Mailers Offer Tips on Coping With Rate Increase

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ATLANTA -- Evaluating mail piece shape, employing postal address quality tools and using data modeling techniques are strategies to help lower mail costs given the upcoming postal rate increase.


This information was offered at DMA·05 yesterday in a panel discussion moderated by Richard Goldsmith, chairman of The Horah Group. Mailers likely will see a 5.4 percent across-the-board rate increase in January. And another rate case likely will be filed by the U.S. Postal Service in 2006, with implementation in 2007.


Meta Brophy, director, publishing operations for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, ConsumerReports.org, newsletters and special publications, said she constantly seeks ways to cut direct mail costs. Consumers Union uses direct mail regularly to promote its products.


The key is to plan ahead, she said. "Always evaluate mailing piece size and shape before mailing to make sure you are mailing pieces at the lowest rate." To do this, visit the USPS Web site (www.usps.com) often, she said.


She also suggested doing roll-size audits, which let Consumers Union "see if there is any paper that we can shave off that we are not using."


Mailers should see whether they can cut anything from their mail pieces "like a reply envelope or an open window."


Mailers also can save by steering customers to a Web site as opposed to offering detailed information in a mail piece, Brophy said.


Paper grades and sizes are another area that can be cut.


"Try to lighten the load," she said. "Do a basis-weight audit, and move to 50-pound weight [paper] as opposed to 60-pound weight [paper]."


Brophy mentioned the importance of working with your lettershop or logistics partner that prepares your mail for the USPS. For example, they can use selective binding techniques, or commingle your mail with other clients to reduce production costs. But "make sure to use a reputable presort bureau," she warned.


Rick Arvonio, director, product management within product development marketing at USPS headquarters, discussed the importance of a complete address quality strategy for your lists. Arvonio said that mailers at a minimum should use CASS-certified ZIP+4 software. More prudent, however, is using these tools available through the USPS and licensees:


· Delivery Point Validation (DPV), which essentially is a "yes/no" table for checking the validity of any individual house, apartment, post office box, rural box, mail drop or commercial address that receives mail.


· Address Element Correction (AEC), a service that focuses on correcting address element deficiencies such as misspellings, nonstandard abbreviations, incorrectly joined elements, improperly ordered elements, address lines containing data other than the actual address, and missing elements.


· Address Element Correction II (AECII), a service that uses letter carrier knowledge to correct errors in addresses that cannot be corrected by existing programs.


· NCOALink, a database that consists of address information for individuals, families and businesses that have moved within 48 months. The names and addresses are compiled from COA orders presented to the postal service.


JoAnne Monfradi Dunn, president/CEO of Alliant Cooperative Data Solutions, explained how modeling can be used to predict consumer behavior and/or a campaign outcome, and thus optimize the dollars spent on direct mail.


"It's not just about mailing less," she said. "It's about mailing the right people at the right time."


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