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More than $150 million. That’s how much campaigns, party committees and outside groups spent on political direct mail in the 2014 cycle—just through the end of August—according to a recent analysis by Politico.

At a time when data-driven digital advertising is the talk of the campaign world, candidates and campaigns are still spending heavily on political direct mail for one reason: It works. That’s exactly why so many campaigns avidly keep direct mail in their arsenal.     

We know direct mail for political campaigns can be an expensive proposition. From the design to the printing to the postage, the cost of traditional direct mail can often be prohibitive for campaigns working within tight budgets. Even in larger campaign operations, where fundraising dollars are plentiful, budgets can soar when factoring in mailing lists, permits and the standard postage rates associated with traditional direct mail.

Now there’s a way to do it for a lot less through Every Door Direct Mail® or EDDM® for short. The U.S. Postal Service enacted this new program to make direct mail more affordable by eliminating the need for permits or mailing lists. And the postage is significantly reduced—50 percent less than standard rates.

It works by targeting neighborhoods via mail carrier routes using an EDDM® map tool. Mailing this way reaches every active door in the routes selected.  While there are targeting options—demographic and geographic overlays and radius around a zip code or specific location—to smartly select routes that make sense for your campaign, there is no need to supply or rent a list of names and addresses to reach every voter in the neighborhoods you choose with EDDM®.  

For smaller or local campaigns, it’s a cost-effective way of getting entire neighborhoods aware of your position and values. And for larger campaigns, EDDM® postcards and flyers can blanket entire zip codes with key messages or be used to get the word out about an upcoming campaign rally or event. And integrating your marketing efforts—pairing EDDM® with mobile marketing, social media or an email push will increase your campaign’s ROI.

Political news cycles are shorter than ever, which means modern campaigns are built on agility and speed. The most effective local election campaigns understand that’s key as Election Day nears. With EDDM® sending political or election flyers and postcards to make an issue pop in a specific area of your district can be done just as quickly with minimal spend.     

One option is do-it-yourself, otherwise known as EDDM® Retail. While some go the retail route, it tends to not be the best option for political campaigns, which need to place a premium on accuracy and speed as Election Day nears. Going the retail route leaves it up to you to find an accurate tool to map postal carrier routes. You’ll also have to research and understand EDDM® mailing requirements, design and print mailers to USPS specifications, then handle the postage, associated paperwork and bundling. You’ll even need to deliver the bundles to the various post offices that serve the routes you’ve selected.  

The best option to create and send political campaigns quickly and efficiently is utilizing an EDDM® provider. There are a number of providers out there, but just as many pitfalls when it comes to selecting the right one for your needs.

If efficiency and ease is critical to you, use one than can provide everything you need to create and send EDDM® campaigns all from one website with no legwork left to you. Any that involve going to multiple places, talking with a sales rep versus being able to order online, or to handle some requirements yourself just means hidden cost and time.

Another key factor is working with an official EDDM® provider approved by the USPS. When it comes to mailing requirements and associated regulations you don’t want to take chances. An official provider assures compliance so you can trust that your election flyer or postcard enters the mail stream quickly and correctly.

If you’re ready to start looking for providers to compare options and pricing, here are three things to keep in mind:

1. Understand All Steps and Costs
Just because you may opt against the do-it-yourself or EDDM® Retail option doesn’t mean you’re worry free. Depending on the EDDM® provider you select, some requirements and associated costs could still fall on you. When researching EDDM® vendors, ask for clarity on all steps and costs, and get a full explanation on who is responsible for what—are there any steps that will be left for you or your campaign team to complete?  If so, be sure to factor that into your overall time and costs.

This is critical since some providers only handle printing, which leaves the mailing requirements, legwork and associated cost to the campaign. Other providers include the required bundling and paperwork, but ship everything back to you, leaving postage and delivery to the post offices that serve those routes in your hands.

2. Do Your Homework on Providers
It is good practice to compare providers against a checklist of what it takes to execute an EDDM® campaign—from the planning stage of the campaign to the actual mailing. This will allow you to clearly compare offers and make the most educated decision.

Beware of advertising, especially in regards to costs. Many providers advertise just the print cost for a unit price that is only achievable if sending massive quantities. USPS’ EDDM® marketing tends to focus just on the postage costs. When shopping around a turnkey provider that offers all-inclusive pricing is more straightforward and often the most affordable approach when compared apples to apples. 

Once you have a handle on pricing, compare how potential vendors approach the entire EDDM® process with an eye toward ease of use. Do they have carrier route selection and mailer customization tools that will allow me to easily create my campaign online? Will they handle all of the EDDM® printing, required prep, postage and delivery?   

3. Keep Control of the Design Process
The right provider should also be able to show you how to create effective political postcards and flyers. If you’ve got a graphic design team, that’s great—a good provider will make it easy for you to upload you art files into compliant-sized flyer and postcard templates. But many campaigns need some design help, so look for a provider that offers pre-designed political or election templates you can easily customize yourself without needing special design skills.

If you’d like to try EDDM®, register for a free account to access carrier route selection and mailer customization tools now. See what carrier routes make sense to target and what your mailer could look like without any commitment.