Control costs by consolidating mail

Combining your mail with that of other catalogers and publishers can help secure optimal postal rates and effectively manage spend. Four experts weigh in on various “co-” methods.

David Johannes
Director of mailing operations, IWCO Direct

Postal optimization methods all seem to start with the prefix “co”, which is derived from the Latin root meaning together, together with, or in combina­tion. These “co-” methods (co-mailing, co-palletization, co-binding, and co-min­gling) are each designed to take advan­tage of consolidating mail in order to manage postage spend more efficiently and effectively. But co-mingling moves beyond other methods of combining or consolidating mail.

While co-mailing and co-palletization consolidate mail trays onto single desti­nation postal skids, these methods only impact destination entry discounts. Co-mingling impacts not only destination entry discounts but also tier qualifica­tion and postage lift, through the auto­mated sorting of multiple mail streams into a common mail tray. Further, building more efficient five-digit trays can meaningfully lower postage costs. This allows better use of transportation resources and increases penetration into section center facilities (SCFs).

Using co-mingling with a sophisti­cated postal logistics program offers many benefits. By automating the co-palletization process, significant destination entry discounts for SCF and bulk mail center (BMC) entry are obtained — in addition to the postage lift already achieved through co-mingling alone. This also results in faster in-home delivery and the opportunity to precisely target in-home dates. In-home dates are critical when managing multichannel campaigns or efficiently staffing call centers based on anticipated response curves.

Combining co-mingling and logis­tics management has powerful results. For example, a financial services mailer experienced a 0.05% decrease in cost per piece when postage rates were raised in May 2007, despite standard mail letter rates going up an average of 9%. That same mailer saw a striking increase in mail sorted to the five-digit level (74% vs. 55%) and delivered directly to the destination SCF (87% vs. 69%) in the post-rate case environment.

Using co-mingling results in faster deliv­ery and targeted in-home dates

David Lowndes
Director of product development, Iron Mountain Fulfillment Services

The object of the co-mailing, co-binding and co-palletizing processes is to secure the best postal rate possible for outbound publication and catalog mail­ings. All are ways to save money on postage, and when combined can offer mailers significant discounts. Some esti­mates note that co-mailing can save a publisher 5%-10% off postal costs.

Co-mingling combines different printed items in a single envelope or mailing, while co-binding takes it a step further and puts them in a single docu­ment. This definitely helps in terms of the economy — since you can share the fulfillment and postage costs, it will be cheaper for each individual company. And if the products are sympathetic, that’s going to trigger the person’s interest in others and should be able to improve effectiveness and efficiency for less money.

Co-binding everything together can definitely be effective — if it’s a single document you’re looking at, then maybe you’ll come back to it a couple of times and think, “that looks interesting as well.” But with co-binding, you run the risk of having a range of different creative treatments stuck together, which may not work very well. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be addressed, but it will be more complex and time consum­ing to coordinate everyone, rather than establishing what the basic requirements are and letting everyone do their own thing, as in co-mailing.

It’s not easy to quantify, but when you combine many pieces together, there is the chance it could be seen more as junk mail, rather than some­thing that has been sent specifically to consumers. They may think, “This company just sent me information on 50 different products, they really have no idea what I might want.”

So whatever mailing method you decide to use, you must balance the cost versus the effectiveness. When it is the right combination, these processes can be very effective.

Make sure to balance the cost of mailing methods with their effectiveness

Joel Weber
VP sales, Quebecor World Logistics

As catalogers and publishers grow frustrated with postal increases, there has never been a better time to look into saving money through co-mailing. The USPS provides significant dis­counts for efficiently pre-sorted mail that can be drop-shipped further into the postal system.

Offline co-mail provides an opportu­nity after the product is bound for up to 30 different titles to be integrated into a single mailing, achieving maximum postal penetration. Offline co-mail is very effective for small to midsize flats that do not have an opportunity to inline co-mail.

Inline co-mail occurs in the manufac­turing plant during the binding process, merging multiple customer lists into one mail string to take advantage of increased presort efficiency. This is most effective for midsize to large flats.

There are a few considerations to take into account before co-mailing. First is address and messaging placement. Because of the cooperative nature of co-mailing, a uniform address and messaging area is required.

Next, keep dimensional parameters in mind. Depending on the process (inline or offline), dimensional parameters such as thickness and trim size will vary.

And finally, there is the schedule to consider. The more flexibility you have in your schedule, the more options you’ll be offered. The key is to work with your printer for a seam­less transition to maximize your savings while minimizing changes.

Letter mailers also have a few options when it comes to co-mail. The first is co-palletization — a post-pro­duction process of gathering trays from multiple campaigns and generating addi­tional dropship discounts. The second is co-mingling, which is another post-production process where individual pieces come from various campaigns on a letter-sorting machine to take advan­tage of better pre-sort rates.

Small to midsize flats can benefit from the savings of offline co-mail

Dennis Darnick
VP of production, Ripon Printers

The emergence of offline co-mailing systems represents a major breakthrough for catalogers with small- to mid-range circulations. Offline systems offer more flexibility than inline systems while achieving superior ZIP code penetra­tion and the associated postage and time savings of getting mail deeper into the postal system.

Co-mailing works by combining the circulations of a pool of catalog titles being produced within a common time­frame into a single, presorted mailing list. A sophisticated collating system then feeds each title based on the respective sortation order.

Net savings can be significant — often 10% or more — particularly for mailings in the 20,000 to 75,000 sweet spot of most systems. But mailers with circulations from 5,000 to 200,000 may still benefit. To find out, provide your printer with your most recent mailing list and request a co-mailing analysis.

Although offline systems continue to evolve, some of the general restrictions include falling within some standard dimensional requirements, forgoing inside inkjet addressing and polybag­ging, addressing within a predetermined area and being able to mail within a specified timeframe.

Co-mailing also requires postage payment through a centralized account processing system (CAPS) account. This USPS program enables electronic payment through one central location, regardless of the number or location of postal permits mailers may have or the class of mail used. There is a $350 charge, though you may be able to use your printer’s permit at no extra cost.

Before entering into any co-mailing program, you want to make sure you fully understand the rules of engage­ment. This includes the service costs, as well as potential issues such as penalty charges if you miss a co-mailing date. It’s also a great opportunity to conduct a general mailing strategy review to help ensure that your list hygiene and other practices are up to the highest standards.

Make sure you understand the process before entering a co-mailing program

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