19 Steps to a Successful Direct Mail Campaign Timeline


BY Craig Simpson

There are many details that go into setting up a direct mail campaign. If you establish a set of procedures to follow for each mailing and use a checklist to guide you, scheduling your campaign can be much faster and easier than you think.
Include the following items on your direct mail campaign checklist:
1. Write sales copy and sales copy design. Make sure your piece is written and laid out before scheduling the rest of your mail campaign.
2. Give list broker the mail schedule. Plan ahead with your list broker, and make sure your broker is aware of your mailing schedule. You’ll want your broker to make several list recommendations, and the more time you allow for the process, the more research he or she will be able to do. Provide your broker with a copy of the sales piece you’re mailing and, if possible, a copy of the product you’re selling. By doing these things, you’ll help your broker recommend the best lists for you.
3. Request printing quote for sales piece. Get price quotes from several different printers. Select the printer who offers the best combination of price and service.
4. Place list orders with broker. After you’ve selected the lists you want to mail, place an order with your list broker. Tell your broker what the list due date is and where you want the lists to go. Also ask your list broker to send back an order confirmation.
5. Give mailing schedule to data processing company. The company that’s going to handle your merge purge and data hygiene will need to know when the list due date is–i.e., the date that all the rented lists should be in. It will also need to know what lists you ordered and their order numbers to help it identify which lists it’s received and whether any are missing. You’ll also want to give the data processor instructions concerning what type of data hygiene you want to use so it knows exactly what’s needed to clean up your lists.
6. Artwork due at printer. This is the date on which you need to have the file containing your sales piece at the print shop. Have the print shop tell you how much lead time it needs to get your job done on time, and make sure you send the file in a format the printer can read.
7. Approve bluelines and color proof from printer. After the print shop receives your file, it will output a blueline and color proof, or email a PDF. The blueline is taken directly from the film that will be used to create printing plates. On the blueline, you need to check the copy, line breaks, page breaks, borders, cropping–in other words, everything. This is your last chance to make changes. Check the colors to make sure they’re exactly what you want. Any errors found on the blueline will end up on your printed material unless you make corrections.
8. Send data processor suppression files and seed list. The suppression files are names you want to omit from the mailing. For example, if you’re mailing an offer to sell a limited edition watch, you’ll want to omit all prior buyers of that watch. The seed list is the group of names and addresses you use to track delivery of the mailing. The list would have the names of individuals in different regions of the country who’ll inform you when they receive the sales piece and let you know what condition it’s in when it arrives.
9. Mailing list due date. This is the date all the lists are due at the data processor. If a list isn’t in by this date, you’ll need to cancel it. You don’t want to hold up the merge purge and possibly risk changing the mail date over one list not arriving on time.
10. Issue merge purge instructions and approve merge purge. These are the instructions you give to the data processor indicating what criteria you want to use for running the merge. After the merge purge is completed, check the results to see if there are any red flags. For example, if after the merge purge one of your 10,000-name lists is reduced to 2,000 names, you should investigate why.
11. Issue key codes and splits. The key codes are used to track the effectiveness of different elements of your campaign, such as lists, copy variations, sales package, etc. These codes will help you know what the response rate is for each list and tell you how well your test pieces are doing.
12. Issue lettershop instructions. These instructions tell the lettershop–the company assembling your mail pieces and preparing the mailing for the post office–how to process your job.

Tell them:
• Where the address label should appear on your sales piece
• What type of font you want for the address information
• What class of mail you want to use–first class or standard/bulk
• If you’re mailing a letter package, specify the insertion order for each component and in what direction you want everything to face
Ask the lettershop to presort the mail file into mail groups by ZIP codes to save the Postal Service time. It will give you a discount for doing some of the work.
13. Approve key codes and splits. After you’ve given the data processor your key codes and splits, it should send back a confirmation and sample. The data processor needs to apply the instructions you gave it and then let you approve.
14. Mail file due at lettershop. This is the date the data processor needs the final mail file at the lettershop.
15. Printing due at lettershop. Your sales material is due at the lettershop on the same day the mail file is due. The lettershop will then have everything needed to start processing your job.
16. Postage request from lettershop. The lettershop will take your mail file and calculate the total postage for your mailing. Then it’ll send you a request for postage. The Postal Service will not accept your mailing unless the postage is paid in advance.
17. Approve address panel(s). When the mail file is ready, ask the mailing facility to fax or email you a sample of how the names and addresses will appear. Check to see that everything looks exactly the way you want it, and that it appears in the correct place on the material.
18. Reports due from data processor. After the merge purge is complete, the data processor will send you reports from the merge purge process. Review these reports, and then, if necessary, send portions of them to your list broker so you can get the deductions you deserve on your list rental.
19. Postage due date. It’s necessary to get the postage to the lettershop the day before the mailing. You don’t want to miss your mail date because you didn’t get your postage in on time.
After your mailing has been dropped off at the post office, get a verification form confirming the number of pieces it received from you, the class of mail and the total cost. You also want the form to have the Postal Service “date stamp” for the day your mail entered the mail stream. This verification tells you whether the lettershop mailed the correct number of pieces and on the correct day.

For All Your Direct Mail and Data Needs Contact

S. Tyler Stapley
Apex Direct Marketing – CEO / Owner
Skype – tyler.stapley1
E-mail –
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“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Samuel Goldwyn