9 Hacks To Lower Your Print & Mail Costs Without Sacrificing Quality & Service


56% of customers find print marketing to be the most trustworthy type of marketing.

– Rochester Institute of Technology

Contrary to popular belief, print is most definitely NOT dead. Yes, the Digital Revolution took some of the attention away from paper. Yet, printing and mailing are still very necessary — and effective — in the business world. One of the knocks against printing and mailing services is that they can be expensive. However, there are ways (some little-known to everyone but the industry experts) to keep more money in your pockets. You won’t even need to sacrifice quality or impact with your projects!

You may be surprised to learn that there are savings and value-added service benefits to be found in these categories:

  • Planning
  • Project Specs
  • File Prep & Proofing
  • Insider Knowledge
  • Mailing
  • Marketing

This post includes strategies and advice you can use today to find a reliable printing partner and save money.

Planning (Hacks 1-2)

1. Do Your Homework on Possible Printers – When looking for a printer, chances are you’ll have several to choose from. However, it’s not always easy to find a printer that can save you money while also providing top-notch service. Shop around, and don’t feel you need to commit to the first printer that has some good qualities. By vetting options thoroughly, you’ll be much more likely to find the best possible printer for your project.

  • Know the Printer’s Specialties – Commercial printers typically print many different types of projects, which requires them to set up their printing presses specific for each job. Specialty printers focus on a certain type of printing. Because of this, they never change the setup on their presses. This gives them a competitive edge over commercial printers that do it all.
  • Look for a One-Stop Shop – Check with the printer and ask if they will be finishing your project in-house or if they are subbing it out. Often, printers rely on other companies for finishing help. Shop your project and try to find a printer that does all manufacturing in-house, as this typically reduces costs.
Marketing ROI Toolbox

2. Plan Ahead – Think long-term with your print projects. The more planning you do early in the year, the better. Perform an audit of your annual printing and mailing spend, and discuss your expected needs with printers.

  • Avoid the Rush – Rush jobs are charged at an additional premium to accomodate expedited pre-press, press time and post-press.
  • Forecast Annual Print Needs – Even better, when you have an ongoing annual need for printing, you can negotiate a yearly contract with your printer for even more savings. Printers love committed customers, and you will also benefit from preferred treatment!
  • Order Multiple Jobs at Once – In the event you have multiple projects, utilize your printing company’s knowledge on how to run the projects at the same time in the most efficient manner. This can lead to tremendous savings.

Project Specs (Hack 3)

3. Be Flexible with Your Project’s Specs – Your ideal print project may be more expensive than similar alternatives. If you are willing to budge on some of your project specs, the savings can add up in a hurry. In many cases, the finished products will still look just as good.

  • Request Cost-Saving Alternatives – Your biggest opportunity for savings is allowing your vendors to think outside of the box and suggest alternatives when possible!
  • Use House Stock – Printers use a certain stock of paper for their everyday printing typically referred to as “house stock.” House stocks are purchased in large quantities at substantial discounts, which can be passed on to you.
  • Lower Your Basis Weight – Paper comes in different weights, which affects its durability and opacity. Heavier basis weight sheets can cost more money. Printing on an 80# cover stock, for example, as opposed to 100# cover stock can save up to 20% in paper costs.
  • Be Flexible with Your Paper – If you aren’t concerned with slight differences between printed pieces for a job, ask your printer to suggest alternative papers that may be appropriate. Will the recipients notice their paper is slightly different than others? Does that matter? If not, be flexible and allow the printer to substitute similar papers to keep your costs down.
  • Reduce the Size of Your Piece – Because paper comes in standard sheet sizes, you can sometimes reduce the dimensions of your piece by a small amount to use more of each parent sheet of paper.
  • Choose CMYK Over Pantone – Marketing pieces typically work best when CMYK process colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black) are used on full-color offset & digital printing presses. Printing full-color is often cheaper than printing several spot Pantone colors.
  • Choose All-Over Coating Instead of Spot Coating – Most printed pieces have some sort of coating to protect the sheet from scuffling and to enhance the finish of the piece. All-over coating usually does not require an additional plate to be made, but spot coating does, which increases the cost. If you are looking to save money, consider an all-over coating.
  • Dump the Envelope – Is it possible to effectively get your message across using a postcard or folded tab mailer? There are cost-savings with these methods as opposed to envelopes, which are more expensive due to stuffing and sealing in addition to the paper and printing costs.

File Prep & Proofing (Hacks 4-5)

4. Pre-Flight Your Files Before Submitting to the Printer – Much like a pilot performs a series of cross-checks before taking off, designers should pre-flight their documents to be alerted for missing fonts, images, colors, incorrect color space and transparency issues prior to supplying files to the printer.

5. PDFs are the Way to Go – Whether your project is ready to go to the presses or you are performing quality control to ensure there are no issues, your best bet is to go with a PDF.

  • Send Print-Ready PDFs – The ideal format for transferring digital files is a print-ready PDF.
  • Pass on the Hard Copy Proofs – Having a set of hard copy proofs for final proofing certainly has its place in the printing world. However, if your job is not something large like a catalog, requesting a PDF proof will reduce your cost and shorten the production time.

Insider Knowledge (Hack 6)

6. Crunch the Numbers – People who really know the ins and outs of the printing business can work the numbers in their favor. Whether it’s reducing the number of sheets that need to be printed or opting for bulk production on heavily used pieces, there’s money to be saved if you use the right strategy.

  • Explore Gang Run Printing – If you have a printing project that is all about the bottom line, gang run printing can be an excellent choice for tremendous cost-savings. Ask your printer if they offer gang run solutions.
  • Take Advantage of Volume Discounts – If you anticipate needing more print pieces in the future, it makes financial sense to print those pieces now. With offset printing, the more you print, the less it costs per piece. Printing involves various fixed costs regardless of the volume of printing such as pre-press, imposition, plate-making and setting up the plates and ink stations. Also, ask the printer if they offer free warehousing.

Mailing (Hacks 7-8)

7. Use a List-Cleaning Service – Don’t waste money by mailing to bad addresses. Utilize a list-cleansing service such as National Change of Address (NCOA) to maximize deliverability.

8. Strategically Plan Your Mail Drops – If you have a large mailing campaign and want to mail in phases, a good way to do it is by geography. You may be able to get discounts based on where your mail is dropping. In addition, using a combo printer/mail house can save you extra money.

Marketing (Hack 9)

9. Choose a Printer That Knows Marketing – Is your printer “just a printer?” To get the most out of your printing efforts, you should always consider how this type of marketing effort is positioning itself with your other marketing channels. Omni-bound marketing is the best angle for ROI!

  • Leverage Your Printing to Decrease Costs in Other Areas – Does your printer offer in-house design, photography and mailing services? If so, these are other services that, when combined, can reduce your overall costs.

Have additional questions about printing and mailing or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us.


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