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Meet the Mailers: Collaborating in the Creative Process

In this episode, we talked with Premier Press about how the company works with clients using a holistic approach that includes both creativity and costs.

In this episode, I talked with Premier Press’s Manuel Saez, Vice President and Caleb Orazio, Direct Mail Services Manager.

Headquartered in Portland, OR, Premier Press provides a wide array of the highest-quality design and printing results to organizations across the country.

We discussed how the company works with clients using a holistic approach that includes both creativity and costs.

As Manuel explained:

[O]ur conversations tend to not be the lowest cost provider, it is more of what service can we provide you so you get the best ROI on your dollars.

Manuel SaezVice President
Premier Press

Among the many topics we covered at length:

  • Their backgrounds in direct mail
  • The services Premier offers to marketers
  • Using personalization in mail
  • Premier’s commitment to sustainability
  • Why direct mail works

Here are some questions and answers (edited for clarity and space):

  • Getting more into specifics, what type of direct marketing services does Premier offer to marketers overall?

Manuel: Being that we’re a creative production company, we’re very much touching on that whole creative side.

So in our services, we offer obviously creative social media, anything that is involving influencer marketing, personalization, variability … really directing our focus to the end client. So on our side of it, our services are, as not just a printer, but it’s the whole gamut of beginning to end for the client.

  • And from the website, I’ve read a lot about Premier which is about being more than simply printing materials for customers. Can you talk about that commitment to creativity?

Manuel: We as a company have noticed many years back that in order to differentiate ourselves, in order to really start from that beginning process to the end, we had to get involved, ahead of time, be on the creative side.

Premier is a creative production company, but we also do offer our services as a creative agency as well. So, having the opportunity to speak to the client several months in advance, 3, 4, 5 months in advance of what their end goal is, really helps us to one, either direct the narrative towards, you know, what would be good for Premier, but also at the same time, you know, if we can offer those services, what direction they should go into.

It’s a whole-encompassing approach if you want.

  • So getting more into the details. How can companies use direct mail to engage customers at different points along the customer journey?

Caleb: So I think to that end of us being a creative partner, engaging with a customer on their overall marketing strategy, we can try to leverage what has already been the holistic approach of what’s happening to a client.

Specifically, with mailing, a lot of it starts with the data, client data, being able to leverage their data that they have or us being able to supply good data to be able to engage customers that are already on the journey that they find themselves on, either looking for those products or those interests.

And then, I think we definitely want to collaborate the two, especially the digital and the mail, because it’s more effective that way, there’s a better ROI that way, but also it helps to be able to stand out. So, as far as specifically on the customer journey touchpoints, we like to integrate with a lot of the different emerging technologies.

There’s promotions, things like that the post office even has incentivized mailers to go towards, so everything from being able to, for some of our clients, to be able to say, “Hey, Google [or Alexa]” at the end of the day, and then have an easy on-ramp for their customers to make the next step.

We wanna make sure we can help with that, delivering the client all the way.

  • So does that include our voice assistant mail?

Caleb: Yes.

  • And, just out of curiosity, are you getting a good reaction from your customers about the kind of response they’re getting from their mail?

Caleb: Yeah, so specifically, the latest one was the third and fourth quarter of 2022. But the response that we’ve gotten was that they were very much excited about it and tracked their results. So, I think it’s something that’s gonna be continuing on.

  • Are there specific verticals that Premier works in with direct mail?

Caleb: So, I think we find ourselves in markets, in areas that are highly personalized. So, specifically in areas of healthcare, tech, real estate, and even pet health, non-profits, things that we find ourselves in spaces where we’re trying to personalize and make a custom impression on individuals.

So those are the markets that we end up gravitating towards.

  • So, at the same time that you work on solutions with customers, how do you incorporate cost into the discussion of cost versus benefits? Like I’m thinking, for example, of dealing with postage increases and paper shortages, things that a lot of people have had to deal with. Is this an opportunity for using more personalization?

Manuel: Yeah. The whole personalization side of it comes down to that whole influencer marketing as well that we push. And being able to personalize it kind of takes away from us just being a static, if you want, printer. What we’re trying to bring to the client is, at the end of the day, how do we maximize our dollars and how do we get to the end client specifically versus the big shotgun approach.

So our conversations tend to not be the lowest cost provider, it is more of what service can we provide you so you get the best ROI on your dollars.

  • Would you say then that there are a lot of opportunities for a more robust version of personalization, like using a lot of variable data printing and things like that?

Manuel: Yeah, we made a pretty large investment a year and a half ago and invested into a digital roll fed web – a [HP] T250. So it allows us to be able to do these much longer runs, but at the same time being variable, you know, every image throughout.

So it’s been a great addition to our arsenal and it’s part of our expansion into longer runs, but on the variable personalized side of direct mail.

  • So one important factor for companies moving forward in our industry surely is sustainability. Can you talk about some of the initiatives and certifications that you have and why is that an important thing going forward?

Manuel: It’s actually dated way back in our ownership. They’ve always wanted to make a difference and leave the world in a better place. So being able to focus on that side, the company throughout the years has continued to invest both, you know, technology-wise. We have all the lighting in the building that dims down and turns on as people walk through the building, so if we have unattended areas.

We’re a hundred percent windmill-powered facility as well. We have the certifications of SGP Certification, Forest Stewardship (FSC) you know, certification work if anybody wants FSC papers, so it’s definitely always been part of what we do.

We also are very fortunate that we have some very large accounts that are here in Portland that it is very important to them to have that sustainability approach, which kind of pushes us always to be able to offer that to other clients, to say “here’s an alternative, however, if this is the way you want to go, but here’s something that’s a little more green-friendly.”

So it’s definitely part of our whole vision and values.

It tends to be a large investment for most companies. Not just us, but also the actual client that’s paying for it. And we’ve noticed a shift over the last decade where people used to say that it was important, but when they found out, you know, the alternative costs were more money, maybe it wasn’t important to them anymore.

And now over the last decade, we’re finding some of the bigger players are like, “OK, this is important. We are gonna spend the money, let’s do this right. And let’s try to leave the world in a better place”.

  • Talking in general about direct mail, what is the best value proposition for companies to use direct mail, and why do you think it still works so well?

Caleb: I think that there are quite a few value propositions for it. I mean, there are probably cases to be made specifically around the response rates, cost-effectiveness, return on investment when it comes to mail. But I think for us, or at least for me, what stands out to the question is more of the chance to be able to put something physical and tactile in front of somebody.

It’s a chance to make a different type of impression. Digital marketing can be very oversaturated, right now, and it’s easy to get lost in the noise. But mailing is old school. There’s something physical, there’s something more shareable about it. If you do it right, you can avoid just speaking to a list and talk to specific individuals.

And I think that that’s something, at least around here, that we try to help our clients towards that goal.

Manuel: And I think the pandemic has definitely affected the resurge in direct mail people were, are, have been so accustomed over the last couple of years of being bombarded nonstop with social media and ads and so forth that it kind of like, as Caleb said, it gets lost and actually getting something physical and either, you know, get something that stands out.

And it could be foil, it could be soft touch, it could be whatever means it is, but you actually maybe get a fraction of a second here for somebody to actually look at it versus just hitting the delete button.

And is that something you’ll suggest to your clients as well? Like, “Hey, we can use like soft-touch coating, we can use these embellishments that will stand out and it’s only X amount more to do that.”

Manuel: Yeah. Depending on the campaign that they’re looking for, those are definitely all options that we bring along.

We’ve done direct mail campaigns where there are pop-ups. Or we’ve done one in the past where you open the letter and there’s, you know, a rubber or plastified butterfly that flies out of it. So just a lot of different things that we can incorporate depending on the dollars that want to be spent on that particular campaign.

  • Looking ahead and considering where we’ve been the last couple years, what trends do you see unfolding in direct mail in 2023 and beyond?

Caleb: So just to keep on hammering it – I think it’s the marrying of the digital and tactile, the trends of using other technologies, more personalized data, speaking directly to people, and different technologies. It is just gonna have to be the standard moving forward.

Here is our conversation (with all questions and answers). We’ve added timecodes for your convenience.

Thanks very much, Manuel and Caleb, for sharing your perspective and your expertise! To learn more about Premier Press, visit their website at

Your comments and ideas are very important to us in making your Who’s Mailing What! experience even better for you. Through these engaging talks, we hope you’ll take away practical tips, insights, and personal stories to inspire and build your own success.

If you have any feedback — or are interested in sharing your expertise and viewpoint with our wide and diverse audience on “Meet the Mailers” — please reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you!

Direct Mail Evangelist

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