In the Trenches: Pick the Perfect Lettershop
The first time I set foot in a lettershop, I was in awe of all those big machines that take huge volumes of paper material and somehow create direct mail. As I stumbled around pallets and forklifts, my guide was busy giving me a lesson on cut-sheet versus continuous-form laser technology. When we finally exited the cavernous room to the relative quiet of the foyer, I thought I had just gotten off a wild carnival ride.
So, if choosing a lettershop to handle my direct mail business could be decided by the old adage, “He who has the most toys, wins,” the decision should have been easy. (This place had a lot of toys.) But if you’re responsible for the production of your fundraising appeals, you know that it isn’t just the “toys” that make a strong lettershop.
I challenged a number of fundraising-agency professionals and lettershop managers to name the most important variables to consider when selecting a lettershop.
Demand ‘service with a smile’
“Look for a lettershop that understands your specific needs and acts as a partner,” says Phil Wax, an independent fundraising consultant based in Massachusetts.
Wax advises mailers to first look for reliability, then investigate inventory, job tracking and reporting systems. And, most importantly, he cautions: “Be sure all your invoices match the original quote.”
Rebecca Altieri, director of administration at West Bridgewater, Mass.-based Mail Computer Services, echoes Wax’s sentiments.
“Look at a lettershop’s management and corporate structure,” Altieri stresses. “What are the layers of management? Are they sufficient to drive quality and communication?”
Altieri also suggests looking at a lettershop’s operating software and asking: How efficient is the system that controls work-order entry and inventory, postage and accounting? Do they link together? Do they allow for speed of information back to a client?