Mail consultants jammed up by the ongoing paper shortage (and price increases) are resorting to stockpiling to ensure they can meet clients’ demands from now until Election Day.
In fact, some say they saw the current crunch coming a long way off, and have the supplies they need banked to get through the cycle.
“Our firm saw this coming this spring and has stockpiled paper to ensure that our clients are covered. With the volume of work we do with our printing partners, our work moves to the front of the line,” said Dean Nielsen, CEO of CN4 Partners. “We believe that taking these kinds of steps to protect our clients separates us from other consultancies.”
Nielsen added that his clients won’t be hit with a shock price increase as a result of their doomsday preparation.
“We haven’t experienced any cost fluctuations, but will cross that bridge if and when it happens,” he noted.
Still, not every consultant is prepared to speak publicly about their strategy for riding out the ongoing shortage, which is likely to persist because of mill closures or bankruptcies and the costs of ingredients like titanium dioxide.
Others, however, are using the crisis as a way to tout their logistical expertise — and court business that might have been turned away from firms low on paper. Republican firm Franklin Creative Group, for instance, was pleased to highlight the strategy its using to weather the paper crisis.
“We’re sitting on paper and that’s how we’ve gotten around the supply issues and the cost increases, too,” said Andy George, a managing partner at Franklin.
George said his firm has leaned into its relationships with printers and asked them to store paper Franklin owns on their premises.
“They are going to get our print business so they’re willing to hold onto it for us,” he said.In the past, George noted that clients could ask for a price early in the cycle and then come back later in the calendar to activate their order.
“Right now, that can break some mail vendors [because prices have continued to rise.],” he said. “Your profit can be gone really quickly.”
The conditions that are impacting mail consultants now are unlikely to ebb anytime soon, according to George. “Supply is going to stay where it is or get worse — until there’s motivation for more mills to open or expand,” he said. “Right now, we’re losing paper production capacity, not gaining it.”
Meanwhile, mail as a channel regained its luster during the 2020 cycle because of the pandemic and practitioners say that’s unlikely to change as vote-by-mail and early vote increasingly become the norm for Americans.
With that in mind, clients who don’t have orders already locked in for 2022 should be prepared to spend more because even postage has increased as the cycle has worn on.
“If we’re putting in an RFP or a proposal, we’re actually putting out the effort on the front end to explain why the prices have gone up,” said Luke Marchant, Franklin’s creative director. “It’s really educating the campaign staff.”