Businessman standing with hands on hips against low angle view of skyscrapers at sunset.jpeg

When it comes to having their direct mail materials printed and shipped, every nonprofit is looking for vendors who can provide the highest quality at the lowest price, and can produce the package on schedule. But finding those vendors can be extremely difficult if you don’t know the ins and outs of direct mail production.

Any nonprofit can pick several names off the Internet (or out of a phone book for those who still keep those handy) and gets bids on a print job. Seems easy enough, right?

But how do you know if those vendors have the best equipment to make sure your job is printed exactly like you want? How do you know if they’re reliable and have a good reputation in the industry? What if none of them can turn your job around on time?

Sometimes the best vendors for your direct mail package are located down the street. Sometimes they’re across the country, or even overseas.

Working with an experienced direct mail agency like Lawrence Direct Marketing, Inc. (LDMI) to find the right print and mail-shop vendors is the best way to ensure the direct mail production process runs as smoothly as possible. We do all the work to bid your job out to trusted vendors who are the most likely to produce your package on time and on budget.

In the many years I have been managing direct mail production, the landscape of the industry has changed dramatically. A number of the vendors we have relied upon in the past have either gone out of business or have been absorbed by larger corporate entities.

Finding more than a few print/mail vendors with properly trained personnel and comparable services has become quite a challenge — and it’s the job of a direct marketing agency to tackle that challenge so our nonprofit clients can focus on the work of advancing their causes.

Getting the lowest price on a job is important, but it should never be the only consideration. I have often seen businesses resort to “price switching” where they quote one price when you send the request for a quote and then the prices begin to creep upward with every new job. An industry expert can usually spot this practice right away.

Another issue is finding vendors who are honest about setting and meeting deadlines. Honesty is key here.

If we have an established and agreed upon mail-date, I don’t want a vendor to know in advance that they didn’t plan to make the mail-date and overbook, then tell me at the last minute they aren’t going to meet the date. I would have more respect for someone to decline the job because they are not able to meet the client’s schedule.

One positive change in the direct mail production industry is that many vendors that may have previously provided “only” printing services or “only” mailing services have consolidated their efforts to become “print/mail-shop” vendors. As mail-shops have taken on printing services, it’s now easier for them to ensure they have enough materials for all of the necessary mail-shop processes.

But it’s hard to know who can do what at a quick glance.

An experienced direct mail production manager will make every effort to know the in-house and out-of-house capabilities of a wide selection of vendors. This way, critical time isn’t wasted waiting on a bid from a vendor who isn’t suited for the job at hand.

And a huge part of learning vendor capabilities lies in relationship building. These relationships take time to nurture, and there is a lot of trial and error. But it’s necessary in order to find the vendors who can provide the best value for our nonprofit clients — so they can continue to focus on their good works and charitable causes.

LDMI has more than 30 years of experience helping nonprofits find the right vendors produce their winning direct mail packages on-time, at the highest quality and at the most competitive cost. Contact LDMI today for help producing your nonprofit’s next direct mail package.