Trying to keep your direct mail costs down this year? There are three basic design methods to reduce mail volume and maximize postage discounts. But first, the basics. There are three basic shapes of mail in the U.S.: letter-size pieces, flat-size pieces and parcels. Make absolutely sure that your mail pieces meet all postal regulations before any production occurs. Letter-size pieces need to meet all automation requirements and all must meet paper requirements and allow proper addressing and bar-coding to occur.

Here are some things to consider when trying to optimize your mail piece design:

1) Shape Shifting to Save Money with Select Customers
Secondary customers may be where you can save some marketing dollars. These customers can be mailed letter-size pieces at much less postage and print costs—a single sheet card or folded self-mailer will do. This tactic is very effective in cutting costs while maintaining communication with this segment of your mailing list and may help with prospecting as well.

Overall, care must be taken with this approach as not all mail campaigns can be easily shape shifted. Your best customers in both dollar and frequency—the “best customer” segments—likely respond most highly to the flat piece where presentation and content play a big part. These highest-performing segments should continue to be mailed flats. Letter-sized pieces are generally used only to get attention and flat-size pieces tend to have a higher response rate.

An Example: When it Pays to Pay
When it comes to campaign success, less expensive is not always the most profitable so remember not to write off more expensive parcels. One of the most effective direct mail campaigns I ever witnessed was a highly targeted, multi-mailing campaign using components that could only be shipped as parcels. The material to be mailed was very expensive and required custom production. However, as these mailings were in regard to large scale leasing, the cost was worth it—especially in light of the response rate the campaign recorded.

2) Loyalty Program
The effective use of a loyalty program may help save on postage. Every touch doesn’t need to be a flat, particularly for catalogers and retailers.

With a loyalty program, it doesn’t take a flat to get the customer to respond to the offer. Effective use of letters often gets the desired response. In fact, a mailer could even split campaigns into flats and letters. This may seem counter to earlier with regard to sending flats to your best customers, but a loyalty program is different and can be effectively augmented with only the occasional use of the flat.

3) Poly Wrap Combo
Another way to save on postage is to combine mail pieces together into a single mailing, using a poly wrap to enclose the distinct pieces. This is very effective with Carrier Route-qualified flats.

Typically, a marketer may have several mail pieces going to the same household at or near the same time. These may be all flat pieces or a combination of flat and letter-size pieces. By combining all the pieces for the same household into a single flat piece, you save in postage.