Print Industry: Important Update

Plan Ahead – Way Ahead!

Envelope lead times can take up to 12 weeks. These lead times are the longest I’ve seen in the 20+ years I’ve been in the industry. Causing these delays are several factors:

    • Paper Shortages
    • Staffing Shortages across the supplier network
    • Transportation Delays

Paper Shortages & Cost Increases

Shannon Murphy, Principal and Senior Vice President of Production

Many paper mills have announced they are on allocation. This means they have limited tons available to produce/sell each month, and they are going to prioritize those tons to key customers/printers/end‐users. Each mill has different amounts of paper allocated to their key accounts. These allocation tons are determined by past customer history and are monitored and adjusted monthly as orders are placed and accepted into the mill runs. In addition, we have seen delays from multiple mills as they fall behind with their schedule. We expect similar market conditions to continue the balance of the year and well into 2022 or even early 2023.

Due to the allocated paper market, mills have been slow to confirm paper orders, but placing orders early will help the mill when determining allocation. Once paper is ordered you own it.

Some companies are not able to get recycled stock. This could be a problem for many environmental non‐profit organizations. In the past two weeks, a supplier told me that due to allocation he can’t order recycled paper until February.

Labor Shortages and major disruptions in the supply chain, made worse by the pandemic, have caused delays in print. Some paper manufacturers have scaled back their shifts due to the delta variant. Many have shifted to producing packaging materials due to the increase in online order shipping with the onset of COVID‐19.

Paper costs have increased 14% over the last year due to the increase in wood pulp. Wood pulp has increased over 50% in the last year. And paper increases aren’t over as several paper manufacturers have announced additional increases in the past few weeks.

Staffing Shortages

According to a recent study by Booz Allen, the number one business concern in the print industry is finding skilled workers. Because of this shortage 6/10 production jobs go unfilled. Not only is this affecting press operators, ink technicians, and prepress workers, it’s also affecting the trucking industry.

Suppliers are running at 75% capacity simply because they don’t have the staff to run equipment.

Other factors are playing into the staffing shortage:

    • Continued COVID Cases
    • Quarantine Requirements
    • Lack of childcare
    • Extended Unemployment Benefits
    • Pandemic having prompted workers to move to other industries
    • Retirement of the baby boomer generation

Transportation Delays

    • Nationwide truck driver shortage translates to only one driver available for every eight truckloads that are ready for delivery.
    • Lack of drivers and workers cause port back ups for shipments coming in from overseas.
  • Any one of these issues would cause delays, but the combination of these issues results in longer lead times and an increase in cost over last year for the same service.

CCAH Recommendations

    • Plan Ahead – schedules will be longer for the foreseeable future
    • Deliver Art on Schedule – flexibility in due dates is a thing of the past. Art delivered behind schedule doesn’t mean a “day for a day” anymore … a one‐day delay can translate to several weeks delay in the print schedule
    • Order Ahead – print for multiple campaigns at a time
    • Time Savers – print letter head and envelopes early; duplex laser to allow more lead time with copy; inkjet teasers instead of printing on envelopes
    • Be Flexible on Paper Stock (if you can) – can you tint white stock instead of using color paper or use a different paper weight?
    • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

There is some uncertainty still, but it looks like we will continue to have print industry challenges into 2022 and 2023. Please plan ahead. And if you have any questions, please leave a comment below or send me an email at smurphy@ccah.com.

Paper Availability — Going From Bad to Worse

Paper is increasing in cost again!  And the timing to get paper is becoming longer and longer.

Custom stock and roll sizes can take several weeks to source as mills are running into the same issues as many other businesses: getting folks to come to work, fill equipment to run, and keep up with the demand.

The latest word is that by July 1, paper will see an increase of $4.00cwt (that’s $4 per 100lbs).

This would be an increase of 8% — an unprecedented increase. When a Mailshop gives an estimate of how much a job will cost your organization, paper typically represents 50%-60% of a quoted price. The remaining cost goes to labor, overhead, delivery, ink, folding, etc.

That means that with an 8% increase in paper, your quoted price for envelopes, letters, etc. will be about 5% higher than expected.  cwt

Shannon Murphy, Principal and Senior Vice President of Production

The Next Step

The dreaded word, allocation.

For those not familiar with how this one works, it basically looks like this:

Mills can’t meet demand. So they allocate inventory to printers and converters based on how much they buy and how much they have used over the last year.

Example

Let’s say company “A” bought $10,000 worth of paper in the past year. When put on allocation, they can only buy:

      1. The same as last year
      2. 90% of what they bought last year, etc.

The percentage they get will be based on supply.

The scary part is some printers could struggle to get paper. This is where suppliers’ strong relationships with paper manufacturers or merchants will play a key role in getting paper when needed.

How does this affect you? 

Factor in more time for projects. Getting paper will take longer, and of course with these announced price increases, it will cost more.

How Can CCAH Help?

    • We are starting early — making decisions on packages sooner so production can order paper before the art is released.
    • We’re talking with our production managers directly, asking about specialty stocks far in advance of wanting to use them.  We’re thinking about places we may have flexibility with the paper stocks we are using.
    • We’re being thoughtful on where strategy can change and where we won’t have wiggle room. Making major changes to package specifications midway through a job may spell big problems — if we have already ordered a special paper and the paper specs change — that original paper is still yours … the good news is you would have it available for your next mailing, or you could sell it to another supplier client if the need arose.

There is some uncertainty still, but it looks like the fall will be very similar to last year with paper challenges. Please plan ahead. And if you have any questions, please leave a comment below or send me an email at smurphy@ccah.com.

Pivot Quick in Snail Mail

Right now, the world is changing at a rapid rate. With pandemics, changing work environments, and civil unrest amplifying systemic issues to catalyze important change, it can be difficult to figure out how tried-and-true direct mail best practices and anchor campaigns fit into this new reality. What do you do in the face of the unknown? What tools, tips, and techniques should you use when world events mean your program needs to pivot—and pivot fast—when you work in direct mail (DM)?

Step one: Talk to your digital counterparts

Discuss options to go live with the new messaging on your homepage, over email and social, and SMS and phone. These channels have an unmatched ability to get your message out quickly, as well as giving your organization the option to test language and more fully develop your plan of action for your donors as new details on the topic reveal themselves.

However, if most of your donors are direct mail responsive, aren’t mobile opted in, or if there isn’t much overlap between your email and DM programs, these channels alone won’t get your message to everyone that needs to hear it. If you do not have key techniques ready to implement so you can quickly and efficiently reach your direct mail donors, you will be missing out on a key group of supporters. It’s incredibly important that these people, too, know your organizational response to a changing environment.

Direct mail is not a beauty contest

So a simple and straightforward urgent message received in a timely manner is often more important than providing donors with a highly-produced, design-heavy package. If your mail schedule and cadence allow you to print new material, you can create a simple package to get your message to your audience. Many times, you can use an “urgent-gram,” which is pre-printed material that allows you to simply add your organizational messaging.

Rework what you’ve already done

Recoding data from a recent appeal or renewal can also shorten the time frame from creative development to your drop date. If you are able to truncate your art approval timelines, recoding data (which can mean faster turn times than starting from scratch) can allow you to get your message in the mail quickly.

Look at some production-focused strategies

These can include digital printing, duplex lasering, and multiple-window no-print envelopes, and all of these strategies can shorten timelines. In digital printing, you can print and laser your material all at once, bypassing the proof, or blueline, step of the process. Duplex lasering allows an organization to print material without finalizing their messaging before printing. This gives another week or two to allow a situation to develop, thereby giving you the most information at your disposal before finalizing your stance. By mailing in simple formats with stock that is readily available, you will improve your chances of getting in the mail as quickly as possible.

Have the option to change your signer

Often overlooked, but a useful way to cut timelines for some organizations: if a finance officer, director of marketing, or membership chair can sign instead of going all the way to a president or CEO for approval, you can shorten the timeline you need to vet a package but still ensure your organization’s unique brand and voice are maintained. If a package was planned with the use of a celebrity signer in mind, consider moving that tactic to later in your calendar and swapping in a mailing that needs fewer approvals so that you can move quickly.

But what if you’ve already printed, the signer is final, and your cadence won’t allow you to miss a mailing?

A buckslip can be a quick and easy way to add information to an existing mailing before it goes in the mail. While this does not allow you to tailor your entire message/approach to a mailing, in a pinch, it allows you to connect with these donors without missing a mailing or having to trash your printed material. For programs like acquisition where list clearances only last for so long, a buckslip can ensure your organization isn’t ignoring the current state of the world, but also isn’t missing out on needed funds to further their mission.

Direct mail means planning and working far in advance, but when your plans get turned on their head, it doesn’t mean you have no options. It’s important to make sure your donors know where your organization stands and to reinforce that you are being good stewards of your donors’ gifts—especially in unknown times.

Being able to act quickly gives you the best chance of reaching your donors, and having the ability to be the first in inboxes and mailboxes can make a substantial difference in your capacity to raise funds around a specific issue and keep donors informed. Allow yourself to pivot quickly, or at least, as quickly as we can in snail mail!

Want to join the conversation? Work with us!

20180508_134226-404976-edited

Planning for the Unknown

20180508_134226-404976-editedDirect marketers thrive on using past experience and collected data to develop robust fundraising plans for the organizations we work with. That is easier at certain times than others. We all understand the importance of implementing best practices, tried-and-true campaigns, and anchor efforts, but what about when you are faced with the unknown? What tools, tips and techniques should you use to be prepared to pounce when an opportunity arises, and maximize those efforts?

Shannon Murphy

Pinching Production Pennies (Without Sacrificing Results)

Shannon Murphy

By: Shannon Murphy, Principal & Senior Vice President of Production | The continued upward march year after year of the cost of postage, paper and petrol (we like alliterations) are causing many in the nonprofit sector to pinch their production pennies. And this focus on the bottom line is having a major impact on organizations’ ability to effectively raise funds. Lower acquisition quantities being mailed out combined with cost-savings measures that effect donor response mean that the money coming in is also dwindling.