New Survey: Online Marketing Pumps Offline B2B Sales

AccuList’s many business-to-business marketers—including business/industrial supply catalogs, business periodicals, trade shows, and recognition/incentive products—should be investing in a 2019 omnichannel marketing plan to maximize the online impact on offline buying, at least according to the latest research from Boston Consulting Group and Google. An optimal, best-practices mix of digital engagement channels—such as search, display, video, social media, e-mail and websites—with traditional print catalogs/mail, sales calls and brick-and-mortar stores can increase the marketing contribution to sales by 3% to 8%, BCG has found.

Decision-Making Starts Online, Even for Offline Buys

On average, two-thirds of B2B buyers of industrial machinery, industrial supplies, and packing and shipping products and services indicated in a new BCG survey that their purchase decisions had been significantly influenced by digital, even though the majority of buying journeys end with an offline purchase. The survey revealed that some 58% of industrial-machinery purchases were significantly influenced by online activity, even though 100% of the purchases were made offline. For industrial supplies, 88% of buyers performed some form of online research prior to purchase, while 69% then purchased online and 31% purchased offline. Packing and shipping buyers were more evenly divided in online-offline buying preferences, with 54% digitally influenced, 42% purchasing online and 58% buying offline. But it is the differences underneath the online influence data that reveal the opportunities for boosting sales. For example, spending to boost online branding ads/engagement can pay off when 75% of online industrial machinery researchers said that they consider two or more brands at the start of their buying journeys, compared with 55% of those who engage in offline research only. At the same time, 58% of industrial-machinery buyers said that they begin their online search with a product, rather than a brand, in mind. For these researchers, the manufacturers’ websites become primary points of influence.

Nurtured Online Researchers Make More Follow-up Purchases

One of the more encouraging findings in the BCG study was that online business researchers make more follow-up purchases, especially if there is engagement post-sale. When manufacturers of industrial machinery engage their customers digitally after an initial sale, those customers are three times as likely to research supplementary products, twice as likely to purchase them, and three times as likely to repurchase the product. Buyers of industrial supplies engaged digitally post-sale are eight times as likely to purchase a supplementary product of the same brand and twice as likely to repurchase the same product. Effective after-sales digital marketing activities include promoting online account sign-ups, encouraging app downloads, maintaining regular contact through e-mail or “nurture” communications, and ensuring a positive overall customer experience with the product or service.

Measurement Is Key for an Optimal Online-Offline Mix

For the best marketing return on investment, B2B marketers need to measure impacts and influences across the entire buying journey to connect digital marketing expenditures and tactics to offline sales. BCG found that measurement innovators use a variety of techniques—such as customer research, marketing-mix modeling, multi-touch attribution modeling, matched-market testing, and direct match-back approaches. For example, multi-touch attribution (MTA) is a modeling approach that attributes sales to the marketing activities that contributed most directly to revenues, using predictive models and artificial intelligence to derive statistics-driven attribution weights.  Direct match-back uses unique identifiers to tie a sale directly to the marketing activities that generated it at the individual or transaction level. Unique identifiers include credit card information, mobile tracking, in-store beacons, cookies, e-mail addresses or phone numbers.

Read more of the BCG study for survey details and success examples. And ask the AccuList team how we can help via our range of digital marketing services and Digital2Direct program, which combines targeted direct mail with social media ads or e-mail.

Mailers Can Use USPS 2019 Promos to Spur ROI

AccuList wants to remind all its direct marketing clients of the many 2019 U.S. Postal Service mailing promotions designed to increase response, engagement and ROI via new digital technologies and printing techniques, as well as traditional mail tactics.

Tactile, Sensory and Interactive

The registration and promotion periods have already begun for a Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mailpiece Engagement Promotion that will last from February 1 to July 31. With the goal of encouraging marketing mailers to boost customer engagement through the use of advanced print innovations in paper and stock, substrates, inks, interactive elements and finishing techniques, all USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats are eligible for the promotion’s upfront 2% postage discount.

Emerging and Advanced Technology

Registration has also begun for the Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion, open to First-Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail. The promotion, also offering an upfront 2% postage discount, spans the March 1 to August 31 period this year and is designed to help mailers to both compete with and leverage the increased use of interactive and digital options already available via e-mail, mobile and social media. It rewards incorporating into direct mail emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Near Field Communications (NFC), and Video in Print, as well as multi-channel mail integration with Addressable TV or digital assistants.

Earned Value Reply Mail

Hurry! Registration for this promotion closes March 31 for a promotion period from April 1 to June 30. It rewards mailings using Business Reply Mail (BRM), Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) and Share Mail envelopes and cards by providing them with a financial benefit when customers put those pieces back in the mail. New participants will earn a 3 cent credit per counted reply piece between April-June of 2019. Repeat participants must meet a threshold equating to 95% of the volumes counted during the same period in 2018 to earn the 3 cent per piece credit. Credits may be applied to postage for First-Class mail pre-sort & automation cards, letters and flats and Marketing Mail letters & flats, but credits must be used by December 31, 2019.

Personalized Color Transpromo

Created by USPS to encourage bill and statement producers to invest in dynamic/color printing technology to increase consumer response, this program also offers an upfront 2% postage discount. The Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion starts registration May 15 and runs from July 1 to December 31. First-Class Mail pre-sort and automation letters—bills and statements only—that meet the dynamic print and personalization requirements will be eligible for the upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion period. First-time participants must meet only the dynamic color print requirements.

Mobile Shopping

This promotion is the USPS acknowledgement that almost all marketing efforts include mobile shopping convenience today. Marketers who will send regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats combining mobile with print are encouraged to register starting June 15 for a Mobile Shopping Promotion that lasts from August 1 to December 31, right in time for the holiday season. There are many new mobile bar-code formats, in addition to Payment QRs, that can be leveraged to qualify for the upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion period.

Informed Delivery

This year’s Informed Delivery Promotion pushes a new USPS omnichannel tool. The Informed Delivery program allows residential consumers the free ability to digitally preview letter-sized mail and manage scheduled packages on their computers, tablets, or mobile devices. Marketing mail participants may create Informed Delivery scanned campaigns through the Portal or submit elements through eDoc submission. Regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats, and First-Class Mail pre-sort or automation letters, cards and flats meeting the promotion requirements will be eligible for an upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion. Register starting July 15 to take advantage of the September 1 to November 30 promotion period.

For more details go to https://postalpro.usps.com/promotions

2019 Promo Products Embrace USA-Made, Retail Quality

The “2019 Ad Impressions Study” by the Advertising Specialty Institute has many nuggets to help AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients woo targeted buyers. For example, promo products purveyors can point out how their items beat other ad media not only with high ROI, thanks to a cost per impression as low as a tenth of a cent, but also high impact, with consumers under age 55 preferring promo products over all other media for advertising, including newspapers, radio, magazines, television, internet and mobile. In fact, consumers are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a positive opinion of promotional products compared with online advertising, per ASI.

Not All Promo Products Are Created Equal

When it comes to consumers’ favored promotional products, ASI’s study shows the highest ownership for writing instruments (89%), drink ware (88%) and T shirts (80%). Looking at numbers alone, outerwear is a big winner with the most impressions (6,100), the greatest memorability (85% of consumers remember the advertiser giving branded apparel), and the greatest staying power (outerwear is kept an average of 16 months compared with 9 months for writing implements, for example). But winning even with a popular category means keeping up with trends. Among the latest spotted by Promo Marketing Magazine at the 2019 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo is the boost in re-usable, environmentally friendly products now that cities and states are banning single-use plastic bags and straws. A return to natural and vintage is not surprising in this anti-plastic mode, with a rise in the popularity of wooden pieces, from cutting boards to awards. Plus, multi-function items continue to grow in popularity, with suppliers adding tech functions to classic promotional items, so that water bottles double as Bluetooth speakers and business card holders can be used to prop phones.

Design-wise, Think Retail Quality, Bundling, USA-Made

The marketers at Delta Marketing Group (DMG) get even more specific about trends in design affecting a range of product categories. As more retail brands become available as customizable promotional products, even non-brand items are starting to emulate the retail look and feel, the agency points out. Quality over brand-logo-blasting also is taking hold, for example with branded apparel using small embroidered patches, subtle custom tags, and understated tone-on-tone colors instead of large logo imprints. Creative materials and refined finishes are forecast to come to the fore in 2019, with bright colors, matte and soft-touch finishes, and heathered and burlap fabrics. DMG also predicts that gift sets packaging several cohesive promotional items together will peak in 2019. Watch for desktop accessories to gain popularity, such as branded mousepads, coasters and phone stands, etc., often bundled as a new-employee or a new-student welcome kit. Plus, with the advent of experiential marketing for events, promotional products are trending toward event-specific giveaways that complete the brand’s event experience. Finally, the made-in-the-USA trend stays strong, per ASI’s study. About 53% of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product is made in the U.S. versus elsewhere, and that sentiment is especially strong in New England, where 73% of consumers prefer buying made-in-the-USA items. For details from the ASI study, see https://www.asicentral.com/news/web-exclusive/january-2019/2019-ad-impressions-study/

Fundraising Challenges Include Gen Z, E-mail, AI

For AccuList USA’s nonprofit fundraising clients and fundraising consultants, 2019 will be another challenging year. Successful direct marketers will need to adapt to changes in demographics, technology and donor targeting, to name just a few trends recently cited by the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog.

Move Over Millennials; Here Comes Gen Z

Donorbox is sounding the alert ahead of the next demographic wave. While the Millennial generation is still the biggest cohort in the workforce, Gen Z is arriving. Born after 1996, they now make up an estimated 27% of the population and will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020. How are they different? The “2017 Global Trends in Giving Report” found that Gen Z members are interested in giving to many different causes, especially those involving youth, animals and human services. But to win the attention of these digital natives, messaging must be concise and engaging, offering an immediate experience that cuts through the marketing noise they routinely filter out. Gen Z is also the first mobile-only generation, so website, e-mail and donation forms must all be optimized for mobile. Plus, Gen Z likes visual-based platforms, so fundraising creative should use photos, videos and infographics to tell stories that grab attention.

Donors Expect Hyperpersonalized, Targeted Messaging

Accustomed to sophisticated digital technology that tailors messaging a la Amazon and Netflix, today’s donors expect a personalized, targeted approach that takes into account demographics, giving history and even psychographics. A generic appeal will fall flat. That means segmenting donor and prospect lists and using variable data printing to specialize messaging to account for generational differences and other demographics. It means tailoring the “ask” to the prospective donor’s income and giving history. It means refining giving/donation pages to highlight projects and wording that will resonate with the target donor group.

Donors Embrace E-mail Fundraising If Done Well

E-mail has gotten a bad rap recently because of crowded mailboxes, spam filtering and low response rates, but there is a lot to be said for revisiting e-mail strategy in 2019. For one, research shows that donors willing to donate through e-mail rose from just 6% in 2012 to 28% in 2018. Second, low-cost e-mail has an ROI of 122%, much higher than direct mail, social media and paid search. Finally, a backlash against social media abuses, including among the mobile-first generation, is improving e-mail’s digital appeal. But e-mail needs to be done well to deliver donors. Personalization and targeted messaging is expected, so, again, segment the audience by demographics, desired communication frequency, giving status, etc. Make sure there is a clear call to action, a compelling subject line, simple attractive visual design, and, most of all, impactful storytelling.

AI Can Help Turn Data Into Dollars

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on its way to becoming ubiquitous in our society, and that will include fundraising. AI broadly refers to programs, computers and machines that perform “intelligent” tasks such as planning, learning, problem-solving, communication and more. AI can help nonprofits gather more data and use it better to advance missions and marketing. For example, one of the simplest uses of AI is a chatbot that interacts via messaging services like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, etc. A nonprofit can create a chatbot to handle donations, register members and distribute information about programs and services. AI also can be used to personalize donor journeys with tailored, personal messages based on real-time donor behavior and timed to encourage contributions. Finally, AI can weaponize data for more cost-effective donor development and marketing. For example, a donor’s giving and volunteering history, event attendance, affiliations, relationships, and data from wealth screening tools can all be analyzed to predict a potential donor’s likelihood to give a major gift.

See the complete list of eight fundraising trends identified by Donorbox.



fundraising trends for success

B2B Gifting Survey Finds Personal & Memorable Score ROI

Acculist USA supports many clients marketing in the corporate gifting space, with a focus on food and wine gift baskets and catalogs. We recently ran across some interesting data from a study by Knack, a Seattle gifting company, that should help gift suppliers to craft the most appealing packages and business gift buyers to maximize gift effectiveness.

The C-suite Believes in Gifting ROI

The good news from the Knack “Business Gift Satisfaction Survey” is that corporate gifting works well when it is done well: 57% of respondents said that “gifts can impact their opinion of a business partner both positively and negatively.” In fact, over 80% of C-suite executives surveyed said they believe that business gifts generate measurable positive ROI in addition to intangible benefits. Since there’s a huge investment involved annually, with the market for non-cash business gifts estimated at $125 billion, getting the most positives and fewest negatives is clearly vital.

Well-Packaged, Personal & Memorable Score Best

Return-on-investment for a business gift to high-value targets, such as C-suite executives, is highest if the gift tells a story and facilitates a deeper personal connection, per the survey. Quality is more important than the quantity spent to achieve that personal connection; the survey finds that the right amount to spend per gift is between $50 to $150. What defines quality? The best impression comes from good presentation/packaging and the kind of personalization that logo items and gift cards lack, per gift recipients. A memorable gift will seem selected just for the recipient; will include a personal message and will have “value attributes,” such as a handmade/artisan item or a gift supporting an appropriate cause, such as ecological sustainability or made-in-U.S.A.

A Fail-Safe Business Gifting Checklist

Based on 1,000 business gift recipients’ responses, here is the survey’s checklist for fail-safe business gifting:

  • Give a useful item, something practical and that everyone can use.
  • Surround the useful item with shareable items, such as gourmet food in line with the gift theme. Stress quality over quantity.
  • Aim for a “value attribute,” such as made-in-the-U.S. items. Specific causes might be polarizing but “Made in USA” is universally favored as a top value attribute.
  • Spend between $50-$150. Spend for junior-level business partners in the $50-$65 range and for most clients and manager/director-level associates in the $75-$100 range. Spend up to $140-$160 for C-suite execs, VPs and most valued clients.
  • Always include a personally addressed note with the gift! 

Get more details from the Knack study on corporate gifting.

Make Sure You Have a 2019 Data Hygiene Plan

As marketers prepare to launch their 2019 campaigns, they should make sure that a complementary data hygiene plan is in place, and certainly AccuList USA data services stand ready to aid in ensuring the quality, up-to-date, enriched data essential for achieving marketing results.

Why Does Clean Data Matter?

Marketers don’t want to join the 88% of U.S. companies whose bottom lines are hurt by dirty data, based on Experian research. The top areas impacted by poor data practices are marketing (66% of companies) and lead generation (80% of companies), according to DemandGen. Dirty data leads to poor targeting and ROI for marketers, reduced revenue from customer acquisition and retention, wasted company resources and misdirected strategy. To avoid that fate, marketers need a plan to regularly fix any customer and prospect data that is incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete, incorrectly formatted, duplicated, or irrelevant, plus to enrich the database via appending of relevant but missing customer parameters.

Developing a Data Cleansing Strategy

Pete Thompson, founder of DataIsBeauty.com, has put together a useful primer for developing a data hygiene plan. Start with the basics: Decide what data is important for business decisions and estimate the ROI of data quality improvement. Then review existing data processes: types of data captured, where it comes from and how is it captured, the standards for data quality, how errors and issues are detected and resolved, etc. Other questions include the main sources of errors, methods for validating and standardizing data, methods for appending or combining multiple sources, automation used if any, accountability for data quality, and measurement of data ROI.

Key Elements of a Data Hygiene Plan

Without going into detail, the basic steps of the data plan will start with creating uniform data standards, preferably applied at the point of data capture. Then develop a data validation process, applied either when data is captured or, if that is not possible, at regular intervals for data already entered. After data has been standardized and validated, you can append missing fields by cross referencing with multiple data sources. Streamline the process through automation tools and scripts, saving time and money and reducing human errors. However, while it may be tempting to start with automation, Thompson cautions against putting the cart before the horse; success requires having data standards and a proven validation process in place before automating. And then set up a monitoring system of the hygiene process, whether automated or not, via random test samples and back testing, and implement periodic checks.

For regular monitoring, or overall scrubbing without an automated regimen, experts suggest a quarterly hygiene review for databases of 100,000 records or more, and semi-annual cleaning for smaller databases. Based on our own years in the data business, we think the best advice from Thompson and other experts is to enlist the services of data processing pros when hygiene is due!

Check out more details from Thompson’s data hygiene plan.




Despite Doubters, 2018 Direct Mail Ups Response, ROI, Usage

AccuList USA’s direct mail marketing clients received lots of encouraging news in the 2018 “ANA-DMA Response Rate Report.”  Direct mail improved its usage ranking to tie with social media as the second most-used medium (57%), for example, and continued to deliver the best response rates of any medium. In fact, “snail mail” even improved on its response success by doubling median response rates over last year to 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists in 2018. Mail’s Return on Investment (ROI) also leaped by 12 percentage points to beat out online display this year.

While Marketers Forecast Mail Decline, Usage Tells a Different Story

The only negative in the report is that those surveyed continue to doubt the future of direct mail, with 19% saying they plan to decrease usage in the coming 12 months. But if the report participants follow their behavior after previous surveys, which similarly predicted mail declines, direct mail usage will remain buoyant, which allowed it to rise in 2018 despite planned cuts. One drag on direct mail continues to be its Cost Per Action/Acquisition, which is the highest CPA of any medium and puts budget pressure on mail volume, which did decline for both house and prospect lists compared with the 2017 study.

Direct Mail Usage Dominates Most Industry Segments

However, high response rates, competitive ROI, online tracking and print-tech advances are keeping marketers loyal to “traditional” mail in a digital world. In fact, direct mail usage for marketing campaigns equals or exceeds 50% for most of the 11 industry segments cited in the study. In usage, direct mail leaders were travel or hospitality (80%), nonprofits (75%), publishing or media (71%), and financial services/banks/credit (67%). Only Technology (44%), Retail (44%), and B2B Services (34%) came in below the 50% usage mark. 

B2B, B2C Split on Formats As Response Tracking Goes Digital

When it comes to direct mail creative format, postcards tend to produce the best overall response in combined B2B and B2C data, with a 13% median response rate for house files and 10% for prospecting files. Letter-size envelope formats turned in rates of 10% for house lists and 4% for prospecting, and oversize envelope mail garnered 11% for both house and prospect lists. Format results are different for B2B versus B2C, however. Looking only at B2B, limited data indicates the letter-size envelope format outperforms with a combined median response for house and prospect lists of 15%-40%, compared with postcards’ 14%-16%. For B2C, responses show oversize envelopes actually turning in the best 9%-12% median response for house and prospect lists combined, compared with postcards at 9% and letter envelopes at 4%. In tracking those response rates, marketers have definitely gone digital, with over half of surveyed marketers (53%) saying they use online tracking capabilities, such as PURLs, followed in popularity by the use of codes or coupons (45%) and call center or telephone inquiries (41%).

 

Shoppers Demand Seamless Omnichannel Retail Strategies

Omnichannel marketing is the rule for today’s retailing. While print catalogs continue as a vital merchant tool, with 42% of households reading catalogs per the U.S. Postal Service, integration of multiple channels–including online, mobile and social with direct mail–is now essential to our catalog and e-commerce clients’ success. Unfortunately, while the majority of consumers expect to shop seamlessly across all those channels, only 7% of retailers provide the unified “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere” experience that customers want, per the recent “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey” by BRP Consulting, a retail management consulting firm.

Omnichannel, Cross-Device Shopping Is Now the Norm

Marketers just can’t afford to ignore that the majority of shoppers now interact with promotions, educational content and purchase services via multiple channels and devices. According to the same BRP study, three in five (62%) consumers surveyed said they check online reviews/ratings before visiting a store, yet just 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research! Shoppers now rely on mobile to continue the digitally supported buying process in-store, with nearly 60% of shoppers looking up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores, per Retail Dive’s 2017 Consumer Survey. Also per BRP, nearly three out of four (73%) of consumers want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction, going beyond an estimated delivery date to include when the order is being prepared, date shipped from the warehouse, etc. Plus customers expect an automated return process, with 68% of consumers surveyed telling BRP they are more likely to choose a retailer offering an automated returns process.

Analytics Need Complex Channel/Device Attribution

Merchants can leverage customers’ cross-device penchant to optimize acquisition and conversion, argues a Direct Marketing News article by Pierre DeBois. But they must keep in mind that, while the opportunity to boost ad frequency and content persuasion across channels is huge, smart management is required to avoid turning targeted promotion into a bludgeon. As Bill Kee, Google’s group product manager for attribution, highlighted at the 2017 Google Marketing Next conference, “If I am on three devices, and if I see your ad five times, it means you’ve reached me 15 times…believe me I get it.” The first place to start is good omnichannel analytics to understand the contribution of each channel to ROI and its place in the customer journey. Only then can merchants cost-effectively tailor targeting and investment to maximize sales. One useful analytics tool is Google’s Unique Reach report, which displays digital ad frequency metrics across devices, campaigns, and formats to measure how many times a person views a given ad, and combines attribution influences from AdWords, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics, suggests DeBois.

Using Images and Chat to Direct the Customer Journey

Good omnichannel analytics also can improve use of image and video content to maximize the proven effectiveness of image/video in digital engagement, to answer the customer demand for education, and to direct prospects through the sales funnel. However, quantities of images bombarding customers across multiple channels can overwhelm and confuse, so both media curation and a content mapping strategy aligned to the customer journey are needed. One example of a targeted image strategy is use of an “image story” feature on a social media platform to orchestrate images and/or a short video, notes DeBois. Pinterest Lens, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Moments are all image story features. Because the majority of consumers research products and services online now, marketers also can gain an edge over competitors by offering customer-facing elements such as chatbots. In contrast to apps, which may be used only for a few discrete tasks and then ignored, a chatbot’s programmable assistance can provide both engagement and continuing response performance improvement.

For more, see the Direct Marketing News article.

Smart List, Mail Design Choices Help Save on Postage

Direct mail has higher average response rates than digital choices, but maximizing mail ROI requires cost efficiency, especially in the postage realm. Good list selection and hygiene are key to avoiding mailing waste, and this is one area where AccuList USA’s expertise in targeted mailing lists selection and data services can certainly aid clients. Another important factor in controlling postage costs is mail package design. An article by Target Marketing magazine’s Summer Gould offers a great summary of how smart choices in lists and design can add up to savings.

Targeted, Clean Lists Cut Postage Waste

If you are sending mailings to the wrong people, people unlikely to be interested in your offer, lower response rate and cost inefficiency will be reflected in poor ROI. Using tools from predictive modeling to customer profiling to segmentation can improve list choices and targeting parameters. Plus, AccuList USA’s proprietary list research can help clients find the top-performing lists for their specific vertical market. But no matter how data is targeted, dirty data with duplicates, errors, invalid addresses, and old demographic or purchase history information will create costly delivery failures and misdirected waste. That’s why AccuList USA goes beyond list brokerage to provide expert merge-purge services that combine and standardize data in order to eliminate duplicates, identify and correct old or undeliverable addresses, verify zip codes, and maximize postal discounts. In fact, by comparing names and addresses to real-time information on multiple public and private databases, AccuList USA offers an advanced hygiene regimen that is able to identify and correct twice as many addresses as standard USPS FASTforward and NCOALink use, which only represent a portion of U.S. movers and undeliverables.

Careful Design Wins Postage Discounts

USPS offers postage discounts to mail pieces that are not only addressed correctly but also designed for processing on automated equipment. For mail to qualify for the lowest postage rates, the mail piece needs to be at a letter size, which is a minimum of 3 ½” high by 5″ long and a maximum of 6″ high by 10½” long. Larger mail pieces fall into the flat category, which can cost more than twice as much per piece as a letter. Plus, to take advantage of automation, the piece must by rectangular, with an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 to 2.5. Mail pieces outside those ratios could cost twice as much in postage. Then the addressing and barcode block on letter size mail must fit into the USPS OCR read area to avoid additional postage. For tri-folded self-mailers, the address must be on the center panel to qualify for discounted automation postage. Naturally, weight matters.  Keep the weight of a folded self-mailer under 1 ounce; if the piece weighs over 3 ounces, it must go in an envelope. Thickness counts, too  If a mail piece is less than 0.009″ thick, it costs more in postage. On the other hand, the  maximum thickness for letter size mail is ¼” and for flat size is ¾”. The best advice is to consult with your mailing service provider about any new design in advance. For more, see https://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/save-money-postage/