Postage can be one of the most underrated costs in your direct mail marketing campaigns – but it’s also one of the areas where you have the most opportunities to save. This booklet will share some of the best strategies you can utilize to save money on postage and make the most out of your direct mail budget.
Advanced Data Hygiene
Advanced data hygiene refers to the practices in the direct mail world that ensure a given organization’s customer data is up to date and stored in useful manner. These practices can take many forms; some of the most common steps include tracking changes of address, updating mailing lists, cross-checking for duplicates, acquiring and checking lists, and more. An organization’s data is considered more “hygienic” when it is more accurate and comprehensive.
When properly managed, advanced data hygiene allows for better mail targeting and, in turn, improved ROI. Data hygiene practices reduce the proportion of undeliverable mailings while increasing the likelihood that mail will make it into the hands of the most likely leads.
Some of the benefits of investing in advanced data hygiene include:
- Improved targeting: Cleaner mailing lists mean more cost-effective use of those lists. When your mailings are more accurately targeted at the desired audience, you’re more likely to achieve better ROI on each mail campaign.
- Improved efficiency: Making the most of your data can improve results and efficiency in every area: targeting, mailing, outreach, and analysis. When your data is already clean, your team can utilize your CRM without needing to double-check, develop strategies with confidence, and analyze for more accurate insights. Clean data saves time and, in turn, money.
- Improved customer and employee experience: Both customers and employee benefit from smart data hygiene. Customers can have more enriching interactions with the brand when their information is up-to-date, and your team can better target outreach. Employees can focus more on the core functions of their tasks, rather than spending time chasing down administrative questions and data updates.
- Improved data segmentation and enrichment: Having accurate, up-to-date data allows your team to accurately segment your data, automate processes, target campaigns, and more, leading to better results from each campaign.
Applying advanced data hygiene techniques can involve a variety of steps.
Eliminate duplicates at multiple levels.
Duplicates are the bane of every mailing list. When you have duplicates – multiple entries for one real-world contact – your list is now out of sync with the reality of the people you’re contacting.
Having too many duplicates could mean any number of frustrations, all of which cost you money. You might make projections based on a higher number of contacts than you actually have. You might wind up contacting the same people multiple times, irritating them or making them feel like you’re not paying attention to them. Not only does this extra contact cost money (the cost of phone calls, mailers, etc.), but it also costs money in terms of hurting your reputation and lowering the likelihood that an individual will actually make a purchase.
Be sure to de-dupe multiple times so that flawed duplicates are also caught by the system. For instance, you might have two records for the same customer, but one has a misspelled street name. In this case, if you de-dupe using street addresses, that duplicate record will remain in the system.
Removing duplicates also should be taken care of at multiple levels. This might mean checking to ensure that multiple people aren’t signed up in one household, to remove misspelled or otherwise incorrect dupes, and to properly merge and purge lists. If your organization doesn’t have the in-house capability to perform these tasks, consider partnering with a direct mail and data expert.
Ensure data is complete and correct.
To avoid some of the challenges with de-duping – and to simply have the best, most accurate data possible – ensure that all of your customer data is complete and correct. Improved accuracy means a higher likelihood that your mail will make it to the intended recipient. Plus, it allows your team to perform analyses and develop campaign plans that are as effective as possible.
One of the most common ways to check customer data is through the National Change of Address, or NCOA, database (see sidebar). Along with this source, perform your own checks; remember, not everyone registers their move with the post office. You can also append data to update a mailing list with corrected addresses or remove deceased names.
Consider some of the following questions when updating and correcting your data:
- What sources do we get our data from?
- How do we identify full or partial duplicates?
- Do we have a standardized format for abbreviations, address, salutations, etc.?
- How do you align and cross-check across multiple lists?
Want to save on direct mailer costs? There’s one easy way to reduce costs without ever having to touch your actual mailers. The US Postal Service runs a variety of promotions every year, which are a great way for companies to save on postage costs and reduce the overall costs of direct mail campaigns.
These deals typically promote the use of certain types of mail or certain unique feature, in exchange for a discount on mailpieces that use those features. Each promotion runs for a handful of months and requires pre-registration. It’s an easy way to save: register your direct mail campaign, ensure it meets the requirements, and watch the savings add up.
For 2023, the four major postal promotions are as follows:
Tactile, Sensory, and Interactive
This promotion encourages mailers to enhance customer
engagement through innovations in paper and stock, substrates, inks, interactive elements, scents, and finishing techniques. Marketing Mail letters and flats and First-Class Mail letters, cards, and flats that use these enhanced techniques qualify for a 5% discount between Feb. 1 and Jul. 31. Registration began Jan. 9.
Emerging and Advanced Technology
This promotion encourages mailers to incorporate emerging technologies such as Enhanced AR, VR/MR, NFC, Video in Print, multichannel mail integration with voice assistants, and mobile shopping. Marketing Mail letters and flats; First-Class Mail letters, cards, and flats; and Non-Profit Marketing Mail letters and flats that incorporate these features can qualify for a 3%-4% discount between May. 1 and Nov. 31. The 3% tier includes technologies such as AR, basic integration with voice assistant, and mobile shopping technologies. The 4% tier includes “enhanced” technologies such as VR/MR, video in print technology, advanced integration with voice assistant, and near field communication (chip enabled mail). Registration begins March 15.
This promotion encourages mailers to use USPS’ Informed Delivery omni-channel feature. Participants must create Informed Delivery campaigns through the Portal or submit elements through eDoc submission and develop campaigns that meet best-practice requirements. Qualifying automation Marketing Mail letters and flats and qualifying automation First-Class Mail letters, cards, and flats can qualify for a 4% discount; using eDoc comes with an additional 0.5% discount. The promotion runs from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, and registration begins June 15.
This promotion incentivizes marketers to send out a postcard to a recent website or mobile app visitor that didn’t convert. First-Class Mail automation postcards are eligible for a 5% discount between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30. Registration begins July 15.
The formatting of your mailpieces may seem like a small detail, but it can help you get significant savings – or cause the costs to add up.
When determining the size of a mailer, one number in particular is critical: the aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is the length of a piece divided by its height, and it’s the number that can determine whether a mailer is machinable or non-machinable. For a letter size to be machinable, the aspect ratio must be between 1.3 and 2.5.
A mailer is “machinable” if it can be processed on standard, automated USPS equipment. If it requires special handling, it is “non-machinable.” Machinable mail can be mailed at a lower rate, while non-machinable pieces will incur a fee. Aside from aspect ratio, the other parameters to keep in mind are:
- Minimum dimensions: 5 inches long, 3 ½ inches high, and 0.007 inch thick. For letter-size pieces 0.009 inch thick if more than 4 ¼ inches high or 6 inches long, or both.
- Maximum dimensions for First-Class Mail card prices: 9 inches long, 6 inches high, and 0.016 inch thick.
- Maximum dimensions for letters and other cards: 11 ½ inches long, 6 1/8 inches high, and ¼ inch thick.
- Rectangular, with four square corners and parallel opposite sides. Letter-size, card-type mailpieces made of cardstock may have finished corners that do not exceed a radius of 1/8
- Maximum weight: 3 ½ ounces.
Save money on postage by strategically planning your mail’s physical journey. Postal logistics is all about finding the ideal entry point to save money along the way.
When you partner with a postal logistics expert, they’ll help you map out the best route. Typically, this involves “starting” the mail journey at a center closer to the destination, rather than just dropping a batch off at the sender’s closest post office.
These centers, called Sectional Center Facilities (SCF) allow USPS to save money because they’ll have a shorter distance to transport the mail. In turn, they pass the savings on to you by offering lower rates under these circumstances. The savings are determined by the quantity of mail and the distance to the SCF entry point. You’ll also incur some freight costs, and you’ll need permit authorization in the city of the chosen entry point if it’s different than your current location, but those costs may be offset by the mail savings.
Don’t have a large enough mail quantity to qualify for certain discounts and rates? Commingling can be the answer.
Commingling is a practice of combining mail from multiple companies in order to meet quantity minimums for discounts. Individual companies can then all benefit from the discount rates they would not be able to access on their own.
Similar to how a postal logistics strategy works, commingling typically involves the use of a mailing partner to handle the details. Mail pieces from each participating business will be sent to the mailing partner, who will then properly commingle the pieces to meet USPS requirements and deliver them to the appropriate SCF.
Postal savings can come from many places, and a savvy direct mail strategy may even combine these suggestions to maximize the use of every dollar. When you partner with Priority Group, you’ll get access to a team of direct mail experts who are dedicated to finding the perfect mail solutions for you and saving you money at every step.
Don’t spend a penny more on postage than you have to – talk to Priority today.