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Helpful Tip for January 2007

Automation Compatibility: Smart Mailpiece Design

Designing your direct mail pieces to qualify for automation compatibility can drastically reduce postage costs.

Direct mail can be one of the most effective ways to get your message in front of your client. No other medium lets you target customers and prospects as easily or measure ROI as effectively. One of the keys to maximizing your direct mail investment is reducing postage costs, which can account for as much as 50% of your total project cost.

Fortunately, the U.S. Postal Service offers numerous discounts for preparing mail that can be handled automatically. The scope of these automation compatibility discounts is too broad to detail here, but Data Solutions has included a few tips to get you started:

Clear zones
There are certain areas on the address panel of your mailpiece that the USPS designates for barcodes and other marks. Your design should include “clear zones” in these areas, and they differ in location based on the size and class of your mailpiece. For example, on a business reply piece, the top of the barcode clear zone must be a minimum of 5/8” from the bottom edge. Also, the FIM clear zone must extend 5/8” from the top edge. The bottom edge of the barcode itself must be at least ¼”, and the top edge no more than 7/16” from the bottom edge of the piece.

Reflectance
The background color used for the piece should allow barcodes and other marks to be easily seen and scanned. For the most part, common sense will do when determining proper paper colors: dark colors are out, and white is optimum. Most pastel colors are also acceptable, as well as any screens under 5%. If it’s less clear-cut, however, be sure to ask Data Solutions or the postal service directly.

Correct Indicia
Indicia are the printed postage markings used in lieu of an actual postage stamp. It’s vital to the cost and proper delivery of your mail to use the correct indicia; we’ve heard horror stories of incorrect indicia leading to postage costs several times greater than the actual rate at which it was designed to mail. Since indicia are often pulled from clipart files, it pays to double-check their placement prior to submitting your files.

Do a “Tap Test”
Many direct mail campaigns include several items inserted into a carrier or envelope. One of the challenges of these multi-piece mailers is the need for an address-bearing insert that will show through a window at all angles. One easy way to check for proper appearance of the address and barcodes is with a “tap test” conducted on a pre-production sample. When the envelope is tapped on a table on each side, there should be at least 1/8” of clear space between the address and the edge of the window. If any part of the address disappears at any angle, it may not make its way through the postal system.

The Data Solutions Advantage
Data Solutions is your single resource for a complete range of mailing, data processing and personalization solutions. As an experienced mail house Data Solutions can help you navigate the USPS compatibility requirements by making suggestions that improve efficiency, reduce postage costs and improve response rates. Give Data Solutions a call today to begin planning your next successful direct mail campaign.

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