How to Prepare Direct Mail for a Postage Discount

By Jon Miles, writer
Oct 17, 2010
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Save money on your next direct mail campaign.

If you're paying full price for your direct mail campaigns, then you're throwing your money away. If you have a mailing list with more than 300 mail pieces, you could qualify for a discounted mailing. All you have to do is prepare the mailing according to the USPS requirements.

Get Your Mailing List Ready

Before doing anything with your direct mail campaign, you need to obtain a mailing list and prepare it for your mailing. You can purchase mailing lists online or use a customer database. After obtaining the list, you need to make sure that you prepare it according to the USPS requirements. This usually entails running the list through CASS Certified software to verify the addresses and ZIP Codes. You will also need to use a move update service to find contacts who have changed their address.

Design and Print Your Mail Piece

When you design the mail piece for your direct mail campaign, you need to do so with the USPS requirements in mind. The Post Office has requirements for the size, shape, and weight of the mail piece. You also want to make sure that the standardized address is printed on the mailpiece and that you include the barcode if you are looking for an automation postage rate.

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Make Sure Your Mailing is Large Enough to Qualify

In order to qualify for a postage discount, you need to meet certain size requirements. For example, in 2007 you needed 500 letters or postcards to qualify for a First-Mail Automation or Presorted postage rate. Here is a summary of the requirements:

  • First Class Mail - 500 pieces
  • Standard Mail - 200 pieces or 50 pounds of mail
  • Parcel Post - 50 pieces
  • Presorted or Carrier Route Bound Printed Matter - 300 pieces
  • Presorted Library Mail - 300 pieces
  • Presorted Media Mail (a.k.a. "Book Rate") - 300 pieces

Determine the Mailing Service You Will Use

Different mailing services have different requirements and rates. When it comes to Letters and Cards, and mailable item may be mailed First Class, but there are restrictions on what can be mailed as Standard Mail. The following items must be mailed First Class: Bills and Statements of Account, Personal Information, Handwritten and Typewritten Material, and Postcards.

Decide How You Will Pay Your Postage

You have a few options for paying your postage with a direct mail campaign. For example, you can use precancelled stamps that you obtain from the Post Office or use a Permit Imprint. When you sort your mail later, you will get a Postage Statement that tells you exactly how much postage you owe. Using the precancelled stamps from the Post Office can be a lot of work - especially if you have a large mailing list. Many people choose to print and having a postage meter is also a great way to save on postage.

Sorting Your Mail List

The price of your mailing depends on the level of sorting that you do. For First-Class Mail, you can sort by the 5-digit ZIP Code, 3-digit ZIP Code, Automated Area Distribution Centers (AADC) or Mixed AADC. For Standard Mail, you can also sort by the Carrier Route.

Get a Bulk Mail Permit

In order to receive a discount off your postage, you have to pay a $175 annual mailing fee and obtain a bulk mail permit.

Gather Your Forms & Drop Off Your Mailing

The mailing needs to be dropped off where have your Bulk Mail Permit. Bring the mail pieces, presorted into the labeled mail trays. You will also need to bring the Postage Statement and Qualification Report. If you are getting an Automation Discount, make sure your mail pieces were printed with barcodes and bring the CASS Summary Report.

  • Before deciding whether or not to invest in the software required to do a bulk mailing, evaulate how much you will save on postage and make sure that the time and costs associated with preparing the mail campaign make sense financially.
  • The POSTNET barcodes from Microsoft Word no longer qualify for automation rates with the Post Office. You can still use MS Word to print the mail pieces though if you purchase a POSTNET barcode font and use the data returned by your CASS Software.
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