By Tracy A. Gill, Ballantine Corp. 
When it comes to direct mail, everyone wants to find a way to get the same return on less investment. As one of the biggest expenditures in a direct mail campaign, production is a logical and easy place to start. Tracy A. Gill reveals seven simple things any company can do to trim some of the fat out of its production budget. 
1.) Use standard-size envelopes. With the right creative, #10’s, 6″ x 9″ and the like, have just as much mailbox impact as their custom counterparts for a fraction of the price. To keep standard-size efforts from falling victim to fatigue, without a major redesign, try folding the contents in different ways to fit into other standard size envelopes.
2.) Work with print vendors to determine the sizes and shapes that will make the best use of their printing sheets. By trimming a quarter of an inch here or an eighth of an inch there, you may be able to print two or three pieces across the form, resulting in less trim waste and less time on press. When that math doesn’t work, use the extra room to print freemiums, lift notes, or other ancillary pieces.
3.) Don’t be afraid to commit–to your production. Buy paper in bulk, rather than on an as-needed basis, to get better rates. Consider using your best print vendors on a contract basis; many will offer discounts if you do.
4.) Use four-color printing sparingly and supplement it with less expensive two- or one-color designs. For example, impose a brochure so that one side features all the images in stunning four-color, while the reverse features one-color type. Avoid spot colors unless they are absolutely necessary; that one extra color adds many extra dollars to your budget.

5.) Look for inexpensive bells and whistles to add interest to a direct mail piece. For example, rather than using a costly scratch off to get prospects to interact with a reply device, have them play a matching game or sign a “special offer acceptance” agreement.

6.) Print on lighter paper to reduce both paper and postage costs. Glossy papers are a good candidate for this, because they reflect more light and therefore can be more forgiving of quality. 
7.) Get it right the first time. Author alterations–or even worse, reprints–are killers to both your time line and your bottom line. 

—Source: Ballantine Corporation 2008 (www.ballantine.com).