Saving Money on Your Direct Mail during the Pandemic
The COVID pandemic has had its presence felt in many aspects of our lives: personally, professionally and even economically. We’ve all seen price increases in goods and services when we go shopping. In some cases, much needed materials are in short supply – or sometimes not even available – causing prices to drive upwards.
Unfortunately, the print and direct mail markets have felt the same pinch as we’ve seen increases in paper cost in the 6-8% range. This isn’t something that is unique to JHL or our region in the upper Midwest. Across the country, we are seeing that:
- Most printers are receiving monthly paper allocations from paper companies. For many printers the allocations are a fraction of the amount of paper they normally use in a month.
- Some grades of paper are not available.
- The paper shortage is affecting envelope supplies as well. Some envelope sizes have limited stock or are out of stock completely at many envelope companies.
- The paper shortage is expected to last well into 2022.
Coupled with last summer’s postage increases, suddenly you may find your budget being stretched in ways you weren’t intending. With most schools being in the middle of the fiscal year, your choices are to find extra money in your budget to reach your desired audience or make some tough decisions on who gets taken off of your mailing list.
What if we can help you to be a bit creative and help keep you close to your annual budget? Let’s discuss…
Stay with Common Stocks and Sizes
When it comes to a tangible mail piece, there is always a desire to find a way to make it stand out to get it noticed, opened and read. (Note: We love to see that creativity and how it looks as a finished product.) In the current environment, reality may trump creativity.
For the foreseeable future, you may wish to consider keeping a more traditional feel. That may mean that you stick with an 8.5×11 – or 8.5×14 – sized letter folded and inserted into #10 envelope. Using a paper stock that isn’t readily available or tough to find can have an unintended result…either an increased cost or a delayed mail date.
Plan Ahead to Avoid the “Back-Up Plan”
If you must have something printed and assembled a certain way, it is in your best interest to let your account manager know as soon as possible. The communication is essential to finding out if we have access to the type of paper you need and can provide time to order it and have it delivered. Working with your account manager a couple of months in advance to discuss your project needs will increase your chances of success.
As mentioned earlier, paper allocations are no longer being received in the same amounts as in the past. Should we have access to a certain stock, it might not mean there is enough to fulfill your request. Your account manager will be able to let you know what they have in stock and if quantities meet your needs.
By planning ahead, you can determine if your piece can be completed as you envisioned, or if we need to find alternatives that minimize any possible changes to the design to maintain your deadlines.
Keep It Simple. Keep it Consistent.
Depending on the number of projects you have on your schedule and how each one looks and feels, you could consider pre-printing some of the pieces of your mailing. JHL is currently working with a university that is using the same dimensions for each of their five direct mail projects during the 2021-22 academic year. To help them save money, we pre-printed 30,000 A10 envelopes and #9 remittance that would be needed to cover all five projects.
By pre-printing these envelopes, they locked in some of their print costs at the start and were only charged one set-up fee (instead of five). As long as the dimensions of the mailed pieces can fit inside the A10 envelope, the design and information shared with their donors can change from project to project.
Combining Multiple Projects into One
If you have a couple of smaller projects planned to go out within a small window of time, you could consider merging them into one large project. In this scenario, each individual project would be turned into a segment of the larger project. Instead of four separate mailings of 2,500 pieces (and being charged four set-up fees), you would have one mailing of 10,000 pieces with only one set-up fee.
In order to accomplish this, each individual project would need to have the same exact paper type, stock and dimensions, even though the messaging, or even the layout, for each segment might be different.
Last summer, JHL purchased a digital inkjet printer that allows one to one personalization with variable graphics and text for each person on your mailing list. With this technology multiple letter segments can be combined in one press run. We’ve seen such positive results from the digital inkjet printer that we recently purchased a second one to keep up with demand.
Take Advantage of Cost Saving Technology
Another advantage of digital inkjet printing technology is it can lower your print costs, even on a one segment mailing. The traditional way to produce appeal letters is to print static layout – the “shell” – of the letter first and then print the variable text in a second print run. With digital printing we can print the graphic shell and the variable text – including colored text – in the same press run, thereby reducing your costs by eliminating the second press run.
It’s All About Timing and Communication
Thinking big picture can help you and your direct mail vendor. The sooner we can start a dialogue about your plans, the better. Even if messaging and layout haven’t been developed, you can share your intended plans with your account manager. This will give us the ability to make plans to acquire the right kind of paper or envelopes needed as soon as it becomes available. With certain paper types being harder to find, having that extra time – even if its months in advance – can ensure we have it ready by the time your project is ready for production.
That said, nothing is guaranteed. The supply chain is what it is. There is a chance that some modifications may need to be considered leading up to your next project. Keeping an open line of communication during the design phase of your project will minimize the potential for unforeseen surprises that create a sudden need to reconsider your layout.
JHL Advance is happy to work with you on your next direct mail project and provide cost-effective solutions to get your message to your donors and constituents.
January 2, 2022