Mailing & Shipping Money Savers
Dear Dan: With prices for paper, envelopes and postage all going up, the large mailings we do are costing more than ever. Got any ideas on how to save on large scale mailing and shipping costs? - Mailing Money
These days, some business owners live and die with email -- scarcely giving postal mail a second thought. But millions of small businesses still depend heavily on the U.S. mail for marketing, invoicing, communicating with clients and a host of other critical tasks.
Mailing and shipping practices can have a huge impact not only on costs, but also efficiency and speed. Now is a good time to review how your business manages its mailing and shipping to see where you can make improvements.
Here are eight postal practices that can contain costs and make your business a more effective mailer.
1) Automate to Save: You'll save big on postage costs by making your mailings "automation compatible" (in U.S. Postal Service-speak). That simply means the mailings are prepared in line with USPS rules that allow the mail to be sorted by robots. That, for example, means addresses must be in all capital letters, standard state abbreviations must be used and there can't be any punctuation (except for the hyphen in ZIP+4 codes). Check the USPS business mailing site (USPS.com/business) for rules.
2) Be Shape Conscious: A postal pricing shakeup in 2007 produced a shift to shape-based pricing for some items. Many businesses unaware of the new rules are still wasting money on postage. Review designs of all current and planned mailings to ensure they are shaped properly for the lowest rates (hint: square is bad!). For example, a 6x6, one-ounce envelope has an aspect ratio of 1:0, which fails the required range of 1:3 to 2:5 and thus costs more to send. Other requirements include proper placement of the address, return address and barcode. The Postal Service business site spells it all out.
3) Capture "Certified" Savings: To verify that a mail piece has been sent (and if a return receipt is not needed) your business can pocket huge savings by requesting a Certificate of Mailing instead of using the vastly more expensive Certified Mail. You'll save $3.82 for every one-ounce letter using a Certificate of Mailing. For a bit more, you can also get Proof of Delivery from USPS.
4) Address for Success: Bad addresses on your lists can mean unpaid invoices, lost sales and poor customer service. Use "address verification software" or web-based services to regularly clean up your lists. A quick search on Business.com will yield a selection of options.
5) Fire your Flats: Mailing "flats" is more expensive. Whenever possible, fold pages and insert them into small envelopes to save money. The difference is major. Inserting nine pages into a 10x13 flat envelope costs $1.17 to mail. The same nine pages folded into a 6x9 envelope costs only 59 cents in postage. Printing pages on two sides will also help by reducing both weight and thickness of mailings.
6) Compare Heavy Package Costs: Before mailing heavier packages (two pounds and up), compare rates at UPS, FedEx and DHL along with the Postal Service. The lowest rate you find will ultimately depend on the zone to which you are shipping.
7) Check your Software: If your business already uses address list management software, you can visit this special USPS website (www.ribbs.usps.gov) to verify that the address correction and mail forwarding features in your application are up to date.
8) Consider a Tracking System: High volume mailers should consider implementing an automated tracking software system to trace status of outgoing mail as a well to cut costs and improve efficiency.
These resources can also help you save money on mailings:
- The Postal Service's website for business mailers has loads of helpful tools and information that can save you money. Order free boxes and other mailing materials; use address verification tools; check mailing and shipping guidelines or get help from business customer support. You'll find it all at USPS.com/business.
- If you are a large volume mailer, consider outsourcing to a mail management firm. One choice is Oce Business Services, a large international firm that provides mail management services in 90 countries. Visit www.oceusa.com.
- Pitney Bowes is a super resource for all things dealing with business mailing. Their PitneyWorks.com website for small business offers helpful information in its Postal Resource Center.
Daniel Kehrer is Editor of Business.com, the #1 business search engine, and Work.com, a "how-to" site for small business. Send questions to email@example.com. © 2009 Business.com, Inc.