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Direct Mail - Dont Forget The Envelope


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This article is geared more towards small and medium enterprises requiring runs of 100,000 pieces or less. The same advice applies to larger runs too but it's not quite as big an issue. On the larger runs, the high setup costs I mention below are more easily absorbed into the entire sots of the job and may only contribute 10-20% to the job cost. On smaller runs, tooling and setup costs can easily make up over 50% of the cost of envelope production.

Having worked in the direct mail industry for a number of years, I've seen many mistakes made, some avoidable, some not so. I can honestly say that one of the most frequent and most avoidable errors I've seen made is not applying any thought to the envelope until the last minute. A little forward planning in this respect can save a lot of frustration, and ultimately a lot of money. You can also achieve a lot more with envelope design if you have time, and some good advice from your friendly envelope manufacturer.

There is a primer on envelope production here, which will give you an indication of why it's a bad idea to leave it until the last minute. In brief though, envelope machines are big! They can take hours to set up, and it's still very much a case of allen keys and spanners to adjust them. Special sizes can be enormously expensive to produce unless the quantity of envelopes required is very large.

There lots of disciplines that make up a direct mail pack of which envelope production is only one. When compared to other areas such as copywriting or printing of the inserts, the production of the envelope can seem insignificant. Thinking this way has the potential to be a big mistake.

The envelope may seem insignificant, and in terms of cost the envelope quite possibly is one of the most insignificant parts of the pack. Realistically though, you can't send the pack without an envelope. Your carefully designed, printed and copywritten pack has very little value until you have an envelope because you can't send it until you have one.

So, when you plan your pack, think about the envelope at the same time and ask yourself a few questions.

Does the size of the pack that you have designed correspond with a slightly larger sized envelope available from a wholesaler? If it does, then good, but you're still not home and dry yet.

If a stock envelope is available, do you need to print it? You almost certainly will if it's a bulk mailing. Overprinting is a cheap option for stock envelopes but is your design suitable to overprint? There are some considerations and compromises that must be made for overprinting envelopes, and especially for overprinting envelopes in four colours. These are too numerous to mention, but any professional envelope overprinting company will be able to advise on this.

At this stage you may have established that your envelope design can be overprinted, and that you have a stock envelope available easily. If that's the case you can rest easy.

You may, however, have discovered that a stock envelope isn't available, or your design isn't suitable to overprint. If that's the case, you need to be thinking about a special making of bespoke envelopes. In this instance, pre-printing your envelopes as flat sheets becomes a possibility and you can also overprint on bespoke envelopes, but the actual making is now a major consideration.

There are two main kinds of envelope production, reel fed and blank (pre-cut envelope shapes) fed. It's unlikely that you will be able to make the envelope from the reel since you have already established that there isn't a stock envelope available, or that you can't overprint. In either of these scenarios, it's likely that you will need to producing an envelope from blanks.

With blank fed production you need to check for availability of a cutting tool. These are extremely expensive to make, and there can be very long lead times. If you want to avoid the cost of this tooling then early planning will see you obtaining a list of cutting tools from your envelope supplier, that are close to the size you need. Provided tooling is available you then need to ensure your envelope is ready in good time.

Again though, the simplest advice is to plan ahead. Find yourselves a reliable and knowledgeable envelope producer and ask their advice at the earliest opportunity. If they know their onions, then they will be able to advise how to stay within any budget you may have, artwork specifications to work to and when you need to think about ordering. Lead times can be surprisingly long in the envelope world, and you don't want to be the unfortunate soul who has to order bespoke envelopes at the last minute. You can bet, it will cost you extra to do so.

About the Author

Robert Wilkinson is the owner of, a design, print and direct mail company specialising in direct marketing and envelope production for SMEs.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-12-08 17:35:53 in Marketing Articles

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