In 2020, the Postal Service delivered approximately 129.2 billion pieces of mail and packages to customers nationwide. Undoubtedly, many of those were the result of direct mail campaigns by companies and retailers throughout the United States. Those same businesses will now have to incorporate higher postal rates into their 2021 budgets, mid-year, as a result of upcoming price changes taking effect August 29.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is continuing with its 10-year “Delivering for America” plan, which aims to achieve financial sustainability and service excellence. As part of this plan, the August average price increase will be 6.8% across all postal categories. Mail volume has declined over the past 10 years, mostly in the First Class category. The USPS hopes to offset these losses with increased revenue from postage, including business rates.
This doesn't seem very fair to business mailers, does it? So how can you move forward with your direct mail projects while maintaining your forecasted budget?
Plan, Plan, Plan
We always preach that you should talk to your sales representative or account manager before designing your project. This is especially true if your project is going to be mailed!
Postcards have been reprinted because they were 1/4” too long. Brochures have been redone because the mail panel (where the address goes) wasn’t placed correctly. The USPS has strict guidelines that determine how your piece can be mailed—and it all affects how much postage will cost.
Behind the scenes at each post office, there are machines that do the majority of the sorting work. Because they have limitations, restrictions are placed on certain classes of mail in order to make sure they are “machinable.”
Important physical aspects to consider are the thickness of the piece, the length, the height, and the relationship of length to height (called the aspect ratio). But the design of each piece matters, too. For example, to be machinable, the mail panel must have a solid or folded edge at the bottom. If the open pages are at the bottom of your mail panel, you’ll either incur a much higher postage rate or have to reprint your piece. Either way it will cost you!
Set Up Your List—Correctly
It might seem easy… just export a file of names and addresses and send it off, right? Not so fast! Mailing list setup is another key part of keeping your costs down.
First of all, don’t send your addresses as a PDF. We won’t be able to properly address your piece and we definitely won’t be able to sort it. Export a spreadsheet with each field in a separate column: name, first line of address, second line of address, city, state, and ZIP code. Save your file as a CSV file (also called comma delimited) and you’re good to go (read more on our mailing list blog post).
Besides sorting your list for the best postal rates, each mail house should run your list through the National Change of Address (NCOA) service. This will correct any addresses that are to be forwarded and will kick out any addresses that simply cannot be mailed to. You’ll save more money by not mailing to these bad addresses, and you have the benefit of cleaning up your database while you’re at it.
What Class Do You Fit In?
All USPS mail is sorted into delivery groups called classes. First Class can send just about anything, but it is the most expensive option. This is equivalent to putting a stamp on each piece and tossing them all into a mailbox.
USPS Marketing Mail, sometimes referred to as presort standard, is the most common choice for direct mail pieces. This involves addressing the pieces in a specific, presorted order that is easier for the post office to process and deliver. Nonprofit Mail is another common choice in this area, as those businesses and organizations can realize cost savings if they complete the appropriate paperwork to certify their nonprofit status. There’s also Periodical Mail for magazines and other publications.
First Class mail takes between 2-5 days to be delivered. Presort Standard takes between 5-10 days, and nonprofit mail can take 10-14 days to be delivered.
Make the Intelligent Choice
To make the most of your mailings and maximize your ROI, work with your account managers to develop intelligent mailings. These projects capitalize on your customer data to bring personalized information front and center. This highly adaptable approach to marketing makes use of a variety of communication channels. Read 10 reasons to implement intelligent mailing campaigns for more information!
For reference, these are the postage increases that will go into effect August 29:
The first class stamp price will increase from 55 cents to 58 cents.
The price for first class meter is increasing to 53 cents.
The non-machinable surcharge for letters will increase to 30 cents.
The additional ounce rate will remain at 20 cents.
The average price increases for marketing mail are 6.5% for letters and 8.8% for flats.
Some of the steepest postage price increases are on flats and periodicals at a whopping 8.8%.