MAILING HAS been rapidly evolving from being seen as an opportunity for diversification and differentiation to a standard offering of full-service print providers. This is particularly true for shops that have moved into digital printing and variable data marketing services.
Variable data and mailing are a natural fit for obvious reasons. For one, the same database that drives the variable content of a direct marketing piece is also used for the mailing information. Controlling both stages of the process gives the printer advantages in terms of on-time delivery of mailed pieces. Being able to apply mailing expertise at the production stages also puts a printer in a good position to recommend changes to the physical characteristics of a piece, which can result in postage savings.
Printers Stamping Ahead
All of these factors help to explain why commercial printers are finding success entering this market despite an already established base of mailing houses. As one would expect, though, there is a correlated trend of mailing houses now adding digital printing capabilities to capitalize on the synergies.
Mailing still typically gets lumped together with fulfillment services, even in company names, but there is a growing recognition that they are distinct businesses.
The two services were combined as a topic for a session at the recent Vue/Point 2006 Conference in Orlando. Panelist Bill Kwiatkowski, vice president of manufacturing at Classic Graphics in Charlotte, NC, commented that mailing was the easier transition, despite involving four to five months of “learning as you go.”
“Even though our customers had mailing houses they worked with, they weren’t loyal to those firms,” Kwiatkowski notes. “We were able to take the business away.”
Putting aside all the jokes about “postal service” being an oxymoron, those who’ve made the move generally cite the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) as the first, and best, resource for getting started in the mailing business. A particularly good place to start is the USPS Rapid Information Bulletin Board System (http://ribbs.usps.gov), which houses a wealth of background information in its “File Libraries” section.