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Direct Mail Services Buyer's Guide - Direct Mail Services

Direct Mail Services Buyer's Guide - Direct Mail Services

Published: 03/31/2011

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Direct Mail Services

Businesses turn to direct mail services because the process of sending out a mailing is very labor intensive. Consider a mailing of 10,000 envelopes. Even if you have motivated staffers who work quickly, the process of folding, stuffing, addressing, and stamping all those pieces will take quite a toll on them. Direct mail services have the expensive addressing and mailing equipment that automates these and other processes, giving them significant economies of scale.

Be realistic about your expected results: it will help you figure out how much you need to spend on designing your direct mail campaign.







Direct mail service vendors pay hundreds of dollars per year for the permits that offer exclusive discounts on postage. Most direct mail is sent using U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Standard Mail (formerly Bulk Mail), which offers prices as low as $0.128. The more addresses you send to in your local zip code, the lower the prices will be. To be eligible for these discounts, you need to send a minimum of 500 pieces for first‐class mail, or 200 pieces (or 50 pounds of mail) for Standard Mail.



Vendors get these rates by doing work that the USPS would usually handle – including presorting, stamping, and delivering the bundle to the post office. Standard mail is significantly cheaper than first class mail but delivery times will be longer – seven to 10 days vs. three to five days – and you may experience a delay if you send standard mail during the holiday season.




Mailing lists (businesses and consumers)



While postage is the primary expense, the mailing list is the most crucial part of direct mail services. If you don’t invest in a quality, updated list, you could be setting your mailing up for instant failure.



Direct mail services vendors usually maintain mailing lists with hundreds of thousands of names of businesses and consumers that are viable candidates for receiving direct mail. They do extensive database work to remove outdated or undeliverable addresses. Most mailing list brokers provide guarantees that their lists will be accurate and updated and will provide replacement names if their lists perform below a certain level.



The benefit to using mailing lists is that you can select various filters to hone in on the audience you want to reach. You can go after customers who have expressed an interest in the products you offer, or based on demographics, income, lifestyle, purchasing habits, and even credit rating. The more filters you choose, the better your response rate will be, but you’ll pay more per‐name for the most targeted lists.



The most effective mailing lists for direct mail are those you generate in‐house. By compiling the names and addresses of current customers, you have an instant qualified list of candidates. You simply need to maintain the list and keep it up to date. If you operate a smaller business, you might not have a large enough list to make direct mail worthwhile. Often, you can supplement your list with a vendor’s list to get to the minimum number of names required.





Printing and designing



Many direct mail services vendors will do most of the mailing work in‐house but outsource the actual production of your mailer to a local printer. You can save some money if you have a contact that can do the printing for you and ship the finished materials to your direct mail services vendor to begin the work.



If you have staff with a creative eye for design, they can develop the design of the mailing and send the file to the mail services vendor. Otherwise, they can create a design based on your specifications for an hourly fee.



Once the design is completed, the vendor will send you the final materials for proofing. Look for any syntax errors or design mistakes before approving it for printing. At this stage, you only want to make necessary revisions. Any additional work the vendor performs can delay the mailing and/or cost extra.




Presorting, labeling, assembling, and delivery



This is most of the grunt work of direct mail services. Vendors use high‐speed machinery to address and stamp thousands of pieces per hour – saving you and your staff countless hours, perhaps days, of work.



Depending on the type of mailing, direct mail services vendors will affix address labels or use ink jet printing directly on the mailing piece. This process can also involve folding, stuffing envelopes, sealing or stapling together materials, or assembling various parts of a multi‐page mailer. They then group the pieces together by zip code or carrier route before bringing them to the post office for shipment.