We often get asked how much mail costs and how campaigns can get a better deal. Well, like many questions in politics, the answer is “it depends.” We wanted to write this email to try to add a bit more clarity
There are three major components and several minor factors that comprise the cost of a political direct mail piece. The major costs are printing, mailing and postage costs. The minor factors are the cost of creative, strategy, design, photography, sales tax and delivery to the USPS.
Let’s examine those costs. Printing is a large cost driver and the cost per piece of printing goes down as you print more pieces. This is because there is a significant amount of fixed costs that get amortized over the length of the print run that can’t happen with smaller, shorter runs. Therefore, you’ll save a significant amount of money by printing 5,000 of something versus printing two 2,500 piece runs.
Some tactics that we use to bring down the cost of mail include:
- Size of the piece. A 6×11 piece is the largest piece that you can do for the lowest postage price and has the highest efficiency. That’s why you see so many of them! Large pieces will cost more on a per unit basis, as will adding folds, die-cuts, soundchips, scratch-off panels or any number of fancy tactics.
- Shipping. Depending on where you are printing, shipping can be a significant cost driver. Whenever possible, printing your mail relatively close to the USPS bulk mail center where your mail is dropping into the stream will save you money. If you are printing mailers four states away from where you are mailing, you may incur additional costs.
- Size of list. Oftentimes you can save money by more efficiently targeting your mail. For example, you may not need to hit the perfect voting Democratic voter in a partisan race. By carefully targeting, you can reduce the size of your list to save you money. By being smart and strategic, you can get the biggest bang for your buck. At CN4, we have an in-house data expert that helps our clients target the necessary voters.
- Enhanced Carrier Route (ECR) sorting. If your mailing has enough volume to cover multiple homes in one postal route, your mailing might be eligible for ECR sorting. The USPS passes on savings because you’ve sorted the mail for them. All of our prices build in assumptions about ECR sorting.
- Digital printing. Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, sometimes printing on a digital press is cheaper than a traditional offset press.
- Letter rate vs. flat rate. USPS facilities are equipped to process letter rate pieces, and they reward you with cost savings as a result. 6 x 11 pieces or a piece folded to that size or smaller will qualify for that rate. Many larger format pieces like an 8.5 x 11 will fall into a flat rate, which will increase postage costs. We do a lot of larger format pieces, but when you need to reduce costs, this is one way you can do it.
Things you should NOT do to save money.
Do NOT use USPS Every Door Direct Mail. To use this product, you have to send mail to every door. It’s great when you’re selling pizza, but bad when you’re selling a candidate, because that means your mail goes to every house, including those who aren’t registered or who don’t regularly vote. And, you’re also advertising to your opponent’s supporters, which is both a waste of money and might create a negative effect (you may have motivated them come and vote – against you!).
Do NOT cut quality. It is possible to print your mailer on newsprint or some other cheap stock, or convert full-color images to black and white to save some money, or make a piece the size of an index card, but remember what you’re trying to accomplish. If you cut back on all of the things that make your mail unique and deliver your message, then you’re not going to accomplish what you need to.
Do NOT use a non-union printing house. Some printing houses value their workers by paying a living wage and health care to their employees by having a union contract. This can, of course, raise prices of the printing but this also deeply aligns with our values. All of CN4’s mail is done at union print houses.
Do NOT use a printer who doesn’t have the capacity to handle the job. In October of an even year, things really get buzzing with the volume of political printing. Just like in any industry, some printers are just better than others and have the volume, capacity and, most importantly, staffing to ensure your mail gets out the door on time. Having a high-quality union shop that has a good track record is worth paying a couple extra cents per piece to make sure the work is done right. We have seen cheap printers make bad mistakes or worse yet have delays that cause you to miss drop dates during the all-important voting window.
There’s an old adage where a customer wanted to get something printed and they said they wanted it cheap, good and fast and the printer said, pick two.
Let’s partner up and win some political campaigns! We’d love to talk with you about what you have going on. Send us an email or give us a call.