Selecting a mailing house

Choosing the right mailing house

Today’s complex and diverse direct marketing campaigns require mailing houses that will play an essential role in determining their success as mailing errors and despatch failures can result in financial loss and damage to the brand.

As a result, it’s no surprise that many agencies and other businesses are establishing partnerships with a mailing house that is capable of providing quality production services and on-going advice and support for their high volume, high frequency campaigns.

Price is no longer the key decision making element as quality becomes of equal, if not greater, importance. With over 150 mailing houses registered with the DMA (plus dozens that aren’t even registered), how do you choose a mailing house that pays more than just lip service to quality?

Assuming you’ve already arrived at a short list of mailing houses that have the services, facilities and capacity you require, if you only buy on price, simply send out a brief, take the lowest price and hope for the best. You should then establish their price vs. quality rating.

It’s also important to assess the potential impact on your business should any of your mailings be compromised by poor mailing hose performance. For example; what would be the impact on sales and profitability; could it damage your brand or customer loyalty; what damage could it do to your reputation?

This assessment will vary according to each organisation and the service they are providing but it may well provide an indication of the importance of price vs. quality and the premium you would be willing to pay for a reliable, high quality service.

Judging the quality of a mailing house

Here are a few tips that will help judge the quality of the services available from the mailing houses on your short list.

Is the mailing house ISO 9001 accredited? Any mailing house which has achieved ISO recognition will take quality seriously. Check out their quality procedures to understand how it is managed from start to finish and ask about the processes and procedures that enable each production stage to be checked and progressed.

You should check how mailing briefs are developed and agreed by both parties and you should be satisfied that systems are in place for creating specs for each project.

Ask for a site tour to check whether their quality commitment runs through the entire organisation. Check their quality control sheets and ask how often checks are made. Questions such as: How do you ensure the mailing is enclosed in the correct sequence? How do you ensure we don't lose stock? How can you ensure the laser output matches the 'sign off'?; should be asked of production staff and if they have difficulty in answering, this should raise doubts.

References are always re-assuring. Ask for permission for to obtain references from two or three of clients. Apart from the normal 'reference' questions, ask how any mistakes were handled and corrected. Mistakes can, and will, always happen but it is the openness and honesty of the mailing house in identifying and advising clients of problems and how they are rectified that is critical to developing a solid partnership.

If you decide to use them, make sure they are happy for you to visit during production of your job. This can be helpful for both the client and mailing house to iron out any production difficulties.

And finally - do ensure that you have an early warning system in place to check the quality of samples and ensure that seeds are inserted into your mailing file before it reaches the mailing house. There have been cases of mailing houses identifying and correcting seeds which hides an impending customer relations problem.

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