A Primer on International Mailing
Your datafile is picking up overseas subscribers and it has become clear that you need a robust international mail vendor to assist you in mailing your growing circulation volume worldwide. First steps should be centered around an examination of your product characteristics, which will ultimately determine how they get delivered overseas;delivery type and timeliness impact service and cost.
"The first thing I do is a frequency evaluation," says Sylvia Sierra, senior vice president, corporate audience development at Access Intelligence. "For example, the timetables to deliver a product on a weekly basis are different than a monthly." This might sound simple, but a weekly frequency inherently means perishable content, which requires reliable, fast delivery.
Also, keep in mind how delivery will impact your brand. Do you operate on a paid or controlled model? Paid subscribers will expect a higher level of delivery service, while controlled subscriptions may allow some cushion in delivery timing. Sierra’s paid international subscription prices range from $169 to $499 per year. "At that level, expedited delivery is part of the service that we give our subscribers," she says.
From there, you can look at services that will meet that timeframe. Metro areas tend to accommodate faster delivery options, while remote areas less so. According to Sierra, urban locations can get their magazines in three to five days, while rural, remote, or developing countries may have to wait up to a month before titles reach their destinations.
From timetable, you’ll jump to country count. Make a list of all the countries to which you need to deliver. Are you heavily represented in one country? Spread out across Europe, Asia and elsewhere? Your country mix will heavily influence your vendor choice.
Choosing a Vendor
"There are vendors that are associated with postal authorities and then there are vendors that have no affiliation and are more like a mail broker or wholesaler," says Lisa Bourque, director, national sales at Spring Global Mail, a b-to-b international mail service provider. "If your mail volume is high in one country, then a vendor that is related to the post office in that country might best suit your needs. If your country counts are spread all over the world, then you would want to look at the various mailing options and routings vendors can provide."
Sierra, for example, mails over 100,000 copies internationally. In general terms, 40 percent go to Europe, 30 percent to Asia, and 30 percent spread around the rest of the world.
The United States Postal Service is cheaper, says Sierra, but slower. It dumps the mail into the local postal stream, which immediately separates you from controlling or accessing delivery time and information. This might be a worthwhile consideration for highly developed countries or metro areas where local delivery tends to be quicker and more reliable. Other vendors can merge the mail into the local system as well, but Sierra notes that they also tend to have their own networks of private delivery services.
"You’ll want a vendor to review your international datafile at the beginning because they can make decisions on the best way to route your material based on the countries that you’re going to and the service and speed you need," adds Bourque.
Sierra uses a remailer for all her titles, and says that paying a little more for that level of service goes beyond mere peace of mind. "The price per copy to use a remailer might go up by 10 cents compared to the USPS, but our customer service complaints go down," she says. "It’s not just about the best cost per piece, but the overall operational costs."
The ability for Sierra to track her shipments is key, and is a critical variable when picking a vendor. "What kind of access do we have to our delivery mail stream? We live and die by audits. We want someone who is responsible and can ensure that the copies can be tracked."
The costs associated with mailing magazines internationally always circle back to magazine frequency. "The first impact is deliverability," says Sierra. "Most remailers offer tiers of pricing based on how many days you want the product in the customer’s hands, and that’s ultimately determined by frequency."
Bourque breaks it down further. "The costs are always based on the combination of the country count, weight, size and frequency of your mailings. For direct injection to a local postal authority, there are certain postal regulations that differ per country. For international mailing, these factors also come into play, as for some countries cost base is piece-plus-pound and for others it is just pound based on postal terminal dues," she says.
Sierra suggests using USPS’s Web site postage calculator to determine a baseline cost and compare that, along with a benefits analysis, to the other vendors. "It can’t just be a cost analysis or the USPS would have everybody’s business," she says. "There also has to be a strategic analysis to find the best way to make sure everyone gets your content."
How Vendors Determine Your International Mailing Costs
According to Spring Global Mail’s Lisa Bourque, international mailers never standardize costs, instead negotiating them on
an individualized basis determined by four criteria.
1. Country Count: Different countries have
different costs attached to the next three items.
2. Size: Each postal authority has different size
3. Weight: Likewise, costs associated with the weight of the piece will vary.
4. Frequency: Vendors offer tiered pricing based
on how quickly you want to get the magazine delivered, which is ultimately determined by its frequency.