With consistent postage increases each year from the USPS, saving postage for mail order catalogers is more important than ever. Are you saving as much on postage as you could be saving? How are you supposed to know if your printer is offering the maximum savings you should be receiving?
What is co-mailing? So, what exactly is co-mailing and how does it work? Co-mailing is exactly what the word is broken down to mean: pieces mailing together, where one piece is dependent on the other in the system. It is a co-dependent relationship that unites multiple pieces into a single bundle of mail prior to being mailed out resulting in postal discounts given by the USPS. Co-mailing is a happy thing. It saves customers on postage, it streamlines mailing for the USPS, and it saves your catalogs from the wear and tear of being mailed independently. Perhaps the most important reason (other than savings) why co-mailing is so beneficial to catalogers today is that it allows a faster arrival date to your customers as a result of being able to bypass several stops to USPS distribution centers along the way.
Co-mailing can be especially beneficial to those catalogers who may not have as large of a circulation. This allows them to piggy back on some of the larger companies in order to participate in the postal discounts. Thus, they are able to keep up with larger competitors and maximize more steadily on their Return on Investment (ROI).
When working with your printer to determine what is most effective for your program, they will often refer to two types of co-mailing: Off-line co-mailing and Inline co-mailing. Off-line co-mailing is the combining of multiple mail lists when your mail pieces are presorted after they have been bound. This is accomplished on a large offline co-mail machine into which multiple catalog titles are fed, where it is then inkjetted and bundled by carrier route zip code. The associated image is an illustration of a Buhrs offline co-mailer.
Inline co-mailing is accomplished on the actual stitcher. More often than not inline co-mailing is utilized with longer run catalogers that only need a handful of partners to net a large co-mail quantity. In the inline scenario, the co-mail mail pieces for all partners are stitched, ink jetted, and bundled together all on the stitching line.
How to know if you are getting the best price? Here is where understanding postal saving through co-mailing can get tricky. Each printer will reveal your savings in a different way. Most catalogers are not even aware exactly what their savings are let alone what they could be. Listed below are a few ways to understand and maximize your co-mailing savings.
Don’t be fooled by presentation: Every printer will present your savings in a different way. They will of course present the information to you in a way that looks most competitive. However, you should be aware that presentation isn’t everything. By understanding the basics of co-mailing, you can eliminate the confusion later on.
Understand how your printer (or potential printers) decide their savings: Printers will usually present their savings to a prospective mailer in three different ways: 1.) A guaranteed savings; 2.) A fee based savings; and 3.) 50/50 splits (see Susan Wiercinski article on Sheridan’s site: “How Much Are You Really Saving With Co-mailing?”Some printers will use one of these methods or all of them. Make sure that you understand what their method is. For instance, if your savings are supposed to be the discount minus all the fees, when the printer exemplifies the difference between your local postage and your co-mail savings, the proposal might look like you’ll be saving more than you are. The bottom line is pay less attention to what the savings are and more attention to the checks that you write. Comparing the sum of what you pay the post office and all of the co-mail, freight, admin, and list processing fees paid to the printer will get you to the bottom line.
Be mindful of additional charges: Here it is important to identify those hidden fees that we don’t like to think about. There’s nothing worse than buying a new hot rod only to find out it needs lots of work. Be sure to ask your printer to write out each additional charge. Whether it is freight charges, co-mail fees, packaging, handling, or whatever else, make sure you know what it is and then you will need to deduct that from your total savings.
Ask for an analysis: Do not be afraid to ask your printer or prospective printer to do an analysis for you. Make sure that you provide each printer with a template so you can match the information you are receiving back. It is too confusing when one printer is including hidden costs while the other is not. Just because what you are seeing looks lower initially does not mean that it is. In fact, this is something that we offer as a courtesy to our customers and prospects. The Dingley Press is willing to do an analysis of current savings to make sure you are saving as much as you should be. In order to really get a grasp as to where your savings are, you have to ask questions.
Change is Scary! Yes, it is true; change can be a scary thing. For some catalogers, the thought of switching printers is a scary thing, even if they could be saving more money on co-mailing. Rather your program is big or small, the potential for postage savings while co-mailing is often substantial enough that it could be the final say in the success of your program’s ROI. So keep in mind that sometimes change is good, and it could make all the difference in the world to the success of your catalog. If you’re not sure if you are saving what you should be, don’t be afraid to ask for an analysis! After all is said and done, it’s like what Winston Churchill said: “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
For more information about our co-mailing fees or to sign up for a mail analysis, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Printing!!