It’s still hard to believe that the cost to mail a first class letter is 55¢. First Class mail sent in batches of 500 pieces costs 46¢ a piece. And the cost to mail a letter bulk rate has gone up to more than 30¢. Postage is one of the largest budget items for direct mail campaigns, and direct mail marketers should be looking to cut their postage costs wherever they can. When you presort mail, you deliver it to the Post Office already sorted by ZIP code. Each piece has a barcode printed below the address that contains a wealth of information. Known as the Intelligent Mail® Barcode, it contains 65 bars of varying heights that store information like the Mailer ID, in addition to the delivery ZIP Code.
The main reason why Bulk mailers presort is so that they can save money, but as an added bonus, they actually receive much better service as a result. The service for Presorted First Class mail is actually an improvement over regular First Class mail, and presorted Standard mail (also known as Bulk mail) can (in SOME cases) be delivered as quickly as First Class mail. The reason presorted mail enjoys such improved delivery is that mailers must prepare their mail in accordance with very strict USPS requirements. These result in the mail moving quickly through the mail stream with few hitches along the way.
One of the requirements involves the use of the barcodes discussed above. Mailers also must comply with Move Update requirements. The Post Office doesn’t want to have to deal with undeliverable mail, so they place the responsibility for verifying and updating addresses on the shoulders of mailers, rewarding them in turn with reduced postage costs. Basically, mailers are required to process their address lists using a USPS approved method once every 95 days, and then update lists with any data changes that are uncovered.
One way that mailers can do this is to place “Change Service Requested” notices on all their mailing pieces. However, one of the easiest and most reliable methods is to process lists through the National Change of Address (NCOA) service. With regard to postage savings, a First Class piece that is presorted to 5 digits costs just over 38¢ to mail, which is a 10¢ savings over what you’d pay if you didn’t presort. On a 100,000 piece mailing, that comes to a savings of $10,000. For Standard mail, if you do a 5-digit presort, you pay just over 28¢ per piece, as opposed to almost 33¢ for mail that is mixed. This can add up to significant savings.
Process Your Mail the Easy Way – With a Lettershop
Saving money by presorting is great. But there is a downside too. The process of preparing presorted mail can be a pain. It requires time to sort the mail by ZIP code and special equipment to place the barcodes on each piece. Then you have to bundle the mail correctly in Post Office trays secured with straps. And you need to apply for bulk mail permits. Fortunately, there are businesses out there that are ready to help you out.
Known as Lettershops (also known as Presort Bureaus), these companies will usually pick up your mail from your place of business, sort it by ZIP code, apply barcodes, run Move Update procedures, and offer other technical services that are too much to go into here, but that can improve the deliverability of your mail, as well as your ability to track it. Another advantage these companies offer is that they can (if you request) combine your mail with the mail of other businesses so that you can take advantage of the maximum discounts allowed, even though the size of your own mailing by itself may not be large enough (i.e., 200 pieces for Standard mail, and 500 pieces for presorted First Class) to qualify.
These companies are great if you want to enjoy all the advantages of presorting mail, but you don’t have the necessary manpower, equipment, and permits – or you just don’t want to do the work. Mailers who presort can expect more accurate delivery of their mail, they receive bigger postage discounts, and they often enjoy better response rates from prospects. So, whether you use one of these services, or process your own mail, don’t miss the opportunity to save money by presorting.