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Direct Mail Marketing – Sending Bulk Mail
If you have a product or service that you want to promote, mass mailing has proven to be a very effective advertising tool. It can be highly targeted and, if done well, is cheaper than other forms of advertising. People prefer to read mass letters rather than mass e-mails, which are often classified as “spam”. This article provides a basic overview of bulk mailing through the United States Postal Service.
Create a mailing list
Creating a mailing list can be cheap and time-consuming, or expensive and easy. With 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 price.
You can also compile a list yourself by researching online. Using the Yellow Pages or other similar free services gives you access to essentially the same information. However, this process is much more time-consuming. If you’re an established business, you may have your own mailing list that you want to use.
To qualify for bulk mail through the USPS, you must have at least 200 pieces of domestic mail, sorted and per tray, and each piece must weigh exactly the same.
Request bulk mailing permission
Contact your local post office business mail and ask them for a bulk mail permit. You must have a license number to send bulk mail. Bulk Mail is also called “Standard Mail” which is a lower class than First Class but has the advantage of a cheaper cost per piece. Standard Mail is not automatically forwarded or returned if the item is undeliverable; additional costs are incurred.
At this point you can decide if you want to record the postage yourself or if you want an “Authorization Imprint”. Recording the postage yourself is time-consuming, but there is no authorization fee. The permit imprint allows you to print the permit number on the mail and write “USA POSTAGE PAID”. This way you can print the envelopes in advance and not worry about sticking the postage on manually. However, an annual fee must be paid for the imprint of the permit. Again, the less work you do, the more expensive the process will be.
If you are looking for a direct response letter, you may also want to consider applying for a business response letter permit. This allows envelopes to be pre-printed for business reply purposes. This way you – not the sender – pay the postage. There is also a license fee for this.
There are restrictions on what can be sent via Standard Mail. For example, pieces must be promotional pieces — you can’t send invoices or payments by regular mail.
The Postal Service requires bulk mail to be sorted and placed in USPS-approved sleeve trays. These products are usually available free of charge from your local post office or local business mail unit.
Clean and prepare addresses and letterbox
The Postal Service requires that addresses for each piece of mail meet certain USPS standards. For example, it requires you to use the abbreviation “Apt” instead of the number sign (“#”) to designate an apartment unit. It is also strongly recommended – although not required – that you enter the full zip code + 4, which means adding 4 more digits after the usual 5 digit zip code. In most cases, this can be done with online mail cleaning software or downloadable software.
The mailing address block includes some optional but potentially cost-saving options. For example, if you put USPS-approved barcodes on your mail, you may qualify for additional savings.
Currently, you can also choose how USPS handles undeliverable mail. You may want to add additional service recommendations such as “Request Return Service” or “Request Address Service”. These must be written on the mail, and undeliverable mail will be handled accordingly.
Print and organize your letter pieces
This is the part that holds most people back from running direct mail campaigns. Mail must be sorted according to very strict regulations. The most convenient way to do this is to print your emails. For example, if you are using Microsoft Excel, you can sort the table by zip code before printing the circular and the sorting will be done.
There is more to consider when sorting than just zip code. For example, mail should be sorted and bundled by distribution center. All this information is available on the Posta’s main website.
Stuffing envelopes is another tedious process. If you plan to do multiple or continuous mailings, you may want to invest in a folder inserter, which is a machine that essentially automates the entire envelope stuffing process, from folding the letters to sealing them. These machines range in price from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
Insert your letter
Unlike first class mail, regular mail must be dropped off at a designated location. You can discuss where this drop off point is with the business correspondence input unit.
If you’re willing to do this extra work, the most you’ll pay for a standard #10 letter size piece of mail under 3 ounces is a little over 27 cents per piece of mail. If you choose well and follow the USPS instructions, you may be able to get the price down to 23 cents per piece or even lower. If you send more than a few thousand promotional mailings per year, bulk mailing may be a good option for you to explore.
For more information
The United States Post Office provides the best information on creating direct mail campaigns. You should definitely contact them to get the proper permissions and they will answer any questions you may have.
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