Now, is that any way to do a mailer?


I received a mailer recently that impressed me – not with its creativity or call to action, but at how poorly it was planned out and conceived. I shared this on my personal Facebook page, and one of my print colleagues urged to turn it into a blog post. I’ve been absent from my blog for a while due to health and personal reasons, so I was inspired to take up the pen (or pull out the keyboard) and write.

This mailer was a survey done by the Orange County (CA) Supervisor Andrew Do.  A tri-fold mailer with a perf where you could tear off the survey and return it. But as I started to fill it out, I noticed three major errors in the planning and execution of this mailer, and I wish to share them here to enlighten those who may be planning a return mailer.

  • Problem: It was printed on coated cover stock.  How many times have you had something on a coated stock, which made it damn near impossible to write on it with ink or the newer gel ink pens?  You have to use a Sharpie, and how many people have those lying around? And if they do, they’re probably the regular Sharpies, not fine tip Sharpies that you can write with.  (As you can see from the image above, I did start to fill it out using a Sharpie, but stopped when I wondered if there was a website I could go to and do the same thing).
  • Solution: print on uncoated cover stock, or use a pencil-receptive aqueous coating. Yes, coated sheets have a better “look” than an uncoated, but you’ve made the whole piece a challenge for a recipient to fill out.20160213_171234
  • Problem: you have to mail it back and affix a first-class stamp to it.
  • Solution: really, the solution was to make it a postage-paid return piece, if you really want the recipient to return it. Several people (including myself) these days do not purchase stamps, because we do most if not all of our bill-paying online.
  • Problem: there is no link provided to a website that would allow us to fill out this survey, and, for the senders, capture data.
  • Solution: create a site or a landing page on a site where the recipients of the mailer can go and fill out the survey, providing their name, phone and address as well. You will probably get a greater response, and you can capture the data.

Now, granted, this is more of a rant, but it does bring up some obvious points, and spell out some things that could have been executed better by both the office that ordered the printing, and the printer who provided it. Of course, there may have been budgetary restraints that may have removed some of the many items that I have pointed out here that could have improved the piece.

Mailings with thought behind them, and with the means to respond to a call-to-action via an online portal, allow for better engagement of the recipient. As a print buyer, you need to think about the complete process from the print until it ends up in the recipient’s hands, and as a printer, you should be advising your clients on the best ways to produce a printed piece.

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About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at
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