Here are five things that just about anyone creating mail can do to lessen the impact their operations have on the environment, make their mail more effective, and simultaneously improve their bottom line:

1. Remove duplicates - This can be more complex than it sounds. Each mailing might have a different definition of what a duplicate is. But at least get rid of the obvious ones. Good duplicate-recognition software can find likely matches even if the data is not identical. This capability allows you to handle misspellings or common variations.

2. Update your files - Have a plan for correcting bad addresses once they have been identified. Neglecting to modify the source data (not just the temporary mailing file) can result in un-forwarded mail once an address change record drops off the USPS NCOA list. You might also consider the value of each customer and drop some names from your lists if the effort to pursue them isn't justified. Or you may elect to reduce the frequency of promotional mailings to those inactive accounts or habitually unresponsive prospects.

3. Verify customer information - Use every customer contact opportunity to make sure names, spelling, gender identification, and capitalization are correct. Nothing kills a personalization effort more quickly than a glaring error in a salutation. One credit card company keeps sending me mail addressed to a woman I've never heard of who supposedly works at our company. Guess where that mail goes?

4. Add promotional material to existing mail - The postage and production costs to add targeted promotional material to an existing First Class business document is much less than sending the material out on its own as Standard Mail. This strategy makes even more sense now that there is no extra postage charge for the second ounce of First Class Mail!

Statement envelopes get opened more frequently than unsolicited direct mail. If you are planning on blanketing an area with a promotional or regulatory mailing, pass the file against your customer list first. Send the promotional material to your customers with their statements as inserts, additional pages, or onserts.

5. Stop sending meaningless mail - It is wasteful to send customer-acquisition solicitations to existing customers. And sending zero-balance statements on accounts that have been inactive for months is probably not worth the expense. Eliminating mail that likely goes right from the mailbox to the trash is a prudent move. I've been getting monthly statements for an account with a 2-cent balance for three years now. I'm just waiting to see how long it takes the financial institution to figure out how much my account is costing them.

Each of the practical improvements suggested above will take some effort to get started, but not much is required in the way of capital investment or application overhaul. Most organizations already have the necessary tools. Just a few modifications to some processes in the document workflow will do the trick. Once process improvements are implemented, they will generate ongoing benefits through fewer pieces of mail produced at lower costs.

Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants; an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide identify cost-saving opportunities in their workflows. For more ideas about how to make your mail work better for you, connect with Mike directly at Or visit and sign up for Practical Stuff - the free newsletter dedicated to document operations professionals.