Direct Mail Sales Are Complex, yet Rewarding
In many instances, the distributor has no control over the content or design of the printed pieces, but brings value to the mailing project with sourcing expertise, Simon said. "Distributors maintain databases indicating which manufacturers are best for the different elements of a mailing. They usually have a lot more knowledge than the direct mail house or the end-user," he said.
Because one mailing may be comprised of a letter, an envelope, a plastic card, integrated labels and more, "It's unusual for one manufacturer to run all of the pieces," Simon noted.
In some cases, the direct mail house that's handling the stuffing, sealing, addressing and sorting functions can also be a source of business for the distributor, who can supply the right manufacturing partner, according to Simon.
Distributors may also find themselves working with advertising agencies who know how to create a razzle-dazzle campaign but often have few manufacturing contacts other than commercial printers. "It's amazing how little ad agencies know about print production," Gray said. "Distributors are more savvy."
Gray observed that the savvy distributor can also serve some of the same functions as the pricier ad agency by identifying a customer's needs, conceiving a marketing idea and helping to create an appropriate mailing list. "The unique thing about direct mail is that you don't have to wait for the customer to come to you with a marketing idea," he said. "You can create one and make more money since you've done all of the work."
For instance, the distributor could create a list of new parents, cross-referenced by income, to sell a mailing campaign to local realtors who need buyers for new homes, Gray said. Although a product may be simple, direct mail jobs still require multiple steps and a "lot of technology and expertise," he said.