If your business sends out newsletters, advertisements, or even magazines, you may have already looked into going through a mail house rather than labeling your mailers and paying for postage directly through the post office. There is no doubt that a mail house will save you time and money, so what do you need to know to get started?
Mailing Permits and Other Regulations
As you probably already know, as a business you may need a mailing permit in order to use certain postage payment methods for bulk and commercial mailings. You will have the option to use the mail house’s mailing permit. Since postage can be a major outlay, if you choose to use the mail house’s permit, they may ask for the postage funds up front. If you’re using your own permit, you will need to be sure that the funds are in your permit account before you submit the mailing.
When to Call the Mail House
At what stage of the process should the mail house become involved in your publication? Eddie Gershman, Data Processor at the Alamo Mail House, suggests bringing a mail house into the picture early on in the process. A mail house knows the USPS regulations inside and out and can stop most potential problems before they happen. You can send them a PDF before anything is ever printed, and they’re able to take a look at
- What you’d like to mail
- Determine if it meets regulations
- If you’ve left sufficient space for address labels
- If it will run smoothly on all of the machines
- Make sure that you get the lowest price possible and save money without having to pay any surcharges
Your Mailing List and Labeling
When designing your publication, it’s important to leave space for the address. At the mail house, they prefer that your publication has a white block out (2”x4” is preferred, but 1.5”x4” is doable) so that they can inkjet the address directly on it. For a magazine, the addressing area would be on the lower left of the front cover (close to the spine) or the upper right of the back cover (again, close to the spine). If there’s no block out, then they will apply a label in the least obtrusive area. They prefer to inkjet addresses rather applying a label because it gives it a more polished look and it prevents them from risking covering part of your design.
In addition to efficient labeling, the deliverability of your mailing list depends on the accuracy of addresses that you have. Gershman suggests providing your mailing list to the mail house in Excel, CSV, or another columnar format. This allows them to run it through specialized software to standardize the addresses. They’ll also check your list against the USPS and National Change of Address (NCOA) databases. If any addresses need to be updated, they will automatically apply the change to your list. Most mail houses strive to have unverified addresses on less than 1% of the publications that go out. Keeping track of how long it takes your publication to reach different addresses on your mailing list in certain areas of the country can help you know when to expect a response and how to adjust your mailing schedule. You lose valuable tracking capabilities when you don’t use a mail house.
If you need extras like polybagging or tabbing, they will do it there. Polybags look great, but are more expensive to insert and seal and will greatly increase turnaround time. Tabbing is used for folded mailers to keep them closed. It may also be necessary to tab flats if they contain loose enclosures. Many magazines include a reply envelope for donations, but they don’t require tabbing because the mail house can hang those in the spine securely.
When calculating the cost, keep in mind that postage varies widely by weight, size, mailing area, and density of addresses, as well as the class of mail such as presort first class, presort standard, nonprofit, or periodical. They have specialized mailing software that handles the sorting and postage calculations and generates the necessary paperwork.
A typical 8.5” x 11” magazine weighing 4.5 ounces might mail at around 54 cents each, presort standard class. The same piece at nonprofit rates would be around 38 cents a piece, and presort first class would be around $1.53 each.
Smaller publications – say an 8-page newsletter – can be folded and tabbed to letter size, giving significant postage savings, maybe even 50% less than an unfolded piece.
A mail house can almost always save you money on mailing your publication. The USPS offers discounts on postage when you use a mail house because they resort and bundle everything which saves the post office time. If you are shipping a lot of your publications long distance, Gershman suggests asking your mail house about drop shipping. Bundles of your publication can be placed on pallets and shipped to a post office in your circulation area in order to take advantage of local post office discounts.
Are you a nonprofit? Once you become registered through the post office, you’ll receive a discount for that too.
Do you circulate weekly, monthly, or even quarterly? You may be eligible for a periodical discount. If you qualify for any postage discounts, a mail house will know about it.
Special Rules for Magazines
When mailing magazines( or flats), many restrictions relax. They have to go on specialized sorting equipment, so you will pay higher postage than you would for a smaller piece, but you also have more space for address labels, you will not need tabbing to hold the piece shut, and you will probably qualify for a periodical discount.
If you’re interested in using business direct mail, the United States Postal Service has a great resource to help: http://pe.usps.com/BusinessMail101/Index