For more than 20 years, we have seen 15% to 20% of all mail files in such poor shape that often the client says, “just mail it” to avoid delays or additional work. This cannot continue. As postage costs continue to rise, you should keep the following tips in mind.
Even though the US Postal ServiceĀ® now requires that some form of Move Update be completed on your files every 95 days, it is important to read and understand the reports that are generated from the list processing on your files. The reports show what was corrected/updated and also what was not or cannot be. The records that cannot be corrected (with ZIPĀ®-plus-4s and delivery point validation) should almost always be eliminated from the mailing. These records will cost more to mail, may not be delivered, and should be flagged on your housefile to avoid future problems. Also, Move Updates will not correct or catch all issues. Additional products should be used, or at least tested, to see what incremental gains can be achieved.
Once the file reaches your printer or mailer, verify what products are run on your file to either verify or clean up the records. Often nothing should be run because the work was already done and you do not want to lose your segmentation schemes. Many of them do have the capability to verify files without changing data. 
Clearly, co-mailing is key to reducing postage costs. Many printers do not have the appropriate software and/or equipment to provide this service. You should always receive a postage estimate that shows the discounts you are going to receive from drop shipments and co-mailing. They should be provided separately, so that you can compare them with other vendors’ capabilities. The discounts shown should also be net of costs.
Finally, review mail plan and drop ship dates. Verify with the mailer how the tracking is going to be done to insure on-time delivery to the destination facility and perhaps even to the mailbox. After the project is complete, review all steps and timing so that future projects will be even more efficient. 

THE TAKEAWAY
Work with your printer on data hygiene and co-mailing to keep costs down.
—Gary Sierzchulski, VP of data systems, Arandell
The communications industry has weathered tough economic times and businesses are seeking more efficient methods to reach the market. As a result, many are rethinking how to reach consumers. 
Customized communications via cross-media marketing that embrace the Web and personalized direct mail are essential for reaching more lucrative customers as well as driving customer loyalty, growth, and profitability. Postcards are an appealing, low-cost choice that often work well in a cross-media strategy when complemented by a URL.
To implement this kind of strategy successfully, it’s important to find a vendor that can help your company define, understand, and forecast market growth; comprehend the critical success factors within your market; understand competitive positioning; and independently assess and understand user implementation needs. The end result is pricing and business models that work.
If you plan to send an e-mail blast to 50,000 people, do you know who you’re sending it to? It’s essential to target the audience so the client’s message is relevant and reaches people who want to read it, and further want to click into a personalized Web site created to pique their interest.
For example, we developed a targeted response URL campaign for a startup company that resulted in a 58% response rate. We first identified key ZIP codes, and then further targeted the homeowners by narrowing the demographics to match the client’s marketing objective. We then produced personalized postcards with detailed information on each homeowner, and directed consumers to a microsite. An automotive company used this approach and experienced a 24% response rate — 12% of those new customers. 
Businesses that have adopted cross-media marketing and customized communications are experiencing high returns on investment. More than 64% of businesses using an integrated strategy indicate improvements in overall revenue, profitability, and sales. More than 60% experience improvements in response rate, customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. More than 43% indicate reductions in cost per lead and improvements in the quality of leads.
THE TAKEAWAY
Pair customized postcards with URLs for more targeted efforts that can be measured.
—Jason Ellis VP of business development, The E.F. Group
Direct mail spend can be one of the largest cost items in the marketing budget. This makes it a primary target for the automation of certain processes, thereby driving efficiency and effectiveness.
While campaign management is often a focus of marketing automation, there are several often overlooked areas that provide tremendous savings for direct mail marketers. Consider those particular areas that will have the greatest potential to increase effectiveness and efficiency. 
Direct mailers know that data holds the key to improved campaign efficiency and effectiveness. But the challenge many face today is the inability to gather routinely all valuable data scattered throughout a company and organize it effectively into one comprehensive data repository. Reasons for this vary from lack of IT resources to misconceptions about costs. Today, services and technologies combine to create affordable solutions for marketers struggling with harnessing their data in real time routines.
Customer analytics provides the insight marketers need to improve customer profitability. Often, analysis teams manually gather data from areas within the organization in an effort to create a comprehensive view of the customer. Marketers should consider applying an analysis tool that integrates with a data mart to gain immediate insight into customer profitability and response behaviors.
Many marketers rely on manual processes to gather disparate reports in an effort to understand campaign performance. These reports are typically one-dimensional and do not provide drill down analysis to truly understand at a granular level what drove or what prevented campaign results. Automating these processes gives marketers immediate insight and enables immediate action.
Insight, which is core to any successful direct mail program, is gleaned from disparate data sources. However, automating the process is a strategy overlooked by many marketers. Automatically harnessing data, automating access to customer insight, and automating performance reporting are ways to reduce costs through improved efficiency and effectiveness. 

THE TAKEAWAY
Automating insight processes can improve campaign efficiency and effectiveness.
—Connie Hill, President and founder, TFC Inc.

—Source: DMNews June 15, 2009 (www.dmnews.com).