Contact Us at 760-480-2323

Shiparoo Partners with ShipStation

We are proud to announce that our sister company Shiparoo (www.shiparoo.com) has partnered with the #1 shipping software of online sellers ShipStation.

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The ShipStation platform imports orders from wherever you sell: Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Walmart, your own shopping cart, and over 60 other selling channels.  The platform is also compatible with 30+ domestic and international carriers.  The ShipStation platform also allows you to promote your brand on notification emails, tracking pages, labels, and more.

This partnership allows Shiparoo and Action Mail to leverage the ShipStation platform to provide best-in-class fulfillment services. 

Contact Shiparoo to learn more about how we can integrate your fulfillment with ShipStation.

Is the United States Post Office open on Columbus Day / Indigenous Peoples' Day?

The United State post office does not deliver mail on Columbus Day / Indigenous Peoples’ Day and post offices are closed to the general public. There are some USPS bulk mail entry units that are open and will accept bulk mail deliveries on Columbus Day and the USPS still processes mail during the holiday.

Bulk mailings can be delivered to some post offices during the Columbus Day / Indigenous People’s Day holidays but most post offices are closed and the USPS has smaller crews processing the mail so if your mail is delivered on Columbus Day you should still expect a bit slower delivery times. Contact us to see if your bulk mailing can be delivered to the post office or if you will need to wait to deliver on the next day.

5 WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR DIRECT MAIL RESPONSE

DATA

This is often the key to a successful direct mail campaign.

Make sure you are targeting the correct audience for your business.

For example if you have a restaurant and most of your clients are from the local neighborhood it would be worthwhile to target the surrounding area with a saturation mailing around your location.

However if you are offering a specific service that is geared to a unique audience it will pay to refine your list using certain selections,  there are a number different selections you can use that will tailor the list to those people who are most likely to be interested in the service or product you are offering.

 CALL TO ACTION

The Call To Action needs to be clear and unambiguous.

This can either be in the form of a limited time offer or an offer that drives them to your website where a special promotion will await them.

 DESIGN

 First and foremost your design must comply with the USPS specifications, this will ensure that you pay the lowest postage rate and avoid any chance of the mail being misdirected.

You only have a few seconds to grab the recipient’s attention, the design needs to be eye catching and clear, avoid too much text and confusing images.

Emphasize the benefits to them and how they can easily get them.

 TIMING

 Work with your mail house to make sure you have enough time for printing and USPS delivery to meet the in home target date.

USPS delivery times for Marketing Mail (Standard Mail) vary depending on the distance the mail has to travel as well as the time of the year.  Your mail house should have a good idea of current delivery times and will help guide in establishing a time schedule.  It is also useful to add the additional service of mail tracking so that will know when the mail hits mail boxes.

AVOID ERRORS

 Use an outside person to proof read your piece.  Grammatical errors makes your piece look unprofessional and incorrect dates and pricing can be costly.  Remember once it’s in the mail there is no going back.

 TEST

 Before spending a lot of money it’s a good idea to test your mail piece.  Run small list with different designs and offers,  by monitoring the results of each mailing you will soon be able to see which offer and design is the most effective.

How Long Does Printing Take?

Printing can be done same day or take as long as 10 days. The time needed to print all depends on the type of piece that is being printed and how the piece is being printed.

Standard postcards and letters can be quick to print whereas envelopes, booklets and self-mailers typically take longer. The process used for printing will also determine how long it will take to print. Digital printing is much faster, but for larger quantities can be more expensive. Offset printing is much more affordable but does take longer to produce.

There are many other variables like the quantity, desired price point, time to approve proofs, finishing required, material that will be printed on, variable data, and many other factors that can also determine the time needed to print.

Typically we recommend budgeting 3-6 business days for printing but it is best to contact us in regards to your specific project and needs and we will give you a more precise timeline. In some cases we can do same day or next day turnarounds but it is best to speak (760-480-2323) with one of our representatives to determine what printing turn around we can provide for your specific project and the cost of doing so.

Shiparoo

Action Mail has recently launched a fulfillment company called Shiparoo (www,shiparoo.com). Shiparoo offers the same customer care and attention Action Mail mail provides but focuses more on e-commerce fulfillment and shipping as opposed to mailing.

With Action Mail’s experience mailing and fulfilling complex projects including medical HIPPA compliant mailings as well as branded promotional mailings the creation of Shiparoo has been an easy one. Shiparoo combines Action Mail’s shipping and postal knowledge along with the Action Mail’s attention to detail and precision.

Shiparoo also provides custom marketing collateral printing and can provide personalized messaging inserts to promote products and help brands connect with their audience. Shiparoo focuses on creating experiences for the purchaser allowing the shipment to promote the brand and build a relationship with the customer.

Check out www.shiparoo.com for more information.

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What is a Safe Zone for Printing and Why do I need it?

A safe zone for printing is an area inside of the cut lines of a printed piece that does not contain any important information and that may be cut off. The printing safe zone is important because it ensures that no important or relevant information is cut off when the printed piece is cut to size.

During the printing process the location of the print may shift slightly when on the printer or the cutter may not cut exactly on the crop marks. Having a safe zone with no relevant text or imagery helps avoid anything being cut off. It is rare that anything in this printing safe zone will be cut off, but it is best practices to ensure there is a safe zone so that if the printing does move or the cutting is not exact the piece will still look the same with no substantial changes.

The safe zone should be 1/8 inch inside of the cut line. It is recommended the the safe zone and bleed be filled with background imagery which will not matter if it gets cut.

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How to update your mailing lists with addresses from households and businesses that have moved.

Action Mail can update your lists so they are accurate and up to date. One of the processes that Action Mail uses when lists are processed is to run the list through the USPS’ NCOA (National Change of Address Database). Whenever someone changes addresses they can fill out a change of address form so that mail can be forwarded to their new address. Action Mail can take your list and cross reference the NCOA (national change of address) list and provide updates to households and businesses that have moved.

For addresses that have moved in the the last 18 months Action Mail can provide the new address where the household and business have moved to. For addresses 19-48 months Action Mail can get determine that the household or business have moved but many times the new address is not available. It is important that list updates are updated in clients databases as well, as after 4 years the move update information will not longer be accessible.

These list updates can be accessed for both households and businesses but the updates are only as good as the data collected from Change of Address Forms collected and the accuracy of the original data.

Maintaining a clean and updated database can save on wasted postage and printing and will also ensure that your mail piece is delivered to the correct location.

What is standard mail?

Standard mail is the USPS service that is reserved for mailings over 200 piece that do not contain handwritten or typewritten material, bills, statements of account or invoices, credit cards, personal correspondence, personalized business correspondence, or any matter sealed or otherwise closed against inspection. Essentially standard mail is marketing mail, which is why the USPS now refers to Standard Mail as Marketing Mail.

There are different terminologies used by the USPS and the public to describe Standard Mail. As mentioned, at moment USPS is in the process of changing the name of Standard Mail to Marketing Mail. In the past it has also been referred to as 2nd class mail and bulk mail.

Standard mail has a much slower delivery time than first class mail but the postage rates are also much less. Standard mail also can be inspected by the USPS. There is also no return service on Standard mail so if the address is undeliverable the mail piece will be disposed of instead of sent back.

There are also restrictions on the type and dimensions of the mail piece that can be sent Standard Mail. Typically Standard Mail applies to postcards, letters and magazines.

Booklet Printing Orientation

The way your booklet is setup not only will effect the look of the piece but can also effect the price of printing and mailing. Typically we refer to the orientation as either portrait or landscape. Portrait is where the bind is on the longest edge and landscape is where the bind is on the shorter edge.

Typically printing portrait booklets is more cost effective, but it depends on the volume and size of the piece. When printing landscape booklets the size of the sheet is bigger which reduces the number of pages that can fit on the sheet and the printing presses that can be used for printing. This increased sheet size often increases the cost of printing, but it all depends on the size of the booklet and the quantity being printed.

The orientation of a booklet will also effect the location where the address will need to placed for USPS requirements. Especially for booklets smaller than 8.5x10.5 the USPS has very specific areas where the address will need to be placed, which may effect the design and layout of your booklet.

It is best to consult with your mail house and printer before starting your design to make sure that the design and print production align.

EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) Counts

For EDDM counts you can use the EDDM Every Door Direct Mail https://eddm.usps.com/eddm/customer/routeSearch.action to search for routes and get counts for zip codes, but we prefer a slightly different method. Doing large scale EDDM mailings we have found that the counts on the EDDM website are not always accurate.

Maintaining accurate counts is a difficult task for the USPS as homes and businesses are constantly being constructed, left vacant, and routes are constantly changing. A few things the EDDM counts do not take into account are vacancies or an address which has one receiving mail box but lots of addresses (like an assisted living facility). This can result in over printing and paying for additional printing and postage for pieces that will not get delivered.

At Action Mail we prefer to get counts from databases we have access to with full address information. These would be the same addresses we would print onto a piece if the mailing was not EDDM. These list are updated every month and remove vacancies and drops with an address where it has multiple households living at the address, but there are no room #s or apartment addresses. The counts also remove people on the Do Not Mail list.

These counts tend to be more accurate but the data still comes from the USPS and is not always accurate. The accuracy also depends on what the carrier does with the mailing and how the carrier reports vacancies.

We prefer using the more conservative counts as we do not want our customers paying extra for printing and postage for postcards or magazines that will not be delivered. Yet, we can use any counts as long as they are withing a certain range of those published by the USPS. At Action Mail we always prefer to address mail pieces as the likelihood of delivery is much higher.

Why You Should Not Use Word For Direct Mail Merges

Microsoft Word has a feature which allows you to merge data into files to create documents with variable data. Yet, Microsoft word was not specifically designed for mail merges of variable data and more importantly for printing. Since the software was not specifically designed for this purpose there are pitfalls that can effect your mailing.

At Action Mail we prefer to use a PDF mail merge software which is much more advanced and allows for a better

Control: With Microsoft Word there is little control over the merge and formatting. Microsoft Word does allow for some formulas and advanced mail merges but it is much more difficult and less transparent. If you can dream it we can put it together with our software, including variable imagery or complex if and then statements.

Printing: Printing from a PDF is preferable to a word document. Production print drivers are setup to print from PDF documents and the quality and speed at which the printers can process the file is much higher as a PDF.

Consistency: What you see in a PDF is what everyone else will see on the same document. Documents in word change formatting from computer to computer depending on the settings in place.

Formatting: With Word formatting of mail merges tend to get changed and it is also hard to safe guard against large variable data fields creating new pages or adjusting formatting.

The best way to create variable data printing documents is to make a template PDF file and provide instructions as to the rules you want to create and how you would like the mail merged document to look. We can work with Word documents and Word Mail Merges but we prefer PDFs, and many times will ask if we can convert the word document to a PDF to run the mail merge.

Benefits of using a Local San Diego Mail House

For companies in San Diego using a local San Diego mail house can save you a lot of money, especially in postage.

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At Action Mail we deliver all our local mail to the Sorting Center Facility in San Diego (unless we can get lower rates by delivering to another post office). Delivering to the main post office in San Diego can reduce postage rates by 4 cents per piece. In addition local mail is processed and delivered much faster as this is the main sorting facility that most San Diego mail gets sent to prior to distribution.

Besides saving money on postage and getting your mailing delivered quicker, using a local mail house in San Diego has additional benefits. We can hand deliver hard copy proofs or printed materials quicker and at lower costs. We can also store your materials in our warehouse and they can be quickly accessed at any time. We are also very accessible and happy to meet in person to discuss any questions. Especially with mailings, sometimes seeing a physical sample and better understand the USPS regulations can make all the difference.

Working with a local mail house in San Diego will not only help with convenience but could also end up saving a lot of money.



Add a stamp to your mailing while still paying USPS bulk mail postage rates

Even when you are sending bulk direct mail the mail piece does not have to look like it is being send through bulk mail. Adding a stamp to a mail piece gives it a more personalized and elevated look. There are stamps for standard/marketing mail, presorted first class and non-profit postage rates. All of these stamps look like regular first class stamps to the untrained eye, but allow you to qualify for bulk mail postage rates.

Below is an image of a first class forever stamp that most individuals use for personal correspondence

First Class Full Rate Forever Stamp

First Class Full Rate Forever Stamp

As you can see this stamp looks very similar to the standard mail, non-profit and presorted first class stamps below. The designs are a bit different and the wording at the bottom of the stamp is different, but to the untrained eye they look like regular stamps.

Standard/Marketing Mail Presorted Stamp

Standard/Marketing Mail Presorted Stamp

Non-profit Stamp

Non-profit Stamp

Presorted First Class Stamp

Presorted First Class Stamp

Typically we see stamps used on letters and invitations to help the mailing piece look a bit more personalized but these stamps can be affixed to any bulk mailing. Using these stamps you can get the same bulk mailing rates that you would normally receive using a permit indicia or applying a postage meter.

The variety of presorted stamps available is limited, especially for larger rolls which can be affixed by machine, but the ones available do look similar to most full rate first class stamps.

Using stamps is a great way to elevate the look of your mail piece and get a bit more attention at the mailbox.

How to count the number of pages for booklet printing?

To effectively communicate the number of pages in a booklet for printing count every page front and back, starting with the front cover. This would be the same as if each page had a page number on it.

When printing, the pages will be printed on larger sheets, but it is most common to count the number of pages not the number of sheets.

For example using a sheet of 11x17 printed duplex (double sided) folded to a 8.5x11 booklet the number of pages will be 4. The first is the front cover, the second is the page on the left when open, third is the one on the right and fourth is the back cover.

The number of pages should always be a multiple of 4, if you would like the booklet to be saddle stitched, as a single sheet printed front and back will turn into 4 pages.

It is also important to count blank pages when communicating the number of pages in a booklet, because even if they are blank they will need to be accounted for in the layout of the booklet.

Using this standard counting method will help get your booklet printing quoted accurately and will also help with proofing, as we can refer to specific page numbers if there are issues in the design.

Identifying the Correct Data and List

We highly recommend using the best data possible. It is better to purchase an expensive list with selects that will target your ideal demographic even if it reduces the amount of pieces you can send. Not only will you be able to target your ideal audience but you will also save money on wasted printing and postage associated with sending information to people who are likely not going to be interested in your offer.

One of the main advantages of direct mail is that it can target very specific demographics. Digital marketing is great at retargeting individuals or targeting individuals who are searching for a specific service, but it is much harder to target an individual who has not heard of your company or service, especially with all the privacy concerns.

Data is readily available for direct mail campaigns, and it is really surprising how many datasets and how specific some of the lists can be. It is best to identify you ideal audience and we can see what type of data is available. We can also profile databases to identify the demographics of current customer databases and target look a like audiences. The possibilities are endless.

When conducting a direct mail campaign, identifying the correct list is the key to the success of your campaign and helping to reduce the amount of waste associated with targeting the incorrect audience.

Best Postcard Sizes

There are a few postcard sizes that are commonly used and the one selected usually depends on the your budget, goals, and preference. Below are a few of the standard options, others are available but they are typically more expensive and may not meet USPS requirements.

4x6: This is typically the smallest size we would recommend. This is the most cost effective, but the real advantage of using a card this is size is if you are sending the card first class. There is a special postcard rates for this size cards that is almost the same as the standard mail rate. These are great for time sensitive notifications, but they are small so it is difficult to put much content on them and they also may get lost in the mailbox.

8.5x5.5: This is the same size as a half sheet of paper. This is the most common size we see as the postcard is big enough to be noticed in the mailbox but the size also allows for cost effective printing.

6x9: This card sticks out a bit more in mail boxes but is quite a bit more costly to print based on the number of cards we can get on a single sheet. The postage will remain the same as a 8.5x5.5. These are often use to stand out from the typical 8.5x5.5 cards.

6x11: These are much longer and tend to stick out even more than a 6x9 but they are even more expensive to print. The 6x11 cards also give you some more space to add additional information to your card. Postage for these size cards is the same.

8.5x11: A full sheet. These qualify for a different postage rate which is much higher. The printing and postage cost is significantly higher. We typically only see these in campaigns where an entire area is saturated, as the postage costs can be reduced, but the printing is still significantly higher.

The size of your postcard should depend on your budget, the amount of content you would like to include, how you would like the card to stand out in the mail box, and how quickly you need it delivered. Typically we see 8.5x5.5 postcards but it all depends on preference.

EDDM Every Door Direct Mail Accuracy

Every Door Direct Mail direct mail is where you select whole carrier routes and the USPS delivers a single piece to every address (door) in the postal carrier route.  One issue is that the USPS provides the number of household and businesses in each route for which the mail will need to be prepared, but these counts are often not 100% accurate.

Many times we see that these counts are inaccurate and either people on the route do not receive the mail piece or what is more often the case there are leftover materials that are recycled.  The issue with this is that you are paying postage and printing for these leftovers that never get to their intended recipient. There is also no address or barcode so the delivery is based on the postal carrier issuing one piece to everyone on their route and there is no way to know way to verify which addresses did or did not receive the mail piece.


The inaccuracies in the Every Door Direct Mail EDDM counts are normally a result of vacancies, no mail receptacles, and multiple addresses with one mail receptacle (that typically get one mail piece but are counted as multiple).  One way to try to get better counts is to use data from data compilers. The USPS sends the address data to compilers who then scrub the data and remove vacancies and multiple address destinations. This is still not 100% accurate but errs on the side of reducing the waste of printed materials and postage.  

Another option would be to address every piece to ensure that is delivered to an address.  This would use the same counts from compilers but there would be a physical address printed on the piece with a barcode.  This will help increase the probability that the piece will be delivered and reduce the waste. There are added costs to addressing a mail piece, as a list is required and the address needs to be printed on each piece, but many times these costs are offset in savings from reducing waste.  There are also postal and print savings associated with the classification of these mail pieces if they are addressed.


EDDM does reduce many costs but depending on your campaign it may not be the best suited and you may not be getting pieces delivered to the entire area you are targeting or you may be paying for additional postage and printing that is being wasted.


Direct Mail Response Rates

We are always asked, "What is the average response for direct mail?” We wish we could give a simple answer to this question but it all depends on the campaign.  


There are so many variables that go into each direct mail campaign that all affect the response rate.  The two biggest factor are the list and the offer. If you send the right offer to the right people they will respond.


We estimate about 1% response rate but we see campaigns with much higher response rates and some with lower.  The Direct Marketing Association estimates response rates at 9% to a house list and 5% to a house list. Yet, the sample size for this study was small and to us it seems higher than what we typically see, but it all depends on the campaign.


We prefer to estimate low when estimating ROI but advise to try to improve the list and offer whenever possible to help increase response rates.  There are many other variables that should be looked into and optimized but the list and offer are the ones that typically affect the response rates the most.  It is also important to evaluate the lifetime value of a new customer when looking at response rates and ROI.

How to use Variable Data Printing to Improve ROI

Variable data printing allows you to print variable information on each printed piece so each printed piece is unique and personalized.  If this is done right it can really make your piece stand out and can increase ROI. Below are a few tips to improve ROI.

Personalize: Include the recipient's name on the piece.  Make sure it is easy to read at a quick glance and it can even be placed on multiple places on the printed material.  People enjoy seeing their name and placing a name on a piece really makes it stand out and grab the recipient’s attention.

Relevancy: Make your variable text and imagery relevant to the recipient.  Use data that directly relates to the recipient and the offer. This can be information about the geography they live in, reference to past purchases or activity, or even images and text customized to their demographic.  The more relevant the text and imagery the higher the response.

Testing: The use of variable data printing is a great way to easily adjust variables and test different messaging and offers.  Test different ideas to see what works best then continue testing and improving your marketing.

Data: Variable data printing is only as good as the data you have.  Make sure data is accurate, clean and contains the variables that will be relevant for your campaign.


Variable data printing is great way to connect with your audience and increase response, but it should be used thoughtfully to increase the return and increase response.

Why print files need bleeds, and what is a bleed?

Bleeds are important for any print file which the artwork extends to the edge of the printed piece. A bleed is an extension of the artwork past the finished size of the printed piece that will be cut off. A 1/8 bleed is recommended on all artwork where the art extends to the edge of the printed piece.

The reason bleeds are needed is that artwork is printed on large sheets and then cut down to size. This is needed to increase efficiencies and reduce cost and because printers will not print to the edge of the paper. When printing and cutting there can be slight misalignments and if a bleed is not included the printed piece can have white space on the border instead of the artwork extending to the edge.

The best way to add a bleed is to ensure your artwork is setup correctly when beginning your design. Most designers should be familiar with how to do this, or give us a call and we can walk you through the process. We sometimes can add bleeds to artwork after they have been created but it depends on how the artwork is setup and the format the artwork is sent as. It is always preferable to receive the artwork with bleeds included in the original design as any manipulations can effect the artwork.

Bleeds are important to ensure that artwork is printed and cut correctly to get the best quality from your printing.