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Direct Mail Marketing – Sending Bulk Mail
If you have a product or service that you want to advertise, bulk mail has been shown to be a very effective method of advertising. It can be highly targeted and, if done right, is less expensive than other forms of advertising. People tend to read bulk mail more than most e-mail, which is often classified as “spam.” This article provides a basic overview of sending bulk mail through the United States Postal Service.
Create your Mailing List
Building a mailing list can be cheap and time-consuming, or expensive and easy. Using a mailing list provider like InfoUSA, you can target your mailing list based on business category, location, annual revenue, or any number of other variables. Of course, this comes at a cost.
You can also compile a list yourself by researching online. Using the Yellow Pages or other such free services can give you access to similar information. This process, however, takes more time. If you are an established business, you may have your own mailing list that you want to use.
To qualify for bulk mail discounts through USPS, you must have at least 200 pieces of domestic mail, sorted and packaged, and each piece must be the same weight.
Apply for a Bulk Mailing Permit
Contact the local Business Mail Entry Unit at your Post Office and ask them for a bulk mail permit. You must have a permission number to send bulk mail. Bulk mail is also called “Standard Mail” which is a smaller class than First Class, but the advantage is a cheaper cost per piece. Standard Mail also does not automatically deliver or return if a piece of mail is undeliverable; there are additional costs.
At this point, you can choose if you want to affix the seal yourself, or if you want to have a “Permit Imprint.” Adding the stamp yourself is time-consuming, but there is no permit fee. Permit Imprint allows you to print your permit number onto a piece of mail and write “US POSTAGE PAID.” This way, you can pre-print the envelopes and not have to worry about manual stamp placement. However, a permit imprint has an annual fee. Also, the less work you do, the more expensive the process.
If you are looking for direct response mail, you may also want to consider applying for a Business Reply Mail permit. It allows you to pre-print envelopes for business reply purposes. This way, you — not the sender — pay the postage. There is a permit fee for this as well.
There are limits to what can be sent via Standard Mail. For example, pieces must be advertising pieces — you can’t send invoices or payments via Standard Mail.
The Post Office requires that bulk mail be sorted and placed in USPS-approved trays with sleeves. These products are usually available free of charge from your local post office or from your local Business Mail Entry Unit.
Clean and Prepare your Addresses and Mail Blocks
The Post Office requires that addresses on every piece of mail conform to certain USPS standards. For example, you are required to use the abbreviation “Apt” instead of the number sign (“#”) to designate an apartment unit. It is also recommended – although not required – that you include full Zip + 4 codes, which means adding an extra 4 numbers after the standard 5-digit zip code. In most cases, this can be done online through mail cleansing software, or with downloadable software.
Address mail block has some optional but potentially cost-saving options. For example, if you put USPS-approved barcodes on your piece of mail, you may be entitled to additional savings.
You can also choose at this time how you handle USPS undeliverable mail. You can add service endorsements, such as “Return Service Request” or “Address Service Requested.” This should be written on the letter piece and the undeliverable piece will be treated accordingly.
Print and Sort your Mail Items
This is the part that holds most people back from running a direct mail campaign. Pieces of mail must be sorted according to very strict specifications. The easiest way to do this is to sort your mail before you print it. If you’re using Microsoft Excel, for example, you can sort the spreadsheet by Zip Code before you print Mail Merge, and the sorting is done for you.
When sorting, there is more to consider than Zip Code. For example, mail must be sorted and bundled according to the distribution center. All this information is available on the Post Office’s main Web site.
Stuffing envelopes is another laborious process. If you plan to make many or continuous deliveries, you can invest in a folder-inserter, which is a machine that essentially automates the entire process of filling the envelope, from folding the letters to licking them . The prices of these machines range from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
Depositing Your Mail
Unlike First Class mail, Standard Mail must be deposited at a designated drop-off facility. You can discuss where this drop point is at the Business Mail Entry Unit.
If you’re willing to do this extra work, the most you’ll pay for a standard #10 letter-size piece of letter paper that weighs less than 3 ounces is just over 27 cents per piece. letter If you sort well, and follow USPS guidelines, you can get the price down to 23 cents a piece, or even less. If you send more than a few thousand pieces of advertising mail a year, bulk mailing may be a good option to explore.
For More Information
The United States Post Office offers the best information on setting up a direct mail campaign. You will need to contact them though to set up the appropriate permissions, and they will answer any questions you may have.
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