Why Can’t I Mail It? – Flats

As you know from parts one (postcards), two (self-mailers) and three (booklets) of “Why Can’t I Mail It?,” there are many times a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Finally, let’s look at flats:

As you know from part one (postcards), two (self-mailers) and three (booklets) of “Why Can’t I Mail It?,” there are many times a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Finally, let’s look at flats:

  1. Flat-sized mail is between 6.126 x 11.51 to 12 x 15. These mailers have fewer restrictions as the equipment they run on at the USPS is very different. They lay flat, mail-panel side up, as they run through. Unlike the letter-size machines that run so they stand up on the edge below the mail panel.
    This means less damage happens to flat-size mail pieces. They also stand out in the mailbox better.
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum of 0.009 thick. The maximum thickness is 3/4 inch for the whole mailer. Usually this is not a problem since many flats are mutli-pages.
    Many people get creative here, since you can go a lot thicker. Just make sure you keep the thickness even throughout the mailer.
  3. No aspect ratio requirement. Since these run laying flat through the equipment, there is no need to adhere to a ratio.
    This gives you more freedom in your size design. If you want a more slender look, you can do it!
  4. Flats are required to have address blocks in the upper half of the short edge. For instance, with an 8.5 x 11 mailer, you would need to address from the top of the piece down only to 5.5, do not address below the 5.5. There is no barcode clear zone for flats. You will need to use an address block that includes the barcode, a 4 x 2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text or images. You must also make sure that you have at least a 0.125 clearance for the address block from the edge of the piece and any text or graphics.
    This requirement is not actually for the machines, but for the employees to more easily see the addresses when distributing the mail.
  5. The fold or binding must be to the right of the mail panel. If you are using a poly bag or envelope, this is not necessary.
    The reason they want it to the right is because as they pass through the machines laying down, the lead edge is on the right side.
  6. No tabs are required. In some cases, such as when you are inserting a piece loosely into the mailer, you may decide to use tabs to hold it closed. You may do that if you wish, it is just not a requirement to do so.
    Most people opt to not use tabs even when they have a loose insert, since in most cases they do not fall out.
  7. If you use a poly bag/envelope, the maximum extra space you can have inside the bag from the edge of the piece to the edge of the bag is 0.5. This is very popular now. It allows the recipient to see the creative through the clear material, as if it were just mailed without an envelope and then lets you put loose pieces together like when using a standard envelope.
    You can either address the materials on the inside of the bag or you can label the outside, both are acceptable as long as you are using USPS approved bags.

Your best bet is to design your flat and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage. As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create self-mailers that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

Why Can’t I Mail It? – Booklets

As you know from Part One of “Why Can’t I Mail It?” with postcards and Part Two with self-mailers, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Now let’s look at Booklets:

As you know from Part One of “Why Can’t I Mail It?” with postcards and Part Two with self-mailers, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Now let’s look at Booklets:

  1. Booklet sizes are between 3.5 x 5 to 6 x 10.5. A booklet consists of multiple sheets or pages that are bound by saddle‐stitching, perfect binding, pressed glue or other binding method that creates a nearly uniformly thick mail piece. You also have the option of creating a top flap to fold over onto the opposite side of the mail panel so you can seal it with fugitive glue instead of tab.
    This category way created in 2009 and was driven by the USPS to curb the marketing industries use of smaller catalogs since flat-size catalogs were so much more expensive.
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum weight for the cover of between 40lb to 80lb book depending on the design.
    The USPS found that thinner stock on the covers tore off, and then they were not deliverable because the address is on the cover.
  3. Keep your aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. In order to calculate the aspect ratio, you start by looking at the mail panel, then take the length of the booklet and divide it by the height.
    The USPS says that when pieces are too narrow the machines cannot feed them.
  4. There are two options for addressing a Booklet.
    Barcode in the address block
    : 4×2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text, or images for the address block. The block needs to be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly, the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of 0.125 inches.
    Barcode clear zone addressing
    : The barcode clear zone is the bottom 5/8 of the postcard and must be free of all color, text and images. Next the address block must be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and minimum of 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly, the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of 0.125 inches.
    As you know from part one and two, these requirements are meant to keep the address in the OCR (Optical Character Reader) read area of the postal equipment. Honestly, the current equipment has more read area than this, but getting the post office to change rules is like pulling teeth!
  5. Binding requirements allow for two locations on the binding. You may either bind to the right of the mail panel or to the left of the mail panel. This is so that the machines feed the booklets with the least amount of jamming.
  6. Tabbing or Fugitive Glue:
    3 tabs are required
    with a minimum 1 ½ inch diameter and they may not be perforated. If binding is below mail panel, then two tabs are required to the right of the mail panel and 1 tab to the left. If the binding is to the right of the mail panel, then two tabs are required above the mail panel and one tab to the left.
    These are very large tabs—they need to be to hold the booklets closed—but be aware of the size when designing so they do not distract from your overall message.

    For Fugitive glue:
    Continuous glue line along flap or 1-inch glue spots within ¾ inch of right and left edges.
    The fugitive glue on the flap does look much nicer and is easier to open.
  7. Poly bag/envelope: If you use a poly bag or envelope, your mail will have to go at flat postage rates. You cannot use them with booklet letter size mail.
    The USPS tells us that they will not feed through the machines. So, we will have to use them only for flat size mail.

Your best bet is to design your booklet and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation-compliant and save on postage.

As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get recipients’ attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create self-mailers that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

Why Can’t I Mail It? – Postcards

What do you mean the post office won’t let me mail it this way? Almost every day we get this question from a client. Since the post office has made mailing very complicated, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Let’s start this week, with Postcards

What do you mean the post office won’t let me mail it this way? Almost every day we get this question from a client. Since the post office has made mailing very complicated, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Let’s start this week, with Postcards:

  1. Postcard size is 3.5 x 5 to 4.25 x 6, anything larger is considered to be in the letter category.
    Go figure! The post office saying that a 6 x9 postcard is not really a postcard, but a letter? Who thinks of these rules?
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum of .007 thick, anything less is not mailable unless you put it in an envelope.
    In this case, the rule makes
    sense. When the paper is too thin, the postal machines rip them up. Better to go with a thicker stock that won’t look like someone took a bite out of it before delivery.
  3. Keep your aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. In order to calculate the aspect ratio, you start by looking at the mail panel, then take the length of the postcard and divide it by the height.
    We are told that the reason for this rule is machine compatibility, when the postcard is short and long, it does not run through the equipment correctly, causing jams and again torn postcards. We don’t want that!
  4. There are two options for addressing a postcard:
    • Barcode in the address block—4×2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text, or images for the address block. The block needs to be a minimum .5 inches from the right edge and .625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly, the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of .125 inches.
    • Barcode clear zone addressing—the barcode clear zone is the bottom 5/8 of the postcard and must be free of all color, text and images. Next the address block must be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and minimum of 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of .125 inches.
      These requirements are meant to keep the address in the OCR (Optical Character Reader) read area of the postal equipment. Honestly, the current equipment has more read area than this, but getting the post office to change rules in our favor does not happen!

Your best bet is to design your postcard and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage.

As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create postcards that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

1-Click Emails Make Sales and Donations Easy

Attention spans are getting shorter every day. Emails have nano-seconds to capture the recipients’ attention long enough to get them opened. Once open, the offer has to be compelling to move people into the buying process. Every click along the way provides an opportunity to abandon the process. Providing one-click links shortens the path from email receipt to order completion reducing opportunities for people to become distracted or change their mind.

When it comes to service, people prefer easy to exceptional. They want to complete their transactions and resolve any issues in the most efficient manner possible. According to a study by the “Harvard Business Review” and Corporate Executive Board, 57 percent of the people who called customer care departments tried to resolve their issues online before making the call. Customers who reported ease in making transactions were four times more likely to be loyal. This is good information for the service team, but how could it apply to the email marketing strategy?

Attention spans are getting shorter every day. Emails have nano-seconds to capture the recipients’ attention long enough to get them opened. Once open, the offer has to be compelling to move people into the buying process. Every click along the way provides an opportunity to abandon the process. Providing one-click links shortens the path from email receipt to order completion reducing opportunities for people to become distracted or change their mind.

The first image in the media player at right is an example of a one-click fundraising email for a political candidate. It began with a salutation followed by a short story and call to action. The email provides five suggested amounts and the option to donate another amount. A click sends the donor to a confirmation page (the second image) to confirm the donation or choose a different amount.

Amazon offers a similar process with their wish list click, which you can see in the third image in the media player. Instead of an option for the one-click buy, the recipient can add the item to a personal wish list. This is the next best thing to a buy because it provides additional information so the recipient can be better targeted for future promotions. The email is crafted to be personal and well-targeted. A brief look at the anatomy reveals:

  1. The recommendations are chosen specifically for the recipient. Having my name in the first line shows that it isn’t a phishing email.
  2. Personalizing the message increases responsiveness. The letter begins by asking if I am looking for something in the fountains department. I chuckled when I read it because they know for a fact that I was looking for an automatic watering bowl. Two weeks earlier I spent an hour searching their site for one.
  3. Clicking on the “Learn More” button opens the item page so you can review it in more depth. Interestingly, the first item presented in the email is the one where I spent the most time in my search.
  4. The “Wish List” button opens a confirmation page (the fourth image) to verify that you want the item added to your wish list.
  5. The item title is clickable. It opens the same page as the “Learn More” button.

The Amazon email provides multiple ways to enter the buying process. Adding a “1-Click” option to buy would make it even easier to complete the transaction.

Making things easier for your customers or donors may improve their responsiveness. Here are some tips for testing it:

  • Count the number of clicks required from the initial click-through link to completion of order. Redefine the path to eliminate any extraneous steps. (This should be done for every email.)
  • Provide enough details in the email for recipients to make a decision.
  • Follow Amazon’s lead and offer multiple options so people are choosing between more information and buy now instead of buy now or not at all.
  • When reviewing results pay close attention to where people are abandoning the buying process. Test different options to find the best ones for moving them forward.
  • Always provide a custom confirmation page.

Introducing ‘The Integrated Email’ Blog by Debra Ellis

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

My experience with email marketing began shortly after Hotmail launched the first Web-based email service in 1996. A client had compiled approximately 11,000 customer email addresses and wondered what we could do with them. Our first test was a 25 percent discount on any order placed that day. A text-only message was sent using the mail merge functionality in Excel and Outlook. It took over two hours to send all the emails.

Those two hours were quite exciting. We had two computers in close proximity so we could watch the progress of the outgoing emails and monitor sales on the website. Within minutes of starting the email transmissions, orders started flowing in. By the end of the day, more than 1900 orders were received. A handful of people asked to be excluded from future mailings. Over 200 people responded with personal notes. Some were grateful for the discount. Others apologized for not placing an order and asked to receive more emails.

Things are much different today. The novelty of receiving a personalized message from a company is long gone. Spam filters make getting emails delivered a near impossible mission. And the competition for recipients’ attention is at an all-time high. Even so, email marketing remains one of most effective marketing and service vehicles available.

The emails that deliver the best return on investment are the ones that are integrated with the other marketing channels to provide information and service to the recipients. They create a connection between company and customer that motivates people to respond. A successful email marketing strategy builds loyalty while increasing sales.

Many email campaigns today are little more than a systematic generation of one promotional email after another. Discount emails are relatively easy to create and deliver sales with each send, making them a quick way to inject some life into lagging sales. The simplicity of sale marketing combined with solid response rates creates an environment where marketers are reluctant to move beyond the easy, low-hanging fruit.

In addition to generating sales, discount marketing also trains people to always look for the best price before buying the company’s products and services. It is not a sustainable strategy because there will always be another company that can offer lower prices and lure customers away. A better plan is to develop an integrated email marketing strategy that educates and encourages people to develop a relationship with the company. This requires more effort, but it delivers loyalty and long-term results.

Every email that a customer or prospect receives is an opportunity for the company to establish itself as the best service provider and solidify the relationship. Best practices include:

  • Using a valid return email address so the recipient can respond with one click.
  • Sending branded emails that identify your company at first glance.
  • Mixing educational emails that provide “how to” information for products and services with new product launches and promotional messages.
  • Transactional emails that communicate shipping information and challenges so customers aren’t left wondering, “Where is my order?”
  • Highly targeted and personalized emails designed to engage customers and prospects at every point in their lifespan.

Finding the right combination of educational, event and promotional emails requires testing and measuring results for incremental improvements. The resources invested improve relationships, increase sales and create a sustainable marketing strategy.

Note: Over the next few months, we’ll feature winning and losing email marketing strategies and campaigns on this blog. If you would like to share your company’s killer emails, send them to Debra at dellis@wilsonellisconsulting.com.