Direct Mail With No Minimum Spend Or List Size?

direct mail with no minimum send size

New technology and business models now eliminate the old direct mail minimums that so often were a barrier to deployment for many marketers.

The advantages of direct mail marketing are well known, but so are the drawbacks. Traditional direct mail campaign cost and complexity causes many printers and agencies to employ “minimum send/spend” limits, which can discourage organizations from testing out the channel.

After spending time building email marketing campaigns that can just as easily send 1 message as 10,000, marketers will often ask “Why can’t we send direct mail with no minimum list size?”

Organizations wishing to deploy direct mail to promote their businesses and create leads often find the cost per mailpiece to be unreasonably high unless they purchase in quantities much greater than they need. The old print business models are the culprit.

Traditional printing companies base their workflows and profit margins on large runs of identical items. When the overhead costs of prepress work and setting up the printing press are spread over small volume print runs, the cost per piece skyrockets. Some printers may even turn down low-volume jobs. This leaves the innovative marketer in a bind. They want to leverage the power of direct mail, but to small lists or via triggered workflows that they’ve used very successfully in their email marketing.

For an in-depth discussion about technology fueled direct mail, see a series of articles here:

In traditional printing environments, only about 20% of project costs are related to printing. The bulk of the expense is allocated to items such as postage, file and document preparation, films, stripping, platemaking, proofing, warehouse and inventory management, equipment cost, maintenance, and waste. All of which make the production of direct mail with no minimum sends a very difficult proposition.

Regardless of the economics of the behind the scenes production process, marketers seeking an affordable way to send small batch or triggered mailings need a solution.

The best ways to lower the cost of small batch direct mail is to adopt methods that lessen the impact of overhead associated with a traditional print/mail approach or share the overhead costs among many small marketers. Today’s technology allows companies like Postalytics to accomplish both those objectives for their customers.

Why Direct Mail Marketing Works

  1. Emotional Response — When customers receive printed marketing materials in the mail, multiple senses trigger an emotional reaction. The tactile aspect of physical mail makes it more impactful and more trusted than digital ads, according to research.

  2. Less Clutter — Compared to the number of digital marketing messages consumers receive every day, the contents of their physical mailbox is quite small. US Postal Service studies show most consumers look at their delivered mail every day. Direct mail marketing pieces get noticed.

  3. Geographical Relevance — Unlike emails, postal addresses define a single, unchanging, physical location. For companies with a local presence, this aspect of direct mail lets marketers pinpoint their best prospects and make compelling offers with a local touch.

  4. No Filters — Other than the US Postal Service tasked with delivering the mail, no organizations come between the marketer and their customers. Direct mail gets through to targeted recipients with no interference from internet service providers, spam filters, ad blockers, corporate firewalls, image suppression, or junk mail folders.

  5. Trackability — Techniques like personal URLs (pURLs) or QR codes make it possible to identify individuals who respond online to a direct mail offer. Even older techniques such as customer ID numbers or offer codes allow marketers to track and measure the effectiveness of their direct mail campaigns. The USPS Informed Visibility program lets mailers track the distribution of their direct mail campaigns as the mail carriers deliver them. This allows marketers to generate multi-channel messages timed perfectly to reinforce their direct mail pieces.

For more benefits of direct mail, read: 47 Important Statistics on Direct Mail

New Tech Empowers Marketers

Many new business models are based on the concept of shared expenses, which drives down the price. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are perfect examples. Rather than investing in a fleet of (mostly idle) vehicles dedicated to transporting their customers, these companies use the assets of registered drivers who use their cars for personal trips as well as fare-paying customers. The ride-sharing companies spread the fixed expenses of delivering the service across all the ride-sharing drivers. The bulk of the passenger fares cover the variable costs associated with their individual trips.

Postalytics operates similarly. We establish relationships with printing companies across the country who already own the printing presses and other production equipment necessary to meet our requirements for creating high quality mailpieces. Then we send print requests from multiple Postalytics customer accounts to the print service providers. This distributed approach powered by the Postalytics system allows our customers to send direct mail with no minimum list size. Many triggered campaigns send a single mailer per day! This is not feasible with traditional direct mail, because of minimum order sizes.

Even better, the technology behind Postalytics allows our customers to be incredibly precise. By connecting Postalytics to their CRM systems, marketers can send personalized direct mail at exactly the right time. Mail may be triggered by customer actions on a website, renewal dates, anniversaries, or other date or condition-related criteria. Postalytics customers can send fully personalized and segmented mailings of any size at reasonable prices — without having to maintain manual reminders and production systems.

Here’s a quick video that explains how the Postalytics system works:

Targeted Direct Mail For Any Sized List

The selectivity available via direct mail may surprise digital marketers. A great deal of individual demographic and customer behavior data can be connected to postal addresses. Marketers can build variability into their direct mail designs to alter the text, offers, images, and timing to match each prospective customer’s profile. Some commonly applied selections include:

  • Home ownership status
  • Income
  • Estimated net worth
  • Number of children
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Education level
  • Credit rating
  • Number of employees (B2B)
  • Gross annual sales (B2B)
  • SIC codes (B2B)

Using modern document composition methods and the power of digital printing, campaigns of any size can include postc or letters that feature combined elements unique to each individual prospect. This variability was not possible with older printing technologies. Recent developments in inkjet and toner-based printing presses and ink technology now allow marketers to send highly variable full-color mailpieces that attract attention and encourage prospective customers to act.

Personalization Drives High ROI

Personalized direct mail is not a new marketing concept, but the way the personalization is applied and the data on which personalization is based is a rapidly developing phenomenon. Recent advancements in printing technology, document composition software, and the availability of data have taken personalization in printed communications to an exciting new level. In the old days, only the largest direct mailers could leverage personalization in a cost effective way. Today, direct mail automation customers deliver highly personalized direct mail with no minimum list size.

The days of the “computer letter”, where marketers awkwardly inserted a customer’s name into the text, are long gone. Today’s marketers achieve personalization in a subtle and natural way. Customers may not even be aware that their mailpieces have been personalized. The relevance of the message and the connection it makes with the customer seems like a fortunate coincidence because of the data analysis that occurs in the background.

Customers are no longer impressed when a direct mail advertisement addresses them by name — especially if the offer, imagery, and ad copy is clearly generic and untargeted. Consumers are likely to ignore marketers unable to deliver a more personalized experience.

Personalization is not about explicitly printing data gathered about individual customers. In fact, some customers find this practice intrusive and “creepy”. However, through variable data manipulation or segmentation, marketers can easily adjust the presentation to match each customer’s profile.

Here are some examples:

Buying History — Customers who purchased a certain product are offered a discount on related accessories, warranties, or upgrades. The company may offer customers who have not purchased the product discounts on the entry level product and access to customer testimonials.

Sex — Postcards promoting cookware to women may feature photos of women cooking dinner for their families. Mailpieces aimed at men might picture men impressing their wives and girlfriends with their food preparation skills.

Neighborhood — Urban dwellers selected to receive a credit card offer may receive mailers that show people using their credit cards at big city restaurants and museums. Suburban or rural residents offered the same credit card receive mail emphasizing shopping at the home improvement store.

Age — Marketing pieces promoting gym memberships may vary according to the age of the mail recipient. Postcards aimed at younger individuals with children might highlight childcare services the gym provides while members work out. The cards older people receive do not mention childcare, but list low-impact exercise workout routines appropriate for less-limber bodies.

Position — Business purchase decisions usually involve several people working in different areas of the company. Consider a campaign promoting a materials management software solution for manufacturers. Direct mail letters to CEO’s will concentrate on the cost savings and competitive advantages of purchasing the software, but the CTO letters emphasize easy integration with other systems.

In all these examples, marketers need not explicitly include the data points in the direct mail communication. Instead, the data controls the images, text, or offers most likely to apply to each group.

Here’s a tutorial about how to use variable image to personalize postcards and letters:

Personalization — Variable Images

The Evolution of Digital Printing Enables Direct Mail With No Minimum List Size

new digital printing tech enables small batch direct mail

Before high-quality digital printing was readily available, each segment or variation would have been a separate press run. The fixed portion of printing costs would have been repeated for each group, making the project extremely expensive. By leveraging the variable data capability of the document generation software and creating the documents on digital presses, even highly personalized campaigns from multiple customers become a single print run. Marketers get a huge improvement in relevance and conversion while simultaneously enjoying lower costs and less waste.

Only ten years ago, print quality and the cost of color were challenges for digital printing technology. Since then, printing press manufacturers and ink companies have been upgrading the quality and flexibility of digital printing methods. As the technology progressed, the premium marketers once paid for full color output has disappeared. Now, virtually any print service provider with modern digital presses can produce full color items on a wide variety of substrates. Even experts find it difficult to tell the difference between offset printed pieces and those produced on high-quality digital equipment. Modern printing hardware is perfect for direct mail applications.

The transition from traditional printing to digital platforms offers another benefit to companies buying printed materials — speed. The entire process that once included plate making, proofing, color-matching, and press set-up is now quicker than ever. Most of those steps no longer exist and many of the remaining steps are now automated. For the marketer working on direct mail applications, this means multiple trips to the print shop are eliminated and long lead times are unnecessary. Many print service providers have developed online portals that allow customers to specify their requirements, choose options, and order their printed materials online.

Postalytics shields our customers from interacting with the print service providers. We vet the printing companies and monitor their performance. Marketers who have never used direct mail will discover the Postalytics solution process mirrors a digital marketing channel like email quite closely. When composing letters and postcards with the built-in Postalytics document composition engine, the software generates print-ready files familiar to our network of authorized print service providers. Though they have the option to do so, customers need not concern themselves with the complexities of software like the Adobe Creative Suite or outsourcing work to freelance graphic designers. The Postalytics software provides all the necessary functionality, without a steep learning curve. Marketers can easily make adjustments or updates without outside help.

Though a basic understanding of how print is produced may be useful, unfamiliarity with printing terms and practices are no longer a barrier to taking advantage of the benefits direct mail provides.

For an introduction to printing terms, see The New Direct Mail Glossary.

Marketers Now Free to Exploit Direct Mail’s Advantages

Instead of skipping the benefits that direct mail provides, now even small mailers can run highly targeted, triggered, and personalized direct mail campaigns right from their desktops with no minimum send sizes. Technical advances in digital printing and software allow them to integrate their marketing campaigns with their CRM systems or launch small direct mail efforts quickly and at affordable prices.

Postalytics takes much of the overhead out of the equation and spreads what remains across multiple customers and service providers. Our solution makes it easy to create innovative and effective multi-channel marketing campaigns that include direct mail.