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Reducing Your Direct Mail Postage Costs

Advantages Of Direct Mail Marketing

postageIn our white paper 2012 Direct Marketing Trends, one of the topics we discussed was the staying power of direct mail. Direct mail has been a marketing workhorse for several decades, consistently providing a good return on investment (ROI) for companies of all sizes. Hamilton Davison, president-executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association said, “You can’t make me open your email; you can’t make me visit your website. But if you send me a mail piece, you can compel me to pick that mail piece up and give you a third of a second dwell time to determine whether I’m going to read it or recycle it.”1

Direct mail pieces can take many forms, but they all have one common requirement: they must be mailed, most likely through the United States Postal Service (USPS), and of course, that means each piece has a postage cost associated with it; a cost that seems to increase regularly.

However, by following a few simple principles, direct marketing professionals can reduce the amount of postage they pay for each mailing, and increase the ROI for the postage they do pay.

Clean up Your Mailing List

Data hygiene is one of the easiest ways to save on direct mail postage. Data hygiene consists of reviewing your list using specific filters and criteria to remove duplicate entries, incomplete and undeliverable addresses, and deceased contacts. In this case, you are removing the direct mail pieces that are either redundant or would not reach a viable prospect. Many tools are available to compare your list against national and proprietary databases so you can remove the entries in your list that will not reach a potential customer.

For example, if you have a mailing list with 100,000 entries and you are able to remove 2,000 deceased entries, 1,500 duplicate entries, and 2,500 entries that signed up for the DMA no-mail list, you’ve instantly reduced your printing and postage costs. If you also correct the addresses of 5,000 entries and update 5,000 addresses for people who have moved, you’ve just increased the deliverability of 10% of your list, which should result in an increased ROI for your mailing.

In addition to these options, consider asking your customers to tell you what kind of contact they’d like to get from you. If they prefer email, flag them as such and stop sending them direct mail. They’ll be happy to get your message in the medium they prefer, and you’ll save printing and postage costs.

Direct Mail Weight & Size

Direct mail can come in a nearly infinite variety of sizes, shapes, and forms, and weight and size are the primary drivers for postage cost. If you normally mail out a full-size catalog to your customers, consider sending a smaller digest-size catalog with links to your full, online catalog. By combining a more streamlined direct mail piece with online resources, you can significantly reduce your postage costs, and realize a reduction in printing costs as well. If a customer still wants a full-size catalog, they can request one from you, and you know that the catalog is going to someone who will use it and might order from it.

Using the same logic, if you normally send a full-size magalog, consider mailing a slim-jim magalog or an oversized self-mailer that highlights some of your products and include a personalized URL (PURL) or QR code to allow the recipient to access additional content online.

While weight is an important factor, size dimensions are critical too. Minimize costs by keeping your mailing within the window for “Letter Size”: Minimum 3-1/2” high by 5” long, Maximum 6” high by 10-1/2” long (for multi-page brochures).2 For self-mailers and envelope packages, the maximum size is 6-1/8” high by 11-1/2” long. Larger pieces are categorized as “Flat mail” and has a much higher postage cost associated with it.

Review Your Postage Options

There are several postage types that can be applied to direct mail pieces. You may be using one option, when another, less expensive option may be appropriate for your business. Options include First Class Mail, Presorted First Class Mail, and Standard Mail.3 Each has different requirements, delivery times, and benefits, so look at the goals of your mailing when determining which postage option is best for you.

While most companies that use direct mail already take advantage of bulk mail discounts, the USPS has many services that can help provide additional savings on postage costs. The first is the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB), which is a combination of previous bar code technologies into a single printable code.4 Using the full-service IMB qualifies companies for automation discounts on bulk rate and first class mailings. Incorporating the IMB in your printing process can also help to facilitate pre-sorting of your mailing.

The USPS also offers discounts for companies that presort their mailings by zip code and those who dropship their mailings to larger postal distribution centers, such as Sectional Center Facilities (SCF) or Network Distribution Centers (NDC). Co-palletization, or combining multiple mailings onto a single pallet, can also qualify companies for discounts. Commingling is another option that can help companies obtain discounts on Letter size mail for both Standard and First Class rate postage. Commingling consists of combining direct mail from multiple companies into one lot, then sorting the combined lot by zip code sequence. In this case, it’s helpful to work with a vendor who can coordinate the commingling process (We can help you with this. Ask us what our commingled postage rate is!).

Also, keep an eye out for special offers from the USPS. In summer 2011, and again in summer 2012, the USPS offered a 3% postage discount for mail pieces that had a visible QR code on the outside of the mailer.5 For large mailings, this can add up to significant savings. The USPS is also planning a Holiday Mobile Shopping Promotion scheduled to run November 7–21, 2012 in the time leading up to Black Friday sales.

By following the tips provided in this blog post, including looking at your direct mail design and content to reduce per-piece weight, updating and improving the quality of your contact database to eliminate redundant and undeliverable addresses, and examining the discounted mailing and postage options offered by the USPS, you can generate significant savings on the postage for your next mailing.

Do you want to speak with us about your postage costs to see if we can help save you money? Maybe we can, maybe we can’t. Let’s find out with a simple phone call. Please contact us if you’re interested.

© Flavijus Piliponis – Fotolia.com


1. http://adage.com/article/news/junk-mail-hope-saving-usps/229727/
2. http://sumgould.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/20-ways-to-reduce-direct-mail-postage-and-service-costs/
4. https://ribbs.usps.gov/index.cfm?page=intellmailmailpieces
5. https://ribbs.usps.gov/index.cfm?page=mobilebarcode


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I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!