Direct Mail Sales Are Complex, yet Rewarding
Once Acculink receives a database, it goes to the company's IT department to be sorted for postal discounts and have the appropriate bar code applied. The art and digital printing departments take care of actual production, cutting the postcards in sequence, while the mailing department fills out the proper forms and packages the product for the post office.
Working with reputable vendors throughout the entire process is crucial, Gray stressed. "There are a tremendous number of list brokers, but some are more legitimate than others," he said. He recommended finding out how frequently a list broker's list is updated through the National Change of Address service and how important that is to a customer.
For instance, an alumni mailing needs to reach specific people, wherever they reside; a realtor may simply be trying to reach residents within a certain area.
Pre-packaged lists are another option, Gray said. "A distributor could make a great business with Accudata, which procures lists of church, veterinarians, Jeep buyers, etc.," he said.
Distributors also need to determine how much of the job each vendor can handle—i.e., commercial printing, letterpress, variable imaging, software programming, CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) sorting, etc. Many mailing services, for instance, can't do four-color process printing, binding or other finishing processes, Gray said.
Before a piece is imaged, the database goes through two levels of sorting—standard presort and CASS, an automated system that applies the bar code and "does the work of the post office," Gray said. A vendor who is capable of doing both the variable imaging and CASS sorting can print the order in proper sequence and then box it for the post office. "Acculink is unique in that we can do everything," Gray said.
Another consideration in vendor selection is the volume required. Many mail houses are geared toward large, national campaigns with hundreds of thousands or even millions of pieces. But, there is a growing market for projects requiring volumes of 10,000 or fewer, Gray said. "Most variable printing projects are 5,000 or fewer. You can get a lot of results with a small mailing," he noted.