No all direct mail printers are created equal. Don’t just compare based on final per-postcard cost. But there are tons of great questions you can ask that will help you determine how to get the best bang for your buck.

Direct Mail Printers Quick Start Guide

Here’s a 3 minute video if you’d prefer to watch, it will go over the basics of how direct mail printers are different from one another and how to price compare, but the post below goes into greater detail. I personally consume information better in audio-format, so I like making the videos for you.

What Impacts Postcard Printing Costs

Besides simply size and postcard, there are a ton of factors that can impact your bottom line across various direct mail printers. Let’s take a quick look at the different capabilities of direct mail printing companies that effect you.

  1. EDDM vs Addresses
  2. Postage options (there are a ton, actually)
  3. Type of postcard (printing process)
  4. Scale of your postcard send
  5. Personalization
  6. Technology

Each of these factors can impact the cost of your campaign. I’m going go through each of them so you can understand them all and at the end of this post there’s an email template that will help you reach out to printers to be able to compare their cost.

1. Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM):

Direct Mail Printers - EDDM

First, EDDM stands for Every Door Direct Mail. It’s a way for you to send postcards to entire carrier routes (subsections of zip codes). This will impact your cost because EDDM postage is way cheaper since it goes to every address in a carrier’s entire route (there’s no sorting needed).

“The Every Door Direct Mail-Retail price per piece for Flats weighing no more than 3.3 oz is $0.177.”

It’s way cheaper for the post office to give a bundle of postcards to a route carrier than to have to sort the mail. While you save a lot of money going this route, you can’t personalize and you can’t do address targeting. We don’t do a lot of EDDM for this reason, as most folks do targeted direct mail. Some businesses do work well using this model, though.

This is the cheapest you’ll ever pay for a postcard for any direct mail printing campaign, so keep that in mind.

Postage Options, First Class:

Direct Mail Printing - Stamps

Postage costs 49 cents, right? No way. It’s one of the biggest tricks in the industry… to talk about printing plus 49 cent postage. Let’s look at your various options.

First class mail is the highest priority mail. If sent in the US, it arrives 3-4 business days after it is sent. Also, if you send a postcard with a bad address or is undeliverable for any number of reasons (which, happens a lot surprisingly) it will return back to the address you provided. Your mail also gets auto-forwarded to someone if they have moved. First class mail also includes tracking information and guaranteed delivery time.

Presorted First-Class is about 20% cheaper than first class. This gives you all of the benefits of first class, but all mail needs to be cleaned by the NCOA (National Change of Address) registry, the printer must be CASS certified, and each card must be presorted.

Postage Options, Standard Class:

Standard class is cheaper than first or presorted, of course. But it comes with some downsides. Mail typically takes 10-14 business days to arrive, but don’t come with guaranteed delivery times. Your mail will not be returned to sender and is not tracked at all. You usually need to mail a bunch to qualify for this (200 – 5k+ pieces, depending on your direct mail printer.)

If you’re a non-profit you can qualify for significantly cheaper pricing (70% off first class even), but you’ll need to fill out the three page  PS_3624 to qualify. Direct mail printers vary a LOT with postage options, so you can save a lot of money if you just ask about these options alone.

Type of Postcard:

For this, it’s just best to make sure that your printer uses these specifications:

Printed in color, back and front, 120# 14PT UV Coated. These measurements are the thickness of the card and a protective coating that helps prevent the postcard by getting marked up too much by the USPS sorting tools.

Your Scale:

I tried to find fish on a scale, so there was a double pun. But, you’ll have to settle for this single pun. Ok ok, back to the content.

Direct Mail Printers - Scale

If you’re sending over 100k postcards in one print run, you’ll want to do offset printing. It’s different printing process than what you’ll often find at most printers and you’ll want to seek out offset printers. This allows you to do printing at much cheaper price at huge scales.

Personalization and Technology Needs:

A ton of people doing postcard marketing are using outdated techniques. And, doing so will save you a good amount of money because there are a lot more printers that don’t do personalized printing (often called variable printing) and aren’t very tech savvy.

If you’re like the Rocketeer, you’re going to need to partner with a more expensive direct mail printer.

Direct Mail Printers - Astronaut

Personalization can improve your conversion rate by 2-5x. Here’s a campaign we ran that included the first name, address, a calculated savings per year based on the customer’s roof, a heat map of the customer’s roof from space, and a phone number with an area code unique to each city. This can really improve your conversion rate, even if you just do things like add the person’s name. A lot of direct mail printers offer an API for personalization, but it’s often stone-age level quality… perfect if you could hire Fred Flintstone as your engineer… but not really great for anyone else.

Always ask your engineering team to evaluate your options.

Postcard Marketing Examoke

But, it will cost you more generally. Here’s a good Quora post on a bunch of API printers and this programmable web post. While we won’t recommend a specific API, if you contact me I am happy to talk about the API that Scout uses.

Direct mail printers are mostly stuck in the past. Consider finding a direct mail printer that supports the API route if you’re a more advanced marketer. If you don’t have engineering resources, you can use Scout or I can put you in touch with a few engineers that may be able to help you build something custom.

How to Ask for Quotes

This template will help you request quotes to find the best direct mail printers based on your needs. We also have a private sheet of a ton of printer contacts that is available to anyone in our free Postcard Pros Facebook Group. It’s a fun community where I share all of my knowledge for free about postcard marketing.

Anyhow…

Create a Google Form to organize quotes:

The best way to organize responses to this templated email below is to create a Google Form. You can see the one I created in the Facebook Group or make your ownI’ve found it’s easier to ask printing vendors to fill this form out so you can compare one direct mail printer with another… and know it’s the same stuff.

You’ll want to learn about their printing process options, their postage options, etc.

Use this template email:

Hi,

My name is {your_name} and I’m looking for a direct mail printing quote. Here are the details of my campaign. I am sending a {regular/EDDM} direct mail campaign with {number of cards} {size of card} {one time / every month}.

Please fill out this form if you’d like to be considered. ← INCLUDE A LINK TO YOUR GOOGLE FORM

Thanks,
{your_name}

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