Learn how to reduce your business’s direct mail cost with these simple and wise tips from SnailWorks
December 13, 2022   Karen Bartram

Simple Ways to Reduce Your Direct Mail Cost

Direct mail has the reputation of being expensive, and while it can be, it doesn’t have to be. There are several simple ways to make direct mail marketing far more cost-effective for both small and large businesses, your mail service provider (MSP) can help. Because direct mail boasts the highest response rate of all marketing activities, you do want to include direct mail as part of your overall marketing plan and budget. SnailWorks is an authority on direct mail with powerful mail management tools at our disposal. Below we share some smart tips and techniques to reduce or manage your direct mail cost and increase your ROI.

Cut Out the Creative Middle Man

Not all companies have the luxury of an in-house creative team, or the resources to manage the print production of their mailings. Our suggestion is to turn your multiple third-party “vendors” from plural to singular. The most cost-effective way to outsource creative work for direct mail is to consolidate the services. Thanks to the technical requirements involved with designing direct mail, it is beneficial to hire a designer who can also manage the print and mailing of your pieces. Either find an advertising agency that is partnered with a printer, or a mail house that offers quality copywriting and design services. While paying one fee to one vendor is the key takeaway here, the key word is quality. The artwork and messaging of a direct mail piece is not the place to cut corners, so whether you choose a mailer or an agency, make sure the work is up to standard. The goal is never to save money by being cheap, but to get the most effective mailer packages for the lowest production cost. A designer who is well versed in direct mail production will save you dollars by creating packages that can be produced efficiently.

Take Advantage of USPS Promotions

Looking for an easy way to save a lot of money? Well, you’re in luck! Postage accounts for a large portion of each direct mail budget and the USPS provides annual incentives for participating in innovative programs. All it takes is meeting the criteria they set for each period. In 2023 there will be six discounted promotions in total,  most of these promotions are same as or similar to previous years but there are a couple of new ones. The incentive promotions being offered in 2023 are; Tactile, Sensory & Interactive, Emerging & Advanced Technology, Personalized Color Transpromo, Informed Delivery, Reply Mail IMbA, Retargeted Mail. Details are still pending for a few of these but each last between 3-6 months offering 2-5% off postal costs. If you’re wondering why the USPS is willing to give away both great advice and huge discounts, it’s simple – they’re in the business of direct mail. The more you use the medium, the more the USPS benefits. It’s a win-win!

Use the Free USPS Tools

As previously mentioned, reducing your direct mail costs also benefits the USPS. That’s why, in addition to their annual discount promotions, they have also offer some amazing and services and tools for all marketers to utilize.  Our favorites are Informed Delivery® and Address Change Service® (ACS). While both of these tools can be used without the aid of a mail service provider, they are the experts in the field. If an MSP is already doing your campaign design and printing, it might be wise to let them handle these services as well.

Informed Delivery is an opt-in program that allows the USPS to email a preview of a consumer’s incoming mailers. This email acts as an extra free impression for every recipient that is subscribed and opens it. You can also view these notifications from an online dashboard and a mobile app, providing the possibility for thousands of additional views without spending another penny. Plus, each impression includes a weblink to your landing page allowing the viewer to respond to your offer on-line immediately. If you want to try this service yourself, click here to learn how to initiate an interactive Informed Delivery campaign.

Address Change Service (ACS) is another opt-in program the post office offers to provide mail owners with information on mail that is undeliverable as addressed. If the letter carrier is not able to deliver a piece of your mailing the Postal Service will send you an electronic notice telling you that it wasn’t delivered and why.  In some instances, they may even be able to provide you with updated address information for that recipient. Oh, and the price? Free. As long as it’s part of a Full-Service mailing.  (Most commercial mail is these days.) The catch?  You have to ask for it.  Your MSP can work with you to setup an ACS account and prepare your mail appropriately. 

Comingle Your Mailers for Discounts

The best postal rates are achieved when significant amounts of mail can be entered into the postal system near the recipient. Smaller to medium sized mailings may not have enough pieces destined to any single postal entry point to make this practical. Comingling is the process of combining mail from different sources, but with the same destinations, to earn significant discounts from the USPS. When searching for a mail house, ensure they  offer this service. Not only will your postage be discounted but your mail should deliver more efficiently as well. Another win-win!

Target More Efficiently

The only thing that impacts your ROI more than the design of your mailers, is the accuracy of your targeting. The best designs and incentives are useless if sent to the wrong audiences, and you also waste the time and budget spent. With insight into your consumer’s behavior, however, your business can spend far less on direct mail and focus specifically on the most qualified leads. To monitor consumer behavior and gain this insight, marketers have of elements to test and measure responses. Below are some of these actions or elements.

  • Postcards and other types of return mail are cost-effective and allow for immediate resending to the marketer
  • Trackable phone numbers are uniquely generated numbers that allow marketers to track each call from the digits listed on the direct mail piece
  • Personalized URLs are uniquely generated website addresses that work like trackable phone numbers, printed on the mailer
  • QR codes allow consumers to scan their mailer with their smartphone, linking directly to a digital landing page (likely using a personalized URL)
  • Augmented Reality (AR) allows for interactive features that can only be accessed via smartphones and other technology

And the list goes on.

While direct mail boasts one of the highest response rates of any medium, it is reliant on those responses to be tracked. With the proper planning this can also be one of the medium’s biggest strengths. Time-gating and return mail (like postcards) are great ways to gain the information needed for better targeting – but they don’t transcend the medium. And while QR codes, personalized URLs, and trackable phone numbers link to other platforms, they still rely on responses to target more efficiently. If you really want to be as efficient as possible with your mailing and reduce your direct mail cost, you need monitor all channels of response. For best results consider utilizing an integrated response tracking service or software.  

Get a Mailer With Mail Tracking Service

The only way to track your direct mail delivery without a response from consumers is through Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) mail tracking service. Real-time tracking results are available thanks to elements of the IMb printed on each piece at the mail house. Mail can then be monitored as it travels – every step of the way from the mail service provider, throughout the postal system and, to the correct mailboxes. Knowing exactly when and where your mail arrives provides crucial insight into how long it takes to get a response – and also who responds – enhancing the quality of your future targeting.  Savy marketers also track their inbound mail. If these are services you’d like to take advantage of ask your mailing service provider to contact us!  Mail owners find our services simply invaluable for managing direct mail cost in the long term and works perfectly in tandem with every other tip on this list.