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Special Section Mailing & Fulfillment -- Outsourcing May Be the Answer

November 2004
By Steve McNutt

For today's printers, it is fast becoming a question of when, not if, they will provide mailing services to customers.

Diversifying to offer services such as fulfillment and delivery of printed materials is a growing industry trend in a sector progressively challenged to become all things to all customers. The "one-stop shop" for all of a customer's printing and delivery needs is becoming more necessity than value-add in the struggle to remain competitive and broaden profit margins.

And for customers of the printing business, there is no gray area. The message is in black-and-white: Don't offer these services, and customers will go somewhere that does.

In fact, some within the industry say that commercial printers that don't offer mailing services already are behind their competitors. Why? Considering the commitment of capital, space, time, training and staffing that accompanies such offerings—not to mention the long-term maintenance costs to follow—such a grim view within the industry isn't surprising.

The fact is, no single company has to do all the work themselves in order to meet their customers' needs. There is any number of mail services providers from which to choose—companies that already have the expertise, equipment, personnel and networks to move mail for you and your customers.

Collect, sort, label, process, ensure postal compliance and distribute mail—it's all these companies do. Leveraging their expertise allows a printer to focus on core competencies while still projecting "one-stop" capabilities to customers.

Many companies may not know that mail service providers partner with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). By meeting and maintaining strict USPS requirements, these providers can utilize current "work-share" discounts. The work-share program encourages private businesses to handle portions of the preparation and sortation of mail prior to arrival in the postal stream for final delivery. This partnership creates cost efficiencies for the USPS and for customers, which translates to reduced mailing costs—sometimes as much as 25 percent—for participating companies. How much ink would that buy?

Sharing the responsibility takes at least part of the process out of the hands of the printer. So, as in any business deal, partners should be chosen carefully. To maximize the benefits of using a mail services provider, be sure to ask a lot of questions before making a selection.

* Experience. Not all mail services providers are created equal. Would you ask your plumber to interpret tax codes or your attorney to fix your car? This same expectation should apply to the specialty of mail services. Just how experienced is the mail services provider's staff? Familiarity with USPS regulations, classifications and operating procedures is vital to realizing maximum cost savings. For printers that have decided to add mailing services in-house, finding an employee with a depth of postal knowledge is cited among major challenges.
 

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