We welcome a special guest: Stelter’s Sales and Production Operations Manager, Tyler Johnson, to share his advice for meeting your marketing goals when the supply chain is experiencing continued pressure.
The bad news first: Delivering direct mail campaigns has gotten harder.
What was temporary is now a reality. Shortages on supplies and labor that began during the early stages of the pandemic have continued, joining new challenges on pricing and imports. Together, they’ve stressed the direct mail industry and marketers across the globe.
But now the good news: Supply chain hurdles don’t define everyone’s decisions. Marketers who plan and remain flexible are successfully navigating this moment. Here are the secrets to their success.
First, How’d We Get Here?
Let’s review. At the end of 2021, we talked about the main factors in play, such as paper mills converting production to box-making for suppliers like Amazon. We also saw hits to staffing in the transportation industry. These pressures remain…and now there are new ones.
Paper sourcing has gotten tougher with a multi-month strike in a Finnish pulp and paper mill (breaking news: The strike ended just last week!). Russia is a key supplier of pulp and the war in Ukraine has strained production. China is facing lockdowns that hurt supply delivery.
And have you heard about inflation?
In November, we reported that paper prices were up 25% (since January 2021). Today it’s 40%. That’s supply and demand playing out.
Who Is Successfully Navigating This?
“There’s never been a better time to sit down and share your print production and marketing calendar,” Erik says. “Knowing when things are coming—not necessarily formally committing, just communicating—helps build planning cycles.”
Beyond planning, it’s flexibility.
The most popular paper weights—80 pound, for example—are the most difficult to source. So nonprofits willing to use a 70-pound stock are more likely to have luck. It doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or performance, it may just mean a different brand or size.
In short, smart marketers are:
- Forecasting what’s coming.
- Spending time talking about the creative and the solutions.
- Remaining flexible on paper types and grades, including envelopes.
Additionally, the most successful marketers are multichannel. Integrated marketing—consistent messages that use multiple channels to ensure reach and enhance results—will win as printing supplies, email deliverability and social algorithms shift.
When Will This End?
The complexity and variety of supply chain concerns prevent printers and suppliers from naming an end date, but supply and demand always reshape with time. “This will ultimately look like a blip,” Erik says.
The ROI on direct mail remains high (and for those who plan they may even benefit from less competition in donor mailboxes). It just takes more conversation ahead of press day.