If you're paying full price for your direct-mail campaigns, you might be throwing your money away. Although direct mailing service prices aren't always listed online because orders vary widely, costs can range from 30 cents to $10 per person. Price is also affected by the business's design and mailing list.
However, if you have a mailing list with more than 300 mail pieces, you could qualify for a discounted mailing. All you must do is prepare the mailing according to the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) requirements. If you want to save money on your next direct-mail campaign, read on to learn how to qualify for the USPS' discounted rates.
How to reduce your direct mail costs
Follow these steps to qualify for the USPS' discounted rates:
1. 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 of addresses you've collected. After you obtain the list, make sure 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 addresses.
Eric Sachs, CEO of Sachs Marketing Group, also suggested making sure you're not sending your mail to outdated addresses. "Check your data before big send-outs to make sure you're not wasting product and money on obsolete addresses," Sachs told business.com.
2. Design and print your mail pieces.
You can cut down on printing costs by designing the mail pieces yourself. When doing so, be sure to consider the USPS' requirements for the size, shape and weight of the mail pieces. Tools such as Microsoft Word and Canva can help you design your own mail, said Siva Mahesh, CEO of Dreamshala.
"As far as the copywriting, you can write it yourself or find a talented writer in-house," Mahesh said. "You can also hire an editor instead of someone to write the full copy. If you don't know anything about persuasive writing, you can take a few free online courses to brush up on the basics."
Alternatively, you could hire someone from a budget freelancer site, like Fiverr, to save money.
Editor's note: Looking for information on postage meters for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to receive more information from our vendor partners.
3. Make sure your mailing qualifies.
To qualify for a postage discount, you need to meet certain size requirements. Here is a summary of the requirements from the USPS:
- For permit-imprint single-piece (full-price) first-class mail: 200 pieces
- For presorted and automation first-class mail: 500 pieces
- For USPS marketing mail: 200 pieces or 50 pounds
- For single-piece (full-price) USPS retail ground, library mail and media mail: no minimum
- For destination entry Parcel Select: 50 pieces minimum per mailing
- For single-piece bound printed matter: no minimum
- For presorted and carrier-route bound printed matter: 300 pieces
- For commercial library mail: 300 pieces
- For commercial media mail: 300 pieces
4. Get a bulk-mail permit.
To receive a postage discount, you must pay a $175 annual mailing fee and obtain a bulk mailing permit.
5. Determine which mailing service you will use.
Requirements and rates vary among mailing services. For example, the following items must be mailed first class: bills and statements of account, personal information, handwritten and typewritten material, and postcards.
6. Decide how you will pay for postage.
You have a few options for paying for your postage. For example, you can use precanceled stamps, which are used for presorted first-class mail and USPS marketing mail mailings. You can obtain these stamps from the USPS or use a permit imprint, which is used by customers who need to send bulk mail shipments. When you sort your mail later, you will get a postage statement that tells you exactly how much you owe. Using the precanceled stamps from the USPS 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.
7. Sort your mail list.
Another factor in the price of your mailing is the level of sorting. For first-class mail, you can sort by the five-digit ZIP code, three-digit ZIP code, automated area distribution center (AADC) or mixed AADC. For standard mail, you can also sort by the carrier route.
8. Build trust with your printers and mailers.
It's important to build a relationship with your direct mailer, but be sure to shop around before you settle on one. "Finding a printer and mailer who you trust is priceless," Sachs said. "They'll be your go-to at the beginning of every campaign, because they'll usually offer you their best prices in return for past and future loyalty. And communications are often streamlined, saving you even more time and money."
Make sure you're not missing out on a better offer. If you find one, ask your current printer or mailer if they will match the price.
9. Gather your forms, and drop off your mailing.
Your mailing needs to be dropped off at the location where you 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.
Bulk mail software is designed to manage and create email marketing campaigns for your business. It allows you to send newsletters and a mass of messages that are separated by the consumer category. This software can also be used to analyze the effectiveness of your emails and to see how many readers interacted with your site after receiving your message.
Before deciding whether to invest in the software required to do a bulk mailing, evaluate how much you will save on postage costs, and make sure that the time and funds associated with preparing the mail campaign make sense financially.
The POSTNET barcodes from Microsoft Word no longer qualify for automation rates with the USPS. However, you can still use MS Word to print the mail pieces if you purchase a POSTNET barcode font and use the data returned by your CASS software.
10. Follow USPS regulations.
Once you've followed the mailing regulations, you can fix small errors to lower your costs. Pay attention to things such as letter size. You don't want your mail to become a "flat," which means it would cost double what you'd pay for an envelope size of 3 by 5 inches to 6 by 10 inches.
Also, address your trifold pieces properly. This will help you get automation discounts and leave enough space on the mail for the address and barcode. Make sure your pieces are folded correctly, and try to keep the weight of your mail low. And if you're looking for an automation discount, it's best for all of your pieces to be the same size and weight.
Additional reporting by Jon Miles.