What Went Wrong with the Mailing?
You'd think by now I knew how to do a mail-merge of 264 contacts from a database, huh?
I just finished a nightmare 4 days of ineptitude - all mine - and drew up this checklist of what-went-wrong.
Some of you may identify with some of the steps. I hate to think that anyone will identify with ALL of the steps; the world can't have gone that mad, can it?
There's more to mail-merge than "Tools, Mail Me[u]r[/u]ge"
(1) The flyers were delivered Thursday 5 p.m. There is no reason why I could not have started the print run on Tuesday and been ready for a mail-drop Friday 9 a.m. instead of the next Tuesday at 9 a.m. That cost me 4 days.
Next Time: Map out the individual steps , and while waiting for the critical-path flyers, get all other parallel paths completed e.g. toner cartridges, envelope supply, CSV file, merged files, print the darn letters etc.
(2) I tried printing envelopes one at a time and got sucked into the HP2600N 2-minute delay trap . Once I printed them as a batch from a file things ran properly quickly.
Next Time: Build an envelope file with confidence.
(3) Smudged pages resulting from leaky cartridges required me to do several re-reruns, expensive in time, toner, and paper.
Next Time: Maintain two sets of cartridges . Keep my latest “new” cartridges for printouts going out-the-door, and when the job is done, swap the daily-grind cartridges back in to the printer.
(4) All of the trashed pages were double-sided (back-printed with fixed text), costing time and toner.
Next Time: Do the backside printing as the last step , after signing and before folding/stuffing.
(5) I ran out of toner cartridge late on Sunday, necessitating a wait until stores opened Monday morning; that meant I spent Monday printing paper and stuffing envelopes instead of making phone calls during business hours.
Next Time: Check toner levels and buy a spare cartridge in advance.
(6) The flaps of some envelopes stuck, heat-welded as they came out of the laser printer.
This Time: I cut a few sheets of paper into one-inch-wide slips and placed them in between the gummed layers; this prevented the envelopes from gluing themselves (I have had only limited success with the microwave-oven technique).
(7) Doing partial re-runs got me confused about the physical sequence (and hence matching) of envelopes and printouts. I wasted time sorting a pile of about 80 letters and 80 envelopes into first-name sequence, manually, then pairing them off manually.
Next Time: Do the complete envelope run followed by the complete paper run.
(8) Partway through the final fold-and-stuff I realized that I wasn’t going to mail to people I’d neither met nor talked to. That left me with a pile of unusable letters and envelopes. I was going to mark and modify the mailed records in my contact database as I completed the envelopes.
Next Time: Mark the candidates for mailing first , then export from the contact database only those records for the mail merge run.
(9) When I had the bundles ready for the 5 p.m. Monday mailing, I set them by the door assuming I’d take them with me to the 5 p.m. bus; my change of (transport) plans (getting picked up by car at 6 p.m.) caused me to lose sight of the objective “in the mail by 5 p.m.”. So I lost another day.
Next time: When the mail is ready to go , remember that THAT is the primary focus of the day, not the celebratory-supper-and-walk-out-the-door-with-it. The heck with the supper-date arrangements.
Toronto and Mississauga, Wednesday, August 03, 2011 3:01 PM
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