Understanding, Appreciating, and Utilizing the Print and Mail Experience For Fun and Profit (written February, 1992)

The reason I wrote this article is because I can’t believe the serious misconceptions many of you have about the print and mail business. It is my hope with this article to clear up these misconceptions so you can make money with your advertising promotions.

Concept #1 – with whomever you advertise with there will never be any proof of the mailings being done. Sure we can provide you with printing receipts and mailing receipts, but the proof of your actual flyer being printed and published does not exist.  So, before you send a nickel to any publisher, you must trust them. If you feel in any way, shape, or form, you can’t trust the print and mailer, so then how can you possibly even consider “testing” them?  What are the key elements to consider for trusting a print and mailer? Call them. When you call, do you get a feeling of trust or not?  Pretty simple huh?  Make sure you understand that the moment you send an order to a print and mailer, you are trusting them to actually print your flyer and mail it. After it is sent the word trust should never ever come out of your mouth again. You trusted them and that is that. No matter what occurs with your advertising, you should not complain. So remember to keep in mind that no one can provide you actual proof of the actual mailing of your flyer. So my advice is that if you are not the trusting type, the best way to know for sure that your flyers are actually being printed and mailed is to do just your own mailings.

Concept #2 – print and mail is similar to publication mailings and to your local daily shopper mailings. The difference is the format of the mailing and of course the distribution. The format of a publication or daily shopper is in newsprint format.  Conversely print and mailers place all the circulars separate and place them in an envelope. There are some schools of thought that believe it is better to advertise in a publication because they believe people hold on to the publications longer to read the articles. Therefore increasing your chances of responses at a later date. There are some schools of thought that believe by keeping your flyers separate from one another in a mailing and by having less flyers, thus being less congested, is better. Therefore giving your offer a better chance to be seen and then responded to.  However I have learned that before I enter into one school of thought or another, I just test things out for myself. Just in case you didn’t notice, I too have ads in many publications and in print and mail services, so the actual testing never ends. Since print and mail advertising is similar to publication advertising, it is very important for you to understand that it is not some “magical”, “mystical” method of promotion. I believe it is a good way of advertising but it is not a miracle form of advertising. Those miracles don’t exist in advertising, so you better learn proper promotion if you wish to succeed.

Concept #3 – get an advertising strategy!  Stop dreaming about the millions you are going to make. You won’t make one thin dime, let alone millions, if you have no advertising strategy or philosophy. The best, most successful, most proven, previously tested strategy, which has withstood the test of time is the two-step process. You heard this before, but let me repeat it.  “The two step process” – you generate the inquiry (lead), then you follow it up!  Are your current promotions geared toward this type of advertising strategy? If they are not, you are wasting your time and you will never make a nickel. How do you develop an advertising strategy? Well just sit down right now and create inquiry generating ads and flyers for all your offers. Then create (or you may already have) follow up flyers that sell your products and\or services. Next place your ads in various places. When you get leads, send out follow up mailings to the leads every two weeks for at least one year! This is the only method that exists today that will work 100% of the time! If you don’t want to do this system, quit the business now! You’ll save yourself a lot of frustrating moments if you follow this advice.

Concept #4 – give your advertising a fair test! How many times have you placed one ad somewhere and then decided to yourself that was a test?  Well how can it be a test if you are not comparing it to anything? First of all, when you send an order to a print and mailer, it is not circulation that you should be testing. It is “cost effectiveness”. For example, if you spend $99 for a 5,000 circulation with a print and mailer don’t believe for one instance this is the same type of 5,000 circulation you are getting if you mail them out by yourself.  When a print and mailer mails for you, your flyer is among many other offers and the chances it gets seen by all 5,000 prospects is not that good. Additionally by having other offers in the mailing, this creates a competitive environment for each offer.  So your offer has to be better than others so it can’t get lost. Now that sounds negative and you are probably asking yourself why you should even utilize a print and mailer. Cost baby!  Your advertising strategy should be to develop leads (inquiries). What better cost effective way then to mail out your offers in a print & mail or publication mailing?  So since this circulation is completely different than your own mailings, use cost as the barometer for testing. If you spend $99 with a print and mailer and plan on testing his service, then take another $99 and see how many of the same pieces you can get out by yourself first class mail. Rent a mailing list, buy the envelopes, print the flyers, and pay for the postage. Whether it be 100, 150, or 173 pieces, simply get them out in the mails. Now you have a test at hand.  It is simple now. How many responses did you get from your mailing as opposed to having someone else mail it out for you? That is a test. However before you feel your results are conclusive, this test should be done three consecutive months in a row. Then you can call this test conclusive.

Concept #5 – you got to spend money. I would like to be the first one to tell you that in this business you can make money fast and without hardly any cost to you. Well as you read above it certainly is not fast and as you will read, it certainly is not cheap. If you do not have money, then go out and get a second part time job working at McDonalds. Do not spend your last dime in this business – you will lose! Advertising is not guaranteed and neither are results. You got to spend a minimum of $200-$500 (ouch!) a month in advertising promotions to make yourself successful – that is the minimum amount! If you can only spend less than $100 a month, get out! You will never make money. Don’t fall prey to others claims. I have been doing this for many years and I want to help you succeed. You won’t succeed unless you can spend an absolute minimum of $200 a month and I am not sure that is even enough!  $200 for personal use is a lot of money. Let’s face it, if you or I were in the store and we have $200 in our pockets, we would feel like we are loaded!  However $200 for a business is a drop in the bucket. $200 for business use is like $2 for personal use. Rent alone costs smaller companies $1000 minimum a month. What can you really expect for $200? Don’t get me wrong, you have to start somewhere as I did on my kitchen table with only a few dollars in my pockets. I worked two jobs – the part time job I had paid for all my advertising. But unless you start at the minimum, you have no chance of success. If you can’t start at the absolute minimums, then it is better for you to try and get a job with someone else and save the extra earnings so you can invest them in this business. That is the best advice I can give you. You will need money to be successful.

Concept #6 – don’t ever judge a print & mailer or a publisher by what I refer to as “r & r”. No I am not talking about rest and relaxation. I am talking about results and response. When you purchase advertising from anybody and any source, you can expect your flyer or your ad to be printed for the circulation paid for and to be promptly and honestly mailed. Now since you are about 3 “zillion” miles from here, you’ll never know if this was done for you, but as I explained in concept #1, don’t ever send a nickel to anyone unless you completely trust the print & mailer. With this trust concept in mind and since what you can simply expect is that your flyer is honestly printed and mailed, what is your beef? If your flyer does not do well, it could be one of about three hundred reasons, starting from “poor advertising copy” to “bad timing.”  Poor results could be from anything and most of the time it is because the advertiser has sent in a “lousy” offer to be published. No one said advertising was easy, but let’s get realistic for a moment. Don’t judge us on results and response. If you like or dislike us for any other reason – fine! But don’t complain about us and to us if your advertisement doesn’t succeed! Don’t judge – Test! Test! Test!

Concept #7 – don’t comparative shop advertising. When it comes to advertising, if you are shopping price, you’ll lose! Advertising costs money and I will be the first one to tell you, the less you can spend for it, the better. However if this is your “major” concern, you are crazy! Test, test, test! Never stop testing! One of your top three expenses for your business should be advertising.  So you better get used to it. If you want to do a little shopping, here’s what you can use as a gauge. Figure out if the print & mailer or publisher is charging a fair price for their service? Well if you would like to know, figure out what it costs them for paper, postage, printing, labor, miscellaneous expenses. Figure out how many ads they run on average. Then you can deduct the cost of the ads from the expenses and see what their profit is. If you feel we are a making a fair profit, then our price is fair and therefore, your advertising dollar is being spent fairly.

I hope I cleared up a few misconceptions about print and mailers for you. God Bless.  Peace.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.