Understanding Co-Mail Costs is Key to Comparing Printing Bids
Even though paper costs are ratcheting up, printing costs are still at an all-time low. It's pretty straightforward to compare competitive printing bids, but it gets tricky comparing co-mail costs and postage. Why is it so complicated? It seems printers want to keep it that way. Margins in printing are razor thin, and the profits for printers are in their co-mail programs.
How can you get to your true comparable costs for the three elements — printing and paper, co-mail, and postage — of printing and mailing your catalog? First ask the printers bidding on your catalog to give you three numbers:
- cost of printing and paper;
- cost of their co-mail program (defined as everything that isn't on the printing and paper quote, including list processing, freight surcharges, co-mail costs and any administrative costs); and
- cost of postage.
Be aware that you’ll see all kinds of analysis from catalog printers with detailed spreadsheets. But all these spreadsheets seem designed to confuse rather than clarify the rather simple issue of “How much is the check I write to the printer, and how much is the check I write to the post office?”
Ask for a pro forma invoice. Make the printer detail all costs up-front so you don’t get nickeled and dimed with charges that are buried in the fine print. These costs include list processing, the percentage of co-mail postage savings that's kept by the printer, administrative costs, and freight and fuel surcharges.
Getting a pro forma invoice forces the printer to detail all costs and protects you from hidden charges. Most importantly, it allows you to compare the total cost vs. other printers. If you can’t find this information, press your salespeople to get it for you.
To accurately compare postage costs, provide the printers with actual mail files from previous jobs. Otherwise the printers are forced to use national averages, which may vary widely from the actual demographic composition of your mail file.