Direct Mail and Printing Services

Direct Mail and Printing Services

I was asked to write content about some individual direct mail and digital printing services so…

BINDING AND BOOKLETS

How about some personalized binders for your next meeting? One of the biggest advantages of using a digital printer that is skilled at keeping things in order, is the cost savings of booklets and the ability to personalize them. We print, punch, drill, tab and coil bind very professional personalized binders and booklets of all shapes an sizes.

DIE-CUTS

The old fashion die-cut gives way to digitally printed and personalized die-cut pieces. Match them to a colorful envelope or mail them without an envelope as Custom Market Mail.  CSG Direct can take your customized die-cuts to a whole new level.

INKJET ADDRESSING

Before Inkjet addressing there were labeling machines and then pin-fed Direct Impression Printers. Our management was installing, training and repairing all 3 technologies. We have been on the leading edge of addressing, addressing software and barcoding since 1988.

Wither you just need a barcoded address or you need a return address and a personalized message added to your mailer, Nobody is more creative and flexible in Inkjet than we are.

CSG “variable everything” continues on our inkjets. Every component we inkjet print on your mail pieces can change per customer to create fully customized pieces.

When we inkjet your pieces we will print the most modern barcodes for you as well, including Intelligent Mail Barcodes and Variable QR Codes too.  Then each piece can be tracked online as they travel the country and we track the QR responses too.

UV COATING

Everybody loves to put the fancy bling of a UV Coating onto their art. Not only does it make most art and designs look amazing but it also protects the pieces against common damage like tears, cuts, smudges and stains. The only drawback is that it costs a few cents extra and you cannot write on it once it is coated.  It sure does look beautiful though!

We would UV coat everything if given the chance.

FOLDING AND TABBING

To a traditional print shop folding and tabbing are simple “finishing work”.  With everything we mail being so personalized we think on a different level. We must ensure these final moves don’t ruin weeks of preparation, printing costs and event deadlines.

We know the pieces we are folding may be in a postal sorted order and will be reversed by the printing process. They also may need to be scored before printing so they don’t crack.  Maybe we score them, then UV Coat them, then come back and do the final fold.

US Postal Service Tabbing requirements are constantly changing. You can make simple changes to your direct mail pieces to reduce tabbing time and money. Your mail piece may require from 1 to 3 tabs or more based on the piece. If done incorrectly your mailing can be completely rejected by the US Postal Service or bumped to higher postage.

Our Folder and Tabbing operators are USPS Certified for mail piece quality control.

TEXTURES

Dimensional Printing is the art of applying a 5th color of raised ink in very specific areas to create a textured printed piece. We do this at CSG Direct to create a tactile feel with your piece or to create security features for coupons and offers.

We have not seen any credible statistics about response rates due to textured printing.  However, we do know that when a person plays with, touches and shares your brand with others, it is a wonderful thing!  We’ll help you get creative with this unique service.

New Postage Rates for 2011

New Postage 2011

First we’ll share the announcement from the US Postal Service about the newly released 2011 Postage Rates then we’ll give you our take below.

———-

Announcement from the US Postal Service:

January 14, 2011

Announcing the continuation of POSTNET barcodes for automation rates beyond May 2011, the continued use of those barcodes for CONFIRM subscribers, and new pricing set to take effect April 17, 2011.

• The new price sheet for CONFIRM can be found online at www.usps.com/prices.

• POSTNET usage has been extended for automation rates beyond May 2011.

• CONFIRM subscribers using PLANET barcodes will also be allowed to continue using the PLANET barcodes beyond May 2011.

• CONFIRM subscribers who have already transitioned to the IMb are encouraged to continue using the IMb. Please do not reactivate a PLANET Code subscriber ID in your system if you have already discontinued its use.

Thanks,
USPS-National Customer Support Center
———-

New Postage Rates ChartHere is our compiled list of common new postage rates for 2011

As we dig through the new rates there is a lot you can tell by where they raise the rates the most as well as hidden rate reductions. Over the years we have been able to design services based on where we see the direction of increases going.

This year we see the biggest changes in the smaller postcards (4.25×6″ max).
We also see a small reduction in non-profit automation:

postage rate review

There has been a lot of pressure on the post office to increase rates and still balance the public relations nightmare of hurting all the small non-profits that count on direct mail to raise funds. In this rate-case we see a decrease in the automation rates charged to non-profit groups. This is likely to help push them into automation and away from stamps, labels, tape and staples.

The rest of this rate-case is pretty small really. One of the smallest I have seen in a long time.  This is probably due to the fact that we are now getting increases annually instead of every 4 years like in decades past.

Notice also how the largest increases are in the smaller postcards in 1st-class non-automation and single piece rates. This would tend to indicate that this is either a category that is more labor intensive, or there are so few that nobody will notice; which is highly possible. I know from experience that these cards rarely have enough room to do a proper address and the full rate ones are those handwritten ones you get at every tourist attraction in the world.

Those postcards are impossible to automate with that old-fashion vertical-line style design in the middle of the address side of the card.  They need one of our new postal automated designs from one of our USPS Mailpiece quality certified designers here at CSG Direct.direct mail quotes

(postage rates at csg here)

No Postage Rate Increase this January

In an announcement that shocked many today, the Postal Direct Mail PostageRegulatory Commission soundly rejected the Postal Service’s request for a postage rate increase of 5.4 percent on January 1, 2011.

This means that postage rates will remain the same until they can be legally changed under the price cap formula next May.  This is also a stunning loss for the Postal Service has it has pleaded that it desperately needs the money to sustain its operations and it comes in the middle of union negotiations with two of the largest postal unions.

The Envelope Manufacturers Association strongly fought this increase through our Affordable Mail Alliance and we filed many hours of testimony showing how this rate increase would damage a recovery in our industry.  This decision to hold prices stable will have a positive impact on mailings both in the Fall and next year and upholds an important principal in the Postal Accountability and Enforcement Act that price increases could not be greater than inflation.  EMA fought hard for that position as we did to uphold the law.

PCC Lunch and Learn: Business Customer Gateway

Postal Customer CouncilPCC of Northern Nevada Lunch and Learn Series

Guest Speaker: Michael Hemphill of CSG Direct, Inc

The US Postal Service continues to Michael Hemphill PCC Luncheonmodernize and automate steps to keep postage low and better serve its clients. Come learn about the new Business Customer Gateway from the US Postal Service.

The Business Customer Gateway gives you a single, unified landing point to access the Postal Services’ online business offerings. These channels consist of the products that support intelligent Mail Full Service Mailing. This includes PostalOne!, FAST (Facility Access and Shipment Tracking), CLDS (Customer Label Distribution System) and Mailer IDs (MID).

Here is the USPS Business Customer Gateway Powerpoint (trimmed)

Speaker: Michael Hemphill of CSG Direct, Inc

Topic: Business Customer Gateway

Location: Atlantis Casino, 3800 S Virginia St, Grand Ballroom 5

Date: Thursday May 20, 2010

Time: Registration at 11:30 am, Lunch served at 12:00

Cost: $20

Reserve your seat by contacting Cindy Cornelison at 775-788-0690.
Call early to request a vegetarian meal.

Here is a scanned copy of the postcard invite from the PCC:

PCC Luncheon

US Mail Postage Rates Summer Sale

The US Postal Service is having it’s first ‘Sale’ that I have seen in my lifetime of 20 postal years. They are going to give you 30% off of your postage rates for every dollar you spent ‘above your average’.

The details are best to come directly from the US Postal Service so here is the quote from the Post Office customer Relations:

“The Postal Service will offer qualifying Standard Mail customers a 30 percent discount on eligible mailings this summer. This will provide those mailers with an incentive to prospect for new customers and reconnect with existing customers.

We think Direct Mail has tremendous value in growing your business. With Direct Mail accounting for 22 percent of the $250 billion spent nationwide on advertising each year, it’s big business. Direct mail is targeted and measurable to an extent other advertising media can’t match.

The summer sale is currently under review by the Postal Regulatory Commission. We plan to begin the discounted pricing July 1. The sale will run until September 30.

Obviously, this is a new initiative for us and we’re anxious to see how well it will work. Are any of you going to take advantage of the summer sale?”

– Steve Kearney, senior vice president, Customer Relations

The catch is, to be eligable you must mail over 1 million pieces of mail from October 1st 2007 through March 31st 2008. From those dates a ‘threshold’ is being established to compare your current summer mailings to.

You will pay your full postage rates through this season and then after October 31st the US Postal Service will determine your rebate and put that back on your permit by December 31st.

So there is a Sale, but only a handful of our direct mail customers will even apply for it as the discount is 30% of the postage spent above your average amount. Of course you still have to mail at least a million pieces in the 4 months as well.

I estimate that this will affect the ‘publishers clearinghouses’ and ‘Capital Ones’ of the world the most.  I just wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t tell you about it. If you would like us to help you calculate, monitor and apply for your savings with you we will.

Does Direct Mail Experience Matter?

During difficult economic times, I find that the marketing professionals that I work with are more price-conscious than ever. Budgets are slashed, staff is reduced and expectations on marketing teams are raised. How do you do more with less?

Well, first of all you want to partner with a team that has A LOT of experience in dealing with direct mail marketing. Direct mail is the most targeted and trackable form of advertising. Savvy marketers have learned that having experienced vendors/partners is crucial when budgets are tight.

The anguish of having a budget overrun due to postage upcharges or undeliverable mail is an experience that has destroyed more than one career. One needs to analyze the true value of experience and leadership in their marketing campaigns.

You wouldn’t hire an attorney or surgeon based on price. The end results are just too important. The same philosophy holds true on your marketing – the lifeblood of your company. A vendor who is less than qualified to properly assess, critique (really), analyze, and process your mail probably is not going to save you any money on your overall campaigns.

A Direct Mail specialist, such as you will find at CSG Direct; is trained and versed on postal regulations, design elements, USPS rules and regulation changes, and targeted marketing strategies. Our staff of fully certified USPS MQC (Mailpiece Quality Control) specialists often find design elements, size constraints or data problems that would get past the most experienced of mail shops.

We also offer creative solutions to save our customers money on production and postage rates, which sometimes makes an individual project less profitable for us… but we are here as a partner, for the long haul. Your projects deserve the experience and expertise that comes from seasoned mail professionals.

Let your competitors work with the inexperienced, fly by night companies while you shop for a company that makes you shine.

You will look better for two reasons:

#1) Your campaigns are effective because you found the true value of experience and expertise. The mailings are dropped in an efficient and timely manner to the intended recipients. You can track your mail through the mail stream (a CSG Direct exclusive) to identify when your target markets are receiving their mailings. You have confidence that your projects stay within budget, and are offered the tools to fully justify the mailing.

#2) You sleep well at night because you know you are working with detail oriented partners who care about your success and are certified in every avenue as meticulous professionals.

The next time you plan a mailing campaign, take a moment to reflect on who you are working with. Are you getting true value?

Are you comfortable with the experience level of your direct mail partner? Are you taking advantage of all of the benefits of a great response and postal discounts that are available?

Either way, get a quote from us so you can compare your vendors to the benchmark in direct mail. You deserve a good nights sleep!

Are new postage rates justified in direct mail?

All things being what they are, I am normally one of the first people to bash large bureaucratic entities such as the US Postal Service. The monopoly that they hold over the industry, the civil service mentality and attitude as well as the constant increases in the cost of doing business leave them as a wide-open target.

In thinking about the new Postage Rates, however, I also feel compelled to compliment the postal service for the latest developments that they have introduced. It has been quite an undertaking! Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of room for improvement and a many areas that they can improve on. Today let’s look at some of the positives, because they deserve to be recognized.

One of the most amazing new developments with the US Postal Service is the implementation of the intelligent mail barcode systems. It is mind-boggling to think of the amount of data retrieval, data collection and data distribution that this system is capable of. This helps the post office to track delivery times and pinpoint problematic areas within their system.

It has also been a great tool for mail service providers such as CSG Direct to build systems around for individual US Mail tracking. This is a dream come true for Direct Marketing professionals to be able to track their mailings online. It allows them to gauge delivery times, track individual pieces and better plan their projects.

Another item that I believe bears consideration is the expense of fuel that has spiked and dropped several times in recent memory. As a transportation and delivery entity, the postal service is sharply affected by fuel costs. I know in my household fuel prices have strained the budget considerably. These costs cannot be absorbed for long periods of time – especially at the volumes that the USPS consumes.

I believe that the postal service is working diligently to improve service and delivery times. With some of the new requirements for NCOA standards, enhanced barcoding and ongoing customer relationship building. I am seeing great strides of improvement in a large entity that is slow to change.

If we can only get them to work in a more customer friendly atmosphere in regard to the incessant changes and rules for mailpiece design and construction. They change the rules – industry adjusts – then they change the rules because they do not like the industry adjustments. The recent flat changes are a good example of this.

In May of 2007, the flat rate increase was harsh, so the industry started changing to smaller booklets and slimjims that were subject to the letter rate category. Now the post office is implementing new rules on these types of mailers that will cost the preparers more money to process and slow down the production. This should have been taken into consideration in 2007 when the USPS raised the flat rates to get mailers to change their formats and remove some of the burden from the flat sorters.

OOPS… I am going off on a rant – not the intention here.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the positive changes that the post office and the mailing industry are encountering. The new technologies are very cool, and very useful. If you are not taking advantage of these new technologies, then you are missing the boat! If you would like to learn more about US Mail Tracking, give one of the Direct Mail Specialists at CSG Direct a call. We are here to help!

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.

Mailing Services, Direct Mail Partnership

As a mailing services provider and someone who has helped set up many mailshops over the years, I regularly find a lack of honest communication. Too often I find clients want to hold back from revealing the full details of a project for fear of putting too much on the table.

For example, a client may need to sell 500 hotel rooms in the next two weeks for fear of losing their job (random example), but instead of sharing that, they just say “I need a bid on a postcard mailing”.

Pull us into your battle! Get us involved in your mission. We have decades of experience at making things happen. Engage us!

The big crime in the scenario I just described is when they end up going with the lowest bidder because that is what they are trained to do. Then the event fails. No 500 rooms, no success – no job.

The proper bid-request should be “How can I use direct mail to fill 500 rooms in two weeks?” and then let the games begin. Now you will have idea after idea flowing your way and the good vendors quickly rise to the top. You can then make an informed decision based on your ACTUAL goals.

When you build a true relationship with a direct marketing mailing services shop as opposed to a average direct mail is an add-on vendor, you will find the direct mail success you seek.

Feel free to email me if you want to talk about it more.

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.