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Behind the Direct Mail Curtain: Sausages, Beers, and the Magic of Production Day!

We’ve all heard the idiom “how the sausage is made.” It usually refers to the practical, and often, unpleasant aspects of a process that are usually kept behind the scenes. When it comes to actual sausage… you’re right, I don’t want to know how it’s made. I prefer to just enjoy the delicious end-result alongside a nice frosty beverage. But when it comes to direct mail production, we should all learn more about “how the sausage is made.” Sure, there are things behind the scenes that are complicated and confusing, but isn’t that even more reason to pull back the curtain? Gaining a better understanding of the process will ultimately improve the end result of your direct mail fundraising campaigns.

A great first step in learning more about direct mail production would be to attend the upcoming DMAW Production Day on April 11. In addition to all the seasoned experts that will be speaking on every topic and process of direct mail production, you’ll be able to see an actual production facility up close and personal. This is paramount to having a true understanding of how your direct mail projects are produced. To see all the different equipment (bindery, imaging, inserting, etc.) and how it operates is a great educational experience . If you’ve never been to a direct mail production facility, I urge you to attend.

If you can’t make it to DMAW’s Production Day, then please reach out to your production partner to schedule your own personal tour. In addition to watching the production equipment I mentioned above in action, there are so many other reasons to visit. First and foremost, you’ll meet the entire team that’s involved in making your projects a reality. In today’s remote post-pandemic world, it’s more important than ever to have personal interaction with your partners. Additionally, you can learn about the software and processes that your partner utilizes. Simply understanding how they interpret and translate the instructions you provide to their internal workflow could pinpoint areas for improvement that make everyone’s life easier.

This is where the collaboration with your production partner can really take off. Involving them as early as possible in the planning discussion is vital in today’s world where we’ve seen supply chain issues and rising costs. Taking a holistic approach by involving them in the annual mail plan rather than project by project is where success lies. Here are just a few areas where they can help:

Scheduling: The lifecycle of a project has grown longer in recent years. This is why it’s critical to include your production team as part of the annual planning process. They can see the big picture and how all the puzzle pieces fit together to ensure actual project costs are in line with budget and that your production schedule is realistic and doable. They can even find potential ways to shave a few days from a schedule.

New formats/packages: Chances are your production partner is seeing package formats and designs that you may not be aware of. Lean on them to see what they’re producing for other organizations that you may be able to adapt to your program. They may have a wealth of information/ideas that interest you.

Postage & USPS Promotions: Making sure you’re paying the lowest postage amount possible is imperative these days. Be sure you’re optimizing your file by utilizing drop shipping, commingling, etc. There are also plenty of postal promotions that may only require minor adjustments to an existing package that result in postage savings that can offset the twice-a-year postal increases that are occurring.

Okay, I’ll get off my production partner soapbox now. Since we are the lunch sponsor for Production Day, I’m going to see if DMAW’s Executive Director, Donna Tschiffely, will agree to sausages and beers on the lunch menu that day.


Jeff Thomas is the Director of Business Development at RWT Production. He’s held various positions at multiple direct mail production facilities over his 25 years in the industry. He is also a long time DMAW volunteer and former board member where he chaired the sponsorship committee. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 301-325-9897.