Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, supply chain issues have afflicted many industries. Unfortunately, direct mail is not immune to these problems. Reduced production, worker shortages, and shipping delays influence the availability of necessary materials, thereby increasing the lead time and costs of campaigns. We’ll break down some of the most pressing concerns you should take into consideration.
Throughout 2020, many Americans were all too familiar with paper shortages—most notably, toilet paper. However, there are widespread paper shortages across the board. This affects not only toilet paper availability but also the production of books, product packaging, and mailings.
The capacity of the North American printing and writing paper industry has dropped around 20% since 2019. Several factors contribute. First, some mills converted to producing cardboard due to increased demand for shipping boxes as more shoppers purchased online. Meanwhile, others closed down due to pandemic-related safety concerns. Further compounding the issue, worker shortages limit production capabilities. And once finished paper is ready for distribution, it frequently gets held up in transit due to shipping bottlenecks.
Supply has therefore declined, and there have been multiple price increases by the mills. As most people are aware, shortages of containers and port delays have also reduced the international importation of paper.
When combined with the increasing costs of raw materials, these factors put a significant strain on businesses that rely on the benefits of direct marketing.
Mill lead times have extended out as far as 4 plus months, making it difficult to get special stocks or start new programs. Because paper is in short supply, producing direct mail requires a longer timeline and a higher budget.
The Effects of Product Shortages on Direct Mail Marketing
Across industries, direct mail marketing is highly effective. Early in the pandemic, it was especially popular because it could reach potential customers while they remained at home. However, as supply chain issues increased, many businesses selling physical products shied away from investing in direct mail campaigns since acquiring those products became more and more tenuous.
Envelopes are almost more difficult to get than offset. Envelope manufacturers have 12 to 16 week lead times to print and convert envelopes. Using stock envelopes helps reduce cycle time, but prices are rising across the board.
How to Run a Successful Direct Mail Marketing Campaign Despite Shortages
Most postcards use significantly less paper than alternatives such as catalogs and folded self-mailers. A small postcard measures just 4.25 inches by 6 inches. Additionally, USPS has changed their rules with respect to the first class postcard, now increasing the maximum size from the 4.25 inches by 6 inches to 6 inches by 9 inches, allowing more sell space, less postage cost, and much quicker deliverability.
Select Your Mailing List Carefully
It’s always wise to use a targeted mailing list, but even more important when you’re on a tight budget. Focusing on a narrow, well-qualified audience is much more cost effective than casting a broad net.
Your direct mail company’s former turnaround times probably won’t be possible in the near future. Plan your campaigns well in advance to ensure your direct mail provider has sufficient time to source the necessary materials. Be prepared to make adjustments to desired stocks based upon availability of materials.
Unsure of Product Supply? Focus on Brand Awareness!
Any business could be affected by supply chain issues. Planning a marketing campaign for a product you’re unsure whether you’ll actually have in stock might seem unwise. However, direct mail is exceptional at building brand awareness. Regardless of whether you’re confident you’ll have your standard products available at the time of mailing, building brand awareness now can set you up for future success.
To meet customer needs, Design Distributors leverages our strong supplier relationships forged during our 55 years of industry experience. We monitor existing shortages and work closely with our partners to ensure we have the necessary materials to launch effective direct mail campaigns. Contact us today to discuss the best options for your business.