Extra Impressions of Your Message (for free)

Informed Delivery from the US Postal Service sends consumers a preview of the mail they will receive later in the day. Consumers receive a morning email that displays images of soon-to-be-delivered letter-size mail. The great news for direct mail marketers and others communicating with their customers is the USPS distributes your message in an additional channel at no charge!

This is one of the few times you can get something for nothing. The base program is automatic and requires no special preparation by the mailer. About 17 million consumers have subscribed to Informed Delivery and are receiving previews of their mail in their morning inboxes. The open rate on these emails is extraordinary-about 65 percent.

Marketers should take advantage of these extra free impressions and add compelling text and graphics or teasers to their envelopes, postcards, or self-mailers. These efforts will make the scanned pieces stand out in the morning emails and increase the chances of engagement once the physical mail pieces arrive in consumer mailboxes.

The USPS doesn’t support flats, catalogs, and magazines in the basic service, but read on to see how mailers of these materials can still take advantage of the Informed Delivery program.

 

Informed Delivery Campaigns

Mailers can substitute the default monochrome images with full color ads that include a call to action and a link. Again, the Postal Service charges nothing for this service! A campaign requires little extra work. Most times, the artwork and landing pages will already exist as part of your marketing campaign. Mailers can work with print and mail service providers like Bolger Printing to design and submit an Informed Delivery campaign.

Informed Delivery presents full color ads first in the list of a consumer’s daily summary of mail pieces. A link in the ad can lead directly to landing pages for special sales, donation collection, event sign ups, video demonstrations, customer online portals, and more. Mailers can include flats, catalogs, and magazines in their Informed Delivery campaigns featuring substitute images.

If you’ve been thinking about running a multi-channel campaign, Informed Delivery is an easy and inexpensive way to start.

 

High Value/Low Cost

To make Informed Delivery campaigns even more effective, segment your mailing list. Your customers will see different graphics or links, depending on criteria you declare. A bank for instance, might provide links to different branches depending on the mail recipient’s location. Or an airline might alter their offer according to consumer loyalty points. The possibilities for targeted marketing, including extra free impressions and website links, are endless.

After the mailing, the US Postal Service compiles Informed Delivery campaign statistics. Mailers can view detailed reports on campaign delivery dates, email opens, and clickthroughs. Pre-mailing file analysis is also available so you can estimate the number Informed Delivery subscribers in your target zip codes or on your mailing list.

The US Postal Service runs promotions to encourage mailers to give Informed Delivery a try. Call us to hear about the schedule for the next promotional period and save money on postage while still doubling your impressions for free. It can’t get any better than that!

Learn more about the Informed Delivery program and see a personalized video explanation at www.usps.com/business/informed-delivery.htm. Don’t worry about the technical items or campaign set-up steps. The mailing experts at Bolger Printing will take care of those details for you. To experience Informed Delivery for yourself, sign up at www.informeddelivery.com. Within a few days you will receive your digest of daily mail via email. Once you see how it works, call us to double the impact of your next direct mail project.

Best Practices for Images

Nothing beats the beauty of a crisp and finely detailed printed image. Or the rush of cracking open a book fresh off the press. At the same time, printing can be a complicated process with multiple variables and exacting specifications for sending a file to print.

To make the process less complex, let’s have a look at how to handle three of the most common problem areas: color, bleeds, and resolution.

For detailed guidance about file specifications, please refer to our file preparation page.

 

Color

Getting colors right is a common issue, so let’s start with the basics. Your computer uses a color space called RGB (red, green, blue) to produce all the colors you see on the screen. A printing press uses the CMYK color space made up of cyan, magenta, yellow and black to produce printable colors. This is known as the four-color process.

Before you send files to a printer, you must convert RGB to CMYK in your design software, such as InDesign.

The difference between the two color spaces can be significant. RGB produces bright and vibrant screen colors a press can’t always replicate. RGB can reproduce a wider spectrum of the color gamut than a printing press, meaning it’s possible to display colors in RGB that you can’t make with CMYK. What you see on the screen can appear quite different on paper.

For best results while converting color try the following:

  • Select colors for fonts or other elements in your layout using CMYK definitions, not RGB
  • Try to calibrate your viewer to emulate CMYK so what you see on screen more closely approximates what a press will print.
  • Don’t use your office printer to gauge CMYK reproduction. That device is likely not calibrated correctly and will not produce a correct proof.

 

Spot Colors

While the four-color printing process can reproduce endless hues, reproduction inconsistencies can appear. A CMYK color formula printed on one press can appear different on another press. Consistent color reproduction every time requires a spot color. Presses produce corporate colors like Coca Cola red or Home Depot orange with spot colors. Ink suppliers pre-mix these colors to a standard known as the Pantone Matching System, or PMS colors. Specialty inks like metallics or neon inks are also considered spot colors. Your print service provider must image an additional printing plate for each spot color.

 

Bleeds

A printed file includes a trim size and bleed areas. The trim size refers to the final dimensions of the piece after it’s trimmed and bound. The bleed is a border area of printed content that extends beyond the trimmed edge and is discarded during finishing.

Bleeds are safety margins that allow guillotines and knife trimmers to cut a piece to the required size without leaving a white border along the edges. Bleeds should be 1/8” larger than the trim size on all sides. When you’re designing a printed piece, create the image and have your design program add a bleed space for you.

 

Safe Area

A related topic is the safe area, or type safety area. This is the area on a page where designers can safely place images, text, and other elements that won’t be cut off during binding. Leave a free space of at least 1/16” from the trim line on all sides to avoid cutting mishaps. You may have to adjust the safe area further in the gutter (gutters are extra space added to allow for binding). Your printer can recommend acceptable parameters.

 

Resolution

Crisp, beautiful images depend on proper resolution. Resolution refers to how much data images contain. Screen resolutions generally top out at 72dpi, or dots per inch. This looks good on most screens and makes files easier to store and display. A printing press needs a resolution of 300 dots per inch, so screen images are usually unsuitable for print.

The 300 dpi applies to resolving the final printed image. If you’re using an image that’s 2” x 2” with 300 dpi and resize to 6” x 6” you will dilute the resolution. The larger image must be 300 dpi to print clearly.

Resizing an image to a smaller dimension will not harm the print quality, but be cautious about enlargements. It’s possible to enlarge an image using various methods in Photoshop, but this yields limited results.

Guidelines provided by your print service provider are meant to ensure your printed pieces turn out as you planned. You’ll prevent extra charges, avoid delays, and experience the best results by designing with the printing process in mind. When in doubt, call the professionals at Bolger Printing for assistance.

Don’t Make These Mailing Mistakes

Does it seem that mailing should be simple? It’s old technology, right? To many, printing a mail piece and getting it to the recipients appears to be a low tech, low risk process that requires little expertise. That’s a dangerous assumption.

Underestimating the complexity of high volume mail projects can turn profitable campaigns into losing propositions. Infrequent mailers and marketers with limited direct mail experience can inadvertently make decisions about designs, processes, and data that will increase their production and postage costs, depress their results, or both.

Postal rates and regulations change over time. If you haven’t produced a mailing in a while it pays to consult with experts in the early planning stages of your project. They will know how current postage rates and mail preparation rules will affect your proposed project. Don’t wait until you’re ready to turn the project over to production to get mailing advice.

The list below includes some common mistakes people make with mailing projects. Avoid these errors and your project is more likely to produce the results you expect within the budget you’ve established.

 

Mistake #1 – Mailing Lists

If the list isn’t right, the attractiveness of the offer won’t matter. About 40 million people move every year. Some of them file change of address notices with the US Postal Service, others do not. If you haven’t compared your list to the National Change of Address file recently, not only will mailing pieces be undeliverable, you could incur extra postage fees long after the mail has been delivered-a penalty for using out-of-date lists. Tracking down new addresses for people who move and don’t register with the USPS requires mailers to process files against alternative data sources. Check with your mailing service provider to see if they offer this service.

Besides the basic problem of poor data quality, inaccurate targeting can also kill the effectiveness of a mailing. Be sure the names on the list match the offer demographics. The days of selecting prospects solely by zip codes ended long ago. List vendors can help you get much more specific.

Don’t forget to remove names that have zero chances of responding to your offer. Use suppression criteria to strike deceased and incarcerated persons. Drop existing customers from your new customer acquisition campaigns. Delete prospects living outside your market area.

 

Mistake #2 – Duplicates

Closely related to mailing list problems are duplicate records. Duplicates usually happen when marketers access data from multiple sources. Data stored in different files may list the same individuals with variations in name spelling or with multiple addresses. Make sure your mail services provider has the tools to remove duplicates from the data files.

Duplicate definitions can change depending on the application. Sometimes, sending mail to multiple family members at the same address is appropriate. In other cases, it’s better to drop those duplicates and mail one piece to the household.

Duplicate mailpieces are 100% waste. They reduce the ROI of marketing campaigns. Get rid of them before sending data files to the printer or ask your print/mail services vendor to eliminate duplicates for you.

 

Mistake #3 – Mailpiece Design

The US Postal Service establishes specific criteria to define mail classes, services, and rates. Mailers that exceed the limits can incur expensive surcharges or force their mail into higher postage rate categories.

The USPS aspect ratio regulation is one area easily overlooked. Divide the mailpiece length by the height. If the result is less than 1.3 or greater than 2.5 the Post Office will assess a non-machineable surcharge to every mailpiece. The length of the piece is parallel to the address, so rotating the address to print parallel to the short side of the piece will trigger the surcharge. So will square mailpieces, which have an aspect ratio of 1.

Other design issues that cause mailers to pay extra fees include exceeding weight limits, overly stiff material, and uneven envelope contents such as pens or keys.

Self-mailers have their own set of mailing requirements including how they are constructed and sealed. If using adhesive wafers (tabs) to seal a folded self-mailer, be sure the tabs won’t obscure important information printed on the mailpiece. Tab locations are controlled by USPS regulations.

Each mail class has standards. Check with your print/mail vendor’s mailing experts or with Mailpiece Design Analysts (MDA’s) at the Post Office before producing questionable mailpieces.

 

Mistake #4 – Mailing Only Once

Time and repetition are necessary to create a lasting impression. Mailers are better off planning a sequence of mailings than blowing the whole budget on one extravagant mailpiece.

Multi-channel campaigns also perform better than mail alone. Talk with mail service providers about integrating email, text (SMS), or re-targeted web ads to boost the results generated by a direct mail project.

Mailed communications are more effective than digital alternatives, but they also require a greater investment. It pays to enlist the help of mailing experts as you plan your campaign to avoid making costly mistakes. To access mailing assistance for your next project, email Bolger Printing’s marketing department at marketing@bolgerinc.com. We will connect you with the proper resources.

Reducing the Stress at Open Enrollment Time

The traditional benefits open enrollment period is busy and stressful. Employees must consume a great deal of information and make decisions that will affect their families for an entire year. The days leading up to enrollment deadlines are filled with employees seeking guidance and asking questions of the HR or benefits administration staff who struggle with the annual challenge of helping employees complete the process in time.

About half of employees find benefits enrollment to be “always stressful” according to a 2017 survey by Jellyvision. 41% of employees in the survey said the open enrollment process was “extremely confusing” and 20% later regretted their benefit decisions. Complicated benefits enrollment packets are part of the problem. Because of the document’s size and complexity employees don’t spend enough time examining them, often delaying until the last minute. Procrastination generates anxiety for employees and tests the limits of company resources set up to help them. The last week of open enrollment is typically hectic.

 

All-Purpose Benefit Books

Naturally, employees want access to all the latest relevant information before making their selections. Offerings change every year as insurers and companies update the plans. Employees must carefully review their options to assess the financial impacts of their benefit decisions. Historically, companies informed their employees about benefits by providing them with copies of a single printed enrollment guide. These sizeable publications cover every benefit option available in all employee categories.

This one-size-fits-all approach requires employees to sort out which benefits and versions apply to them. Limitations and exclusions abound. Companies may offer different options for exempt and non-exempt employees, state or region-dependent benefits, union and unrepresented groups, or varied options offered to divisions added via mergers and acquisitions. The resulting benefit books are large and confusing. Employees need help to understand which portions apply to them.

 

An Efficient Alternative

Fortunately, digital printing has allowed organizations to improve the way they present benefit information to employees. Unlike legacy printing solutions where economies of scale require printing large quantities of identical documents, digital printing workflows create versions focused on the eligibility of distinct employee groups.

Printed benefit books can include or exclude text blocks, pages, forms, or even entire sections depending on the characteristics of the intended audience. Creating and delivering multiple versions typically has no impact on document production costs. Companies can lower the stress levels for staff and employees without spending an extravagant amount on printing. Bindery has also become automated and data-driven, allowing print service providers to supply finished benefit enrollment packets relevant to each class of their client’s employees.

 

Stop Dreading Open Enrollment

Because digitally printed enrollment packets are specific to identified groups, employees must no longer wade through pages of irrelevant material to find the details they need to make their selections at open enrollment time. The documents are easier to understand, leading employees to make confident decisions, lowering their reliance on HR assistance.

As open enrollment time approaches, companies are discovering digitally printed enrollment materials may be the best way to serve employees and reduce the burden on HR and benefits administrators. For the first time in years, open enrollment may be easier and more efficient than in recent history. Call your Bolger Printing account representatives now to learn more about the advantages of digitally printed benefit enrollment packets for your organization.

Forget What You Know About Millennials and Print

 

Popular stereotypes lead observers to believe that millennials think print is dead, but that isn’t true. Research shows this demographic group appreciates a more diverse collection of communication channels than you may have thought. They see value in printed material and sometimes engage with print more deeply than do older adults! The key in reaching millennials with print is making sure the content is relevant and personalized. They will reject messaging meant for a different demographic and they expect companies to use information they have compiled about consumers to influence future communications.

In a report entitled “Millennials and the Mail” the US Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General published findings about how millennials interact with direct mail marketing. Surprisingly, 62% of millennials participating in the survey said they had visited a store within a month of receiving information in the mail. This response outpaced Gen X consumers and baby boomers.

Millennials especially appreciate local business and restaurant coupons. Over 65% of millennials said they liked receiving this type of advertising mail. Ads for restaurants and local businesses without coupons also fared well.

Since technology keeps millennials constantly connected, they are exposed to lots of advertising, but it’s not always effective. About half the members of this generation say they ignore digital ads, but direct mail breaks through the clutter. Perhaps because they receive fewer ads in physical form, 87% of millennials say they enjoy receiving direct mail.

Strategic Print Works with Millennials

That doesn’t mean marketers can revert to traditional “spray and pray” methods for attracting millennial attention via direct mail. This generation doesn’t like to be “sold”. Heavy handed sales pitches will turn off millennial buyers. Honest and straightforward approaches will forge stronger connections with the target audience.

Though they appreciate being contacted by mail, millennials would like to see advertisers making more of an effort through better segmentation and personalization. They will instantly discard irrelevant mail. Updated direct mail that uses multiple channels or technologies such as augmented reality or near field communications will also get attention from millennials.

All advertising should be easy to consume, but messaging aimed at millennials should be brief and easily understood. Save the in-depth details for linked communications you can deliver via video or other formats.

More than any generation before them, millennials are interested in helping others. Campaigns featuring matching charitable donations or other demonstrations of social responsibility will strike a chord with this group.

 

Political Mail for Millennials

Though political campaigns have definitely gone digital, mail remains a critical component of a multi-channel approach. Millennials read their political mail and are more likely to discuss the material with others and visit a candidate’s website referenced on a printed piece. They are also likely to go online to research opponents or be exposed to contrasting views.

In a study by the USPS and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC), researchers found millennials are accustomed to verifying information through multiple sources. They use political mail as a means to integrate information and access websites and social media relevant to the mail pieces. Printed materials with no online references are viewed by millennials as incomplete.

Political mail can also be an educational resource about elections. Printed materials tell millennials when and where to vote, inform them about registration, or remind them about early voting deadlines.

From a trust perspective, millennials consider political mail as coming directly from candidates. They believe the information is being delivered with no filters or news source bias. This is an important factor considering all the concern about misleading information disseminated via social media.

The AAPC study includes several direct mail design tips and strategies still relevant for today’s national, state, and local elections. Download the white paper HERE for good ideas about how to leverage print for political campaigns.

Millennials are not digital addicts who engage exclusively with online material. They see print as relevant and a good percentage of them have taken action after seeing printed marketing material. If millennials are a segment of your target audience, don’t miss the opportunity to connect with them via print.

Our Favorite Podcasts

Link Profile

22 of Our Favorite SEO Tools

Putting the Power in Your Hands

Printers & The Environment