Mailing something seems easy enough. You put a letter in an envelope or buy a postcard, stick a stamp on it and drop it in a mailbox, right? Well, a stamp is good for most things, but what if you need to send out promotional cards or invitations to a wedding of 500 people? There can be a cheaper way to get the word out, if you know some of your other options. Here is our quick beginner’s guide to mailing…
When First-Class Isn’t Good Enough
When you buy a stamp at the post office or grocery store, you are pre-paying for the ability to mail a letter via “First-class postage”. It’s the basic way that most personal mail travels through the USPS. The rate increases almost yearly and it assumes you’re not mailing something over a certain size or weight (typically nothing larger than a standard envelope, and nothing heavier than a few ounces). First-class mail is usually the best (if not the easiest) option, but when you need to send out large numbers of letters or postcards, something called “Bulk Mail” can save your wallet. Bulk mailing has more restrictions than First-class, one of which is you need to have an account with the post office. Once you’ve registered your account, you are given an account number. This number is required to be printed on all of your mailing pieces, typically in the area that a stamp would normally go. This box in the upper right corner of your mailer is called the “indicia”. It indicates to the post office that your piece has been approved to be mailed at the cheaper rate, and it gives the USPS your account number so they can deduct the cost of postage from your account.
Like a regular stamp, bulk-mail is PRE-PAID. Instead of having to stick on all those pesky stamps, however, you can just pre-print your indicia on every postcard or envelope as they are produced. This saves you time and the postage cost is usually significantly cheaper than that Forever stamp.
In general, your printer or mail house of choice will need to process and clean up your mailing list (the list of people you want to send your mailer to). This guarantees to the USPS that all of the address are correct and that the people you expect to be living there are actually still there. Normally the post office has to do all this sorting and list cleaning themselves, which is why the First-class stamp is more expensive than most other forms of postage. They want to get paid for all the extra work they have to do because their automated machines can’t read the pink glitter ink you used on the letter to grandma.
If you “pre-sort” your mailer for them, they are much happier and are willing to give you a discount on the postage price per piece, as long as you are guaranteeing a certain number of pieces to make it worth their while (typically over 200 pieces). Whew! And, there can be even larger discounts if your company is a non-profit, or the pieces are smaller.
There are a ton of ways to save money on mailing if you are willing to do a little extra work. Here is an article by the US Postal Service that fills in the blanks a little more. If you aren’t sure where to start, come and see us! We’d love to help you understand your options for sending out your own postcards and flyers!