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Your most significant organizational “ally” might turn out to be Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association, national trade group that serves as “voice” of mailers. (For details, visit www.mfsanet.org.)
Choosing Mailing Software
What qualities should you look for in a software solution? Consider these factors:
* “Easy to learn” is important, but no more than “easy to use.” Wizard-guided steps may seem valuable as you’re getting started, but once you understand how to use software, they’ll probably slow you down. * Don’t underestimate importance of seamless integration from entry-level products to more full-featured versions. Nothing is worse than outgrowing your existing software only to learn that suitable upgrades don’t exist or require learning from scratch. * Nail down all compatibility issues — not just with computer on which it will run, but also with your existing print infrastructure. * Make sure software will handle your current needs, and is not “dumbed down” in terms of speed or number of records it can handle. * How good is Customer Support? Seek third-party references from industry forums — not just cherry-picked happy customers vendors may provide, but unrehearsed contacts that can give you unvarnished good and bad news. (Don’t forget to include references from printer manufacturers). * Be sure to consider all costs, not just startup figures. Find out how long initial data subscription lasts, and what’s included in annual renewals. * If you already offer variable-data printing services, good news: VDP is now hot in mailing as well. Some software packages support, and even enhance, this technology.
Marketing Mailing Services
Many printers stumble into mailing services; some subcontract direct mail jobs, only eventually realizing benefit of bringing jobs in-house; still others buy, or merge with, existing mail houses. Here are some strategies for building mailing services into your business:
* Know Your Market. A thorough awareness of your current client base will help you launch into mailing while anticipating future customer needs. Try to determine how much of what you currently print is mailed after leaving your shop. Next, learn about your customers’ presort needs, and position yourself as a logical candidate to handle that work. Finally, see if they have database demands such as list hygiene or de-duping, and make a case for why you should handle that data-manipulation work. The one who controls database, controls customer — but that control won’t be handed over lightly. * Make it Personal. Review your plans with your top mailing prospects. Key benefits may get you business: billing yourself as a one-stop shop offering faster results, and predicting time and cost savings for centralized printing and mailing. * Heed Competition. Keep service offerings in line with your market by learning who you’re up against, what they offer, and what they charge. * Spread Word. Exploit all points of customer communications — from traditional advertising to promotional copy on your packaging and bills, and from revamping your Web site to including an “Ask me about mailing services” message to your phone system’s on-hold recording. * Join Club(s). Seek out and become a member of industry-specific organizations. People buy from people, and networking is an important element of new-venture success.
What’s In It For You?
Once you’ve answered questions and checked off “to-do” points described above, you’ll find mailing to be a rewarding addition to your printing-services business. It’s hard to imagine a better way of exposing such a sizable chunk of your existing business to incremental revenues. What’s more, printer-mailers often claim that incorporating mailing services even helps build their printing business. Customers enjoy convenience and economy of a “one-stop” print-and-mail house — and they’ll have you to thank.
Good luck, and good mailing.
Ted Seward is Vice President of Marketing for BCC Software, the leading developer of high performance PC-based software and solutions for professional mailers. BCC's flagship product, Mail Manager 2010, allows users to optimize postal presorts, utilize streamlined database maintenance functions, and improve deliverability of mailpieces.