Getting a direct mail package printed takes some advance planning, attention to detail and a willingness to work with your printer. You can make printing promotion materials easier – and give yourself a break – if you work with these ideas in mind:
Get several printing bids for your direct mail package (or packages) prior to giving out the work. While there will be differences in the prices, there should not be huge differences from printer to printer. If you get very different quotes then you should get another bid or make sure printers actually understand the job specifications. Printers that specialize in direct mail are the best bets for accurate bids. Your magazine printer may not have the equipment available to give you cost effective prices.
Three bids are certainly enough and if you have established that Printer A is always too expensive for your budget, don’t keep asking them to bid. Estimating costs time and money so it’s not fair to ask any company to keep biding when you know it’s unlikely you can give them work.
Make sure you have the exact specs of all components and the quantity you need to print for each. The size, color, (whether it’s 2 color, 4 color, one side or both), any perforations, any special folds, if there are any tints or bleeds on any of the components and the kind of stock you want to print on (offset, gloss, matte, etc.) all affect your pricing. In general, it’s best to assume your printer needs to know. Period.
Find out exactly what kind of spoilage your lettershop will need so you can include that in your total print quantity. If you change the quantity for any reason or make other big changes in size, colors, stock, etc. then this will change the price. If you make such big changes then you can’t be surprised when your printer has to rebid and increase the price quoted.
There are several things you can do to save some money on printing. If you’re mailing more than one package such as your control package and a test package, you should try to gang print any components that have the same specs with black plate changes (copy changes). You'll get a better price this way.
Since printers specialize in different things, you may want to use more than one printer for a campaign but this will take some coordination on your part to make sure everything gets to the letter-shop on time. I've never found that it is a good idea to deal directly with an envelope manufacturer. Printers are much better at handling that so I usually let them subcontract that work.
Some printers stock certain size envelopes so when you’re getting ready to create a package you should talk to your printer to see if there is anything they stock that will save you money when you print. This way you can create the package with that in mind. Stock items are always less costly than manufactured items.
As with all things involving production put everything in writing and be sure you get written estimates from the printer. Request proofs for every job. Give the printer sufficient time to deliver the finished work to your lettershop. Tell the printers you work with frequently that you’re interested in being notified when new equipment or processes come along that might help you. The printer will be happy to oblige, I promise.