6 Tips to Finding the Right Print and Mail Supplier
A print and mail supplier with the best value for money, a high degree of technical competence and well-documented experience in your sector are all important qualities, but the secret to finding the right partner for your bulk mail operations goes beyond the tender.
This article gives tips on what kind of questions to ask when looking for a supplier so you can have confidence that they will be getting you the optimal mail discounts, with a future proofed business model.
To learn more about how to optimise your print and mail operations, have a read of our guide: Postal Optimisation in a Digital World.
1. Do they offer document composition software?
One of the tangible assets to find out about is a supplier’s technology. What types of printers and sortation machines do they use? How often are they serviced?
But a good supplier will do their best to make your content and operations teams’ lives easier.
See if they are able to offer software that makes it easier for you to keep control over content management.
Some companies need to keep track of thousands of letter templates, so access to a tool that allows you to create, edit and approve all your template changes can not only save you cost but a lot of time. If this type of software is not available then you could spend a lot of back-and-forth with your supplier. And many suppliers will charge by the hour to make content changes for you.
2. How do they utilise best practice research?
Technical ability is important, what’s more important is how a supplier can future proof your postal optimisation. Ask them how they stay at the forefront of best practice?
It’s in the best interest of Royal Mail to prove that mail is an effective channel of communication. Their research arm MarketReach, regularly releases the results of their behavioural and neuroscience research.
A good print and mail supplier will be abreast of all the latest developments and utilise them in their offerings.
For example, some of their studies analyse the content of letters using eye tracker technology, showing what an end customer looks at first, how likely they will react to the content or be confused by the structure. Using this kind of research, a print and mail house can advise you on the best way to improve the look and feel of your documents so that you can get a better open rate, response rate and ROI on mail-based transactions, while also opening up different postal tariffs.
3. What kind of relationship do they have with Royal Mail?
If a supplier can prove they have a good relationship with Royal Mail, that’s a great indicator that they are a leader in postal optimisation.
Do they have a CDA?
Ask if they have a CDA with Royal Mail – that’s a Customer Direct Agreement, sometimes called a C9 licence, and it means they are able to take responsibility for an entire section of the postal journey, usually from collection to delivery to a local delivery office, where Royal Mail will take over for the “final mile”, delivering to your customers’ doors.
To qualify for a CDA, a supplier needs to be sending at least 6 million items a year through Royal Mail.
Having a CDA is a recognition by Royal Mail of a supplier’s weight in the industry. This kind of direct access means that the licence holder can influence policy and regulation at a level they would not be able to without it. Ultimately it means they can push for changes that will be in your interest.
Do they sit on any boards?
There are many special interest groups in the postal industry. If they are members, and better, if they sit on the boards, it means they can understand what is coming down the track in terms of pricing, discounts and incentives, to be able to advise you on how to prepare your business.
Asking these questions will show how intimate your supplier’s knowledge of Royal Mail is and will be in the future.
4. How deep is their knowledge of your sector?
An intimate knowledge of Royal Mail is great. An intimate knowledge of Royal Mail and your industry is even better.
Be aware of suppliers who place more emphasis on working with any sector than those who champion specialisms. Every business is different and so are their requirements for print and mail.
Understanding the intricacies of communication requirements for your business will mean they can achieve better value for money.
Knowing how important it is for a letter to arrive on a certain day can save thousands. For example, a local authority is mandated to deliver letters on a certain day before voting day, but a utilities company will have a mix of communications – some more urgent than others. Which means sorting those letters into different Royal Mail products will optimise the postal costs.
5. How effective is their disaster recovery plan?
Your print and mail suppliers’ processes have a direct impact on your processes. If they shut down for any reason, it could cause havoc with your communications, and that could be costly.
Finding out how resilient their business is will help you understand if they are going cause you issues at any point in the future. More importantly, ask for details of their disaster recovery. What will they do if their machines go down?
If a supplier can show you they own and operate multiple sites as part of their contingency plan, that’s a good sign they will be able to smoothly switch over printing and sorting operations with limited impact to your timelines.
If their plan involves outsourcing to third party sites, then quality is out of their control, and therefore out of your control.
6. Multichannel expertise
Print and mail is a critical part of your customer communications management, but it’s not the optimal channel for every part of a customer journey. A great supplier knows that it is just one of the tools at your disposal, and adding digital channels to the mix can be more effective.
Closest to our heart at Adare SEC is an ability to operate a multi channel communications strategy. If your print and mail supplier offers more than just physical mail, they will be able to advise on the right channel for the right message at the right time.