More Direct Mail for Less Time and Money

By Wilson Zehr, CEO, Cendix

In addition to using online tools (a very wise choice!), there are many other steps mailers can take to get even more value for their direct marketing dollar.

1. Clean Mailing Lists

Whether using a customer list or a list of prospective customers, it is important to make sure that addresses are accurate and deliverable.   Accurate lists insure the highest possible delivery rate and speed delivery time.  Mailing lists that are kept in electronic form can easily be updated for accuracy by scanning through manually or using an inexpensive off-the-shelf software.  Incorporate these mail file hygiene practices:

  • Keep address records up to date.  Promptly incorporate change-of-address information on customers for recent moves.  Save returned mail and delete the records associated with these addresses.  Use the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) capability as needed.
  • Remember to remove duplicates.  This is especially important when merging two or more lists from different sources.
  • Maintain USPS postal standard addresses using postal geocodes, ZIP Codes, ZIP+4’s, and Carrier Routes.  Employ the USPS Delivery Sequence File (DSF) service to confirm the existence of a delivery address.  Zairmail automatically cleans lists uploaded using Zairmail Express Direct.

2. Redesign Mail to Take Advantage of Rate and Other Changes

With any change in postal rules and rates comes a need to re-evaluate mail design for the rate categories in which a company mails.  Assure that the shape and weight do not require additional charges.  Design mail pieces with enough flexibility to maximize possible postal savings while enhancing postal delivery performance.  This requires knowledge of the rate & rule changes and where new opportunities may exist for optimal savings. 

All postcard and letter templates featured on the Zairmail Express Direct site are optimized for maximum savings.

3. Target Mail, A Must for Today's Direct Mail

Put the right offer, in the hands of the right prospect, and sales will grow.  Put the wrong offer, in the hands of the wrong prospect, and the only thing that will grow is mailing costs! 
Be sure that the offer matches the recipients (e.g. don’t mail a steakhouse coupon to a vegetarian).  Know who your customers are and target those with similar demographic characteristics.  Use smaller mailings at first to sample the market you wish to reach.  Have a compelling offer and a call to action.  Test and measure each mailing's performance to fine tune the message and offer. 

Consider using "Or Current Resident" addressing when targeting addresses; if a prospect has moved, the new resident may fit the current best-customer profile.
Personalize mailings for the recipient – response rates can increase up to 50% on personalized offers.  Test and develop different versions of mail pieces to distinct segments within an audience.  For prospects and less profitable customer segments, employ smaller, more limited mail pieces than those mailed to the most profitable customers.  And if you are mailing your current customers, let them understand that you recognize the value of their business.

4. Be Compatible with Postal Processing Equipment

Make sure the design of mail pieces facilitates easy postal processing so that problems with automated equipment are avoided.  For example, some types of copy formats and fonts are difficult for automated postal equipment to read, or make it difficult to identify a return address.  Avoiding these snags eliminates the increasing occurrence of "loop" mail — mail sent to the return address because postal automation equipment read it as the "delivery" address.

When using windowed envelopes, assure that the windows are large enough, and the address is placement on the letter is correct, so that the delivery address is always visible.  Use the “tap test” of tapping or shaking the envelope to simulate mail handling and see where the address appears in the window.

Avoid design and placement of information in postal requested "clear zones" on the face of mail pieces reserved for postal use.  Request the advice of mail preparation and postal experts when designing mail to maximize "mail deliverability" without compromising marketing benefit.  The local Business Mail Specialist at the USPS can often provide advice for free.  Automated processing makes strict adherence to postal rules and guidelines imperative. Failure to do so may result in loss of postage discounts, a potential drain on marketing budgets.

Of course, standard letter and postcard formats available from Zairmail conform to postal rules to assure speedy problem-free delivery.

5. Partner with Postal Contacts

Communicate with the USPS in advance about large mailing events.  Describe the purpose of an upcoming mail piece, expected mail "drop" dates at a USPS facility, the target delivery date, and other pertinent mail delivery needs.  Use preferred USPS partners and vendors, many of whom have established long trusting relationships with the postal service.

6. Track the Progress of All Mailings

Marketers often keep track of response rates, but it is also important to track the progress of a mailing through production and delivery.  Record the date mail is produced, when it is mailed, and when it is delivered.  One common technique is to “seed” mailing lists (e.g. add the name of the sender and/or other trusted recipients).  When the seeds arrive verify production quality and delivery time.
Other advanced services, such as the new USPS PLANET CODE Destination Confirm service, WEB ADVANCE and other USPS or privately-offered mail monitoring services, can also be helpful for larger mailers.

7. Outsource Expertise When Necessary

The most effective marketing campaigns take all these factors into account.  Yet, having all the expertise in-house is rare – especially for small business.  Select mailing partners with fully integrated systems and knowledge that compliments what you already have available to you.  When in doubt you can enlist the help of Cendix clients such as Zairmail (www.zairmail.com) to help out.

About the Author

Wilson Zehr is CEO of Cendix the leading provider of Web-to-print solutions that automate on-demand one-to-one marketing campaigns and increase sales both online and offline. Cendix offers hosted Internet application software (Software as a Service - SaaS) for print shops, commercial printers, and enterprise marketing. Cendix supplies all the print on-demand and marketing software, hosted systems, and technical talent; Cendix creates and customizes the online application; and Cendix manages all the operations and maintenance required. Cendix is the only application service provider that truly provides "Technology that Delivers". More information about Cendix is available at www.cendix.com; or call toll-free 888.898.0066; or email sales@cendix.com.