Guidelines for Bulk Mail (Plus, Tips for Preparation)

Guidelines for Bulk Mail (Plus, Tips for Preparation)

Companies that want to cut costs — that would be most businesses, wouldn’t it? — can save a lot on postage by sending their qualified marketing pieces at bulk mail rate instead of first-class mail.

The USPS offers big discounts for marketing mail.  The discounts are definitely earned because the mailer or, in most cases, a professional mailing service like Bluegrass, must do all the prep work for the mailing. That pre-mailing work is much more complicated than sticking a stamp on an envelope and so nearly always —it makes sense for a third-party professionals like Bluegrass to handle this task for clients.

Bulk mail discounts

With discounts ranging from 35 to 65 percent, those earned by using bulk mail are huge. For example, let’s say you have been mailing your sales letter using first-class mail. Each letter then costs 55 cents to mail, the cost of a Forever stamp. If you instead sent the same letter bulk mail, it could cost as little as 8.6 cents per letter.

Or, if you had a marketing piece that qualified as a flat and weighed 1-ounce, it would cost $1 to mail it first-class compared to as little as 16 cents at the bulk mail rate. The USPS says bulk mail is typically 35 to 65 percent cheaper than first-class postage for sales flyers, promotional postcards, newsletters or brochures. Discounts vary depending on the destination, size, and type of mail piece.

Paying less for postage could allow a boost in marketing

The savings could be reinvested in additional marketing or in other areas where your company could use a boost in its budget. Maybe you could afford to send that postcard to another 100 or so potential customers. Or, perhaps two or three mailings, a few weeks or months apart, instead of just one to promote your product, using the power of repetition to heighten visibility of your brand.

The savings on postage is why we encourage customers to consider using bulk mail — the USPS calls it marketing mail these days — instead of sending these pieces first-class mail.

Meeting the required minimum

If your mailings meet the following requirements, you may be eligible for discounted postage rates:

  • The mailing must include 200 or more pieces or weigh 50 pounds or more.
  • Individual pieces can’t weigh more than 16 ounces.
  • Mail that qualifies includes letters, flyers, circulars, advertising, newsletter, bulletins, catalogs and small parcels.

As you can imagine, if your business sends a lot of mail — 500 direct marketing letters a month or a quarterly newsletter to supporters of your charity — sending those pieces at bulk mail rates can save a lot of money.

Rules for preparation

A major reason most companies opt to have a professional mailing service handle their bulk mail is that it takes a significant amount of time to meet all the USPS requirements. Doing bulk mail in-house will also require investment in equipment, like software, as well as an in-house “expert” to be the USPS liaison and become knowledgeable about the process and changes that the postal service makes in bulk mail rates and rules.

To give you a better idea of the steps involved in preparing bulk mail, here is a list of the various certifications, assessments, and processes that a bulk mailing must go through before it arrives at the post office:

CASS Certification

CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) certification reviews all of the addresses you are mailing to and ensures they are accurate. It fixes street and city misspellings, confirms carrier routes, checks zip codes and creates an accurate barcode for the delivery point. A third party can do this for you, or you can buy CASS-certified software to do the review in-house. The USPS requires that the address data be CASS-certified within 180 days of the mailing date.

National Change of Address checkup

Within 90 days of mailing, addresses must be checked against the USPS’s National Change of Address (NCOA) database. It’s a good safeguard as so many Americans move each year. The NCOA updates addresses for those who have moved recently. A third party can easily check your mail list for you, otherwise you would need to invest in software to do it.

Zipcode presort

Mailings must be presorted by zip code. Software can organize lists for you, or you can have a third-party direct mail company handle it.

Delivery to the post office

After the mail has gone through all the needed checks and updates and has been sorted into bins that the post office provides, the bins and required paperwork are delivered to the post office. The post office processes it. When a third-party handles bulk mail for you, it will either arrange to pick up the mailing or, if you prefer, arrange for you to drop it off at their offices.

Bulk mail might not be a DIY kind of project

There’s no doubt that bulk mail is a great way to save money, especially if you do a lot of marketing mail. But because the time it takes to prepare this mail isn’t time every business has, it’s often best to have a pro do it for you. Your business will still enjoy a good portion of the discounted savings, without having to spend the time to process and prepare the bulk mailing

Give us a call to discuss bulk mail in more detail. We can help you calculate whether it makes sense to hire a direct mail processing professional like Bluegrass to handle the job for you. We can calculate how much you would save through discounted bulk mail rates based on past mailings or on your plans for this year’s marketing campaign.

Interested in how Bluegrass can help?

See what we can do.

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