Suppose a client sends you a common name and address list. Your instructions are to merge the data with a marketing letter, stuff it into window envelopes, and mail the job. If you do those steps, the client will be satisfied. They'll pay your invoice, and you will make a small profit.

Did you READ the marketing copy? Ask questions about the source of the mailing file? Learn the profile of the target audience? Determine the client's desired outcome from the mailing?

If not, you've done the client a disservice. Yes, they may appreciate the job you did, and they may be happy about the results. However, augmenting the mailing list with added data could have made the campaign a bigger success. Better results make clients happier and more likely to send you additional work.

What’s the Point?

Without learning more about the documents, your printing and mailing services are a commodity. You’re not adding value to the project, and the work is vulnerable to competitors willing to do the job at a lower cost. Who wants to be in that kind of business?

As print and mail professionals, we usually focus on aspects necessary to do the job:

  • Data file configuration
  • Materials inventory
  • Deadlines
  • Physical characteristics of envelopes and inserts
  • Address block location

During my career in the service provider business, I know I sometimes ignored the actual content we were mailing on behalf of our clients. The content was someone else’s responsibility. If there was an error in the text or the campaign had a low response, it wasn’t our fault.

I’m not suggesting print and mail service providers edit client-supplied content. However, you could leave money on the table by not looking at print and mail projects from a wider perspective. Sometimes, just stepping back and thinking about the “why” part of a mailing instead of focusing on only the “what” parts can pay off.

Here’s an example:

A Little Enhancement Can Make a Big Difference

Suppose the text of a marketing piece is encouraging consumers to visit the marketer’s nearest retail location to redeem an enclosed discount coupon. The coupons are all identical. The object of the project is getting more people into the stores.

OK, fine. But what if you asked the client how far their customers will drive to visit one of their stores? Armed with this information, you can add location data to the file and determine each prospect’s distance to their nearest store. Filter out the prospects unlikely to make the trip. Alternatively, suggest offering a greater incentive in the form of more valuable coupons for prospects living beyond the distance limits.

Your clients will appreciate your efforts to reduce the cost of marketing to lost causes. Their campaigns will produce a better return on investment, and they’ll see your organization as a partner that can help them achieve their goals rather than just another print and mail vendor. Your chances of doing more business with the client will have increased.

Getting Paid

I know what you’re thinking. You get paid on volume. Fewer mail pieces means less revenue. But anytime you add value, you can get paid. Charge the customer the same amount. Just add line items for geocoding and segmented offers to your invoice to make up for the shortage in useless mail pieces you’d planned on producing.

The client won’t complain. They’d already budgeted for the project based on your volume-based pricing. Your contributions will improve the effectiveness of the campaign and make your clients look good. Isn’t that a better result than simply following orders?

Enhanced data can come in many forms. Instead of geocoding, some projects might call for better personalization, which can require data clean-up on items like consumer names and titles. Or perhaps you can match customer-supplied data to other data sources and add information like dwelling type, age, or estimated income. You can then use these data points for segmentation, suppression, or personalization.

After working for over 20 years in the service provider business, I’ve changed my mind about how companies in this industry ought to be positioned. Rather than their traditional approaches centered on the mechanics of mailed communications, print and mail service providers should think of themselves as data companies that are experts in getting the best results from the print they produce. Helping your customers make their mail more effective will always be in demand.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants works with in plant operations and print/mail service providers to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of the future. Connect with Mike directly at, ,follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send a connection request on LinkedIn.