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Oct. 1 2012 01:58 PM

As mail pieces become more complex with personalized inserts, QR codes, and reply devices, mail service providers and in-house operations may find it necessary to invest in some new technology that allows them to process this kind of work more accurately and cost-effectively. There are many solutions on the market that can meet the requirements.

Shops that have historically handled matching jobs by sending them to the handwork crew or using manual control methods to maintain synchronization should consider adding cameras to the insert stations on their mailing equipment and upgrading software. Accuracy and integrity automatically become more important in campaigns that are using integrated strategies involving direct mail, transpromo, email, PURLS, and other methods widely available today.

The investment in a cross-channel marketing effort is greater than what has previously been spent on direct mail alone. Plus, with better data and segmentation, the overall volume of mail pieces is likely to be lower. These two factors make each piece of mail more valuable. Matching mistakes can ruin a carefully planned and timed effort. There are likely to be severe consequences should they occur.

Cameras can eliminate risky manual matching methods by positively identifying personal information on each item before it is inserted into the envelope. Errors caused by missing pieces, out of sequence material, or jams are detected immediately. This allows operators to quickly fix the problems or pull the questionable pieces and have them reprinted and then quickly resume processing.

Get the Experts Involved
Getting the document operations group involved early in the project development process will be extremely helpful on cross-channel campaigns that require matching. With a thorough understanding of their hardware and software capabilities and limitations, document operations can help project managers be sure that the printed data used to do the match is in the proper format and is within range of the cameras. They can also guard against elementary mistakes such as poorly-feeding material that can cause jams and cause major problems on jobs where two or more pieces need to be individually matched.

Marketing people and business line managers may be surprised to find out that the document operations group can suggest design modifications that enhance the performance of the campaign, such as using the mail tracking features available through the IMB to predict in-home dates or employing a database match that might eliminate the need to print those ugly barcodes that the marketing people dislike so much. Using capabilities such as inline perforations, document operations may even eliminate matching from some jobs by printing variable data on the reply device that remains attached to the cover letter until the recipient separates them.

Take Advantage of New Programs
Business users may not be aware of the rate change that allows them to add additional marketing content as separate inserts or extra statement pages with no increase in postage under the USPS 2nd ounce free program. Mail center managers can show their customers how they can take advantage of this program by including personalized marketing or informational content. Extra pieces in the envelope can direct customers to personalized online content, for instance, with little increase in cost. It's like adding a channel for free.

As mailing professionals we've always been good at driving out costs. But helping our customers get better results from the content we send out was rarely a concern. Remember that the average business user has no clue about what the mail can do when executed properly, but they get plenty of negative information about USPS troubles, junk mail, and postage costs. The time has come for those in the document business to step up and start educating internal or external customers about subjects like matching along with all the other details that can make or break a campaign or communications strategy. This type of outreach is what mail needs to continue playing an important part of customer communications.

Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants, an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide be more productive, adapt to changing requirements, and lower costs in their document operations. For more ideas about how to make mail work for you, connect with Mike directly at Or visit and sign up for Practical Stuff; the free newsletter dedicated to document operations professionals.