Need a way to print and mail varying quantities of custom postcards
August 11, 2014 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on a construction project where we need to notify anywhere from 1 to 50 or so households at a time of work happening near their homes. Distributing flyers consumes a significant part of staff time, so we'd like to create and mail custom postcards for each work location. What's the best way to go about this?

We settled on mail notifications, because:

1. We can pretty easily get the addresses from our GIS database

2. It *should*(?) be relatively inexpensive, as compared to 45 minutes of staff time per location it takes currently.

3. People regard it as more "official" than door hangers/flyers.

The text/graphics would be mostly boilerplate, according to the type of work to be done, but we would like to include small maps of the work, so preprinted cards might not work.

So we can handle creating the text and the addresses, how to handle printing and postage? We've got a standard office printer/copier, but 50 pages of double sided cardstock might be beyond its capabilities, and we'd prefer not to have to handcut sheets of cards. We'd also like to be able to create and mail them the same day, or upload them to a service that would do the same.

We don't need multiple colors or glossy stock, plain cardstock and grayscale printing is fine for our purposes.
posted by Ham Snadwich to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I used to print a ton of postcards at FedEx Office (Kinko's) for my last job. It's pretty straightforward.

If you have access to Adobe Creative Suite or have a designer, InDesign is great for this. However you can totally use Microsoft Publisher which most people have as part of MS Office - it's clunky but fine for this purpose. Either way save as PDF.

The trick with FedEx Office is to *not* muck around with their Print Online. It's terrible and they know it. Call the store and ask to talk to whoever is on "production." Tell them what you want to do and that you want the email address. Also ask for their name and the estimated turnaround.

Attach your PDF to an email with the subject line "ATTN: PRODUCTION/NAME." Tell them you want double-sided, black-and-white cardstock, quarter-cut. Tell them the number of pages and postcards. i.e. "20 copies to yield 80 cards."

If you want something more interesting than standard white cardstock, it should just be a light color. Light yellow (canary) is nice.

For your addresses, just use MS Word and mail merge to print labels. I'd also just use regular postcard-priced stamps for postage. If you had higher volume I'd say get a postage meter and something that will print the addresses but the old fashioned way will be totally manageable for this.
posted by radioamy at 1:36 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

radioamy's advice for working with FedEx is excellent. That's probably your least hassle-y option.

If you'll be doing this from time to time and not just once, though, you'll probably get a better price from a local print shop (that was my organization's experience in Chicago, at least). Some might even take care of the mailing for you. But finding the right shop requires a little calling around for quotes, so that's probably not worth the trouble for a one-time job.
posted by bubukaba at 1:52 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

If someone in house can make the design you can use Avery postcards.
Put all the info on 1 side and them mail merge labels for the other.

I'd do the addresses on seperate labels.
posted by oneear at 1:53 PM on August 11, 2014

Personally I'd look into doing a tri-fold so you can just print them in house. I associate postcards with marketing junk slightly more strongly than I do a letter. Also, if you're trying to cut back on staff time I'm not sure adding interacting with Fedex is the way to go.

That said, there's plenty of online operations that will mail a postcard. Vistiprint has a service where you upload a list. I punched in 50 cards with B&W backside and it was under $40. If the goal is to reduce staff time then that seems way more useful than preparing, picking up from Fedex, then stamping or franking them yourself (or taking them to the post office to do it).
posted by phearlez at 2:27 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Postcards don't have to be double-sided. Set up a landscape Word doc with your boilerplate repeated four times so you've divided a sheet into identical quarters (tables with the borders turned off work well; don't forget to leave space on the right of each 1/4 for the address and stamp), then either use mail-merge to get the address information directly into that document, or make separate labels if you'd like. Print single-sided on light-colored cardstock, cut each sheet twice so you get four cards 5.5x4.25 inches each (a copy shop could do this for about four dollars, but you're only talking about thirteen sheets of paper so it might make sense to do it yourselves), affix stamps, mail. If you want to do this in InDesign instead go ahead, but Word will do the job just fine and then you aren't dependent on always having access to the Adobe suite. If my description of the document setup is confusing but the rest of the process sounds okay, I can make a blank template for you to use.
posted by teremala at 3:34 PM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: Lots of good ideas here. I think we'll likely go with some combination of Avery postcards or printing/cutting them ourselves. The lag time with the online services is a little too long for us. We typically get about a week's notice of work locations, so the 5-10 days Vistaprint is quoting is a bit much.

I think I'll also look into a mail meter to avoid having to stamp each postcard individually.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:59 AM on August 18, 2014

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