Countermeasures to higher postal costs

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The long-threatened postal hike is now official. And there seems to be a Rip Van Winkle effect afoot. It's like the periodicals or direct mail industries just woke up. Now the boss is asking what measures were taken to reduce the hit. Here are a few countermeasures to increased postal costs.

Publication mailing. Working with your printer to investigate and optimize commingling, pre-sort and palletization discounts is a must. Mailing Periodicals class, rather than Standard, will not only save money but will improve delivery, which subscribers and advertisers appreciate. Achieving Periodicals class requires an investment to obtain 51 percent paid or request distribution. With this class you'll also get your non-deliverables back so you can correct the address or eliminate them from the file - a money-saver.

An easy way to save more money is with the Address Correction Service from the U.S. Postal Service. It costs nothing to register, your fulfillment service can help get it going and you will save more than 50 cents for every address correction received electronically versus the hard copy returns. ACS is available to both Periodicals and Standard class publications but the label requirements differ.

To save money with your publication mailing, make sure the non-deliverables and dupes are eliminated before each mailing. This seems like a no-brainer, but without careful coordination with the fulfillment service, they can slip through issue after issue. Cleaning up dupes just before the audit issue might help you pass the audit. But if it is not done before each mailing, you are wasting postage and paper.

Tip-ons and wraps are an economical way to get renewals and re-qualifications but they can play havoc with your pre-sort discounts. Unless testing has proven your series of 10 different pieces requiring 10 splits far outperforms fewer efforts, you must ask yourself if it is worth the extra money and lost pre-sort discounts. "We've always done it," is no longer sufficient justification.

Direct mail. The same litmus test should apply to your renewal and invoicing series. If having a kraft envelope for one effort and a yellow envelope for another greatly impacts your pre-sort, perhaps it's time to rethink your marketing strategy. Smaller publishers usually can't justify the variations a larger mailer can. One way to vary the efforts but still achieve discounts is by using one double-window envelope with various messages on the enclosed letter, not on the outer envelope. Then the efforts can be commingled for the postal discounts.

A file with bad addresses and dupes also impacts the renewal mailings, though some circulation managers like to mail an effort to the non-deliverables first class to get address corrections. Trial offer records must be carefully scrubbed against the active paid file as these dupes not only dilute response from your veteran paid subscribers, they waste lettershop and postal dollars.

What bad timing for a postal hike when direct mail is regaining popularity as marketers worry about e-mail burn-out. Direct mail can be cost-effective with the right, targeted presentation. And it can also be a source for gathering e-mail addresses and address corrections.

Online marketing. Audience development managers are mixing channels for new business, renewals and invoices. They might do a blast to get first renewals very cost-effectively and then go after the non-respondents with a postal effort. As with the postal pieces, it is vital to delete the hard bounce-backs and un-subscribes before the next effort, not only to save money but to avoid any repercussions.

If you have several lists for a blast, save list upload charges by merging them yourself, standardizing the fields and assigning promotion codes, rather than sending the fulfillment service separate files. Often only an e-mail address and first and last names are available. That's fine. The fulfillment service can match on those fields.

Whether the channel is e-mail, direct mail or a cover wrap, directing recipients to the Web to order or renew is much more cost-effective than asking them to send in the business reply envelope or call an 800 line. It's easy with a link from the e-mail, but more cumbersome with a written piece. But let's get the URL right. If it is not written correctly, the recipient will call, write customer service or give up. So test out every link and URL yourself.

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