Problem Solver: Are there simple ways to reduce my direct mail costs?

Smart direct mailers should always look for ways to cut costs. But in today’s economic climate, cutting costs is a must. Paper, postage, and printing are all on the rise. Prospects have become more choosy about responding to offers. And marketing departments are being asked to tighten their belts and stretch their dollars.


Here are three simple tips for trimming costs:


Talk to your printer. You may have a well-designed direct mail piece, but is it efficiently produced? Can you make small changes in the layout that will allow you to use more of the paper stock and create less waste? Are you using an odd shape that is making production or postage more expensive? Is the piece printed on unnecessarily expensive stock or stock that requires a special order and extra freight charges?


You should also look at the piece from a creative point of view. Do you really need UV coating or die cuts? Can you eliminate a piece or combine two pieces to lower weight and cut postage? Would a lighter weight stock work as well with your design? Often features you like don’t affect results and are unnecessary.


Consider digital printing. There was a time when you had to print on a four-color press if you wanted full color. But today, digital presses are common. No, they won’t give you art book quality printing, but the final product looks good for most commercial purposes and is generally faster and cheaper.


Digital presses also let you do personalization and versioning for more targeted and relevant messages. If that doesn’t cut your cost directly, it can certainly improve your return on investment with potentially better response. 


Test into smaller formats. Testing is something you should be doing anyway, but there is a tendency for many businesses to cut testing programs when the budget gets tight. That’s a mistake. When times are good, you should be testing. When times are tough, you must be testing.


What should you test to reduce costs? Try removing your brochure. Sometimes it doesn’t affect response if you have a strong letter. Try turning a 6” x 9” package into a #10. If you’re generating leads, have you tried a postcard or flyer? Could you remove an order form and send customers to a Web form? Does your letter have to be 8 pages or would it work just as well at 6 pages? There’s almost always something you can cut, shrink, or modify.


Remember that while costs are an issue now, there’s an upside: There could be less competition in the mailbox. Some mailers are reporting higher response because competitors have scaled back. The key is to never give up. Print smart and keep testing and you’re likely to see good results.


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