How to Protect Direct Mail from Damage

By: Andrew Glover
July 29, 2020

The physical nature of direct mail marketing means you’ll need to take into account the possibility that your mailers will get damaged in the process. Mailers are very vulnerable to scuffing, ripping, tearing, or breaking, depending on the materials you use and how it’s handled (or mishandled, as it were). While some damage is completely beyond your control, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of damage to your direct mail.

How Direct Mail Gets Damaged

Your direct mail recipients may find smudges or scuff marks on the mailers you send. Scuffed pieces appear because most mail doesn’t fare so well on its path within the post offices high-speed rollers and sorting machines.

Every day, the United States Postal Service delivers over 472 million mail pieces. For USPS to accomplish all the mail sorting, the service relies on heavy-duty sorting machines. The machines grip and roll mail as they sort it into the correct zip code bins. Your direct mail piece may go through several of these sorting machines on the way to its final location. The equipment can occasionally leave scuff marks or toner behind. In some rare cases, they may even tear the mail.

How to Protect Your Direct Mail from Damage

While some mail damage is inevitable, you can take steps to make sure your piece arrives in the best possible condition.

Mail a Sample to Yourself

It’s a great idea to always mail a sample to yourself. You can easily send a few proofs of the direct mail piece to yourself before sending it to prospects. If you can, try sending it to a few different addresses. Testing a few separate addresses helps you verify the mailer is printing the way you wanted and that the colors on your screen match up with those in ink. If your mail piece arrives damaged, you can reconsider details like the headline or call-to-action placement. You may want to move these essential features to a less vulnerable spot on the mailer.

Avoid Solid Black Backgrounds

Solid black backgrounds show damage more than white or color ink backgrounds. You may want to avoid using solid black or darker backgrounds if you are concerned with postcard damage. It’s a good idea to break up the design with smaller design elements. You can test a white background or another color and see if a sample sent to yourself appears undamaged.

Choose UV Protective Coating (for Postcards)

The most effective way to prevent direct mail damage to postcards is to use a protective coating on the front and back. A UV protective coating adds a smooth, protective layer that helps the postcards slide through the sort machines smudge-free. A protective coating doesn’t guarantee that your postcards will always arrive in perfect condition, but it reduces the risk of damage considerably.

Use Stronger Packaging

The packaging material you use for your direct mail can help protect it from damage. While you may opt for the lowest-cost packaging options, such as postcards, you increase the risk of damage if your direct mail is completely unprotected. Particularly if you plan to use affixing services to add unique items of interest to the mail piece, protecting the piece with a sturdier style of packaging will reduce the risk of damage during the mailing process.

Some Scuffs and Smudges are Normal

Direct mail damage is difficult to accept, especially for marketers who are more familiar with digital marketing. The postal service faces a significant task every day in sorting and delivering mail. Their massive operation is very impressive, but it’s also imperfect. A piece with an Intelligent Barcode will be machine-sorted three to eight times before delivery. When USPS identifies a mail piece as undeliverable, it is machine-sorted up to another eight times before being returned to the sender. That leaves many chances for the machines to leave smudges on your postcards.

People are used to receiving mail with scuffs and smudges. Most individuals tune out such noise and focus on your marketing message the same as if the mailer wasn’t damaged. Don’t become too worried if you have noticed small amounts of direct mail damage. Take the suggested steps to protect your mail but understand that some scuffs and smudges are normal.

Valtim’s Encapsulator Machine Service

Valtim offers an amazing solution to protect your direct mail. We use a high-speed PriorityPak System that encapsulates your products in a ready-to-ship protective package. This system encapsulates your direct mail in a Cold SealĀ® cohesive-coated protective package that locks and seals products in place, minimizing shifting and providing protection from the rigors of shipping and handling.

Contact Valtim to learn more about our encapsulating services.

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