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Direct Mail Quick Turnaround

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How quickly do you need your direct mail piece in the mail?  Action Mail specializes in highly complicated quick turn around direct mail pieces.  This varies from highly sensitive open enrollment packets to tax forms that need to be distributed to employees.  Action Mail can also quickly print and send direct mail postcards and letters at the lowest postage rates.  If you have a rush job contact us today and we will work with you to get your piece delivered accurately and on time.

USPS Postage Rate

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The USPS announced the possibility of a rate increase for January 2018.  This still needs to be finalized but the USPS provided detailed plans on their proposed rates.  The cost of a first class stamp will increase to $0.50 and the cost of a postcard stamp will be $0.35, a one cent increase.

Below are a few high level changes that the USPS has proposed

  • Commercial products will see a 4.7% increase but this is lower than FedEx's increase of 4.9%
  • Priority Mail is proposed to increase 3.9%
  • Discounts will be reduced for drop shipping mailings to local post offices
  • Discounts will be reduced for postal incentives
  • Bulk Mail (Standard Mail) are proposed to increase 2%

The cost of postage will vary depending on the size of the piece or package as well as what rate category the list qualifies for.

Action Mail will continue to monitor the updates from the post office and will provide updates once the rates are finalized.

Foreign Shipments

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Shipping products and mailing to foreign countries can be difficult and expensive.  Action Mail can help reduce the costs of foreign shipments and mailings while ensuring that you meet the requirements of the country you are shipping and delivering to.  Action Mail can ship products or mailings directly into the destination country and have the local postal service deliver them to the final location.  This can save you a lot on postage and shipping costs, but this depend on the local mail system so depending on the country reliability and access to tracking information may vary.

The type of foreign shipping you select will depend on the product you are shipping, the weight, urgency to be delivered, and the country you are shipping to.  There are many different carriers and options all with different price points, delivery times, and reliability.  You will also have to take into account customs fees which will depend on the product you are shipping and the value of the product.

Shipping to some countries can be very difficult depending on how the local mail and distribution channels have been developed.  It is important to receive the address in the correct format and select a shipping option that meets your budget and your customers needs.

Environmentally Friendly Packaging

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The most cost effective, simplest, and one of the most effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of your products packaging is to reduce package size.  Reducing the amount of packaging will save on shipping costs, reduce the use of additional packaging materials, and reduce the footprint of shipping a package.  The smaller the package the less materials, boxes, etc which in turn reduce the amount of waste and environmental impact.

  Apart from reducing the size of your packaging you can also use materials that are environmentally friendly.  Most shippers use corrugated boxes that are 100% recyclable but there are additional steps you can take to ensure your packaging is green.  It is recommendable to avoid the use of plastics and use recyclable and biodegradable packing materials and boxes.  There are packaging options available using boxed made of recycled contents, as well as packing materials made from recycled contents, or biodegradable packing materials.  There are also innovative green packing materials and boxes available but many of these products are expensive and not readily accessible. These environmentally friendly materials may not be as sturdy as traditional packing materials so be sure to test the durability of your packing materials for your specific products.  Using environmentally friendly packaging is fruitless if your product arrives damaged and you need to re-ship and pack a new products.

Selecting the correct box for your e-commerce shipments

Deciding which box to use for your shipments can save you a lot of money.  There are a lot of different aspects that should be considered based on your product, user experience, budget, and fulfillment.

Durability:  The most important aspect in selecting a box should be whether it will protect your product.  Saving money on shipping and boxes is fruitless if your product arrives broken and needs to be replaced and reshipped.  Corrugated boxes are rated on the bursting test (lbs/sq inch required to burst the box) as well as the Edge Crush Test ((ECT) lbs/sq inch required to crush the edge of a box).  Typical standards are 200# for the bursting test and 32# for the ECT.  If you have a heavy weight or delicate product it is better to go with double walled box or a mailer box which is reinforced by multiple folds.  Indestructo boxes are mailers are essentially uncrushable.  Boxes should have a stamp from the manufacturer indicating their rating, which is helpful to determine which box is the best for your product.  Typically 200# boxes should be fine for most shipments but it is best to evaluate boxes for your specific products.

Size:  Selecting the correct size can save you lots of money in shipping cost.  The aim should be to get you products to fit into boxes with as little open space as possible (be sure to allow enough space for padding and protective materials).  Doing so will decrease the cost of shipping as your product will weigh less, and every ounce counts.  Additionally shipping carriers can charge based on the size of the piece as opposed to the weight.  Dimensional or cubic weight calculations vary by carrier but when designing your box you should evaluate which carrier you will use and what are the most efficient size to use.  When shipping multiple products it is best to identify a few types of standard boxes to use that fit within the dimensional weight classifications that will work best for the carrier you will be using.  Depending on the size of the box some carriers have different requirements for the maximum and minimum dimensions and weights.

Design:  There are a few different box designs you can select from which depends on your product, fulfillment and intended user experience.  Some different types of boxes include traditional corrugated boxes, mailers, tab locked mailers, carry cases, etc.  Traditional boxes are the most efficient to fulfill, but are less secure and are less aesthetically pleasing, whereas mailers, tab locked mailers, and carry cases are more time consuming and difficult to assemble and fulfill but are more secure and look much nicer.

In summary you want to get your packaging to be as light and small as possible while still ensuring that your product is secure and protected.  Aesthetics can be added to the boxes but to save money on shipping and fulfillment you will want to decrease packaging as much as possible.

Online direct mail campaigns

Direct Mail can be ordered online but it is often better to at the very least discuss the project with an expert.  At Action Mail we publish ballpark pricing of our services, but we prefer to quote and price each job individually, as no two jobs should be the same.  It is important to design a specific campaign related to your demographic and market.  Ordering direct mail online often leads to cookie cutter programs that do not stand out and can be ineffective.  Even once you have a campaign designed and running it is important to adjust the campaign periodically, leveraging results to improve the campaign.

Online ordering can be very simple, but without an in depth look at your marketing plan, budget, and target audience you could be spending money in the wrong places.  There are also tricks of the trade which can help to reduce postage and increase efficiencies, but this really depends on the type of piece you are mailing, the quantity, demographic, location, etc.  Ordering postcards or flyers online may seem like the most cost effective option but many times you will end up spending more in printing and postage and get lower returns than if you went directly to a mail house.

How to Protect Shipped Products

The amount of packing materials and the type of packing material needed to protect your product from damage during shipping really depends on the product being shipped.  The first thing to evaluate is how delicate the product is and how it may be damaged.  Depending on this you can elect the best packaging as well as the best packaging material.  The box or packaging is your first line of defense.  If you product runs the risk of being crushed by other boxes, it is best to select a sturdy box or even an indestructible mailer.  The disadvantage of using these stronger boxes is they take longer to assemble and weigh more, which will increase your postage costs.

 Once you have determined the outer packaging you will need to design the inner packaging material.  Take into account how fragile the products are, how many products will be in each box, how they could interact and damage one another, if products are already packaged, as well as how you would like the end user to experience opening the package.  The use of packaging materials will help ensure that products do not move around in the their package and help protect the products.  For fragile products it is best to wrap these products in a protective material like bubble wrap, and additional product box, foam, etc.  To prevent products from moving in the box ensure that the box is as full as possible fillers like crinkle paper, bubble wrap, tissue paper, etc.  The type of filler you should use will depend on your budget, aesthetics of your packaging, and need for protection.  To reduce the amount of filler and how much products move select the smallest boxes possible for your products.

  Protecting products is essential as receiving a damaged products means lost revenue and a dissatisfied customer.  Sometimes delicate items will break when shipping, as these boxes often get thrown around during shipping, but there are precautions you can take to mitigate risks and design your packaging to be both functional and aesthetic.  It is recommendable to test your packaging prior to shipping to get a better understanding of what type of impact your products can withstand.   

 

USPS Informed Delivery, Mail to Your Email

The USPS is launching a new program called Informed Delivery, where all mail going to your mailbox is scanned and sent to your email or available to view on the USPS online portal.  This is a great services which allows people to view their mail on the go and also is helpful for travelers and people who live in areas where mail theft is common.  

Informed Delivery is also a great tool for advertisers.  Not only will your mail piece be visible online you also have the opportunity to design a digital piece with hyperlinks that can be included in the email or online portal.  This allows you to provide direct call to action that are easy for consumers to act on.  This services also allows for analytics demonstrating how many people have viewed the images of you direct mail piece and how many have clicked on your link.

How much does this service cost?  It is actually free of charge for both the consumer and advertiser.  It is currently only available in certain markets but the USPS is ramping up its advertising of the product and hopes to vastly increase the availability and use.  The only additional cost for advertisers is the design and uploading of the ride along piece.

To evaluate if it is worth implementing informed delivery add-ons to your mail piece it is best to have your list analyzed by the USPS to evaluate how many of the addresses have signed up for informed delivery.

Save Money on USPS Postage

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.

How to address booklets

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

International Shipping

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  

Why do my prints look different to what I see on my screen

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.

Save Money by Getting Your Shipments Under 1lb

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

How to setup print files

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

San Diego Direct Mail and Printing

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.

How to Avoid Amazon Storage Fees

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

How to Clean Your Customer Database

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. 

Direct Mail for Continuing Education

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.

Invitation Mailing

 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.

Mail Merged Custom Printing

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.