Five Ways to Save Money on your Direct Mail!

Posted by Universal Printing on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 @ 01:37 PM

Have you ever though that the United State Postal Service was confusing?  Constant rate changes, endless amounts of regulations, crazy exceptions to ever-changing requirements.  What's more, later this Spring there will be even more changes in place when the USPS finalizes their adoption of Intelligent Mail Barcodes, which will become the only method of barcoding eligible for automation discounts.

In an effort to help our clients better prepare their direct mail pieces, we wanted to provide our Top Five things to consider when designing your mail pieces.

1) Keep it Clean...

When designing your address panel, you need to keep the address area free and clear of any printing that could get picked up by any OCR equipment. Generally the best practice is to keep this area in the bottom right-hand corner of the mail panel, and measuring a minimum of 3 3/4" in width and 2 1/2" in height. (Note: the exception to this rule is in newsletters, magazines, or other flats. More on THOSE further below!)

2) Know your Folds...

Crucially important in setting up folded pieces, is making sure your address panels are oriented correctly.  As a general rule, ANY open edges of your folded piece should be at the top and left of your panel.  Right angle folds (in half, then in half again) will have folded edges at the bottom and right of the panel, as shown in the diagram. Trifolded pieces would have the folded edge along the bottom of the address panel. This allows the piece to run cleanly through all of the automated machinery when the Post Office is sorting. More Automation = Better postal rates!

Right Angle Fold for Direct Mail

3) Don't Crowd the Barcode...

Barcodes help automate the process, which again reduces the cost of postage.  Designers are often tempted to add some kind of "vertical line" in the middle of a postcard to seperate the address panel from other information.  But there's a chance that this can get picked up by OCR scanners as part of the barcode, throwing off the presort. Best to let some good old-fashioned "whitespace" do the job.

4) Flats are Different...

If your piece is bigger than 6 1/8" tall and 11 1/2" wide, than it is a "Flat." Flats will costs more to mail than letters and postcards do, but there are still ways to get some automation discounts. The address block on any newsletter/magazine or other similar piece is at the TOP of the piece, where the folded or stitched edge is to the right.  This means if the mailer panel is on the BACK cover, it's along the top. If it's on the FRONT cover, than it's at the lower left corner and looks upside down.  This isn't a mistake... it's just the way it is.

Direct Mail Front Sample Direct Mail Back Sample

5) When in Doubt, ASK!

If you're not sure how to design your direct mail pieces for best use of space, best postal rates, and keeping all postal regulations in mind, just ask!  Our Direct Mail / Mail Processing department is always up to date on the latest USPS rules and regulations. You can also consult your local USPS Mailpiece Design Analyst. Follow this link find your local MDA.

For other helpful information about setting up your Direct Mail pieces, visit the Direct Mail Postal Regulations page on our website.

Tags: graphic design, printing services, business solutions, Tips for improving direct mail and email marketing, direct mail

More Tips and Tricks for Your Graphic Design Portfolio

Posted by Universal Printing on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 @ 09:42 AM

Here's another great trick for blending spot colors in Adobe InDesign, as explained by John Francis, Art Director for Universal Printing.  If you like this video, feel free to check out our other helpful tutorials.

More tutorial videos, like the one shown above, can be found on our YouTube channel. Let us know if there are any other tips or  tricks you'd like to see by leaving your suggestions in the comments field below, or leave a comment or video responce on any of our YouTube tutorial videos.

Tags: graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, setting up your files, CS5 tutorials

Direct mail... Back-in-the-day or Future Play? Part II

Posted by Robert Moura on Fri, Nov 12, 2010 @ 11:28 AM

Tips for improving direct mail and email marketing.

As promised in Part I I will do some of the math to make the case for direct mail as compared to pay per click and email blasts. I stated that we in the printing and direct mail industry had allowed the folks in the web-based world (email blast, SEM and banner ads etc.) to improperly equate a web-based “click” response rate to our typical “direct mail” response rate.

Conventional Response Rate Wisdom says:

- A web-based campaign, generally speaking, considers a 5% response rate to be very successful.

- A direct mail campaign is successful with a 1-3% response rate.

This is where the improper comparison starts. The 5% response rate in the web-based campaign is defined as a “click”. A “click” is when someone “clicks” on the link to VIEW information. The 1-3% response rate in direct mail is when someone BUYS something and/ or takes the action that the direct mail piece was requesting!! If you want to compare apples to apples then you must compare the web-based click rate of 5% (which is more properly defined as the VIEW rate) with the “Click” or VIEW rate of direct mail, which is 79% (The Household Diary Study Mail Use & Attitudes in FY 2009)

 USPS Mail readership


Note that almost 100% of the recipients receive the direct mail piece in their mailbox while at least 30% of email is never delivered because of SPAM filters. When you calculate the cost of a pay per “click”, or VIEW, at an average $2-$4 compared with a cost per “direct mail click” or VIEW of $.90 (roughly $.30 postage + $.60 print 2sides and address and mail) you have a much more apples to apples comparison.

My point is that you need to have accurate information before you decide on one approach or the other based on potentially biased statistics. Or before discarding direct mail out of hand as irrelevant. Have you checked your good old fashion mailbox lately? It is probably the least competitive and cluttered space for you to get your message across to your clients, not to mention that most young folks don’t have land phone lines and they don’t take kindly to spam on their "sacred cell phones", but they do all have dwellings with mail boxes!!

Our belief is that great marketers should deploy both types of direct marketing campaigns. When web-based and direct mail marketing is deployed properly the synergies can produce fantastic results far greater than the sum of the individual parts!

This is why at Universal we utilize and offer our clients both conventional direct mail as well as Symphony, our multi channel marketing software, that incorporates pURLs (Personalized URLs) as part of our marketing strategy. This combination definitely provides a real lift to the response rates of both types of campaigns. In addition with Symphony you have a real time dashboard and can measure results and modify campaigns so you can decide for yourself if your specific campaign goals and objectives have been met.

Tags: email marketing, Tips for improving direct mail and email marketing, direct mail, multi channel marketing, pURLs, response rate, email blast, Symphony, click rate, clicks, pay per click, sem

Staying Ahead of the Graphic Design Software Game!

Posted by John Francis on Tue, Nov 09, 2010 @ 11:00 AM

Universal Printing installed our copies of Adobe Creative Suite 5 three days after the major upgrade release in April 2010. We’ve had a few patches and a few minor program updates to address crashing, some PDF creation issues and general compatability, but all-in-all, it’s a worthwhile, stable upgrade with some nice new features.

Universal Printing reviews Adobe CS5


I always like new goodies. I’m a six year-old at holiday time when new graphic design software arrives on my desk. "Let’s install it and see what it does!"  Inevitably it crashes, as many new initial releases do, but we plug along to learn why it crashed. Can we find a work-around? What happens when a client adopts early too… can we get their job to rip?

At Universal, we know that there are always early adopters of new software. We strive to adopt software upgrades on or near release dates so that we may discover the problems and find solutions. We understand that many of our customers are like us: anxiously awaiting new software and we want the bragging rights of, “We’re using it first!” Let’s get it, install it and be ready when the jobs come in.

Now that six months have passed since it’s release, I can say that CS5 is working smoothly in our design and prepress workflows.  Some of the great new features of just InDesign have made the upgrade worth adopting early in my opinion.

I like to consider myself a production-oriented designer: work efficiently and churn out jobs. I don’t care for large learning curves and programs without option improvements slowdowning my pace. I’m still not a fan of multiple mouse movements and I use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible.

For years I have wanted multiple page sizes built into InDesign and not as an additional plug-in. It’s here. For hyper-organized designers like me, it’s nice to keep a business card, a letterhead and an envelope for a client in one file. You can manage just one color palette and one list of style sheets. Additionally with multiple page sizes, you can create fold-outs and set-up tri-fold brochures with folds that allow for folding and trim off of the ‘short’ panel. Trifold brochures are never 11 divded by three. You need to accommodate for folding. (See our folding guide for help with this.)

Another great new feature of InDesign CS5 is Column Spanning. Say you have a three column text box and you want your heading to span all three columns. Previously you had to create two separate text boxes – one for the heading and one for the copy. Now you keep your heading in the copy box and tell it how many columns you’d like it to span and as you adjust the copy box size, the header adjusts with it – it’s great for callouts too. You can span text across column boxes anywhere in the copy flow.

Step and Repeat has had a revamp as well. Instead of just being able to step horizontally or vertically, you can now step both X and Y and create grids.

I have mentioned to other colleagues before that I don’t like to run Adobe Bridge. It’s a ‘portfolio’ style browser that ties together the CS5 suite to browse photos, snippets, clippings, etc. My feelings are that Bridge is a memory hog and slows down the system; just one more thing running in the background. CS5 debuted the ‘Mini-Bridge’ in InDesign which makes placing folders of photos and items easy by displaying just their previews in a simple palette within InDesign which releases the system from the entire Bridge file management system; it’s like a handy library of your images and stuff in one palette – very handy if your working on image intensive workflows like catalogs.

Lastly, the Layers Palette in InDesign has been improved. It’s more like Illustrator with sublayers and the ability to select everything on a layer at once. For a long time, one of my beefs with the Creative Suite has been that, yes, they look similar, but things are not in the same place or have different icons, or functionally not compatible across the suite programs. CS5 is finally starting to close that gap and programs are starting feel similar and functionality is starting to carry over from program to program with in the Suite.

Overall, I have been pleased with CS5 since day one, but I’m a techno-geek who would have installed it even if I knew it would crash right after install. It works well in our automated workflows and direct to plate systems with just a few minor quirks remaining to be fixed. I would recommend upgrading if you’ve been dragging your feet.

Tags: Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, commercial printing, Universal Printing, printing services, CS5 tutorials, product reviews

Printing with Soy Ink is NOT Green Printing

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Nov 05, 2010 @ 01:30 PM

We talk a lot about "green printing" and what it means to be environmentally responsible. This is a topic that has always been important to us. Universal Printing has been a leader and innovator in aggressive environmentally responsible printing practices for over 30 years.

This blog is dedicated to discussing the Soy Bean/Soy Ink "Bait-N-Switch." Some might wonder, "What did soy beans ever do to you?" Well sorry, little soybean... my problem isn't with you; It's with your most vocal lobbyist and cheerleader, the American Soybean Association.  For over 90 years, this body has worked to champion the rights of America soybean farmers, a noble cause that I find no fault with. Farmers are a vital part of our society, our history, and our economy.

But here is where the ASA went wrong...  when they tried to become a Brand.  During the 1980's, the ASA officially set their requirements for using their Soy Ink seal on products. In the case of printing ink, the requirement was that at least 20% of the oil used come from soy.  The rest can be whatever... petroleum or petroleum byproducts, anything at all... as long as 20% is soy. Granted, it was a step in the right direction, and that was 1980.  Now it's 2010, folks, and we can do better!

I'll hand it to the ASA, though. They've marketed their brand extremely well. Even still, we have customers that will talk about soy ink when they want to be "eco-friendly." Most people who work in the industry will even fall back on that old standard. 

But here at Universal Printing, we know there are better, cleaner, more reliable inks available.  Our inks are linseed oil based, like the linseed oil that's been used for centuries by artists and craftsmen alike.  It's 100% vegetable, fully biodegradable, and the pigments are allowed to remain bright and vivid. It's just great stuff.  It's helped is maintain our GRACoL G7 standards, allowed us to win national-level printing awards, and is a cornerstone in our environmental responsibility campaigns.

So, sorry soybean, it's not that you're bad: We're just not right for each other.  If it's any consolation... we may not like soy oil or soy ink, but we're still big fans of soy sauce! Hmm..  perhaps some Chinese take-out for dinner later. 

Tags: printing, commercial printing, printing services, business solutions, blog, Gracol, G7, green printing, environmental responsibility

Tweet me... Social Media and Commercial Printing CAN work together!

Posted by Universal Printing on Tue, Nov 02, 2010 @ 03:30 PM

Jimmy Fallon is one hell of a marketing genius!  Sure, one could argue whether or not he's a talented comedian or a gifted interviewer (personally, I find him to be both!) But despite all of the drama that continues to circulate around Late Night television, he managed to fully brand his show and successfully made it his own.

One thing that he's done a brilliant job of is incorporating Social Media.  Even before his show started, Jimmy was on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter... everywhere!  He regularly tweets his monologues, and even has bits and sketches revolving around Social Media (#hashtags anyone?).   The man just gets it... and has secured a fanbase in his specific demographic.

Twitter Bird gets the message heard

So... how does this translate to Commercial Printing, Direct Mail, or Multi Channel Marketing or any other business solutions we offer. First, let's start with a great Blog carried by the New York Times, discussing the relevance of social media in branding and creating buzz around your message. We've only recently started to use all of the social media channels at our disposal, but we've already seen our followers and fans grow.  Taking part in the conversation has been invaluable. We've seen a rise in the number of estimates we're taking in through our website, and have even started tracking potential business opportunites that have come to us through our social media channels.  

But there's more than just looking at potential business opportunities.  Anyone looking to use social media as a way to "make the sale" is really missing the point of the experience. These folks are also going to be sorely disappointed. All of these social media channels aren't meant to make the "Hard Sell." Their purpose is for creating dialogue;  It's about sharing ideas, seeing what people are asking for, taking part in the conversation.  No one wants to go to a party and spend their time being sold to, but lots of people are happy to share ideas and learn from those who have expertise and information that they might not have. 

For us, one of the greatest joys we get to experience is when a customer comes to us with an idea and no idea how to make it work, or make it affordable, or make it better. We are always happy to share any knowledge and ideas that we have, and the end result is a client who becomes more excited about their project than they were when they walked in our doors. We get excited too, and it becomes a cycle of shared enthusiasm.  When our clients see how important their projects are to us, it makes them realize they haven't just found a vendor. They've found a partner.

There are basically two kinds of people in this industry: The people who take the time to have the conversations and listen to what others are saying and needing, and the people who just are interested in the quick and dirty sale at whatever the cost.  At Universal Printing, we know which one best describes us.  It's all about the conversation, baby!

Tags: commercial printing, Universal Printing, business solutions, Social Media, internet marketing