By Ryan Higginson, VP Inside Sales, Pitney Bowes

Print has a credibility and integrity that is appreciated across the world. Our love for print on the physical page has even been captured in music, from the Carpenters’ Mr Postman, to Etta James’ Love Letters. Despite the immense popularity of email, our fondness for physical print remains strong and print, like those songs, has a staying power and popularity that is set to last.

In fact, research reveals that when given a choice, 78% of all age groups prefer to read print on paper1. Whilst email is still extremely popular and effective for certain types of communication, customer-centric businesses are integrating both physical and digital communications in their contact strategies, responding to demand from today’s empowered consumer. Today’s connected customer draws information from a diversity of platforms, often simultaneously, but the value of physical mail remains. To make sure your business gets the most from its post, here are our ten top tips:

1. Be precise with your data

The more precise your customer data, the more successful your mailing will be in reaching your targets and generating a response. You’ll also create cost savings by removing undeliverable letters and duplicated communications. Customer information management tools and software help enhance the quality and accuracy of your customer data, and are straightforward to roll out and operate.

2. Get digital

Physical mail and digital mail don’t have to be separate activities. Consider using physical mail as part of an integrated marketing campaign which spans different media: send a prize-winning code on a postcard to drive visitors to a website, for example, or print a web address on a brochure to drive visitors to a landing page.

3. View every communication as a chance to build loyalty

Use every physical communication as a customer touchpoint: if you send out transactional post such as bills or statements, include a thank you message or voucher – it doesn’t have to be from your own business (it could be a voucher for a popular department store, for example), nor does it have to be costly, but it will be remembered and will drive loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations.

4. Consider franking machines

If you use a franking machine or meter for your post, you’ll benefit from substantial price advantages over stamped post, and you’ll be improving accuracy whilst removing the guesswork of postage costs. This, in turn, removes the likelihood of postal surcharges. There are even greater savings to be had with MailMarkTM meters like Connect+ and DM60, as Royal Mail guarantees that MailMarkTM postage discounts will always be the lowest-available franking prices, saving up to 3p per letter in comparison to standard franking. Meters eliminate the need to queue at a post office, and boost the professional look of your business mail, enabling you to print a company logo or message on every envelope.

5. Push the envelope

It costs more to send a large envelope than a small envelope, even if the content within it is the same. An A4 sheet can be folded three times into a DL envelope, which is 110 x 220mm. Folding a document three times manually can be laborious but automated folding machines can do that for you quickly and efficiently, leaving staff free to focus on other activities.

6. Colour by numbers

Recipients are more than twice as likely to open envelopes with colour graphics than those with black and white graphics. Consider adding messages to the outside of the envelope to attract attention and drive results. These can be personalised for even greater effect.

7. Spread the cost

Leasing or renting equipment or services from a supplier is a payment solution to ease the acquisition process of assets, rather than buying them outright. It can provide SMEs with high performance, high specification equipment that might previously have only been available to large businesses generating significant revenues. For those smaller purchases which are essential to business operation – ink, paper and postage for example - but would not require a long term financial commitment, companies can also benefit from a revolving credit facility, with built-in flexibility so the borrower can repay over time or in full at any time.

8. Keep track

There are tools and software available to keep an accurate account of your business mail and its journey, both in terms of outgoing post, and also mail which comes in to your organisation. Being informed about your mail helps your business boost responses, eliminate error and identify areas of cost saving.

9. Testing times

Find out which messages, graphics, colours, offers, style of language and call-to-action customers prefer, at which location, at which point in time. Bear in mind that research points to the fact that more complex messages are more popular in physical mail format: in a recent survey3, 83% of respondents preferred to receive complex documents in physical form. 53% felt they were better for storing and archiving.

10. Made to measure

Measuring the success of your print communications is crucial. Popular metrics include response rates, conversation rates, cost per mailpiece and customer satisfaction rates. For business to business mail, a letter is a great conversation opener for sales calls: “I sent you a letter on how your organisation can drive sales with our new software. Can we arrange a time to come and demonstrate the software to you?” .The number of appointments made can be recorded and business generated can be calculated.

Adopting just a few of these will make your mail work harder, helping your business to reduce costs and drive customer engagement.