Gang Printing for Your Direct Mail Budget win!
Let’s talk about gang printing and economies of scale. And—lest you think that “economies of scale” sounds boring—let me assure you that there is nothing boring about saving money. As campaigns get off the ground and start building out their plans, they often want to do several pieces of mail, segmenting their targeting universe (because, crosstabs!) and customizing messages across multiple mailers. But then they get the budget and think, “Welp, I forgot about postage and shipping. And oof, the cost per piece on that tiny universe went up significantly. But can’t I save if I gang them all together?” Yes, you can (with some caveats).
Gang printing allows you to create economies of scale to reduce your overall costs. In most cases, as your print quantity goes up, your cost per piece goes down. Gang printing lets campaigns increase the quantity on press at once, helping to secure a lower cost per piece. For instance, if you had a mail universe of 5,000 and were sending two mailers, you could run the two pieces on press together, so that you print 10,000 at one time and get a reduction in your overall cost per piece. This wouldn’t get you the same cost per piece that you’d have if you were printing one piece at a quantity of 10,000, but it will definitely get you savings.
Sounds great, right? Of course it does! That said, it’s not as simple as just smooshing a bunch of pieces on press at once and magically getting a lower cost per piece. Here are the basics when it comes to gang printing:
1. Universe size
Because your pieces are printing together, it’s helpful to have similar quantities. Printers actually charge by sheet count, not necessarily pieces. The sheet can fit more than one piece (printers refer to how many images they can get up on a sheet), so the easiest gang would be pieces with the same approximate universe size.
2. Number of creatives
Besides quantity, the number of unique creatives is important in gang printing. Different printers have different presses and use various size press sheets. Typically, the best gang scenario is two or four pieces running on press together.
3. Specs and paper type
To be able to gang jobs together, you need to be able to print them on the same paper sheet. So, they need to be on the same type of paper, and they need to be sizes that fit correctly on the sheet. For example, you could not gang an 11 x 17 one-fold self-mailer on text paper with a door hanger on cover stock—they aren’t on the same paper and they don’t have the same specs. Two 8.5 x 11 mailers printing on #80 cover would gang well together (provided they’re printing at similar quantities).
4. Approval dates
Another important element to reaching your cost savings goal with gang printing is approval dates. If you are ganging four mail pieces together and they are mailing out 1 month apart, you need to approve and pay for all the pieces at the same time. This is the only way for them to all print together. This is really important as you’re balancing budget concerns against strategic needs (and sometimes fundraising realities). Gang printing requires some planning ahead—make sure earlier approval dates make sense for your program.
There are lots of considerations that go into gang printing and its potential for cost savings. Discuss these upfront with your production department and printers for best results. And of course, if you want to read more about the various details you should be thinking about as you build out a mail program.