Time to Consider Comailing?

May 22, 2006 11:19 PM  By

The good news: Comailing your catalog reduces your postage dramatically, which can enable you to prospect more, allow you to mail deeper into your house file, or simply improve your bottom line. The better news: printers are changing their mail pooling requirements to allow many more catalogers to save via comailing.

Historically, comailing–in which the printer binds your catalog at the same time as that of another marketer and mails the two books together—required two catalogers to partner together at the same printer and combine their two mailings into one. Now printers are allowing any catalog that qualifies within their weekly mail pool to comail with multiple catalog partners mailing that same week.

The advantages of a weekly comailing pool are many. For one, catalogers don’t need to find another business with their same schedule, trim size, and approximate weight, not to mention the same commitment to schedule integrity.

Many more catalogers can participate in a weekly comailing pool than can establish one-to-one comailing partnerships, plus small circulation catalogs can participate. (When comailing with two dedicated partners, circulations of each catalog must typically exceed 400,000 per drop for both partners to cover the costs.)

Printers Banta and Dingley Press are offering inline comailing, in which the catalogs are ink jet and bound in the same bindery process. Quebecor, Quad, Arandell, and Banta also offer offline comailing in which the requirements are slightly more flexible than for inline comailing.

Inline comailing involves the following requirements for catalogers:

  • Trim sizes must be identical. Both catalogs stitch on the same bindery line simultaneously, and both books are part of the same mailstream, so the trim sizes must be identical for mechanical purposes and as required by the USPS. But the thickness of the catalogs can be up to 40% different.
  • Ink-jet areas must be identical in size and location.
  • Presort and ink-jet files must be processed by the printer.
  • Production schedules must be closely aligned. Mail dates must be the same; typically printers offer a weekly mail pool of all the catalogs mailing in the same week. If a catalog is late, it can dissolve the comailing plans.

With offline co-mailing:

  • Only outside ink jetting is possible.
  • Trim sizes and the weight/thickness differences between catalogs are slightly more flexible, as a result, more catalog partners may.
  • Delivery may be slower with offline bindery, and bindery costs will be slightly higher.

How much can you save by comailing? The savings in postage savings can cut the catalog cost up to $.03/book; comailing can cut the net printing bill 10%, it can also increase your bottom line profit up to 2%. Ask your printer if you can qualify for its comailing program and look at a spreadsheet of the potential savings. You may be amazed at the profit impact from joining the weekly co-mailing pools that printers now offer.

Jim Coogan Is president of Sante Fe, NM-based Catalog Marketing Economics