mail. There are a few advantages to priority mail in that you piece should be delivered quicker and you can include insurance at no extra charge, but the postage rates are considerably more expensive (in many cases double that of first class parcel). If you have a light weight product that needs to be fulfilled and shipped it is beneficial to design packaging so that the product is under 1 lb and you can take advantage of first class parcel rates
Designing and setting up your art file correctly will be crucial in ensuring high quality printing. Below are a few tips to setup your file to be printed.
1. Bleeds: If your artwork will extend to the edge of the printed piece you will need to output your artwork with bleeds. A bleed is a 1/8" border around the finished size of the piece which the artwork extends into and will be cut off after printing. Please do not put text or images that you will want on the finished piece in the bleed or within 1/8" of the cut line to ensure these images and text do not get cut. Please also include crop marks on the piece which indicate where the piece will be cut
2. CMYK: Your artwork should be designed with CMYK color profiles as opposed to RBG. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, which are the colors printers mix to print your artwork. RBG or Red Blue and Green are colors used to produce digital images. If your file contains RGB images there may be issues with how the color is produced using CMYK.
3. PDF: It is best if you send your file a high resolution PDF. The easiest way to do this is to use Adobe Presets when saving or exporting your files to PDFs and selecting High Quality Print.
These are a few basic tips to create better quality print files. We will always review your files, can make minor adjustments and will send proofs for approval but taking these quick steps increases turnaround times and gets your printing completed faster and at a higher quality
There are a few advantages in using a local direct mail and print company in San Diego. For local San Diegan companies Action Mail has a facility in San Diego where materials can be printed or delivered. Action Mail can also deliver mailings to addresses in San Diego to the Margaret L. Sellers post office for quick delivery and discounted postage rates. A local San Diegan print and mail house enables you to have access to our warehouse facility and can expedite proof approvals and delivery of direct mail. Action Mail is San Diego's one stop shop for direct mail.
For companies outside of San Diego, there are also advantages of Action Mail having a facility in San Diego. Being located on the west coast allows us to process mailings and deliver to the post office later, due to operating on PST. This can expedite timelines especially for first class mail which needs to be put into the mail stream as soon as possible. Our location also is in close proximity to major ports and borders which enables us to receive materials shipped from abroad. We are also able to drop ship mailings to local post offices across the US and internationally. We also can avoid many weather delays being located in San Diego and ensure your materials are stored in a controlled environment.
Action Mail is your one stop shop for direct mail and printing needs in San Diego. With a facility located in San Diego Action Mail is able to expedite your mailings and get them to the USPS on time whether you are mailing nationally or to San Diego addresses.
Amazon does not regard itself as a storage facility and their storage prices reflect that, especially during the fourth quarter when rates increase. If you are using Amazon to sell your products or using Fulfillment by Amazon FBA you are likely paying too much for Amazon to store your goods. Ideally you would want to store only what Amazon needs to fulfill your orders and then ship new products to Amazon to replenish your stock. One way to do this is to have a fulfillment center or 3pl store your products at a lower cost and ship them to Amazon as soon as your Amazon stocks need to be replenished. In order to do this you will need to make sure you understand and can forecast your Amazon sales in order to make sure that your stock levels are not completely depleted. You should also take into account unexpected delays or events, especially near the holiday season as sometimes Amazon does not have the capability to quickly receive product and distribute it to it's warehouses. Store your product at a fulfillment center or 3pl will also give you the flexibility to have them fulfill your website orders. This can usually be done at a lower cost than Fulfillment By Amazon and can be more customized to reflect your brand
Your customer database is one of your most valuable assets, but if mismanaged this list could be useless or even worse could be costing you in marketing expenses and poor brand management. Below are a few tips to clean your customer database.
Remove duplicates: You should remove duplicate entries so your database is easy to navigate and you are not misinterpreting your data or sending marketing collateral twice to the same person. There are various options to de-dupe (remove duplicates from your list) including de-duping by name, address, last name, etc and Action Mail can even set parameters to catch close matches which could result from mis-entered data.
Ensure Accurate Data: Run your list against the USPS database to ensure mailing addresses and addressees match what the USPS has. This is also known as CASS certification. This will flag any records that do not match the USPS database as well as clean your records to match the correct USPS formatting. Not only will CASS certifying your data save you from sending direct mail to undeliverable addresses, it will also clean your database to ensure consistency.
Updating your database: Action Mail can also update the addresses in your customer database to account for households that have moved. Action Mail can run your data against the NCOA (National Change of Address Database), and let you know which of your customers have moved and their new address. This helps ensure your database is up to date with your clients most recent address as well as helps you remove clients that have moved out of your target geography from receiving marketing collateral and direct mail.
Appending your Database: It is also possible to append data to your database. This can include demographic information like income, age, etc to help profile your customers and it can also include additional information which can help your marketing efforts including email addresses, birth months. The possibilities are endless, but the caveat is that clean and more well developed your database is the higher probability you can append data.
Ensuring Consistency: Your database should also be consistent. Your field names should be consistent and clear and your data should all be in the same case and formatting. This enables you to use your data for variable printing without worrying about re-formatting the data. Ideally this should be done at data entry but Action Mail can reformat your data to ensure consistency.
Your most valuable asset should be cared for and used to market to existing customers as well as understand your current customer demographic for future marketing efforts. Make sure your data is clean, consistent, and includes as much valuable information as possible. Once you have your database cleaned be sure to maintain it and develop a strategy to use it correctly.
Continuing Education is one of the industries with the best success rate for direct mail. The main reason for this is the accessibility to data, and thus continuing education is an example of how targeted mailings can be highly successful. Other industries can have the same results as that of continuing education, but more work will need to be placed on determining the ideal demographic and finding data sources associated with that demographic.
With continuing education, the demographic and data are clear and very accessible. Since most continuing education is to maintain a certification or status, it is very easy to pull data associated with that certification and only target those individuals. Direct mail is a perfect way to advertise to these individuals. Direct mail also offers the opportunity to provide valuable information as to the value a course can provide, as there are many different options available. Many times people will not want to do the research to find the best course to fit their needs, but if they receive a mail piece for an interesting seminar or conference that also meets their continuing education requirements the choice is easy.
Targeting new prospects as well as marketing to previous clients is essential in growing a continuing education business. Direct mail is a great way to specifically target individuals who need continuing education credits because the list is already defined and a physical mail piece gives you the time and opportunity to pitch your course or seminar. Continuing education is a great case study in that it shows how important data is. Direct mail is a powerful tool if done correctly, and most importantly direct mail will need to be targeted to the correct people.
A great way to increase attendance and awareness about an event is to send an direct mail invitation. Similarly to receiving a wedding invitation, receiving an event invitation makes the event special and allows the invitation to resonate with the recipient. Receiving a well though out event invitation in the mail will increase the importance of the event and ensure that the recipient it aware of the event. Additionally a mailed invitation can be kept as a reminder of the event date and can also create conversation and awareness about the event if it is displayed on the fridge or any other location as a reminder.
E-mail invitations and publicity on websites do not connect with your audience as well as mailed invitations, and can often get missed in people's inboxes. Mailed invitations allow you to target your database of previous attendees, donors, clients, etc, and there is also the possibility to target prospective attendees that meet the demographic of your audience. Mailed invitations are a great way to brand your event and connect with and grow your audience.
Event invitations do not need to be as intricate and expensive as wedding invitations and there are many ways to create invitations that are aesthetically pleasing and provide all the event information. Self-mailers are often great for event invitations as they allow a colorful piece while also saving money on the use of an envelope. Alternatively a simple envelope with a card inside can also be done inexpensively while maintaining a high quality look. We have also seen well design postcards that can act as invitations or save the dates. The possibilities are endless, but one thing is for sure, a well designed invitation will have a lasting effect and draw more attendance and awareness of your event.
Adding personalized salutations or addressing a postcard or letter is a great way to customize your mailing, but adding more intricate variable data will make your piece stand out and get a higher response. If you have the data almost anything is possible. The more personalized your piece is the higher your response rate will be and this personal connection will help build your brand. Below are a few examples of custom mail merged variable data printing that can set your piece apart from the rest.
Variable imagery: If you have data regarding previous purchases, including imagery of these purchases for each specific recipient will help get your respondents attention. This is popular in the automotive industry where collateral will be customized to the car in an expiring lease.
Personal Information: Including any personal information like the previous donation amounts, previous purchases, business information, etc. If you do not have these data sets they may be available for purchase. For instance loan information can be sourced which is helpful in selling refinancing or financial offers.
Use their name: The respondents name should be throughout the mailer. You do not want your piece to look generic so include the name of your respondent in multiple locations. You can also use the address information multiple times. Anything to make your piece look more customized will help drive response.
Adding custom mail merged images and text will increase the cost of your printing but doing so will also increase the response rate and help cultivate your brand. There are some trick to included personalized, customized mail merge printing at lower costs, but your design and budget will dictate some of options available to you.
The customer experience of an e-commerce purchase is a much different from the retail experience, but it is still an opportunity to develop your brand and cultivate customers. Since there are much fewer touch points and less in person communication, delivering a well branded package is important in developing your brand and customer base. Below are a few tips to improve you e-commerce fulfillment to impress your customers and drive repeat orders.
1. E-commerce fulfillment should be heavily branded and there should be a lot of though put into the customer experience. Many times your website and packaging are the only experience your customer will have with your brand. Be sure to leave a lasting impression with high quality, well thought out packaging and fulfillment
2. Communicate with your customer. Fulfilled e-commerce packages are a great way to include additional collateral or offers to increase cultivate your customers. A great way to do this is with a customized shipping notification e-mail. Alternatively including collateral or coupons with the product will help improve the users' experience and this collateral will most likely have multiple touch points and could remain in the customer's house for some time. Well thought out packaging is also a great way to provide instructions on how to use products or direct customers to tutorial videos.
3. Well designed beautifully fulfilled packages are great, but careful attention should be paid to ensure the product is packed correctly to reduce the risk of damaging the product. Broken products will disappoint customers and will add additional costs of product replacement and shipping. Packaging and fulfillment should focus on product security, but in doing so design elements should be incorporated.
4. Get your product to your customer as soon as you can. Fulfilling and shipping products quickly will help boost your brand and credibility as well as help compete with other outlets like retail stores and amazon. Many times shipping cost make it expensive to have products arrive quickly, but be transparent about this and provide options for expedited shipment.
One of the benefits of using a fulfillment company is to warehouse and manage your inventory. Fulfillment and warehousing have a lot of hidden costs and pain points when done in house, especially for start-up companies. Even though there are costs associated with using a fulfillment company you will ultimately be able to save money and grow your business. Below are some of the hidden costs in warehousing and storing your own product which can help you weigh the cost benefits of using a fulfillment company.
Space Requirements: Whether you are renting warehouse space or storing your materials in your office or home the cost and inconvenience of storing products is high. A typical pallet is 48" x 40" or about 3.65 square feet, but you will need to get enough warehouse spacing to organize and access your products. Space requirements are often close to double the size of your inventory as you will need to access and move materials easily as well as have enough space to accommodate large shipments. Product packaging like boxes and packing materials also take up considerable space and should be accounted for.
Additional Equipment: Warehousing products also requires investments in equipment like warehouse racking, forklifts, pallet jacks, labels, etc
Security: Ensuring your products are stored securely is important to protect your inventory from being damaged or stolen. Security measures should be put in place to ensure inventory is stored securely and if necessary in a climate controlled environment.
Warehouse and Inventory Management: In order to fulfill items quickly and have accurate inventory counts you will need to invest in inventory management software and ensure your warehouse manager is correctly receiving and deducting shipped items from inventory.
Insurance: You will need to insure your warehouse and products to ensure that you are covered should anything occur
Utilities: Your rental costs will not include utilities. These are surprisingly high even for small operations, and can be astronomical for climate controlled warehouses.
Employees: The cost of employing a warehouse manager will add up, as there are additional expenses to their salary and you will also need to invest significant time in training. Additional expenses like holiday pay, insurance, workers comp, overtime, recruiting, to name a few add up quickly and should be taken into account when determining if you want to hire your own warehouse and fulfillment staff.
Time: Nothing is as valuable as your time. Even if you do not account for your time as an expense the opportunities lost by warehousing, managing, or fulfilling your own product can significantly effect the growth of your business. Managing a warehouse you will need to have someone on site at all times to receive inventory and send out shipments. It is also very time consuming moving, receiving, sending, and managing a warehouse, which is valuable time you can invest in growing your business.
Managing your own warehouse can provide additional control and comfort but there are many hidden costs that you will need to take into account when evaluating your options. Often times using a fulfillment center will reduce your warehousing costs and help improve your efficiency with proven systems and processes.
Your response should depend on your offer, targeted list, and design of your piece. The number 1% tends to be used in the direct mail industry but that is arbitrary as the response rate depends on how you design your piece and what you are offering. For example a piece that offers a coupon for a free product will have a much higher response rate than a piece offering 10% off. Similarly a mail piece sent to current customers should have a higher response rate than a piece sent to prospects. The design of the piece also influences response rates as the message should be clear and easy to act on.
It is better to look at direct mail campaigns return on investment rather than response rates. Especially if you are advertising a high value product or looking to acquire a new customer who will make frequent purchases looking at the ROI is a much more effective evaluation than looking at the response rates. Additionally some campaigns will be designed to be more generic and elicit a smaller response rate while others can be more elaborate and personalized and require a higher response rate.
Measuring your ROI is important in evaluating your mail piece and continuing to test and improve the piece to increase ROI. There are many factors that will influence your response rate but it is important to design your campaign to reach a target response rate that will create the largest return on investment.
There are multiple takes on postcards. Here are a few:
First class card – You can mail a piece that is no larger than 4.25”x6” and no smaller than 3.5”x5” for 34 cents as of the date of this writing. Bulk rates are as low as 25.3 cents per card. The minimum quantity for first class bulk mailing is 500 pieces. Delivery normally takes 1-3 days.
Large postcards – Pieces up to 6.125”x11” are considered “letter mail”. The full first class rate is 49 cents. Bulk rates for first class mail can be as low as 37.3 cents. Bulk rates for Standard Mail service, which takes a little longer to deliver and doesn’t include forwarding or return service, can vary from 28.8 cents down to as low as 15.5 cents each. This postcard size does qualify for discounts if delivered to a local post office
“Jumbo” postcards – These are postcards that are too big to qualify for letter rates, typically 8.5”x11” or as large as 12”x15”, which is the maximum size. These are termed “Flats” by the U.S.P.S. and postage rates can vary from $44.6 cents to 75 cents for first class mail. For standard mail jumbo postcards postage can vary from 15.5 if sent to every address from a local post office to 55 cents.
A variety of factors can affect postal rates, and what is the best size postcard to use. Postage is a large factor in deciding the card size but the questions below can help determine what will be the best postcard size for your direct mail campaign.
How many pieces are being mailed?
What is the geographic concentration of the recipients? The more concentrated the recipients, the lower the rates.
Which post office are you entering the mail at? The closer you enter mail to the recipients, the lower the postage cost. Postage savings have to be weighed against trucking costs.
Do you qualify for lower non-profit rates?
How quickly do you need the postcards delivered?
What is your budget for postage and printing?
How much area do you need for your copy and design, and how large do you want the piece to look in the mailbox?
By asking some of these questions you direct mail house can help determine what would be the best size for your next direct mail postcard campaign.
Direct mail can be a great tool to target large quantities of people but it can also be a great tool to target your most coveted prospects. For these high value prospects it is best to put together a more elaborate mail piece which will be sent to a few high value prospects. These prospects will most likely also be touch be email, phone, and in person communications but a well designed mail piece will put you front and center. If done well this is something that could stick around for a while and be a constant reminder of your company and brand. For these prospects the mail piece should be upscale, high quality, highly personalized, and be sure to stick out. These will also have to get past the gate keeper and into the decision maker's hands. Sending a package, sample products, or a gift are great ways to draw the attention of your prospect and ensure your company gets the prospect's attention.
These campaigns are often more expensive, but in the long run they pay for themselves and more if they are done right. The piece should be complicated and expensive, but you should only be sending these to your highest value prospects so the quantity should be small. The list will also be highly customized to ensure you are only targeting the prospects that will generate the highest returns. Employing these strategic marketing practices will also alleviate the time and energy your sales team is using to get in the door allowing them to focus on closing deals. Using direct mail is much more cost effective and has a larger reach than having sales people go door to door.
High end high value direct mail pieces are a great way to get in the door and attract high value prospects, but the campaign will need to be run strategically with a creative and valuable offer. Just think if you were to receive a gift in the mail would you not want to know more about who sent it to you, what else they may be able to offer you, and at the very least sit down for a phone call?
Printing variable data and mail merges is a great way to personalize your message but variable data printing is more expensive than static printing. There are some ways that could reduce the costs of variable data printing, especially when you are printing large volumes. One option is to print static color shells and then print the variable information over these shells in black and white. Depending on the quantity and design of your piece this could help save money on your variable printing. If there are small amounts of variable data like a salutation and address block it may be more cost effective to print this variable information on an inkjet printer as opposed to a laser printer. The quality will not be as good, but if this is a small piece of variable information it will be hard to anyone to differentiate what this was printed on an inkjet printer. These options can help reduce variable data printing costs for direct mail pieces, but each project is different and it is best to speak with a mail house to identify the best methods to meet your budget while still delivering a high quality direct mail piece.
Amazon's fulfillment prices are often times very cost effective, but it is not always the best option for e-commerce sites. Even though the prices and turn around times are low using Amazon for your fulfillment services may end up costing you more in the long run.
Amazon fulfillment is a great service for companies selling their product on Amazon who can take advantage of their prime network, but depending on the product, weight, shipping requirements, storage needs, and how the product is being purchased Amazon may not be the cheapest option.
When selling products on Amazon prime Amazon fulfillment charges will be per an item not per an order. So if you were to have a client that purchased three of your products you would be paying shipping and handling on all three of these products as opposed to one order fee and shipping fee and additional pick and pack fees for the additional products. This can add up, especially if you are trying to get customers to purchase multiple products. Additionally Amazon's fulfillment and shipping fees may seem low, but orders placed on Amazon also have a referral fee which offsets some of the shipping and handling savings.
Fulfillment by Amazon's Multi-Channel fulfillment services in which Amazon fulfills orders from other channels and websites is also not the cheapest option for fulfillment services. For their multi-channel fulfillment services Amazon charges an order fee + pick and pack fee + a weight fee. Shipping costs are baked into these calculations and are often more expensive than using carriers like USPS, UPS or Fedex, especially if you are able to negotiate rates. Amazon does not specify their carriers and only offer standard, 2-day and next day shipping options, reducing flexibility to use your preferred carrier at your negotiated rates.
Additionally all items sent to Amazon will need to be prepared in a very specific way to ensure that they are tracked and accounted for. Complying with these standards will add additional labor and logistical costs to your order fulfillment.
Amazon's fulfillment services are innovative and accurate, but they are often times not the cheapest or best options for businesses, especially if you are not selling goods on Amazon. There are a number of factors to evaluate when selecting a fulfillment partner including price, accuracy, presentation, responsiveness, transparency, flexibility, branding, and packaging. It is important to evaluate the factors most important to you and select a fulfillment center that can meet your needs.
At Action Mail we have the flexibility to turn your job around quickly. Please let one of our sales reps know if you have a rush mailing project and we can work with you to develop a timeline to get your direct mail piece in homes and businesses by your deadline. Typical turn around is 2-3 days for mailing and 3-7 days for mailing and printing but it all depends on the type of job and quantity. Additional time is built into our timelines for QAQC, proofing, data analysis, postal delivery, uploading of postal documents, and work flow. To reduce turnaround times please make sure everything is ready to go and proofs and data can be approved quickly. We will also need postage funds to deposit with the USPS to send the mailing, which can often hold up rush jobs. We have the flexibility to change our schedule and mail quickly, but at the same time need to ensure all QAQC protocols and proofing are in place. Rush direct mail jobs will also need to be sent first class mail to be delivered in 1-3 days, and this will add additional expenses. For rush jobs please contact one of our sales reps who can evaluate how quickly we can get your mailing printed and delivered to the post office.