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Pocket folders certainly have their place in the marketing materials tool kit. They are great for holding cover letters, proposals, a brochure and even a business card. Done properly a professional pocket folder design can make a very handsome, professional presentation or sales kit.
The problem, however, is that most people who use these pocket folders can't resist the temptation to put everything that's ever been written about their company inside the folder just because it'll fit!
Even if you don't succumb to temptation or have your marketing department monitoring you and keeping you from "insert-overload", pocket folders have financial ramifications as well.
You see, there was a time when offset printing was the norm and most everything was printed on large press sheets (20x28 or 28x40). Even today if you want a pocket folder, this is the type of machinery you'll need to get the job done because when printed, the sheet needs to lay flat and then the pockets are die cut, folded into place and glued down to make that 9x12 piece you're accustomed to seeing. This process requires a fair amount of paper and labor and so it's really not cost effective to run fewer than 500-1,000 of them in any one print run.
How many folders do you really need?
If you take a look in your company's storage area, I'd bet pretty good money that there are boxes of outdated pocket folders, brochures or other marketing materials lingering about. This is because companies were told that their unit price would come down the more they ordered. You weren't being lied to...that is a true statement. But how many of them will you actually use before the content, imagery or bios expire? Probably not as many as you ordered so...are you really saving money, not to mention trees?
Thankfully, digital printing came along and over the last few years has come to the rescue of many corporations, marketing departments and creative agencies that need less than 500 units at any one given time. Just need 5 for a special meeting? No problem. Sure you'll pay a little more for them, but so what if they're $10 each - that's only $50 total. It's a heck of a lot better than having 5,000 in inventory and spending $1 each. You'll never use them all before you need to reprint them.
Now there are some trade offs with digital printing. Although the average consumer may not notice, those of us with a discerning eye and taste for quality paper and abundant options have had our run-ins with digital production. However if you manage your own expectations and those of your client, the ability to customize short runs and the overall cost savings of digital printing makes a lot of sense.
Is a folder without pockets still a folder?
Unlike offset printing presses, most digital presses max out at 12x18. What that means is that a standard pocket folder that is 9x12 (to hold standard 8.5 x 11 inserts) isn't going to work. Don't worry though. There is an alternative.
By creating a job jacket style folder, you can achieve most of the same benefits that a pocket folder has with a couple of additional benefits mixed in:
- Include a tab that helps identify the project or client when stored on a bookshelf or in a file cabinet
- Tell your story on the folder itself instead of requiring separate inserts or a separate brochure
- Print as few as you really need
- Save time. Most digital printing service providers can turn your order around in 3 days, give or take as opposed to 2 weeks or more for a pocket folder
- Customize your message for each audience if need be
- Save trees and save money! Even at $1.50-$2 each, if you only need 150 of them, you're still saving a lot more money than if you printed a custom pocket folder on an offset press and had to order 1,000 of them get the cost break
So next time you're thinking you need a pocket folder, think twice and ask yourself how many you're really going to use over the next few months and what your target audience really needs to hear/see. What's your sales process and how does a folder fit in with your overarching marketing plan? Chances are you don't need pockets to hold a bunch of literature they will probably never read. Your prospects just need a clear, succinct message that contains your brand promise, presented in a manner that is appropriate to your target audience, and a job jacket style folder may just fit the bill.