8 Steps to Bolster Insert Media Efforts

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If you have decided to prospect for new customers using insert media, now what? Follow these eight steps and the process should be much easier.


1. Use an insert broker. Can you do it yourself? Maybe. Should you? Definitely not. An insert broker can uncover the best programs for your offer, negotiate the best pricing and even become a trusted member of your marketing team.


2. Request recommendations. . Be specific as to whom you want your insert to reach. The size of your insert is predicated on where your insert can be placed. If you want to see only primary market recommendations, say so. The more information you give your broker, the better the recommendations will be. Be prepared to share information about your product or service. What is your average unit of sale? Age range? Is seasonality a factor?


3. Think about your insert's design. If you plan a one-size-fits-all insert, then ensure you know the minimum and maximum specifications for the programs you expect to be in. Know that the more elaborate the insert, the more expensive it will be to print.


Ask your broker to see other successful inserts, and not only in your category. If you have a direct mail control piece, adapt it to test insert media. At this juncture, you might want to get printing quotes and decide who you think will do the best job. Your broker should be able to provide printer referrals.


Don't forget to include a request for key codes for the appropriate number of insert programs you plan to participate in. Key coding is the mechanism by which you identify which program your orders or responses come from.


4. Clearing your insert. At this point you should have reviewed recommendations and determined your first choices. Your broker will clear your offer. It can be done from a mock-up; pdf files tend to work best. Choose more programs to clear than you are budgeting for to allow for those with better pricing and/or programs that may reject your offer. If you're not clearing the actual finished insert, then you might get an "approval based on content." Your printer may have to send folded paper samples to verify size, weight and machine insertability.


To be safe, allow at least a week for answers. And pay particular attention to timing. Generally, inserts are due 30 days prior to start of insertion.


5. Finalize your plan. Your approvals are in, and you and your broker have determined where to insert, quantity per program, pricing and insertion dates. Your broker then will confirm with purchase orders on your behalf. You should have already established who will handle the print job. You may be able to provide key codes immediately. If not, the broker will revise the orders when you have that information. Shipping information and any special instructions will be so noted.


It is imperative that your printer follow all instructions or delivery may be delayed or even denied. New mailers may be asked to prepay; this is not uncommon and should not dissuade you from participating in your first-choice programs.


6. Print and deliver. Your printer should always send the inserts via a recognized carrier or freight company so inserts can be traced. Your printer also should send a representative sample of each code to you and your broker. If there's a delay in printing/shipping, notify your broker immediately.


7. Verify receipt of materials and insertion. Your broker will verify that all insert shipments are where they should be and confirm start and completion dates. Samples will be requested, though they should always accompany the invoice. Your broker also should request a sample of the insert carrier envelope, if there is one, or be able to advise you exactly how the inserts are presented to the consumer.


8. Track responses. Keep careful track of your responses; this is where the key code is critical. Ensure you have a mechanism in place to request the key code if response is via a Web site, or that personnel are properly instructed if via a toll-free number. After a suitable amount of time you should review responses with your broker and decide where to place continuations. If responses are marginal, negotiating a retest may let the program perform better.


When done correctly, the potential universe can exceed your wildest expectations and could be more cost-efficient than direct mail.


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