Filler-mail savings

Aug 01, 2008 9:30 PM  By

Only a fool would mail a less than-perfect prospect name, right? Not quite true. A small number of mailers are doing it as part of a practice called add-a-name.

Haven’t heard of that? It’s the use of second-tier prospect names to fill gaps in carrier routes. But it’s not for everyone.

For one thing, you have to be a pretty big mailer to do it. And your lists better be good. But you can save tens of thousands of dollars in postage per mailing.

Here’s how it works.

Let’s say you have eight or nine catalogs going to a carrier route and you need 10 to qualify for the U.S. Postal Service discount. You would simply add one or two names.

“If you’re going from nine mailings in a carrier route to 10, you’re saving 50.1 cents per mailing,” says Mike Yapuncich, vice president of product development and list processing for Experian Marketing Solutions. “If your print cost is less than that per catalog, then it’s like you’re putting one in the mail for free.”

One Experian client did this in a 3.5 million- piece mailing. The firm sent 12,000 extra books in areas where it had only nine good names per carrier route, 12,500 to places where it had eight, 13,000 to routes with seven, and so on. Altogether, the company mailed 76,000 additional catalogs.

What was the benefit? The company put those 76,000 books in the mail for 23.9 cents each, according to Yapuncich. “Suddenly you are putting catalogs in the mail at a reduced rate,” he says. “Even if the response on those names is half of what you would get from the names you’re initially mailing, you’re doing better than you would without add-a-name.”

Brookstone adds names when it is unable to do a comailing, says the gifts and tools cataloger/retailer’s marketing manager Lisa Johnson. Usually, these are borderline prospects from Abacus One that it had chosen not to mail.

“We use them to fill the gaps in our carrier routes, which increases the carrier route penetration, which reduces our postal costs,” Johnson adds. “There may be an additional expense on the names you take in, or on the merge side, but the savings does outweigh the cost.”

Depending on the mailing volume, Brookstone can save from $5,000 to $15,000 in postage per catalog drop, Johnson continues.

But there’s a high bar to entry. For starters, you need a large pool of decent names. Add-a-name works best for mailers dropping from 750,000 to 4 million books at a time, Yapuncich says.

Yes, you can do add-a-name even for a 500,000-piece mailing. But that’s not generally recommended. What’s more, you may need some additional time in your merge, which can hurt your recency by a couple of days.

Comail clash

Add-a-name may seem a bit too daunting for some mailers. If it does, you might consider comailing. That’s when you bind and mail with another catalog. (For details, see “Still the champ,” left.)

Just don’t try to comail and add-a-name at the same time, however.

“We considered that option,” Johnson says. “We found that it was too complex to do both add-a-name and comailing in one mailing. It was too difficult to fairly allocate the postal savings to each mailer.”

It’s also tough to allocate list costs. Do you simply split the cost of names with the other mailer?

There’s one more benefit if you opt for add-a-name. While they might be considered marginal, the added names usually perform well — after all, they’ve been through merge/purge.

“In our experience, add-a-name saves you postage and helps bring in sales, especially around Christmas,” Johnson says.


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Still the champ

Comailing works better for some mailers

Add-a-name may have its virtues. But most experts would urge you to opt for comailing when given a choice.

“Comailing will save more money than you ever will with add-a-name,” says Mike Yapuncich, vice president of product development and list processing for Experian Marketing Solutions.

But there are tradeoffs. For one, you have to have a noncompetitive partner with the same exact mail date as you. And you both have to make the print date.

Brookstone loses its ability to inkjet, both on its cover and on its order form. But it’s worth it, given that Brookstone mailed 70 million pieces in 2007.

“You’ll still save a lot of money, despite all the extra gyrations,” says Brookstone’s marketing manager Lisa Johnson.

Klockit, a hobby title with a 1.5 million annual circulation and less than six drops a year, has no choice but to comail.

“We used to look at comailing as a nice thing, and if we could find someone to comail with, great,” says vice president of e-commerce Randy Horgan. “Now we’re at the exact opposite end. I have to comail. I’ll move my mail date two weeks either way to comail, or to get a better comail than I’m getting.”

So why is Klockit being forced to comail? It’s a numbers game by the printer, who can offer the cataloger a significant savings for increasing its circ via a comail.

And Horgan says his title has such a niche customer base that he’s fine with it — especially since his company saved between 4.9% and 7.4% on postage on its spring 2008 mailings.

“It’s huge for a small company, and it’s something we have to do to survive,” Horgan says. “My mail dates are not set in stone, where we have to mail a certain day or go out of business.” — TP