Tally up your campaign costs

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When it comes to your campaign costs, are you looking at the big picture? Or are you seeing just the tip of the iceberg?

Looking at only one or two facets - like the cost of mail supplies or postage - can cost your company. Study the entire process from the pieces mailed, to the purchase and storage of mailing supplies, to the costs of preparing and shipping mail pieces.

This checklist can help you gain an accurate picture of total costs for mail campaigns.

Postage fees. Few businesses better understand the implications of shape-based postage now implemented by the US Postal Service than those in the DM industry. Once a favorite for their low cost and versatility, padded mailers now typically ship as parcels due to thickness - at a postage penalty of 33 cents per piece. Paperboard mailers may cost a few cents more at point of purchase, but they often yield a net savings by shipping as a flat, rather than a parcel.

For this same reason, companies are also rethinking the shape of the materials they send out. Redesigning a letter-size brochure to a digest-size format, for example, saves 39 cents in postage. Long-term postage gains ultimately offset the initial investment.

Fulfillment costs. The new shape-based rates reflect the fact that certain types of packages cost more to process. The same holds true when preparing these packages for shipping. For instance, boxes and padded mailers require manual insertion, and boxes incur additional costs for assembly. Using automation-friendly mailers can cut fulfillment fees in half.

Inventory management. How much time and effort does the organization spend managing mail-supply inventory? With new guidelines for uniform thickness in place, the strategy of using a single mailer to accommodate contents of all sizes adds 33 cents in postage if shipping a small item in a large envelope.

Expansion envelopes can solve this problem. Bulk purchases qualify for volume discounts and reduce inventory management expenses. Plus, compatibility with postal machinery keeps postage low.

Freight and warehouse costs. What are the expenses associated with delivery and storage? When shipping supplies, freight is determined by volume. Hence, the ever-popular padded mailer costs more to ship than slimmer alternatives. These same mailers take up more space on warehouse shelves - five times more than paperboard ones.

Environmental impact. Going "green" is the politically correct thing to do and for certain campaigns it offers a way to identify with prospects. Because of the plastic interior, padded mailers cannot be recycled-although the exterior can be made from recycled materials. Other mailers offer both: They're made from recycled materials and are themselves recyclable.

No, it's not strictly a cost factor, but inspiring goodwill and doing the right thing have always been priceless.

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