Archive for category USPS

USPS Classifications Of Mail – Part 2

Is It A Letter Or A Flat – Part 2

Last week we delved into the basics of letters and postcards. This week we will review the abundance of information regarding flats and parcels.  It’s a lot, so hold on to your hats!


A flat is described as a rectangular or square piece of mail that is too big in at least one direction to be a letter. That is, larger than 6 1/8” or 11 ½” or thicker than ¼”.

Just to confuse matters more, the mail piece cannot have a side longer than 15”, a side shorter than 12”, is not thicker than ¾” and does not weigh more than 13 ounces for First Class mail or 16 ounces for Standard Class.

USPS recently changed the rules for flats and all pieces must now meet certain flexibility standards. There is a complicated test to determine flexibility; it is always wise (and suggested!) that you discuss this with either your local Postmaster, Business Mail Analyst or your mail presort vendor.

Significantly higher postage rates are charged for mail pieces that don’t meet these flexibility requirements. This would include items such as CD, DVD or boxes. Pieces too rigid to qualify as flats are generally categorized as parcels.

Periodicals get their own special class and must meet requirements to fit one of two sorting processes. They, too, fall into either machinable or nonmachinable catagories.

Standard Class has a category not flat-machinable (NFM). This is a piece that would normally be a flat, with the exception that it does not meet flexibility requirements. This includes boxes, CD/DVD or anything with a non uniform thickness.

Not flat-machinable mail pieces have a higher postage rate because they must be sorted by hand.


As with other mail classes, there are two groups of parcels – machinable and nonmachinable.

A machinable parcel is regular in shape (not including tubes, rolls, etc) and is able to be processed on automated sorting equipment. These mail pieces are also too large or rigid to be considered a flat.

Must meet all of the following:

  • Must be at least 6” Must meet all ofbut not more than 34” AND
  • Height must be at least 3” but not more than 17” AND
  • Thickness must be at least ¼” but no more than 17” AND
  • Must weigh at least 6 ounces but not more than 35 pounds (except books and printed matter, which cannot be more than 25 pounds).

Irregular parcels may includes most everything that cannot be called a letter, flat, NFM or machinable parcel. This includes rolls, tubes and anything else that is too big or too irregular to be sorted on automated equipment.

An Outside parcel exceeds the size limitations of machinable parcels. This includes tubes or rolls longer than 26”, strapped boxes, metal or wood boxes, cartons containing 1 or more gallons of liquid and other out of the ordinary pieces.

It bears repeating, your best action is always checking with your local Postmaster, Mail Acceptance Analyst or presort mail vendor. 

Strahm Customer Service Representatives are available and knowledgeable in answering all your mail piece questions!

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USPS Classifications of Mail

Letters or Flats?

letterpcUSPS terms for defining classifications of mail can be confusing.  These classifications are based on the size and shape of the mail piece; not only do they determine postage, but they are routed across the country in a different manner as well.

When you are preparing your mail piece, it is important to know what classification your mail fits into since this will directly impact your postage budget.

Letters – machinable and nonmachinable
Flats – machinable and nonmachinable
Machinable parcels
Irregular parcels
Outside parcels


  • Height is at least 3 ½” and no more than 6 1/8”
  • Width is at least 5” and no more than 11 ½”
  • Thickness is at least 0.007 and no more than ¼”

Letters that can be sorted on automated equipment are eligible for better postage prices than those that are nonmachinable.

Machinable letters meet all of the criteria above and

      • Weigh no more than 3.3 ounces
      • Are rectangular in shape – it should meet the aspect ratio, which can be determined by dividing the length by the height.  Aspect ratio should be not less than 1.3 or more than 2.5.

Examples of nonmachinable letters include

      • Weight of more than 3.3 ounces
      • non-rectangular
      • enclosed in any type of plastic material
      • includes strings/buttons/clasps
      • contains items such as pens, coins or keys which cause the thickness of the mail piece to be uneven
      • too rigid to meet flexibility requirements
      • has the address placed the same direction as the shortest side of the mail piece instead of the longest side,
      • is a selfmailer with the folded edge perpendicular to the address
      • is a booklet that does not meet USPS

Barcoded mail pieces are eligible for discounted postage rates and must meet additional requirements beyond those for machinable letters.  Always check with your mail vendor for eligibility.


Special postage rates are given only for First Class postcards meeting eligibility.  There is no postcard rate for Standard Class.

Eligibility for First Class postcard price include:

      • Rectangular in shape (see how to determine aspect ratio above)
      • At least 3 ½” high and not more than 4 ¼” high
      • At least 5” long and no more than 6” long
      • Thickness is at least 0.007” and no more than 0.016”

Cards larger than outlined above should use Standard Class letter or flat pricing, depending on the size of the card.

This covers the very basics of letters and postcards.  Next week we will address the confusing world of flats!

As always, if you have questions or want additional information, our Customer Service Representatives are here to serve you.

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7 Whys of Direct Marketing

Explore The “Why” of  Direct Marketing Instead of “How” To Do Direct Marketing

Technology is changing and getting better all the time. We all know this. We have easier, faster, less expensive options and channels to get our marketing message across. But perhaps we should explore the “Why” and the “What” of using direct mail.MarketingCampaign

It is important to understand your purpose for each campaign. The key objective for most direct mail marketing is to elicit a response from the recipient. This can be in the form of a purchase or action. You need to be clear, and make clear on your mailpiece, the purpose of your marketing campaign.

Here are seven key drivers to get your brain going in developing the “Why” of your next marketing campaign.

  1. Customer Acquisition. This is basic Prospecting 101. Direct mail is still a great option because it gets directly into your prospects mailbox. According to DMM, 98% of us still check our mailbox every day. Sure, you could purchase a list of email addresses for these prospects, but your impact may be slim. Think of how many unsolicited emails you receive (and quickly delete) every day. Now think of your mailbox and how many pieces of direct mail you receive. Not only that, but many people keep these mailpieces longer and refer back to them.  I know I do.
  2. Building Email List. For many businesses, their overall client list is far greater than their email list. If you need to grow your email list, direct mail can be a fantastic tool. Consider a personalized mailpiece with a nice incentive for signing up. Once you begin an email campaign to your new list, make sure you track response and keep your list clean. Include an Opt Out within the email itself. If a prospect has not agreed to your marketing emails, you should remove him or her from your list.
  3. Communication Preference. A study by Epsilon shows that people still prefer direct mail over email in almost every category including financial services, insurance and travel. Ask your customers how they like to be reached and respond accordingly. Tracking customer response rates of direct mail vs. email will also help guide you in communication channel. Don’t risk alienating customers.
  4. Multichannel Marketing. Aside from communication preference, why limit yourself to one channel of marketing? Combine a direct mail campaign with a follow up email campaign including the same marketing objective/message. Perhaps include a pURL on your mailpiece and a personalized link in your email. Use QR codes to drive respondents to your website for a special offer. While they are there, ask for their email address. Boom! Now you’ve accomplished driver #2 as well!
  5. Migration. Test, test, test and measure, measure, measure. This is all about knowing what works within a campaign. You want to make sure that not only is your message correct and relevant to a particular customer/prospect, but that it gets to them and is read.  If they aren’t responding to a mailpiece, are they responding to an email? Tweak your lists as necessary.
  6. Lifespan. Back to the issue of deleting unsolicited emails without even a glance! How quick are you to hit that delete button? But a properly crafted message, to the correct target and slated to be in mailboxes within a given date range, is most likely to make it into the home from the mailbox, allowing more potential to become actionable. 5 second email or 5 day direct mail?
  7. Differentiator. You have so many options available for direct mail. Think size, shape, feel. Think 3D and create a clever box or other shaped container. Most people can’t resist seeing what’s inside a box. The possibilities are really endless. The USPS will deliver most anything, anywhere for just a matter of postage. Make your mailpiece – and therefore      your message – stand out in the mailbox.

In short, take the time to determine why you are planning a marketing campaign. Make sure your message is relevant to and receivable by the correct person. Whether you choose mail or email, really grab their attention with something that sets you apart from all the other advertisers.

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USPS IMb Deadline | January 2014

IMb Deadline January 2014

USPSIMbDeadlineSince the Postal Service agreed to offer bulk mail discounts to those companies organizing their mail and presenting the correct bulk mail paperwork, the rules have continued to change and expand.

Along with preparing the mail and paperwork in a specific way, the USPS raised the bar a few years ago when they implemented Move Update rules. And they continue to drive change today.

The USPS decided in January 2013 that in order to continue receiving  automation discounts on your outgoing mail, bulk mailers must adopt the Intelligent Mail barcode, or IMb. Ask your mail consolidator if they are currently using Intelligent Mail barcode, or what their plan is to have their process compliant by January 26, 2014.  (At Strahm we use IMb on all mailings.)

If you plan to implement IMb on your own, make sure you are not caught off guard by the looming deadline. Realize that there is much more involved than buying the complex software required – expect to spend some time getting set up correctly.

These new requirements will provide tracking of your mail as it moves through the mailstream. This can be quite a benefit to marketers; providing even more data for Return on Investment from a mailing.

If your mail is not IMb compliant, you can still mail at the higher, non-automated postage rate. But be forewarned that in the very near future it may become a requirement that you are IMb compliant to receive any bulk mail discount.

Another option is to outsource your mail (either presort only or printing and mailing) to an outside vendor. If you are already outsourcing, make sure your vendor is IMb ready! Ask the question and then ask yourself “Do I want to work with a vendor who did not take the time and steps necessary to protect my postage discounts?”

If you have questions about Intelligent Mail barcodes, feel free to contact one of our Customer Service Representatives today. (816) 756-2733 or

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Eliminate The “Paper Weight” Confusions!!

Let’s End the Confusion

In an effort to help eliminate the “Paper Weight” confusion problem, we have compiled the comprehensive table listed below. Now you can compare various types of paper and their “Equivalent Weights.”


  • Basis Weight The basis weight of a paper is the designated fixed weight of 500 sheets, measured in pounds, in that paper’s basic sheet size. It is important to note that the “basic sheet size” is not the same for all types of paper.
  • Caliper Caliper refers to the thickness of a sheet of paper expressed in thousandth of an inch. This measurement is taken with a micro meter. Normally, paper caliper should not have more than a + or – 5% variance within a sheet. Generally, the relation between caliper and basis weight…the greater the caliper (the thicker the paper), the greater the paper weight.
  • Equivalent Weight While different paper types have different basic sizes, papers can still be compared by using equivalent weight.

The Values in the table below are intended to serve as a guide only. They should not be used as specifications because there are variances within the same basis weight due to other characteristics of the papers. Similar weight papers may vary between different paper manufacturers.

  • The darker colored boxes above represent the “most common paper weights” for that category.
  • Normalpaper manufacturing tolerance within a paper production run is + or – 5% to 7% caliper
  • This Table was compiled by Micro Format, Inc.
  • Copyright 1997-2011 Micro Format, Inc. –Wheeling,IL 60091

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How Data Drives Marketing

How Data Drives Marketing | Engaging with Digital Consumers

datapeopleInfosys recently released a study “Engaging with Digital Consumers” which offered valuable insight into what consumers want and how your data driven marketing plays a role.

  • 57% said they would be “more likely” to make a purchase from a retailer again if the retailer kept them updated on new offers and services through social media.
  • 78% of consumers said they would be “more likely” to purchase again if provided with offers targeted to their specific interests and needs.
  • 45% said they would be willing to trade “some privacy” for offers specific to their individual shopping needs.
  • 43% said they wouldn’t mind if retailers’ apps tracked their phone’s or tablet’s location if it meant they would receive ads or promotions targeted to their local area.

Data is so important to driving your marketing campaign. As marketing continues to move toward multi-channel applications, you have increased opportunity to gather data from digital marketing and apply it to printed pieces and vice versa.

Here are a few ways you can use digital and print both to build your marketing database.

Beef up your data and help make consumers “more likely” to buy from you and continue to buy from you in the future.

Have questions about data driven multi-channel marketing? Contact us at or (816) 756-2733 and one of our qualified Customer Service Representatives will be glad to help!

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Fun Facts All About The USPS

USPS Fun Facts – gathered from

Image: A view shows U.S. postal service mail boxes at a post office in EncinitasThe United States Postal Service® delivers more mail to more addresses in a larger geographical area than any other post in the world. They deliver to nearly 151 million homes, businesses and Post Office Boxes in every state, city, town and borough in this country. Everyone living in the U.S. and its territories has access to postal products and services and pays the same postage regardless of location.


The Postal Service:

  • Is the nation’s 2nd largest civilian employer
  • Has the nation’s largest retail network
  • Has the world’s largest civilian fleet of vehicles
  • Has the world’s largest alternative fuel-enabled fleet
  • The Postal Service has a larger retail network than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wal-Mart combined (in US).
  • The Postal Service has one of the largest learning management systems in the country.
  • The Postal Service receives 90 percent of its retail revenue from 15,000 of its nearly 32,000 postal-operated retail locations.
  • The Postal Service prints more than 800,000 IRS W-2 forms, 3.3 million payroll checks, 1.8 million non-payroll checks and 15.4 million payroll earnings statements annually.
  • Most Unusual Delivery Method — mule trains in Arizona. Each mule carries about 130 pounds of mail, food, supplies and furniture down the 8-mile trail to the Havasupai Indians at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, averaging 41,000 pounds per week.
  • Another Unusual Delivery Method — boat in Michigan The JW Westcott is a 45-foot contract mail boat out of Detroit, MI, that delivers mail to passing ships in the Detroit River. The JW Westcott has its own ZIP Code — 48222.
  • Located in MD, the William F. Bolger Center for Leadership Development is a national training facility for the Postal Service. It is the only hotel in the country featuring an on-site Smithsonian exhibit.
  • There are more than 42,000 ZIP codes in the country.
  • The lowest ZIP Code is 00501, a unique ZIP Code for the Internal Revenue Service in Holtsville, NY.
  • The highest ZIP Code is 99950 in Ketchikan, AK.
  • The easiest ZIP Code to remember is 12345, a unique ZIP Code for General Electric in Schenectady, NY.
  • The longest regular rural route is Route 2 in Gridley, KS. The carrier travels 182.8 miles daily and delivers to 258 boxes.
  • The shortest rural delivery route is Route 42 in Henderson, NV. The carrier travels 2.9 miles daily and delivers to 952 boxes.
  • The Postal Service moves mail using planes, trains, trucks, cars, boats, ferries, helicopters, subways, float planes, hovercrafts, T-3s, street cars, mules, snowmobiles, bicycles and feet.

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Got Freemium?


SF-Enjoy-LongThe term freemium is coined using two powerful words ‘Free’ and ‘Premium’.

What is Strahm offering? Click here to find out!

From time to time, we like to ask customers if we’re delivering the highest level of quality on jobs and service. As part of the Freemium program, we’ve put together a quick, three question survey.

Once you complete the survey you will then be given access to our online store. Here you can choose your favorite Freemium, Accordion Pix or the 3-D Cube. They both allow you to upload your personal images to display and showoff on your desk!

SF-ApixAccordion Pix: An irresistibly fun way to display your photos at work. Accordion Pix allows you to upload seven images so you can show off all your favorites!

SF-3Dcube3-D Cube: A playful alternative to the traditional ways of displaying your photos at work. With this 3-D Cube you can display five images so you’ll have more of your favorites in view. Customize and express yourself in 3D!

(Ask how Strahm can help you with a Freemium Appreciation for your clients)

On Thursday, September 19th Strahm sent out a self-mailer to everyone on our mailing list. The self-mailer contains a QR code to scan, and a pURL you can use in your web browser.

On Monday, September 23rd Strahm sent out a blast email to all of our email contacts. The email contains a link to their pURL. They will simply click on it and go to their personalized page.

Make sure you’re on Strahm’s mailing list to take part in our next Freemium. Visit our website to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, or just send an email with all your contact information to

Today is your chance to participate! Act fast, only 500 Freemiums available!!!! CLICK HERE NOW and check out the Strahm Freemium campaign for yourself … Enjoy!

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USPS Mail Delivery Estimating Tool

How Long Does It Take To Deliver My Mail?

Many times our customers ask us how long it will take for their mail to be delivered. USPS provides a neat little tool just for this purpose.

Using the tool is pretty simple. In the upper left corner select the mail class – First Class or Standard. Select the mail origination from the drop down menu and click “Display Map”.

There is a color coded map of the United States and the estimated time for mail to be delivered. Here is an example of First Class mail originating from Kansas City, MO with the ZIP code beginning 641:


These delivery times are typically best case scenarios – they are to be used for estimates only. It is safe to use this as a general rule of thumb but in no way is it a promise of a delivery time.

As always, if you have any questions about how Strahm handles your mail or need help determining a general mail delivery time, please contact one of our helpful Customer Service Representatives at

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USPS | Possible Exigent Rate Increase

Possible Exigent Rate Increase?

There has been talk lately of the USPS requesting an exigent postage rate increase from the Board of Governors.

What is an “exigent” postage rate increase?

The current law is that postage rate increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index. The rates increases we have seen annually over the past few years fall into this category. While no one particularly likes an increased cost (although USPS remains the best bargain for mail worldwide), tying it to CPI makes budgeting fairly simple.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines exigent as “requiring immediate aid or action” or “requiring or calling for much”. In the case of the Postal Service, this is a request for a postage rate increase above the CPI when there are extraordinary circumstances.uspsPrateincrease

What are the extraordinary circumstances? Uncertain or lack of postal reform certainly plays into it, along with continued financial losses. In addition, the USPS has made efforts at internal cost containment. Is it enough?

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports in its Direct from Washington newsletter:

With reason to believe that the United States Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors may vote on a potential exigency rate increase in early September, the Affordable Mail Alliance (AMA), including the DMA, sent a letter to the Governors voicing their opposition of such an increase. The letter expressed concern about the negative effects that would come with such an increase, especially for the mailing industry and its suppliers. The letter recognized the continued financial struggles that confront USPS, but also stated that an exigent rate increase is not the solution to those struggles. With recent improvement in the USPS balance sheet, the letter stated that an exigency filing ‘at this point would be premature’.

Strahm will keep our customers up-to-date with decisions and potential rate increases.

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