Archive for category Getting Started

20 Questions When Selecting a Print/Mail Service Provider

Choosing a vendor for print or mail sman with question on white. Isolated 3D imageervices (or both) can be similar to buying a new car. First, a lot of research on the internet. Checking out vendor websites, searching for news stories and reading online reviews. Next you reach out to people you know, and ask for their recommendations and experience. Then, you start contacting vendors.

After you’ve narrowed your selection, it’s time to start finding out more the finalists. If your company is looking to find a long-term partner, your best tool would be the Request for Proposals (RFP) process. For a “one-off” project, you may request bids from the vendors. In either case, you still need to learn more about the vendor than just their pricing.

When we help companies draft RFPs for outsourcing, there may be dozens of questions. Usually, there are standard questions from the purchasing, procurement or legal departments. There are application-specific questions – file formats, service-level requirements, postage costs, presort availability, materials, etc. Then there are questions that appear in almost every RFP.

In addition to pricing, here are 20 questions you should ask when selecting a print/mail service provider:
1. What electronic file formats can you accept for print and mail processing?

2. What are the makes, models and age of all equipment used in providing print and mail services?

3. What is the utilization-to-capacity ratio of each machine? How much additional capacity do you have available?

4. Does your equipment vendor provide you with onsite service, or do you employ dedicated certified service maintenance engineers for your equipment? If yes, what are their certifications?

5. How much have you invested in new equipment over the past three years and what is your business strategy with regard to continuous evaluation and implementation of new technologies?

6. Will you use a third-party any work or otherwise partner with other service providers (e.g., print, fulfillment, presort)?

7. Will you dedicate a service representative to this account?

8. How will our company be kept informed of the progress of our work, for example when will jobs in progress be completed? Do you provide this information online? If so, please describe whether the information is real time or if it is updated in a batch method?

9. How does your customer service structure support notifications of delayed jobs, resolving issues, etc.?

10. What processes or process improvement initiatives do you have in place to continuously improve and increase quality, improve timeliness, and reduce cost?

11. What are your capabilities of providing electronic versions of documents (e.g., email, online viewing, etc.)?

12. How do you capture your tracking information (e.g., number of files transmitted, number of files processed, what was printed, what inserted, total number of packages mailed/shipped and postage applied)? In what format is the information?

13. Describe the quality control procedures that you have in place for ensuring consistent output quality. Include your process performance standards, quality control reports, internal tracking devices, and types and frequency of manual or machine checks. How will you provide this data back to our company?

14. Describe your tracking system used to identify damaged documents and ensure that the correct number of documents are reprinted.

15. Describe the security measures that you have in place regarding the handling of confidential document data (e.g., HIPAA, PHI, SSNs, and other personal information). Describe your policy on the destruction of documents containing such confidential information.

16. Describe your disaster recovery procedures that are in place in the event of a shutdown or a lapse in service for any reason. Include descriptions of your onsite problem prevention and maintenance programs, location and capacity of back-up facilities, equipment and capabilities used in backup facilities, and logistics of the disaster recovery.

17. What is the average level of experience for your staff? What is the industry experience of your production managers? What certifications do they hold (e.g., MQC, EMCM, CMM and CMDSM)?

18. What is your company’s involvement with print/mail industry professional associations?

19. What are the monthly volumes for your largest and average customers?

20. List at least three references of the same size and in the same industry, who are currently receiving your services.

Blog Author: Mark Fallon


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Addressing Your Mailpiece!

Where To Put The Address On Your Mailpiece!

We’ve discussed many times the importance of your address list – quality, completeness, Move Update compliant and list hygiene. Now that you know what you need for your address list, where oh where to put the address on your mailpiece!

The delivery address instructs the USPS where to deliver the mailpiece. You want to make sure you are giving all the necessary information as well as placing it on the mailpiece that makes it most efficient for the USPS.

Outgoing Address must include:

  • Recipients name or other designation
  • Street number and name (including any pre-or post-directional), or PO Box number, rural or highway route or box number, and secondary description such as a suite or apartment number.
  • City and state
  • ZIP Code or ZIP+4

Alternative Addressing Formats:

  • Simplified addressing is used for general distribution to all residences/businesses on a rural route, highway contract route or all boxholders at a Post Office.  In this case “Postal Customer” is used in place of a person’s name.
  • “Occupant” can be used instead of a recipients name on a mailpiece with a complete delivery address.
  • “Or Current Resident” can be used in addition to a recipient name. This indicates that the mailpiece should be delivered to the specific address even if the person named has moved.

Return Address:

  • A return address tells the USPS where the sender wants the mail returned if it is undeliverable. A return address is required on certain types of mail. The USPS preferred placement of the return address is the upper left portion of the mailpiece on the side bearing the postage.
  • Include all the necessary information as for the outgoing address


  • The USPS prefers a simple sans serif typeface (some examples are Helvetica or Arial).
  • Use a minimum of 8 point type unless the address bears an Intelligent Mail Barcode, in which case you can go to 6 point in all caps.
  • Type or machine print in dark ink on a light background. Reflectivity between the ink color and the paper stock color may effect whether your mailpiece will qualify for automation rate discounts.
  • Left justify every line.
  • Use two letter state abbreviations.
  • There should be one space between city and state, two spaces between state and ZIP Code.

Now that you have all the address components down, where should you place the address on the mailpiece?

The address must always appear on the side of the mailpiece bearing postage. In order to claim automation postage rates, it must be parallel to the top edge.

The USPS will want to place a barcode on your mailpiece. The barcode acts as a driver for the mailpiece. USPS sorting equipment reads the address and sprays a corresponding barcode onto the mailpiece. For this reason you need to keep a clear space (Barcode Clear Zone in USPS speak) 5/8” from the bottom edge and extending 4 ¾” from the right edge. If you plan to seek automation discount postage rates, keep this area free from any logos, artwork or messages.

The outgoing address block needs to appear in an area that begins 2 ¾” from the bottom edge, and leaves a ½” space on the left and right edges.

Dark shaded area indicates “free space” for nonaddress printing.

Light shaded area indicates preferred clear zone to enhance readability.

If using a window envelope, make sure your address shows completely within the window and leaves at least an 1/8” clearance between the address and/or barcode and the edges of the window. Tap the envelope on a solid surface to make sure address doesn’t shift outside of window – perform this tap test on all four sides of the mailpiece.

Address placement for flat size mail differs slightly. As in letter size mailpieces, the address must appear on the same side as the postage. It should placed in the upper portion of the flat (top half) and should be parallel to the top edge although it may be placed perpendicular to the top, near or at the open or bound edge.

Now that your mailpiece is designed to meet postal requirements, you’ve included a great offer or call to action, you’ve compiled a clean, targeted mail list and perfect address placement you are ready to mail away! Happy mailing and good luck!

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Strahm Gains Efficiencies with Canon Solutions America

Strahm Automation & Mailing Services Gains Efficiencies with Canon Solutions America


Thank you, Canon Solutions America, for such a great write up about our new Océ ColorStream 3500.  You couldn’t be more right about our staff and customers’ enthusiasm for our new printer.

One of the best qualities of Brian Dicker is that he embraces new technology, giving Strahm the best possible production capabilities for our customers.

Thank you Brian and thank you Canon Solutions America!

Read the article here!

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What Are Barcodes?

Barcodes, Barcodes, Barcodes!

What are barcodes? Ever wonder why there are so many different ones?

The answer lies within what kind of data, how much data, and what the common uses are of the barcode. Barcodes are methods of machine-readable data identification and collection. They were first introduced in the 1940s and have evolved across a wide variety of industries. Barcodes have tracking capabilities that go far beyond the supermarket checkout. They provide a useful means to capture and share data electronically.

Barcodes are expressed as a series of wide and narrow bars. They usually have unique start and stop codes so that the barcode scanner can determine if the barcode is being scanned forward or backward. When scanned a signal goes to the computer and decodes the information.

Barcodes are split into four different categories. These include:

  1. Numeric-Only Barcodes:
    • Usually used for retail applications in the US and Canada
    • Have error correction and self-checking features
    • UPC barcodes fall in this category
  2. Alpha-Numeric:
    • All-purpose worldwide code
    • Can include large quantity of information and error reduction
    • Widely used in healthcare industry
  3. 2-Dimensional:
    • Used for order confirmation and material control
    • Ideal for encoding large amounts of information
    • QR codes fall in this category
  4. Industry Standards for Labels: Made up of industries using their own barcode systems
    • Bookland EAN encodes ISBN numbers, used internationally to mark books
    • ISSN and the SISAC Barcode: International Standard Serial Numbering
    • OPC: Optical Industry Association barcode for marking retail optical products
    • UCC/EAN-128: Widely used data formatting model for Code 128
    • UPC Shipping Container Symbol: ITF-14

With all these available options at times it can be difficult to decide which barcode is the best solution. To compare all the barcode possibilities check out: Do some digging and see what fits your present task the best!

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USPS | Paper | Direct Mail – All Working Together!

Selecting The Right Paper When Designing Direct Mail!

When designing your fabulous direct mail piece, have you ever just fallen head-over-heels in love with a particular paper only to find out that it doesn’t meet certain USPS requirements? Or, worse, that you will have to pay increased postage just to mail it?

Selecting the right paper can make all the difference in how your mail piece is perceived and how well it travels through the mailstream.

There are a plethora of papers out there to choose from. Work with your designer, printer and mail house to choose a stock to make the best impression with your mail. Each of these people should provide insight into why a paper works or doesn’t work and how to effectively produce your job.

You should be aware of light reflectivity – there needs to be enough of a difference between the ink and the paper for USPS MLOCR equipment to read the address and barcode. This means no dark stock. And stock with fibers throughout, including some recycled papers, can cause problems with reading address as well.

A big decision will be whether to use coated or uncoated paper. 

For images with lots of detail, a coated paper offers a sharp, clean look. Coated paper also makes color “pop”. Think about the end use of your printed piece.  If it needs to be addressed after printing, make sure that the coating will not interfere with high-speed inkjet printers used by your mail house. 

Uncoated papers have become increasingly popular. They can “feel” formal, or very contemporary. If you are hand signing a card, for example, you want to use an uncoated paper. Uncoated paper also scores and folds a little better than coated papers and some digital presses “prefer” uncoated stock.

A visit to the local paper supplier is always fun; you’ll be bowled over by the shear number of papers available. But make sure to get input from your printer and mail house before you get too attached to a stock that won’t convey your message well or, worse, won’t look great in your recipient’s mail box!

For further details visit USPS® paper regulations for direct mail.

What are your favorite papers and how do you think they enhance your mail piece or company image? Or just share your war stories on paper choices gone awry. We’d love to hear them.

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Nine Surprising Facts About The Postal Service

Nine Things You Should Know About The Postal Service

“You probably know your mail carrier and the clerks at your neighborhood Post Office, but how well do you know the Postal Service itself? Here are nine facts that might surprise you.”

PostalFactsAbove is a quote from this great USPS blog we discovered. It can’t be said any better, “how well do you know the postal service itself?” Please take a minute to check out this wonderful blog: and learn nine facts that might surprise you about the postal service.

We would love to hear your feedback and see if you knew any of the facts or if you were truly surprised. Comment below!


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Get Started and Save with Every Door Direct Mail

Get Started with Every Door Direct Mail

How much do you know about the USPS program Every Door Direct Mail?

eddmJust this week I was able to provide a customer with a $31,000.00 savings in postage. Wow! What a way to control your marketing budget, right?

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) gives you the ability to target a local neighborhood or to reach customers/prospects nationwide. The Simplified Mailing Process helps you identify which USPS mail routes to include in your targeted mailing area. There is a super cool, intuitive EDDM application available online to get you started.

You can access the online tool and get more information here:

Who can benefit from EDDM?

  • Retailers
  • Auto dealerships
  • Arts organizations
  • Restaurants
  • Business services
  • Attorneys
  • Doctors
  • Dry cleaners
  • Contractors
  • Realtors

The list could go on and on. If you want to reach a local, or even national, audience EDDM provides an easy, cost effective marketing channel. Remember that $31,000.00 postage savings for my local customer?

Some things to keep in mind when planning your mailing:

  • Mailpieces must meet Standard flats specifications
    • Minimum length 11 ½” OR
    • Minimum height 6 1/8”
    • Weight equal to or less than 3.3 ounces
    • Must contain at least 200 pieces (with a maximum per day of 5,000 pieces for the EDDM Retail option, but unlimited for the EDDM BMEU option)

The USPS is hosting a series of FREE business seminars designed to help you gain a greater understanding of this new service and how it can support your marketing plan.

I suggest reaching out to your local Postal Customer Council to find where and when the next seminar will take place in your area. You can search for your local PCC chapter here:

The Postal Customer Council is a terrific resource and I hope if you’re mailing, you are taking advantage of all the experience and expertise they can offer.

How do you see yourself using this new Postal Service program Every Door Direct Mail? We would love to hear your ideas and success stories!

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How To Improve Your Email Deliverability

Improve Your Email Deliverability With These Few Tips

Every month you strive to come up with relevant and timely information to include in your email newsletter or basic marketing campaign. Make sure more of your messages are reaching contacts by following these simple steps.emailinbox

  1. Understand Email Filters: Try not to use language that might look like spam content. This would include your subject line as well as body copy.
    • Spam like words include free, guarantee, credit card, sex, etc.
    • Do not use all capital letters
    • Do not use a lot of punctuation – avoid !!!, $$$ and other symbols
    • Include your complete physical address as required by law
    • Always tie your subject line to your email content. If it’s a newsletter, say so in the subject line.
  2. Encourage readers or customers to put your address in their address book, trusted sender list or approved sender list. Make it easy for them to do this by keeping your “From Address” short, easy to remember and easy to type.
  3. Review your bounce reports carefully.
    • Consider removing any addresses that appear on your bounce report repeatedly. There may be a problem with the address. If they are a known customer, pick up the phone and confirm their address for your records.
    • Check for typos in email addresses
    • Bounces marked as Undeliverable can often times be an email server temporarily unavailable, overloaded or not located. Unless this occurs multiple times, you may not want to delete this address from your list.
    • Full mailboxes mean that your email will not be delivered until the recipient makes room for them by cleaning out their mailbox. Sometimes your email won’t be delivered at all after a certain number of attempts.
  4. Because the unsubscribe feature has been used by spammers to verify addresses, be alert to requests to unsubscribe and respond quickly to permanently remove those email addresses from your list.

Use these tips next time you’re ready to send out that newsletter or other email communication and you will be on your way to a clean, productive email list!

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Color Management | RGB & CMYK

Color Management

cmyk_vs_rgb_by_zherz0709-d49w6qaEver considered why the document you have printed doesn’t exactly match the document you viewed on your monitor?

No device – whether it be your computer monitor, digital printing, offset printing, etc – is capable of producing all of the colors a human eye can see. Each device works within a specific “color space” which makes up a certain gamut of colors.

Colors can shift in appearance from one device to another because of the variety of color spaces. These variations can result from differences in image sources; the way software applications define color; print media; and even the age or manufacturing difference of your monitor.


RGB is an additive process. Your monitor translates an image into pixels that are then projected as rays of red, green and blue light. Not all monitors are exactly the same so you will experience variations from one monitor to another.

RGB color spaces are generally larger than CMYK  spaces and are becoming more popular to use when jobs are sent to the printer. Larger color spaces are able to produce more and brighter colors. RGB also presents itself for a greater range of output such as web, digital (think email here) or print.

Most print devices use CMYK inks, so at some point a conversion from RGB will take place, most often by the printer.

CMYK is a subtractive process. Cyan, magenta, and yellow ink is placed on white reflective paper. Each then absorbs, or subtracts, its opposite color from the white light reflected back.  Black is used to change the colors luminosity value (light to dark).

Typically CMYK color spaces have a gamut of color smaller than RGB spaces. This  translates to fewer and less vivid colors. The RGB colors you created are often beyond the range of CMYK to reproduce and will come out darker and more dull in print than what you saw on your on-screen display. To accurately print the document, it must be converted to CMYK.  CMYK delivers color consistency if a project is to be spread between multiple print devices (think distribute and print or print at the point of consumption).

Conversion from RGB to CMYK can be a complex task. It is recommended you speak with your printer; many times they are more than happy to make the conversion for  you.

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How Important Is It To Choose A Printer With In-House Mail Capabilities?

If your printed piece is going out in the mail…

How Important Is It To Choose A Printer With In-House Mail Capabilities?

202c8812smHow do you make a print/mail vendor selection?  Contact them directly and by all means request a tour of the facility. Here are some helpful questions to ask.



  • Ask for credentials.
    • Are they a USPS sanctioned mail co-mingler?
    • Do they provide NCOA, LACSlink or Fast Forward services?
    • Do they provide CASS certification?
    • Do they have an onsite USPS verifier?
    • Do they have an onsite MERLIN?
    • Does the USPS pick up from their dock, or do they deliver to BMEU?
    • Do key employees hold any industry certifications? How often are they updated?
  • What services do they provide within their own production facility?
    • Color, highlight color, and black and white printing?
    • MICR capable?
    • Inkjet addressing for postcards or envelopes?
    • Collating?
    • Folding?
    • Intelligent mail inserters?
    • Match mailings?
    • HIPAA compliant?
  • How secure is their facility?
    • What is their business continuity plan?
    • What is their disaster recovery plan?
    • Secure building access?
    • 24/7 video monitoring of facility and production floor?
    • If mail is delivered to them, is it left unattended on the dock?
    • Are employees background checked?

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