The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #7

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

Finally we can confront Sin #7:

Direct Mail Sin #7

Proof sign-offs taken too casually

Every job that we receive with electronic files requires some kind of manipulation or adjustment prior to mailing. RGB to CMYK, resizing, recropping, data merging, font replacement etc…

When your project requires a final signoff we hope that you take this opportunity seriously!

By the time it gets to this stage you have seen it many many times. Take a moment and read every line of your offer and confirm that everything is exactly the way it should be. This is your final opportunity to adjust dates, copy or data before your clients or prospects see the piece.

This is also the moment in time when the mistakes slide though and become major issues when the customers start calling.

We know that you are probably tired of reading at this point but you need to try to read the piece like it was your very first time looking at it. Study the text, confirm the data, dates, phone numbers, call-to-actions and all other components.

Common errors found at this point:

* Right date/wrong day (is it really a Thursday on that date?)

* Brand colors off

* Wrong or missing telephone numbers

* Newest art changes not sent (were we sent the most recent version of artwork?)

* Wrong offers, or error in disclaimers

* Spelling errors/typos

We know this is cumbersome but it also one of the unavoidable steps. We highly recommend you let someone else look at it and sign off with you. This identifies more errors and changes the dynamic if something is missed.

On a personal note, it doesn’t leave you standing alone as responsible for errors if more people on the team miss the same detail. If many people missed it than it must not have been obvious.  If only one person signs off it is easy for everyone to just point at you and steer clear of responsibility.  This is human nature.

Either way, the signoff process and authorization for us to proceed is your decision only.  We will not proceed without it and we are responsible to print and mail it exactly as the proof you signed off on.

Added Note about all 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail:
Allow the time needed for the quality and price you desire. This time gives you the breathing room needed to be flexible if  things you plan go wrong. No human process or timing is perfect, however much you try!

You cannot be consistently successful when you are expecting everyone involved to “jump from miracle to miracle”! You’ll save money in the end by not paying for rushed and fixed jobs. Being rushed always creates additional errors as you skip details to meet timeframes.

Our most successful customers have learned to work backwards from deadlines, successfully creating a smooth process from start to finish.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #6

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #6:

Direct Mail Sin #6

Don’t use MS Excel for databases

Excel sucks for databases. I don’t know how else to put it. Sure, everybody has it and it is one of the easiest ways to display your database visually, but it doesn’t hold record integrity and it plays with the numbers in your database. The worst horror stories ever in our business have Excel in them. We like MS Excel for spreadsheets and mathematics, not for databases.

There is no describing the feeling that comes over you when you find out (after the mailing) that your customer had sorted the [Last Name] field of an Excel spreadsheet before sending it to you.  It’s like a bomb goes off and everyone involved gets hit with the collateral damage.

These “bombs” are always from excel. Every single time over the decades I have been doing database marketing, Excel is the culprit. Yes there are ways to use it properly to avoid these mistakes. But, the fact that sortation is possible in this manner means excel is NOT a database program.

You’ve been warned.  This is a Direct Mail Sin.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #5

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #5:

Direct Mail Sin #5

Permits, postage and endorsements

The US Postal Service requires your postage to be paid at the time they accept your mailing. Here at CSG Direct we help you in advance by estimating postage based on what we know about the project and database.

Work closely with your CSG Direct rep to ensure you have the right permit on your piece as well as the proper return service endorsements for the kind of services required. In order to eliminate any last minute delays, have your postage ready and available.

When customers don’t get us involved we see a wide array of oddities show up already printed and too late to fix. It is so much easier to fix them prior to printing and it looks nicer than the odd fixes we are often required to do in order to get it through the post office.

Our mailpiece analysis is a free service for our clients. If you avoid using it you do so at your own risk.  Heck – it’s free and we have 25 people on staff certified to do it.

Take the time and save yourself a lot of grief and co-worker finger pointing.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #4

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #4:

Direct Mail Sin #4

Varnish or aqueous coatings

Some customers often need stuff printed and mailed much quicker than the normal required time. This crunch often leaves printers with no choice but to varnish or coat the print in order to meet the deadline. The problem is that this process seals out all additional inks needed in the mailing process. Allow the time needed for your print and mail project and require that no varnish or aqueous coat be used on address panels.

OR just have us print and mail the entire project and save yourself lots of headaches and get the speed you need.

Yes, there are inks that “work” on these coatings but they are not only tempermental, but inconsistent and we usually have to run at half speeds to use them.  This is not efficient and it ultimately costs you more money.

Don’t save one day with a printer just to lose a day or more in mailing services or the mailstream and ruin your mailpieces and delivery times from the US Postal Service.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #3

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #3:

Direct Mail Sin #3

Direct mailer approval before printing

Our job at CSG Direct is to help your designs and offers make it through the USPS to your intended recipients. We are your liaison to the US Postal Service. Let us help by getting your final design approved before you get it printed – a free service from CSG Direct.

Direct mail design is an art form of its own.  There are so many things to consider when designing a mailpiece.

First and foremost you want it to go through the Post Office efficiently so it makes it to your customers and prospects.

Second, you want to minimize postage and maximize mail services. Mostly, you just want the lowest postage you can get but you also want to have it delivered within a short time frame as well.  That balance is important.

Third, it is important to have a design that is cost efficient when printing. There is often a way to cut 1/4″ and cut 15% of your costs.  The opposite is also true.  Often you can add 1 or 2 inches of area for the same costs. You really want to know those things.

Not to digress, but I would rather have a higher priced vendor that managed these things for me than save $100 and miss out on all this information and details.

We balance all of these details for you and have taken it one step further.  We have dedicated ourselves to the task by training and certifying 25 of our employees as Mailpiece Quality Control Specialists by the US Postal Service.

We know it is 10 times better to have direct mail specialists that can keep you up to date and ahead of the pack than it is to hire cheap labor and offer substandard service.

So, Direct Mail Sin #3 is not getting your mailer approved and maximized prior to printing. You can no longer afford to pay for mistakes that can be prevented by proper professionals.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #1

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

After 20 years in direct mail I am still surprised to see some of the same problems in the industry today that we dealt with over a decade ago. Perhaps it is the constant influx of new people entering the market as experienced leadership moves up.  I guess not everyone can spend their entire working lives in the mailroom as I have, or even want to.

So, over the years we have built a list of the most common problems. We call this list The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail and I plan on giving you a “sin” at a time so it will be in chewable bites.

Direct Mail Sin #1

Pick the right paper for direct mail

The pursuit for the lowest print bid often means a printer will sacrifice quality on paper in order to get the job. It is understood that many printers have the exact same costs structures for their businesses so one of the most common tools of the trade is downgrading paper while trying to be as close to the specs you requested as possible.  We all understand this is done, we know it is part of the industry sales cycle as well. The trick is to not get burned by it.

The paper stocks used in direct mail processing are designed to meet requirements that other printed materials are not. Paper stock chosen for direct mailers should measure at least .009 thick in its final folded state and still absorb ink for postal addressing or laser personalization. For example, It is common for postcards to be printed on 90lb-110lb stock, or 9pt-14pt stock. These stocks vary in thickness and even a 10pt stock can measure less than .009 thick.  This measurement is critical to direct mail costs. It is the 5-10 cents per piece cost difference of automation rates and non-automation rates, as well as huge delays in delivery possible. Size does matter.

There is so much more to talk about as far as papers go in regard to laser personalization, perforated coupons, variable data printing, direct mailers and more. The main thing to remember is to have a new paper source tested and don’t just use it based on price. The money you save may cost you five times as much. CSG Direct always maintains a large selection of direct mail friendly papers. This comes from years and years of paper experience. This is another reason why a direct mailer that prints is so much more of a partner than a printer that just direct mails. Find your favorite papers and stick to them.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail series can be found in our Direct Mail Blog as each sin is posted.

Excel is NOT a Database Marketing Program

As a mathematical mind I would normally praise Microsoft’s signature product and how it has revolutionized so many industries. I myself use it on a daily basis and I have written several programs around it.  I feel right at home using it. But it’s not how I use it that has me concerned.

Excel has ruined more mailings than anything else in our industry!!!

Besides the fact that Microsoft registers this program as the default for almost every available type of file you have, Excel also figures it knows your database better than you.

Excel is NOT a database program! However, it has found its way into the database world and destroys projects daily across our country, and probably the world.
Exell sort option

First of all Excel does not hold record integrity. You are able to sort single columns and immediately scramble your database. It is common for a customer to sort the [Last name] field prior to giving us the data. They do this to see if they are in the database.  But then I end up getting a piece of mail saying Michael Smith instead of Michael Hemphill.

Secondly, it interprets your zip-codes as math. 95841-2205 = 93636 right?  wrong!
Excel is meant for Math, it is after all a spreadsheet program.

Don’t get burned by Excel by managing mailing lists with it. Consider yourself warned.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #2

…and how our clients can avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin#2:

Direct Mail Sin#2

Leave room for the US Postal Service

A mail piece is designed for one main purpose – to get delivered by the USPS to your intended recipient. But so often there is not enough room on the piece for the USPS to mark and read your piece for delivery. Sure, the USPS can mail a coconut, but if a standard mail piece doesn’t have at least a 2″ x 4″ box for the address and bar-coding, all bets are off on postage costs and the deliverability of your message to your prospects and clients.

Remember the little postcards you would buy at the drugstore or tourist attraction that had a line down the middle? You had to write the address in the little area on the right?  Those are barely mailable at best, my friends. So why do so many designers design cards that way? I think it is lack of training and leadership showing them the magic of direct mail efficiency.

Designed correctly, we get maximum usage out of every mailer by understanding exactly why and how the US Postal Service will handle them. Since we have one of the largest clusters of USPS certified staff in mailing services on the west coast we are one of the most effective groups to add to your work flow.

There is a entire list of changes to mailpiece design coming with the new postage rates right now.  Let’s talk about your ongoing mailings. Since you are going to have to change them anyway – why not try and save some money and increase your results while you are doing it.

It’s time to modernize your direct mail.