21st Century Innovation for Traditional Print & Mail

It’s not often you find real innovation coming from 20th Century industries like print and mail, but not a lot of people realise that there’s a service which is fast becoming the 21st Century solution for printing and mailing traditional letters and business documents. Actually, it’s not even new.

Hybrid Mail has been around in some form or another since the early 70’s but has really come into its own over the last decade. You’re not alone if you’ve not heard of it yet but with more suppliers entering the market, you soon will.

How It Works

I’ve always hated the term ‘Hybrid Mail’ because in my experience, the term only confuses people. Some people believe it’s a solution for localised print and mail across pan-European or transatlantic business operations; some people believe it’s a mail and email system. Whatever you do, don’t go by its Wikipedia description, which merges the two to further confusion!

In its simplest form, Hybrid Mail enables its clients to reduce the amount of time, effort and money it takes to mail any volume of letters or documents for little or no capital outlay. All you need is a desktop PC and with the help of a Hybrid Mail service provider, you can print and mail a letter for less than the cost of a 2nd Class stamp.

It works by enabling users to send individual or multiple letters or documents created on any PC or laptop to a central print facility via the Internet. The finished letters are printed, merged with letters that the printer has produced for other clients that day and sorted into Mailsort order ready for posting. At the end of each day, the mail is despatched via a bulk mail service supplied by the Royal Mail or one of the DSA providers – simple!

Once people understand what Hybrid Mail is and how it works, they usually start to think about whether the service will be of benefit to their organisations. In my opinion, any business that prints a good volume of letters via a desktop or office printer will save a lot of time and money by switching to a Hybrid Mail service.

Even organisations with larger in-house operations or employing third party suppliers such as a City Printers to print their customer service letters, invoices, renewals or statements can save money. And I can say that with some confidence too. I’ve been lucky enough to have sight of research completed by Xerox which identified that the true cost of printing and mailing a single page letter onto colour headed paper can cost anything up to £1.20. The equivalent cost of the same letter printed and mailed via Hybrid Mail is typically over 50% cheaper.

Hybrid Mail can even compete on price and service for large promotional mailings such as direct mail campaigns that are commonly placed with 3rd party printers.

Direct Mail Too!

I’ve been watching how the service has evolved over the last five years or so. Technology and the Internet have brought us to the point where I can see a time in the not too distant future where both business and private individuals will use a Hybrid Mail service to print and mail all of their letters and documents.

We are at the point where I now see how and where Hybrid Mail can deliver cost and process benefits to both the public and private sectors. Customer service letters, customer invoices, statements, patient reminders, emergency communications and even direct mail are just a few examples of commonly mailed documents that can all be printed and mailed via a Hybrid Mail service. Any company producing these types of letters in-house really should be picking up the phone and calling a Hybrid Mail supplier for a quote.

Buying Hybrid Mail is not a complicated process but there are some key things to consider. Unlike most print and mail services, the cost is not dependent on the volume being mailed. It doesn’t matter if you are mailing just one letter to one individual or 200 standard letters to 200 recipients – the unit cost is usually the same. Furthermore, the technology has evolved to the point where many services, though not necessarily all, will easily accommodate variable text, images and pages per letter. This can be a real benefit when creating a mailing of say invoices or sales literature which contains tailored content specific to individual recipients.

Value-Added

Hybrid Mail doesn’t just offer cost and process savings either. You will find it is possible to correct inaccuracies in your customer address data free of charge through integration with the Postal Address File (PAF).

By standardising your letterheads and corporate identity across your hard copy communications, you can quickly and easily take full control of your brand integrity without the need to engage with a multitude of third-parties and pay multiple redesign costs. Some Hybrid Mail services will even allow you to set, limit and control spending at an individual user or departmental level which should appeal to your FD.

The final value-added benefit I will mention is the significant reduction in the carbon footprint of each letter mailed. Letters mailed via a Hybrid service are printed on equipment which are considerably more energy efficient than a desktop printer on a per unit basis. Furthermore, bulk mailings cost less to transport and deliver across the country, which further reduces the carbon footprint of each letter.

Quality, Security & Certainty

There are two main issues that people often worry about with Hybrid Mail – security and the reliability of service.

They need not worry though. The best and most secure services on the market all run over the same secure Internet connections as the banks use for their online banking services with print centres that are certificated to ISO 27001 for their Information Security Management systems. At the lower end though, you still get a standard Internet connection and/or at least a service that is certificated to ISO 9001 for Quality Management systems, which is usually enough to satisfy all but the most security conscious.

With regards to the reliability of Hybrid Mail, in my opinion, it compares extremely well if not better than all other forms of printing letters. I can’t speak for every supplier out there but as far as I am aware, most suppliers monitor every letter in every mailing throughout the production cycle to ensure they can be 100% certain each letter has been printed and mailed out.

Limitations & Considerations

Whilst I’ve been harping on about the good things Hybrid Mail has to offer, the service does still have its limitations and there are other points that should be considered before deciding if Hybrid Mail is the right service for your company. The first thing to consider is how you access the service. There are three common access models:

1. Online access (e.g. via a designated website)
2. Print driver (usually provided by the Hybrid Mail supplier)
3. Embedded software (commonly referred to as an API (Application Program Interface)

Personally, I much prefer the simple online service and/or print driver models which are easy to use, usually free to implement and don’t require any IT maintenance client-side. This compares favourably against the API model which can be slow, problematic and expensive to implement and may require regular support, maintenance or upgrading from internal and external IT specialists.

Additional inserts, bespoke or pre-printed outer envelopes and international mail services will cause most but by no means all suppliers a real problem. However, because Hybrid Mail is designed to standardise the production end of the supply chain, not every supplier will be able or perhaps willing to accommodate bespoke requirements but there are some that can and will.

The time of day by which letters must be submitted should also be taken into consideration. If you want your letters printed and mailed that day, no matter who the service provider is, there will be a cut-off time by which letters must be submitted to hit that day’s post. This is usually between 2pm and 6pm Monday to Friday.

Finally, if you’re looking into Hybrid Mail, I implore you to consider the print quality before making a decision. I’ve seen examples of items printed via a Hybrid Mail service provider which were not trimmed properly and others with dubious print quality. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the printer was to blame, particularly if the graphics supplied by the client were of a low resolution. However, some service providers operate a network of printers across the country to reduce their operational overheads. Unfortunately, despite regular calibrations, this can mean there is a slight variation in the look and feel of the items printed between each site.

Similarly, please do enquire about the quality of the paper and envelopes being used and request samples or a free trial from the suppliers under consideration. There is no doubt that paper quality can and does vary between suppliers and in my experience, suppliers at the cheaper end of the market may be using a cheaper grade of paper to keep their costs down. I’ve also seen outer envelopes which are so thin the contents of the letter inside can be easily read!

Closing Comments

Hybrid Mail is still in its infancy in terms of public knowledge and understanding however and I firmly believe it will become the preferred mailing solution for Public and Private organisations including local governments and NHS frameworks in 2018 and beyond.

In the last five years alone, the use of Hybrid Mail has grown to the point where a number of well-established print and mail providers are rightly concerned as more and more businesses move their print and mailing activities to a Hybrid Mail service provision.

Interested in a Free Hybrid Mail Trial and Demonstration?

Contact me today to and see how our hybrid Mail solution, MailSmart can benefit your business. We also offer a free office mail audit to help you build a business case for going hybrid. So, with very little risk and taking into account how easy it is to set-up, why not give it a try today?

Written by

Michael Hinds, Business Development Manager

Have a question? You can email me here

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