A Guide to Direct Mail Fulfillment

Brandon Cornett

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Are you shopping for a company to help with your direct mail marketing program? If so, there are certain things you should know about a direct mail fulfillment. This guide will help you understand the process of direct mail fulfillment, which will in turn help you choose a direct mail company to meet your needs.

What is Direct Mail Fulfillment?
Before we examine the various parts of direct mail fulfillment, let's start with a basic definition of such fulfillment. When you conduct a direct mail marketing campaign, you need somebody to help you with things like design, list processing, printing and mailing. These things constitute direct mail fulfillment, and they are the heart and soul of any direct mail company.

* Types of Fulfillment - You will find that most direct mail companies offer many of the fulfillment items on this list. Some companies may even offer everything listed below. On the other hand, certain specialty shops like postcard printers may only offer a few of the direct mail fulfillment elements listed below.

But the point of this article is to cover all the aspects of direct mail fulfillment, so that you can better understand the process and find the company that's right for you.

* Planning and Strategy - Some direct mail companies only offer the logistical side of the process (printing, sorting, mailing, etc. ), but there are a few who offer planning and strategy as well. These companies are few and far between. In most cases, you will either handle the strategy in house or work with a direct marketing firm (who will outsource the actual direct mail fulfillment).

* Copywriting Support - Direct mail copywriting is another piece that may be handled by different parties. Some direct mail companies have copywriters in-house. But again, this is rare. Typically, you will work with a direct mail copywriter to craft your message, and then work with the direct mail company for the actual fulfillment.

* Mailing List - The mailing list is a more common offering by direct mail companies. Most of them work with data / list providers such as InfoUSA to obtain mailings lists tailored to the client's needs. Of course, if you want a highly detailed list, you may choose to work with a list broker.

* List certification - Regardless of where you get your mailing list, nearly every direct mail company will provide list certification as part of their overall direct mail fulfillment process. In most cases, mailing list certification refers to CASS certification. Such certification processes will increase the number of deliverable pieces in your mailing.

* Digital Printing - For the most part, printing companies either use offset presses, digital printers, or a combination of the two. Digital printing allows shorter runs and greater flexibility with such things like variable data (next item). If such things are important to you, be sure to ask if digital printing is part of the company's direct mail fulfillment offering.

* Offset Printing - With offset printing, the prints are made from a plate, as opposed to digital printing which prints directly from an electronic file. Offset printing is usually best for large runs, as the cost often goes down as quantity goes up. Print quality is typically better with offset printing than with digital. The offset vs. digital consideration is another key factor when choosing a direct mail fulfillment company.

* Variable Data Printing (VDP) - Variable data printing allows things like text and graphics to be changed from one printed piece to the next. This is done by merging information from a database with a document design. Not all direct mail companies offer this, and those that do offer it in different levels of sophistication. So ask about the VDP aspects of direct mail fulfillment when screening providers.

* Folding / Finishing - If you plan to use direct mail postcards, this level of complexity won't be needed. But if you're mailing multi-part letter kits or brochures, you need to ask about the folding and finishing aspect of direct mail fulfillment. As the name implies, “finishing" is a broad term that means different things to different direct mail companies, so be sure to get all the facts and pricing about this fulfillment area.

* Mailing Services - Obviously, mailing is part of the direct mail fulfillment process, and it's something that all direct mail companies provide. But the difference lies within the pricing. When screening direct mail companies, ask how their mailing charges work. Typically, a company will mark up the standard rates required by the Post Office. That's only natural, but the question to ask is how much they mark it up.

* You may republish this article online if you retain the author's byline and the active hyperlinks below. Copyright 2007, Brandon Cornett.

Learn More
Brandon Cornett is the publisher of Postcard Smart, a vast library of direct mail and postcard marketing advice. To learn more about direct mail fulfillment , please visit http://www.postcardsmart.com


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