Quality Control, Your life depends on it!

quality control paperwork at CSG direct mailQuality Control is the process in which the details and consistency of a job are reviewed before the job is advanced to the next stage of protocol. QC includes the job’s artwork and its data.

Both steps are crucial when preparing a print job. For instance, you may have the correct amounts in the data, but it may be mapped to the wrong version of artwork. The job could be going presorted first class mailing, but the barcode reads standard mailing.

These are two of many possible examples of errors that can lead to costly mistakes. One mistake is all a job needs to go horribly awry! That one mistake could cost you thousands of dollars or even your client altogether. This guide is here to help you prevent such mistakes from happening.

Preemptive Measures
Q: What is the first step in preventing a mistake from happening?

A: Having all the proper details written where everyone who handles the job can read them. This means writing up the proper instructions for everything: art, data, postage, assembly, etc. By gathering all the job details at once before the job begins, it will help insure the customer has full knowledge of the outcome of their project and what it requires; therefore lessening the likeliness that there will be changes. Remember, every time you go back and change something in a job that’s already begun, the odds of errors greatly increase! After being in this business for 7 years, I can’t stress that enough.

Proofing
Due to its very nature, variable printing can contain many details to keep an eye on. For example, one mailer alone can have variable dates, freeplay amounts, hotel offers, account numbers, addresses, disclaimers, and varying graphic fields. I think you get the picture. That’s a lot of fields to keep in line.

Steps to proofing a job before sending it out for customer sign-off:

1. Know the variables and all aspects involved in that particular job.
a. Dates, amounts, disclaimers, address fields, snipes, graphic fields, etc.

2. How many versions are there? Are there multiple versions being run as one? Proof each and every version!

3. Mailing Class? Presorted standard, Full rate first class? What is your mailer being run as? Are there multiple versions being run as different postal rates?

4. Check the proofs against the original start data. For example, on the proofs it says John Smith Account# 40456 is getting $5,000 in freeplay. Wait! That’s a lot of money to just be giving away. Now going back to the start data you may find out that John Smith Account# 40456 is only supposed to get $500 in freeplay. Try explaining that mistake to your customer. So, when comparing the proofs to the start data look for these things:

a. Name and address. Is John Smith at 123 Liberty Lane on the proof as well as in the start data?
b. Any type of offers that may be included in the start data, such as: Amounts, dates, hotels offers, disclaimers, locality (This is where knowing all the variables in data really comes in handy).
c. Version: The proof says John Smith is getting “version A” does the start data reflect that?
d. Double check if there are “bi-weekly” or “semi-monthly” type offers. It would be a shame if John Smith got $100 every day when he was supposed to get $100 every other week!

5. Is the mailer size the proper dimensions? Does it go in an envelope or is it folded down to proper size? Ultimately, does the final product reflect the instructions given by the customer AND what is written up in the instructions for the job?

6. Color. Do the colors match those of the original artwork? (You may have to consult with a graphic designer on this.)

7. Spelling and grammar mistakes! Proofread every single word and sentence!

Comparing the final product to the start files is one of the most efficient ways to ensure you will be providing your customer with proper proofs. Many times customers will not fully understand the magnitude of the seemingly miniscule details involved in digital variable printing, thus overlooking small (but huge!) mistakes. This is why it is crucial that we catch these errors before we send proofs to our clients.

Address Block Sign-offThis is it. This is your last chance to change or fix the job before all five thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand (!) pieces are printed and money is thrown away because nobody checked a silly little thing like class, barcode, quantity, etc.

Things to check before signing off on the address block:

1. Class. For each version that you sign off on.

2. Barcode. Does it scan? If so, make sure the barcode reflects the class and work order.

3. Address. Make sure all the proper fields are there, such as: First Name, Last Name, Company, Address 1, Address 2, City, State, Zip Code, Country, etc.

4. Once again I recommend going back and comparing the given record(s) with the start data.

5. Check the postal paperwork. Does the postal paperwork and tray tags reflect the information in the job instructions?

6. Color, size, paper – make sure all of these are correct.

In closing, I must stress that communication between the sales rep and the customer is the most essential part to ensuring a smooth process that will lead to a successful marketing campaign. Furthermore, this communication must be transcribed orderly and properly into the job’s instructions. There is no reason for an error to happen if the proofing process is properly utilized and every small detail is checked. Look at it this way: would you rather spend 10 minutes proofing your job or 10 hours and double the cost reprinting it because you were too busy to proof? I know, that’s a no-brainer!

Okay, you’ve proofed it, the customer signed off, and now it’s in your lap for address block sign-off? I know you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck! I thought this job was good to go?” But who knows, maybe something was accidentally changed in the time that the customer signed-off to the time it took a press operator to get the job ready, this is your last chance to catch any mistakes, take advantage of it!

By Chris Ohm -Data and Design Department

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.

Tracking Results

Tracking Direct Mail Results

Tracking Direct Mail

Direct Mail is one of the most track-able and accountable forms of marketing today. The science and art of direct mail is the ability to test variables, track the results and adjust a campaign based on what you learn.  Only database driven marketing like direct mail has this valuable feature.

We’re constantly tracking:

  • Mailed Pieces
  • Intelligent Mail Barcodes
  • Mail Piece Delivery Times
  • Mail Piece Delivery Routes
  • QR Code Activity
  • Customer Logins and Uploads
  • Driving Directions usage
  • Duplicate Records
  • Changes of Address
  • Clicks, Scans and Exposure
  • Live Job Production flow
  • Postage and Service costs

TRACKING PORTAL

Login 24/7 for live details and tracking on all your projects.
Reports include:

  • LIVE Jobs
  • Job History
  • Postage Calculator
  • Bonus Bucks
  • Mail Piece Tracking and more

Our systems send detailed full job reports in daily or weekly emails. When each project is completed an email is sent summarizing details. Mailing projects get emailed live links to interactive maps of geographical areas targeted and the live USPS delivery data.

Our Portal first launched in 1999 and has since become an important part of our many Direct Mail Cloud Services.

Tracking Map

Tracking Map - iPhone

Tracking Map

Tracking Map - Top Zips

Tracking Map

Tracking Map - USPS

 

 

 

 

BONUS BUCKS

Track all the bonus bucks you earn in the CSG Direct Bonus Bucks program.  “Bonus Bucks” is our customer rewards program.  You earn a series of different bonuses based on the type of programs you took advantage of at CSG Direct Mail.

Our customers have earned over $50,000 in Bonus Bucks over the last year and they are redeemable up to $1000 per month at a time.  This is a real valuable program and our clients use them for free mailings and digital printing services all year long.

INTELLIGENT MAIL BARCODES

Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMB) are the newest USPS Barcode that combines US Postnet and Planet Code Barcodes. CSG Direct is a Full Service Intelligent Mail Barcode with Confirm provider and leads the industry with some of the newest IMB innovations.

CSG Direct US Mail Tracking Systems track every single piece of direct mail you send with simple look-ups using your in-house customer account numbers.

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

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.

Direct Mailing Project? Get our Quote for Success!

If you are looking for Direct Mailing Pricing or Direct Mail Quotes for any kind of Direct Mailing Services make sure you are looking for more than just price. 

GET A QUOTE FROM US!
OUR QUOTES ARE FOR SUCCESSFUL DIRECT MAIL
Direct Mailing Quote
Are we inexpensive, sure! We are The Greatest Value in Direct Mail.

We are also highly qualified, focused and more experienced than most companies you will meet. Plus, 25 of us have been USPS Mail Piece Quality Certified and we have people certified in all departments and all steps of your project.  Your Bid should require expertise and a long deep track record of no-problem mailings, correct?

..nobody matches our accountability standards! – NOBODY!

As the only direct mailing company that lets you track every stage and status of your direct mailing project, we are the most accountable direct mailer in the country. Then we take it to the next level and you are able to track each and every mailpiece as they travel through the US Postal Service with our US Mail Tracking. Additional US Mail Tracking is available through our TrackDirectMail.com tools.

Direct Mail Guy

Here are some Testimonials
Here we are on Facebook

Also, our newly launched US Mail Tracking widget is now available.

GET A QUOTE FROM US!
YOU JUST MIGHT LEARN SOMETHING NEW

Direct Mail Awards

 

 

Casino Marketing Direct Mail Campaigns

I often have people ask “What is the best Casino Marketing Direct Mail Campaign?”.

There really is no easy secret formula or special tricks for getting the most impact out of a mailing. The best direct mail campaign is simply the one that gets maximum results for the lowest cost. In determining what will work best for each customer, the marketing professional must ascertain what the customer wishes to accomplish, whom the customer wants to communicate with, what the incentive is for the recipient to respond, determining a strong call to action, and producing the project in a cost-effective and efficient manner. It is crucial that the mailer takes advantage of the lowest postage rates available – as postage is often the most expensive aspect of the project.

The next question is: “How do I know I am maximizing my direct marketing efforts?”

This is where the experience pays off. Seasoned marketing professionals will seek out the mail marketers who are innovative, versed on postal rules and regulations, and focused on getting maximum results for their customers. Companies such as CSG Direct are in high demand due to the experience and innovation that they bring to the direct marketing industry.

While many printers and small mail shops may have the ability to put an address on a mail-piece, they do not have the ability to track delivery. They cannot ascertain the “in-home” timelines, analyze the market penetration, or track results in a comprehensive manner. Less experienced mailers do not have strong quality control systems in place, MQC Certified employees, expert data programmers on staff or the systems to expedite the projects efficiently.

This is nearly always followed by: “What type of direct mail piece is most effective?”

Once again: This is determined by the type of results that the customer expects, the type of offer that is being presented, and the demographic that is being pursued. One wouldn’t send a postcard as a high-end wedding invitation….however, they might send a “save-the-date” card prior to sending out the formal invitations.

This is the type of strategy that often increases results. Sometimes a postcard with coupons is the most effective, low cost medium for specific campaigns. Sometimes a personalized letter makes more sense, and can easily be tailored to the individual’s interests or purchasing traits. Self-mailers are often a great alternative, especially if one desires a lot of “real-estate” to get their message across. The type of mail-piece will vary with each project, and should be determined by demographic, content and end strategy.

Marketers should realize that a direct mail campaign is exactly as it sounds: a campaign. A single mailing is not a true campaign. In most cases, it makes more sense to mail to one-third of your top prospects three times than to mail to all of your prospects a single time. Repetition is the key to any campaign. With proper planning and implementation, the cost for a multi-tiered mailing campaign is very reasonable. With a strong offer, proper incentive and an effective call to action…your customers and prospects will react in a positive and timely manner.

In summation: Too often individuals plan, ponder, partially develop and ponder some more about their marketing campaigns. It is a “ready – set – wait” scenario. As the event or promotion draws closer, they are forced to react. At this point the campaign is pushed out late and valuable time is lost. Early planning and implementation will make for a smoother campaign. It is no coincidence that in most cases, the well planned campaigns are the most effective campaigns.

By approaching the objective ahead of time and applying a plan – develop – implement” strategy, your mailings will be received by your potential customers in a much more timely and effective manner. By working with an experienced, competent mail shop – you will have the proper tools to analyze your campaign (and you will sleep better at night).

Effective direct mail marketing….it’s as easy as C-S-G!

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!