Mail Shop, Print Shop

PRINT SHOP

Printing is an art that goes back in some form to the beginning of man. It is an art form of ink, paper and design that come together to make a visual presentation.  The real art of print is the design if it attracts the attention of the person we want it to attract (like bait).

At CSG Direct we are a modern day Digital Printing facility specializing in some of the newest features available in static, personalized and dimensional printing.

Print Shop Mail Shop vs. Mail Shop Print Shop

direct-mailing

Leadership - Quality - Innovation

Putting ink on paper is the easiest step.

The real challenge is designing pieces that attract response and delivering them through a single source federal US Postal Service.

The real talent is designing, printing, folding and die-cutting multiple critical personalized components and then matching them together in postal sorted order to achieve the lowest postage rates too.

“Direct Mailers” out-think “Printers”.

MAIL SHOP

Direct Mail Marketing is the art of getting the right visual presentation to the right person at the right time with a relevant message to attract a response and generate sales.

Direct Mail requires database programing prowess and a lifelong pursuit of all the changing rules, regulations, barcodes and loopholes of the US Postal Service.  Direct Mail Marketing requires years of studying databases, barcodes and tracking results.

You have to have the right mind for direct mail. You need a Direct Mailer that prints.
Direct Mail with a Direct Mailer, not a printer “that does direct mail too”.

You get Better Results Fast with a “Mail Shop, Print Shop” like CSG Direct.

Database Artists

The print and mail industries have merged in the last decade creating a lot of “full service” vendors.  However, if you peeled away the layers of marketing you would discover there are really 2 types of vendors in the industry.  There are “printers that mail” and “mailers that print”.  CSG Direct Mail is a “Mailer” at heart and a “printer” second.

We print some amazing projects on some crazy materials at record speed. But we are also building some beautiful databases that drive some amazing projects and recording details from all interactions with a campaign.  We really are database artists.

Putting ink on paper is the easy part. Printers have been doing it for hundreds of years and since we are primarily a digital printer it is a fairly simple task. Printers struggle with the part of the business we like most, database driven everything.  This helps us excel in the difficult world of high tech delivery systems, barcodes, tracking, personalized printing and US Postal Service regulations.

If you’re doing direct mail projects you want a “mailer that prints” like CSG Direct Mail.

DATA DRIVEN

data-driven

data-driven

Being a database driven company keeps us on the bleeding edge of the newest direct marketing systems. That is where the greatest results are coming from and we live and breathe in this category for you.

We make it all seem simple and seamless so you can enjoy better results fast without sweating details.

DATA MINING / ANALYTICS

Are you pulling a list of names that meet a criterion or are you mining your data to find customer patterns and create new categories of customers you can market too?  When you live inside database and do personalized printing you think differently than someone that just pulls mailing lists for a distribution of materials. When you track and record results into data sets you also think differently about what you are looking for inside a database during a marketing campaign.

We help you get better results fast by identifying customer trends.

A great example is a grocery store chain we worked with to identify customer attrition. Using the membership card tracking of 1 store location we identified which customers were increasing their monthly purchases in meat and dairy categories and which customers were reducing their average spending.  By doing this we were able to retain high income by not offering discounts to shoppers increasing spending. We were then able to focus on the only 16,000 people that represented declines in monthly meat and dairy purchases. Those people represented the entire reduced sales of the store and we were able to target relevant coupons and offers to drive increased sales from that group.

DATA APPEND SERVICES

If your database is a flat file with very few details then we need to add some details about your customers to help you customer trends to market with so you can keep costs down and results up. This service is call data-append.

We work with several comprehensive consumer databases that give us hundreds of fields of data we can match to the records in your database. We can find buying habits, age of children, marital status, ethnicity, special interests, credit ratings, type of car driven and so much more.  We use some of the same data sources as homeland security.

Once we append the selected data to your database we mine your top clients to create patterns that we chase through the rest of your data. This helps you identify other top clients.  We could also then build additional marketing data-sets from outside data sources to match your top clients.  Then we use all of these special data fields to drive variable content in your personalized printing campaign.  This is where the term “database artists” comes from.

NATIONAL CHANGE OF ADDRESS

17% of the US population moves every year on average (US Postal Service statistics). So your database is ‘aging” every day and your results are going down every day like a sinking boat. If you don’t keep your database updated with where you customers have moved your results are eventually to just wasted money being thrown in the dumpster.

National Change of Address (NCOA) is a light data-append service that compares your database to the US Postal Service National Change of Address registry.  The US Postal Service stores this information for a maximum 48 months and they now require your list be scrubbed against the NCOA database within 90 days of doing a mailing if you want lower postage rates.

Once your database is cleaned we can help you get it back into your primary data source to save you the headaches and labor cost of intensive data entry.  You need to keep your database up to date but you don’t have to pay a fortune and work long hours to do it.

MAPPING

Once we have your beautiful database built we build maps to display your data for your post forma reporting and historical marketing results binder.  We are also known for our personalized variable direct mail maps and personalized driving directions.

Mapping

Map tools in CSG Direct Mail Portal

Direct Mail: Top 10 Reasons to Use Snail Mail

Direct MailGrowing up I remember waiting with anticipation for birthday cards and other sentiments to arrive in my mailbox from family and friends across the country.  It was and to this day remains a great feeling to know that someone cared enough to send me a personal note via the United States Postal Service.  Nowadays with email being so fast and free some of that personal touch is gone and it really is a shame.  Given the speed of email versus the slower delivery times of USPS mail, sending a letter or card via the USPS has now commonly been referred to as sending “Snail” mail (slow to deliver).  Well for some of us it still has a special meaning so I prepared this short list of 10 reasons to still use snail mail:

1. It’s exciting to receive a personal letter or note.  Whether it’s a love note passed in class under your desk or a carefully written letter from a loved one, reading a personal letter or note has always been exciting and feels special in direct proportion to the effort the sender went through to get it to you.
2. You can add confetti or creative designs to your letter or card.  This again points out the time and effort that can be relayed by snail mail much more easily.  For birthdays and other special events I like to fill the envelope with stars or confetti so if you get a letter from me be prepared for a surprise inside!
3. There’s more privacy to snail mail. Unlike with email it is much less likely that a letter or communication sent via postal mail will get intercepted and read by another party.  It’s possible but unlikely and the recipient can generally tell of the letter has been opened.
4. Emails can get lost in junk mail filters.  While it’s possible that a letter sent via snail mail can get lost in shipping it happens far less than emails getting lost in the abyss that is the modern day junk mail filter.
5. Emails are prone to quicker judgments and rash decisions.  It’s so easy to send an email that we can write something in haste and send it before we actually take enough time to think it through.  That is generally not the case with postal mail unless you work in a post office and have direct access.
6. You can send more variety of items via snail mail. Sort of like my confetti trick above you can also add pictures or other personal touches to a snail mail all the way up to complete packages, boxes, etc.  So far we haven’t found a way to transport something like that through our computers.
7. People tend to elaborate more with snail mail.  In general, people drop the abbreviations when they are handwriting a letter so instead of (LOL, ROFL, OMG, etc.) people tend to actually write out their words and thoughts.  If nothing else, sometimes it’s just good to know that you can still do that.
8. There’s no virus attached. Generally speaking there are no viruses attached to a snail mail that you can catch on accident by previewing the snail mail before opening it.  I’m not saying that someone couldn’t send a virus via snail mail it’s just far, far less likely.
9. It’s too easy to forward your email content to thousands of people worldwide (on accident). With a few clicks of the button, you can send it to everyone on your list, which is dangerous if the content is important.  Unfortunately there is no undo button for sending email in most cases so you are stuck with the consequences of your actions.
10. The check is in the mail… yes it still works.  One of the most important reasons to use snail mail is for cash management purposes if you need to pay a bill but have a couple of days until you are going to get paid or have the money, then snail mail is much more effective for you that online bill payment.  You can simply call the provider/vendor and let them know “the check is in the mail”.

So these aren’t the only reasons but they are some good one’s.  An honorable mention that didn’t make the list is the excuse that you can always use for a greeting being late (birthday card, graduation card, etc.).  You can say you had trouble getting to the post office or that your letter was lost in the mail, but be careful with that one though as most people are smart enough to look at the postmark date.

shared by our friends at changeofaddress.org

Hi Michael,

We would love to share with you an article that we just posted on our own blog! “Top 10 Reasons to Use Snail Mail” (http://www.changeofaddress.org/blog/2010/top-10-reasons-to-use-snail-mail/) would be an interesting story for your readers to check out and discuss on your blog, so we hope you will consider sharing it!

Thanks so much for your time, and have a wonderful day!

Sheryl Owen

Direct Mail Quotes aka Direct Mail Prices

We cannot claim to be the Greatest Value in Direct Mail without talking costs. Across the nation we cost less than the average mailshop for all our mailing services.

My philosophy is that if another mailshop charges more than half of what we charge, they are overpriced.  How is it possible that they can charge the same price we do without giving you all the benefits, service and focus that we offer in every single job we do?

This is why once you try us you won’t look back:
We are the Greatest Value in Direct Mail.

I have been in direct mail and working in mailshops and mailrooms for over 20 years now.  I know what everyone is doing and I’ll tell you we dance circles around almost every other mailshop.  Definitely around EVERY shop working with the gaming industry.

We are very passionate about your mail and making you look good during the process.  We know that with every mailing it feels like your job is on the line and you are constantly having to cover for traditional mailshops.

That is unfair to you and it gives the more advanced mail shops a bad name. You deserve a shop whose #1 focus is handling the many details of your job like true trained career professionals.

I promise you that after we get through just 2-3 mailings together (to get each others’ flow down), that you will never go back to a regular mailshop again.

You know we’re qualified.

I humbly ask you to try us out.
We’ll work hard to make you shine!

You deserve it and it doesn’t cost any more than you are already paying so there is no real reason to say no.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #7

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

Finally we can confront Sin #7:

Direct Mail Sin #7

Proof sign-offs taken too casually

Every job that we receive with electronic files requires some kind of manipulation or adjustment prior to mailing. RGB to CMYK, resizing, recropping, data merging, font replacement etc…

When your project requires a final signoff we hope that you take this opportunity seriously!

By the time it gets to this stage you have seen it many many times. Take a moment and read every line of your offer and confirm that everything is exactly the way it should be. This is your final opportunity to adjust dates, copy or data before your clients or prospects see the piece.

This is also the moment in time when the mistakes slide though and become major issues when the customers start calling.

We know that you are probably tired of reading at this point but you need to try to read the piece like it was your very first time looking at it. Study the text, confirm the data, dates, phone numbers, call-to-actions and all other components.

Common errors found at this point:

* Right date/wrong day (is it really a Thursday on that date?)

* Brand colors off

* Wrong or missing telephone numbers

* Newest art changes not sent (were we sent the most recent version of artwork?)

* Wrong offers, or error in disclaimers

* Spelling errors/typos

We know this is cumbersome but it also one of the unavoidable steps. We highly recommend you let someone else look at it and sign off with you. This identifies more errors and changes the dynamic if something is missed.

On a personal note, it doesn’t leave you standing alone as responsible for errors if more people on the team miss the same detail. If many people missed it than it must not have been obvious.  If only one person signs off it is easy for everyone to just point at you and steer clear of responsibility.  This is human nature.

Either way, the signoff process and authorization for us to proceed is your decision only.  We will not proceed without it and we are responsible to print and mail it exactly as the proof you signed off on.

Added Note about all 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail:
Allow the time needed for the quality and price you desire. This time gives you the breathing room needed to be flexible if  things you plan go wrong. No human process or timing is perfect, however much you try!

You cannot be consistently successful when you are expecting everyone involved to “jump from miracle to miracle”! You’ll save money in the end by not paying for rushed and fixed jobs. Being rushed always creates additional errors as you skip details to meet timeframes.

Our most successful customers have learned to work backwards from deadlines, successfully creating a smooth process from start to finish.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #6

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #6:

Direct Mail Sin #6

Don’t use MS Excel for databases

Excel sucks for databases. I don’t know how else to put it. Sure, everybody has it and it is one of the easiest ways to display your database visually, but it doesn’t hold record integrity and it plays with the numbers in your database. The worst horror stories ever in our business have Excel in them. We like MS Excel for spreadsheets and mathematics, not for databases.

There is no describing the feeling that comes over you when you find out (after the mailing) that your customer had sorted the [Last Name] field of an Excel spreadsheet before sending it to you.  It’s like a bomb goes off and everyone involved gets hit with the collateral damage.

These “bombs” are always from excel. Every single time over the decades I have been doing database marketing, Excel is the culprit. Yes there are ways to use it properly to avoid these mistakes. But, the fact that sortation is possible in this manner means excel is NOT a database program.

You’ve been warned.  This is a Direct Mail Sin.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #5

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #5:

Direct Mail Sin #5

Permits, postage and endorsements

The US Postal Service requires your postage to be paid at the time they accept your mailing. Here at CSG Direct we help you in advance by estimating postage based on what we know about the project and database.

Work closely with your CSG Direct rep to ensure you have the right permit on your piece as well as the proper return service endorsements for the kind of services required. In order to eliminate any last minute delays, have your postage ready and available.

When customers don’t get us involved we see a wide array of oddities show up already printed and too late to fix. It is so much easier to fix them prior to printing and it looks nicer than the odd fixes we are often required to do in order to get it through the post office.

Our mailpiece analysis is a free service for our clients. If you avoid using it you do so at your own risk.  Heck – it’s free and we have 25 people on staff certified to do it.

Take the time and save yourself a lot of grief and co-worker finger pointing.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #4

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #4:

Direct Mail Sin #4

Varnish or aqueous coatings

Some customers often need stuff printed and mailed much quicker than the normal required time. This crunch often leaves printers with no choice but to varnish or coat the print in order to meet the deadline. The problem is that this process seals out all additional inks needed in the mailing process. Allow the time needed for your print and mail project and require that no varnish or aqueous coat be used on address panels.

OR just have us print and mail the entire project and save yourself lots of headaches and get the speed you need.

Yes, there are inks that “work” on these coatings but they are not only tempermental, but inconsistent and we usually have to run at half speeds to use them.  This is not efficient and it ultimately costs you more money.

Don’t save one day with a printer just to lose a day or more in mailing services or the mailstream and ruin your mailpieces and delivery times from the US Postal Service.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Direct Mail – Sin #3

…and how our clients avoid them and save thousands

We continue along with Sin #3:

Direct Mail Sin #3

Direct mailer approval before printing

Our job at CSG Direct is to help your designs and offers make it through the USPS to your intended recipients. We are your liaison to the US Postal Service. Let us help by getting your final design approved before you get it printed – a free service from CSG Direct.

Direct mail design is an art form of its own.  There are so many things to consider when designing a mailpiece.

First and foremost you want it to go through the Post Office efficiently so it makes it to your customers and prospects.

Second, you want to minimize postage and maximize mail services. Mostly, you just want the lowest postage you can get but you also want to have it delivered within a short time frame as well.  That balance is important.

Third, it is important to have a design that is cost efficient when printing. There is often a way to cut 1/4″ and cut 15% of your costs.  The opposite is also true.  Often you can add 1 or 2 inches of area for the same costs. You really want to know those things.

Not to digress, but I would rather have a higher priced vendor that managed these things for me than save $100 and miss out on all this information and details.

We balance all of these details for you and have taken it one step further.  We have dedicated ourselves to the task by training and certifying 25 of our employees as Mailpiece Quality Control Specialists by the US Postal Service.

We know it is 10 times better to have direct mail specialists that can keep you up to date and ahead of the pack than it is to hire cheap labor and offer substandard service.

So, Direct Mail Sin #3 is not getting your mailer approved and maximized prior to printing. You can no longer afford to pay for mistakes that can be prevented by proper professionals.

Speed, Quality, Price – Like the Law of Gravity

There is a common industry insider expression that I wanted to share with the rest of you.  It is considered as obvious and unbreakable as the laws of gravity on our planet.

The expression poses this choice to a client:
SPEED, QUALITY, PRICE – PICK TWO.

This expression is fun to play when you realize its validity. Many vendors will promise all three and only deliver one. Most vendors aim to provide all three, only to find that competitors and customer requests prevent it. Like the law of gravity, to try and ignore the rules may be dangerous to your programs.

Some of the reasons for this are:

No low quality shop can offer the high end services of a high quality shop so they have no choice but to be cheaper.  Saving $200 on an invoice may cost you $20,000 in direct mail results.  It usually does.

Also, for any shop to move a project quickly they have to consider the option of overtime pay which is 150% of normal wages. So higher speed always makes for higher cost.

Let’s play with a few of these:

* High Quality Print – Overnight – Costs Extra

* Low Cost Print – High Quality – Takes Time

* Low Quality Print – Done Quickly – Costs Less

Anyway, it’s yours to play with and now you know an industry insider’s secret.

I have tested it myself over the years and it holds true.

If a printer tells me he will print it fast and keep the costs down – the print always shows up damaged, scored wrong or with color problems.

If a vendor promises low cost, high quality work; it always shows up 3 days late. Perhaps you’re all familiar with this one?

We at CSG Direct are focused on quality and speed and we use our high quality staff (25 MQC certified by the USPS) to identify ways to save money through intelligent programs. With high quality staff you have more high quality options.  That is how we attempt to capture all three of the above choices. But sometimes customers just don’t allow us to provide our full service and maximize this process.

Direct mail is not an industry to cut quality on, especially if you want to save money! I have seen too many low cost vendors ruin entire campaigns because they offer low prices and miss all the most important steps (maximizing every step is important.)

Direct mail is a details business. Demand quality if you want success.  We’ll help you find ways to balance cost and speed from there.  Knowing what you’re dealing with is half the battle.