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Mailing & Fulfillment — Maximizing Postal Discounts

May 2008 By Erik Cagle
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THERE WILL come a day, sometime soon, when print buyers will come to respect the value that direct mail printers bring to the table in a consulting capacity. As for now, many printers have to be scratching their heads and wondering, “Where’s the love?”

Or, better yet, why the lowball? This ain’t a commodity, pal.

“I had a client who told me that my printing price was a little higher than the competition’s,” notes Paul Nichols, president of Tulsa, OK-based CP Solutions, a Consolidated Graphics company. So Nichols made the customer a tongue-in-cheek offer: He would print and mail the job for the price quoted by his competitor, plus $100,000. The buyer was dumbfounded, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Why would Nichols ask for a hundred grand over the match?

“In return,” Nichols told the client, “I’ll give you $319,000 back in postage (savings).”

The client had a tough time getting over Nichols asking $5,000 or $10,000 above the competition for the printing portion and could not fathom saving $419,000 in postage. The $419,000 is correct; Nichols wouldn’t dare ask for the $100,000 juice, even though he would be saving the client hundreds of thousands in postage costs. But you can bet that had Nichols shared a few ideas on saving postage without getting the contract, the print job would’ve been bidded out again.

Printing Not a Commodity

Some buyers (we won’t say all) view print as a commodity and hunt for bottom-dollar pricing. And there are those printers who do little to refute the stereotype that printing is just printing. But, for those printers that make a living in the mailing realm, they well know that postage is not just postage—unless postal costs are not an issue, which is not likely the case, since buyers are trying to milk that last 10 percent from you on the printing side of the job.

The best-kept, and maybe least-marketed, secret in printing and mailing circles is the role printers play, or could play, as consultants in the entire cradle-to-grave process. When print buyers pause to consider the numbers that are being crunched on the postage end—numbers that dwarf printing costs—they realize that perhaps the least value that direct mail printers offer in the overall job is the actual printing.

“One of our employees is a certified USPS design expert,” Nichols adds. “We run things past him all the time, asking, ‘Is there a better way,’ or ‘Is there something we should look out for?’ There’s a lot of leg work that happens on the front end of a job; if done on the tail end, it’s too late. We literally sit down with clients at the very beginning, consulting with them on how well the offer is designed, and how we can best maximize their postage savings.”


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