The overlooked opportunity to improve efficiency and save

Efficiency savings have been front of mind at board level in most organisations this year, particularly in marketing departments. Damian Morris points out simple but often overlooked strategies for achieving savings without sacrificing core business principles.

In this economy many organisations have been poring over the budget to indentify savings opportunities. Some have felt forced to cut back on theoretically optional expenses, such as marketing programmes, because other costs, like postage and stationary, seem immutable. In fact these very expenses, postage and materials, can be significantly reduced without sacrificing quantity or quality.

Royal Mail offers postage discounts — savings of up to 30% — on mail that is properly addressed, printed and sorted. While at least 90% of the addresses must be accurate when compared to the PAF to qualify, the benefits of high address quality go beyond postage discounts. Organisations that improve address quality through point-of-entry validation, regular database cleansing and removing duplicate entries can provide better customer service, control costs and produce only the materials needed to achieve business goals.

When point-of-entry validation or database cleansing is not practical, it is still possible to achieve sizable postage savings. Organisations that mail bills and other personalised communications can integrate on-the-fly address standardisation and mail sorting into the transactional printing process.

Integrate Address Management into the Printing Process
All organisations could benefit from improved deliverability and reduced postage. Some may have already attempted to create such a system, but were derailed by the cost and complexities of creating a custom process. Some discover that their database cannot be modified. Others maintain several databases because of acquisitions and mergers. Legacy systems used to produce statements, bills and other dataintensive documents often do not have the capability to do much more than merge the raw data and print it onto existing stationary.

Regardless of the database setup, restricting oneself to unsorted mail is unnecessary. Rather than attempting to integrate new functionality into existing databases, organisations realise more immediate benefits from taking a fresh look at the printing process. Instead, invest in a solution that will sort the mail and maintain the integrity of the address during the printing process. This allows an organisation to earn volume discounts quickly and cost effectively.

This streamlined system will take the raw data in any format, from multiple sources, run it through address correction, sort the addresses for postage discounts and then print the documents. Here is where organisations with a transactional document printing processes can gain real value. Now they can apply for better postage discounts based on volume, address accuracy, complete bar-coded mail pieces AND sorted mail.

Optimise Use of Materials
Variable data printing technology, combined with today’s ubiquitous digital printers, enables organisations to output custom transactional documents in a single print run.

There is no need for expensive pre-printed stationary. With on-the-fly colour printing only the materials needed are produced, which minimises waste.

On average each year the Royal Mail makes nearly 1 million changes to the PAF database, including deletions, additions and amendments to the delivery point data. Organisations that use address management software can correct and update addresses during the production of transactional documents, before printing and mailing. This not only ensures a higher probability of delivery, but reduces the need for re-printing and mailing returned statements.

As a bonus, ensuring accurate contact data enhances the customers’ perception of an organisation’s quality of service.

How Sorting Reduces Postage and Speeds Delivery
When an unsorted mailing is submitted to Royal Mail, the Office of Posting begins the first level of the sorting process. The mailing then departs to an intermediate office called a Mail Centre. It is then sorted again before being sent to the Final Delivery Office where the last sort before delivery takes place. When organisations sort mail pieces before handing them to Royal Mail, they save postage and speed up the mailing process. Properly sorted mail travels directly from the Accepting Office to the Delivery Office.

Open the Door for More Efficient Marketing
Organisations that continue marketing efforts in a down economy are best positioned, not only to wait out the market, but are generally the first to benefit when the recovery comes.

Of course, these organisations must be efficient with time and resources to keep costs down without sacrificing marketing opportunities. Transpromotional communications have been shown to have great potential to meet both the need to keep costs down, communicate new offers to customers and, the holy grail of direct marketing, to be opened and read.

Direct mail continues to deliver both a strong return on investment as well as positive brand recognition when executed properly. Decision makers read and respond far more consistently to relevant offers received by mail than other mediums, including email. From the results of their 2009 Channel Preferences Survey ExactTarget reported a similar finding in consumer behaviour. Less waste and greater efficiency enables marketing pounds to go further. Conversely, inaccurate data and undeliverable mail means lost opportunities and reduced response to campaigns. As the economy starts to recover, organisations must be prepared to ramp up to meet demand, while conserving resources today.

The Bottom Line
Organisations that take the time to optimise the transactional printing process with address management functionality — cleanse and correct address data, bar-code and sort mail pieces and so on — stand to do much more with their existing budget than those who look simply to cut costs through reducing programmes or staff.

Damian Morris, UK Sales Manager

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