Partner With a Printer to Fight Postage Increase

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The unthinkable happened. The U.S. Postal Service's Board of Governors announced May 8 that postal rates will rise an average of 1.64 percent on July 1.


This increase will generate nearly $1 billion of additional revenue, with more than half of that income coming from business mailers. More surprising is that this is the first time in 30 years that the USPS overturned the recommendation by the Postal Rate Commission to maintain current postal rates.


Escalating fuel costs, soaring healthcare benefits and mounting debt are just a few reasons the USPS cites for this increase, which is scheduled to take effect July 1.


Though all the data are not in yet, there are prudent ways to prepare for the increase. If you are looking for creative ways to maximize productivity and save money on all of your direct mail needs, you should partner with your printer. Now more than ever, you need to use every technique available for controlling costs.


Good printers recognize that an important component of the services they offer is to provide consultation to clients on every aspect of a print job.


This includes recommendations before the piece is even conceptualized on postage-saving layout and design for mailings. Consider selecting a printer that specializes in direct mail. This printer will be familiar with the current rate and regulation changes, a factor you cannot afford to be without.


As printers recognize that their customers' world is becoming increasingly dynamic, they can help you by offering creative cost-saving measures for the short term and new marketing ideas for the future. To get started, here are 20 basic tips for saving time and money with increasing USPS rates:


• Convert flats to letters, letters to postcards or First-Class to Standard-A mail. Look at the offer and ask yourself, "What am I getting for my postal dollar?"


• Convert postcards to double postcards. Really drive home your point and receive more bang for the buck (tabbing required). Though the cost of tabbing may be a bit more, the total cost is more attractive than a letter and can be just as effective.


• Automate using barcodes. Barcode discounts are available for outgoing, return and package mail.


• Mail invoices with your product. Using window envelopes with invoices as shipping labels can save you print costs by using less paper.


• Modify billing cycles to batch for pre-sort savings.


• Offer credit card payment to avoid mailing. Audit your target audience. Perhaps they prefer e-billing? Check it out.


• Eliminate return envelopes. If you are just looking for a response, try a return postcard instead.


• Convert business reply envelopes (no postage required) to courtesy reply en-velopes (place stamp here). Or eliminate return envelopes altogether. Be careful with this one. You will need a strong offer to require customers to use their stamps.


• Merge/purge your list before you mail to eliminate duplicates. This saves postage and printing costs as well. Often customers do not take the offer seriously if they receive more than one piece at the same time.


• Commingle residual mail for sortation discounts (a pre-sort service). This can apply to all classes of mail, and you often can improve your delivery time.


• Use co-mail opportunities for different versions (for flat mailers). Pick a printer that is large enough to provide this service and is competitive to reduce your overall production cost.


• Use "address hygiene" techniques such as National Change of Address, Fastforward Move Update or Envelope Service Endorsements, including Address Change Service or Address Element Correction.


• Refine your target audience and spend more time on analyzing your database. Successful direct mail campaigns are built one name at a time. Know your customer.


• Rent names that better match your customer profile. Printers that specialize in direct mail can help with this.


• Use "add-a-name" to gain sortation discounts where you are "one name short." Ten pieces of a carrier route discount can cost less then eight pieces of nondiscount mail.


• Take advantage of Destination Entry to Bulk Mail Centers, Sectional Center Facilities and Destination Delivery Units. Your printer should make this transparent to you and help you target those all important "in home" dates.


• Use the Direct Marketing Association suppression file and inhouse "do not mail" files. Update frequently to eliminate unnecessary mailings.


• Use your resources - view your printer as a partner. If your printer does not offer consultative services, you may want to find another printer. Look for one that has built a relationship with the USPS and that knows its way though the system. Completely understanding the process is an invaluable resource in the event an issue arises.


• Design before you print. Ask for help - your printer or local post office will help you with mail piece design. Include your printer in the process as soon as possible.


• Naturally, enter any mail possible before July 1.


While these tips provide a basis for inhouse applications, do not hesitate to outsource when necessary. Printers, specialty mailers, pre-sort service bureaus and data processing service bureaus are good places to get extra help when you need it.


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