Recently, our President, Ben Harris, had the opportunity to share insights on how Production Solutions (PS) leverages innovation in direct mail to continue thriving in a multi-channel world at the Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s (DMAW) Data Strategy Forum. Two topics on our radar are the USPS Informed Delivery Program as well as Variable Data Printing (aka Digital Printing). These solutions create flexibility and better options for managing robust direct mail programs effectively. We took great notes as always, and are happy to share them with our tribe!
It is commonly assumed that you need to initiate participation in the Informed Delivery program, when in truth subscribed postal customers already see your mailpiece in their daily email as a grayscale scanned image of the mailpiece. Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) can leverage the platform to replace that grayscale image with an intriguing custom graphic. Another assumption made is that there is a charge for this service, when in fact it is absolutely free with the caveat that the USPS may charge for upgraded options in the future, but for now the only cost is your time spent to create the campaign.
The main value of Informed Delivery is in providing another point of interaction between your organization and your donors. It has the potential to bring greater value to your direct mail campaigns and invites your donors to interact with a digital asset that drives users to your landing page. Think of it as another way to get your mission out there and create interest, all leading to a potential boost in response. This platform also allows NPOs to engage in cross-platform marketing; to take a physical piece of mail and obtain digital value out of it.
At this time because the program is relatively new, there is no prototypical campaign that would be considered “ideal”; however, we are seeing higher email open rates and subscriber saturation rates in the nonprofit community over the industry averages.
Some key attributes we would recommend for a successful campaign include:
The expectation is that you will potentially observe higher response rates and more donations by allowing recipients to receive your message through multiple channels. More visibility = more options to connect with your donor base. You’re already sending the mailpiece, and you already have an online presence. Why not link the two in an easy-to-use format to better allow donors to get the full message?
Informed Delivery is still new, but growing rapidly. In April 2018, ID had about 8 million subscribers – now, (May 2019) there are over 16 million! Because it is still new, the results are not immediately apparent. But, marketing experts know that the more touch points you create with your target market, the better chance you have of receiving a response. And since it’s free, why not give it a try?!
A common misconception about digital printing is that the quality and consistency will not be as good as “traditional” offset printing. However, there have been great enhancements in color and quality with digital press equipment. Color can be refined to meet client expectations and a digital “fingerprint” is generated so future production matches.
Another assumption is that envelopes cannot be produced digitally and that digital printing is meant for small volume print runs exclusively. False! Digital ink jet equipment can produce high quality color (or B/W) print production on envelopes. PS has been able to utilize a digital press to produce the forms for a large client’s acquisition program, allowing them flexibility in messaging, high levels of personalization, and eliminating spoilage.
There is tremendous opportunity associated with leveraging digital printing. A high level of personalization is possible for the same cost as simplex personalization. Flexibility of version changes within the same package is an option with no need to preprint multiple versions of a form – this results in less mailshop packages, and less expense for machine setup.
Digital printing allows for amazing flexibility and fast turnaround on production. Since your art and data are due at the same time you can cut some of the “traditional printing” time out of your full production schedule. This would be a great benefit when you may have last minute quantity splits, are printing all materials digitally (OE, RE, form, letter, etc.), or have smaller volumes of production.
The ideal program would utilize the full capabilities of digital print production. In order for that potential to be unleashed, the data is hygenic to accommodate the variability. This does put the onus on the NPO to ensure that their data is clean, but that additional work pays off by allowing for increased personalization. A terrific example would be state personalization such as an “Official Pennsylvania Survey” printed on the envelope with a state image of Pennsylvania added to the form – that is what can be possible with digital printing. The options are truly endless!
The wins associated with digital printing center around increased personalization, flexibility and being able to pivot on a dime compared with traditional printing methods. NPOs that are able to utilize digital printing have greater version control, more customized communication,, less waste overall (no spoilage, no inventory, less packages) and ultimately, increased options with strategy changes.
The initial cost analysis may seem pricey as digital print production can be more expensive on the surface in some cases. However, when the benefits are used properly, then return may be worth the expense. It’s definitely something for NPOs to test and see how the initial investment can potentially pay in dividends. We acknowledge that finding a supplier with the right equipment for your needs can be difficult as there are a lot of variations of digital presses (quality, consistency, size options, capabilities, etc.), so finding the right fit for your program can be a challenge if you do not have the resources to help.
The good news is that we are here to help and we have the knowledge and relationships built out and ready to test digital printing to see if it might be a good fit for your program!
Take advantage of these new and exciting new direct mail innovations! The PS team is here to support you and ready to answer any questions. Reach out to us today to execute a test of one (or both!) of these solutions!