How a 1/2″ Could Double Your Postage Cost

I know I said I was going to continue the printing plant tour and I will, but not today. I’m thinking of envelopes at the moment. One client  is anxious to test a mailing using an extra large window envelope. He envisions the window big enough to contain the customer’s address and display a bold personalized laser printed message. It’s probably a good idea. One secret to direct mail success is to vary your presentation so your customers can’t anticipate what is inside the envelope. Otherwise they might discard your message without even looking at it. Horrors.

The problem with getting too creative is the US postal service. They don’t like anything that doesn’t fit their narrow parameters. In their perfect world every piece of mail would be exactly the same size, use exactly the same paper, and be addressed exactly the same way. Then nothing would jam their equipment and everything would  fly through their systems with very little trouble.

How can we reconcile what the post office wants with the need of the advertisers to attract attention? How can you make your sales message heard in the babble of other direct mail messages? Don’t get me wrong the post office will mail envelopes that don’t conform to their specifications, but the extra postage required to do this usually makes it economically unfeasible.

Try different paper, try colored paper, try window variations, try no window, try matching the salutation on the letter inside with the address on the outside, but before you do all of that learn what the post office requirements really are. For example did you know you could mail a 6X9 envelope for the same postage as an ordinary No.10 business envelope? But if you mail a 6 1/2X9 1/2 size (the size you’d need to mail a 6X9 brochure) it could double your postage? That extra half-inch makes all of the difference in the world.

It’s not just extra postage either. There aren’t stacks of special window envelopes available at the special window store. There is a whole industry dedicated to what we call in the trade, envelope converting. If you want something unique, and different to capture attention, you will have to custom make your envelope. Custom envelopes, like custom anything, cost more, but the bottom line question is, will you attract more buyers by spending more, and will you get enough new buyers to make it worthwhile? There is only one way to find out–test, test, test. Try it this way, then try it that way, and keep accurate records of what pulls better.

The problem is once again, cost. The longer you can keep the press running without having to change plates or ink the better the unit cost, so running two different  5,000 piece jobs will cost more than running one 10,000 piece order. Testing will cost more than not testing, but how much will flying blind cost you in the long run? There is no way to know because you didn’t test.

It seems like a no brainer to me, but it isn’t my money I’m spending. The only thing I can do as a print broker is help the customer know what their options are, find the best ways to get their stuff printed, and always keep looking for better solutions.

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