Posts Tagged postage
U.S. Postal Service to Maintain Current Product and Service Prices
Oct. 1, 2014– The Governors of the U.S. Postal Service have decided not to seek a price change for mail and shipping products and services in January in part because of the uncertainty regarding the exigent price increase. This means that the current pricing of postal products and services will remain in effect through the holiday season and early part of 2015. The Board will continue to evaluate pricing strategies and will communicate about any potential price change filings in early 2015. As always, the Postal Service will provide customers advance notice of any price changes.
Please visit us on the USPS Industry Outreach website.
Thank you for your support of the United States Postal Service.
–Consumer and Industry Affairs
Often I am asked by novice direct mailers what elements to include on their mail piece. They are simply looking to design the best mailer possible to yield a high ROI.
- Make sure your list, mail piece and message are all targeted to the correct audience. What is your goal – lead generation, customer retention, a new product roll out?
- A clear, provocative call to action and a nice incentive.
- A compelling message – don’t forget, most people want to know “What’s in it for Me?”
- A First Class mail permit. Don’t skimp on standard mail postage. 10% of your mailing list may never receive the mail piece and you’d be surprised how many people simply disregard any piece of mail with a standard permit.
- Add a PURL, or Personalized URL. This will tie your printed piece with an online experience. Make sure the PURL ties in with your theme.
- As long as we’re adding hot new technology with that PURL, let’s add a QR, or Quick Response, code. You’ve probably been seeing a lot of QR codes on all kinds or marketing – from billboards to pizza boxes. We’ll talk more about QR codes and using them effectively in an upcoming blog.
- Use a fresh, unexpected image and a memorable tag line. You only have seconds to grab the reader’s attention.
- You’ve probably heard it said a million times, and it’s true, your response rate is only as good as your list. We will delve into list effectiveness in future blogs.
- Include a follow up on the call to action. Perhaps include an expiration date. This also makes room for a second communication (perhaps an email?).
- Since we repeated the call to action, repeat the PURL as well. Remind them how to respond to that call to action!
Tell us, what are your thoughts on creating the ideal direct mail piece? We’d love to hear your suggestions!
Tips to Manage Postage Rate Increase
Now that the Postal Service has raised rates again (this is the largest rate hike in the past 11 years), it seems like a good time to review steps you can take to help manage your postage costs.
- Take advantage of a local mailhouse or presort vendor. Presorting your mail lets you take advantage of reduced postage rates. There are many ways you can work with a vendor; they can manage your data, print your mailpiece and mail it for you or perhaps all you need is a daily pick up of your already prepared mail. Either way, savings are there for you.
- Keep a clean, healthy database. Make sure all of your addresses are complete, correct and updated. When you receive Undeliverable As Addressed mail back from USPS make sure you update your data accordingly. No sense in mailing people who have moved or are deceased.
- Dedupe your data. If your data includes multiple contacts with similar sounding titles within a company, can you mail to just one of those people? Are you seeing duplicates such as John Sample and John Q Sample at the same address? Check for duplicates both by name and address.
- Personalize and target your mailing. Studies have shown that the more personalized and targeted your offer is, the greater response you will receive. Build and manage data such as last purchase, date of last service or purchase, geographic area or household income. The list of ways to segment and create relevant messages/offers is endless.
- Use multi–channel marketing. Follow up your mailed promotion with email. Try to keep the same look and feel of your mailpiece. Include a link to your website, other marketing page or survey if appropriate. You can use a QR code or pURL on your mailpiece to drive recipients to your website.
Postage rate increases are uncomfortable for mailers. The USPS points out that the increases over the past few years have kept pace with inflation. The change is intended to generate $2 billion in annual revenue for the Postal Service.
As a reminder, below are the new full pay, retail rates.
- 1 ounce First Class letter – $0.49
- Each additional ounce $0.21
- Postcards $0.34
- 1 ounce letters to all International destinations $1.15
Increased 2014 Postage Rates – Effective January 26, 2014
As per a news release on September 25, 2013 prices for most Postal Service mailing products and services will change on January 26, 2014. This includes First Class Mail, Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services and Extra Services.
The proposed changes are intended to generate $2 billion in incremental annual revenue for the Postal Service.
Highlights of the new single-piece First-Class Mail pricing, effective Jan. 26, 2014 include:
- Letters (1 oz.) — 3-cent increase to 49 cents
- Letters additional ounces — 1-cent increase to 21 cents
- Letters to all international destinations (1 oz.) — $1.15
- Postcards — 1-cent increase to 34 cents
Stamp prices have stayed consistent with the average annual rate of inflation of 4.2 percent since the Postal Service was formed in 1971.
Pricing for Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services and Extra Services also will be adjusted.
In a letter from Board of Governors Chairman Mickey Barnett described the “precarious financial condition” of the Postal Service and the “uncertain path toward enactment of postal reform legislation” as primary reasons for seeking price changes above the CPI increase. He also indicated that the price adjustment above the CPI increase is necessary in order to ensure that the Postal Service will be able to maintain and continue the development of postal services of the type and quality which America needs.
“Of the options currently available to the Postal Service to align costs and revenues, increasing postage prices is a last resort that reflects extreme financial challenges,” said Barnett in the letter. “However, if these financial challenges were alleviated by the timely enactment of laws that close a $20 billion budget gap, the Postal Service would reconsider its pricing strategy. We are encouraged by the recent introduction of comprehensive postal reform legislation in Congress, and despite an uncertain legislative process, we are hopeful that legislation can be enacted this year.”
Except in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances, postage price increases are capped at the rate of inflation as measured by the CPI-U. The Postal Service is filing a price increase above CPI-U due to extraordinary and exceptional circumstances which have contributed to continued financial losses. The Postal Service recorded a $15.9 billion net loss last fiscal year and expects to record a loss of roughly $6 billion in the current fiscal year, and has an intolerably low level of available liquidity even after defaulting on its obligation to make prefunding payments for retiree health benefits.
If your business is not already using a presort vendor, now is the time to look into that service. With ever increasing postage rates, why not take advantage of discounted rates presort houses are able to offer you?
Flats and Flexibility – or How My CD was Broken*
Flats must meet current USPS flexibility and deflection tests to qualify for automation flats postage rates. Instructions below:
All flats (see Exhibit 1.3a):
- Place the piece with the length parallel to the edge of a flat surface and extend the piece halfway off the surface.
- Press down on the piece at a point 1 inch from the outer edge, in the center of the piece’s length, exerting steady pressure.
- The piece is not flexible if it cannot bend at least 1 inch vertically without being damaged.
- The piece is flexible if it can bend at least 1 inch vertically without being damaged and it does not contain a rigid insert. No further testing is necessary.
- Test the piece according to 1.3b. or 1.3c. below if it can bend at least 1 inch vertically without being damaged and it contains a rigid insert.
Exhibit 1.3a Flexibility Test—All Flats
- Place the piece with the length perpendicular to the edge of a flat surface and extend the piece 5 inches off the surface.
- Press down on the piece at a point 1 inch from the outer edge, in the center of the piece’s width, exerting steady pressure.
- Turn the piece around and repeat steps 1 and 2. The piece is flexible if both ends can bend at least 2 inches vertically without being damaged.
Exhibit 1.3b Flexibility Test—Flats 10 Inches or Longer
- Place the piece with the length perpendicular to the edge of a flat surface and extend the piece one-half of its length off the surface.
- Press down on the piece at a point 1 inch from the outer edge, in the center of the piece’s width, exerting steady pressure.
- Turn the piece around and repeat steps 1 and 2. The piece is flexible if both ends can bend at least 1 inch vertically without being damaged.
Exhibit 1.3c Flexibility Test—Flats Less Than 10 Inches Long
Flat-size mailpieces must be uniformly thick so that any bumps, protrusions, or other irregularities do not cause more than 1/4-inch variance in thickness. When determining thickness, exclude the outside edges (1 inch from each edge) when the contents do not extend into those edges. Mailers must secure nonpaper contents (such as pens, keys or coins) to prevent shifting of more than 2 inches within the mailpiece if shifting would cause the piece to be nonuniformly thick or result in the contents bursting out of the mailpiece.
Maximum weight for First Class is 13 ounces.
Standard mail must weight less than 16 ounces.
These are the basic rules of flats and determining flexibility. You should always consult with your local post office (especially the good folks in the Business Mail Acceptance department) to ensure your mailpiece meets all current standards.
*And by the way, if you really want to mail Mom your latest mix CD, there are special envelopes available at most big box office supply stores.
DC Court Rules on Postage Discounts
One of the many services that Strahm Automation provides our clients is presorting of their mail so that clients are able to take advantage of discounted postage rates. This discount encourages mailers to presort, which in turn lowers costs for the Postal Service, but the current discount is greater than the Postal Service would pay to sort the mail themselves.
The Postal Service is not pleased with this ruling because it believes that it needs to offer mailers large discounts so that bulk mailers (including co-minglers, combined mailers and continuous mailers such as Strahm) will continue to use First Class mail.
“Through snow and rain and heat and gloom of night, the Postal Service delivers the mail,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the three judge panel. “But the Postal Service does so under the watchful eye of a separate independent agency, the Postal Regulatory Commission.”
The PRC establishes rates that the Postal Service may charge for mail. The commission states that the reason customers choose to presort their mail is based on the lower price, and a 1% increase in price will cause a “significant change in demand”.
What are your thoughts? Would a decrease in your presorted postage savings cause you to change how you process your mail? Would you reconsider presorting?
For that matter, how many businesses understand what commingling mail is all about?
Although it may sound too good to be true, it’s not. Using an authorized mail house to process your mail can save your organization as much as 20% in postage.
In a nutshell, the mail house is providing a work share with the USPS. This cuts several steps out of the USPS work flow and in return, the mail house can offer discounted postage rates from the current $0.46 for a First Class letter.
Your mail is combined with other companies’ mail, sorted and released to the USPS. Other than your local authorized mail house collecting your mail, nothing changes – your mail still goes out same day, is still delivered in the same timely manner by a USPS letter carrier. But you SAVE $$$!
And doesn’t saving your organization money make you some kind of hero? Of course it does.
Contact Strahm today and we will show you how easy it is!
USPS Rate Increase BUT Direct Mail Is Still A Bargain!
The USPS announced last week another postage rate increase. The cost of a one-ounce First Class stamp is going up to $0.46 per piece in January 2013. The rates for business mail – automated presort mail – will also increase.
You may be thinking that using other channels such as email, texting, or another carrier such as FedEx or UPS could be the solution in the face of rising postage rates.
Not so quick. Direct mail is still a bargain and a great way to generate sales leads. Email boxes are flooded with offers and if you don’t know a prospect, this constitutes spamming. And the rate at which email recipients open and click through an offer continues to fall.
How can you get the most from your direct mail campaign? Remember the 40/40/20 rule. 40% of your chance of success will come from your audience, 40% from your call to action and offer, and 20% from your mail piece design (color, creative, etc).
Here are just a few tips for making an offer to your prospects:
- Free trial
- Free information – such as a white paper
- Free gift with order
- Free Sample (see a trend here with the freebies?)
- Conditional sale – send it now, bill me later
- Club offer – join the club and receive better deals
- Contests – prizes should tie back to your product or service
- Time limit – must respond within 30 days
- Free returns – return within 30 days for a full refund
Tweaking direct mail lists can increase response rate, but take a look at varying offers and even packaging. What are your ideas for increasing response using the 40/40/20 rule?
What is a Postage Meter and Do I Really Need One?
Postage meters are machines that can be rented to apply postage themselves instead of taking mail directly to a post office. Postage is applied via an ink stamp and is more time effective than hand applying stamps. Postage is added to the meter machines electronically and funds are reduced as postage is used.
According to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), postal meters can be used to affix postage for these classes of mail: First-Class Mail®, Priority Mail®, Express Mail®, international mail and presorted First-Class Mail®, which provides a discount for mailing 500 or more pieces that meet certain criteria. The USPS also allows postage meters to be used to apply postage (via an adhesive tape) to packages. The USPS does not allow periodical mail—a special class of mail usually reserved for publications such as magazines—to be processed using postage meters.
Strahm Automation provides metering service to most of our customers as an addition to presorting services. This has allowed them to discontinue costly leases, maintenance (including downtime for repairs), and expensive software updates.
Our presort capabilities enable mailers to qualify for higher postage discounts by combining mail from multiple clients and sorting it by ZIP Code™. This mail realizes faster delivery times since it bypasses local postal facilities and heads straight to its postal destination.
Address quality is improved by applying updated addresses to the mailpieces as necessary (meeting Move Update requirements), as well as use of the Intelligent Mail barcode as part of the presort service.
Strahm offers both metering and presorting services and in return our customers benefit from our industry expertise and relationship with the United States Postal Service.
Strahm Automation will help you eliminate the cost of postage meters and improve your mail quality at the same time! | Visit: http://www.strahm.com/business/mail.html
Designing for Automation Flats!
Last week we discussed designing letters and postcards for automation postage rates. Below are guidelines for producing flat size mailpieces.
- Greater postage discount
- Faster mail processing
- Better, more consistent service
A flat is described as a rectangular and smooth piece of mail that is too big in at least one direction to be a letter. The length of a flat size mailpiece is the longest dimension. The height is the dimension perpendicular to the length.
Flats qualify for automation prices if they meet specific addressing, barcoding and design standards. Remember that beginning January 28, 2013 your maipiece must use an Intelligent Mail Barcode to be eligible for automation postage discounts.
Designing for Automation Flats:
- Physical Characteristics
- Minimum height is 5”
- Maximum height is 12”
- Minimum length is 6”
- Maximum length is 15”
- Minimum thickness is .009”
- Maximum thickness ¾”
- Weight limits
- First Class not more than 13 ounces
- Standard less than 16 ounces
- In addition
- Must meet specific flexibility standards
- See our post Flats and Flexibility here: https://blog.strahm.com/2011/11/17/flatsandflexibility/
- Must be uniformly thick so that any bumps, protrusions, or irregularities do not cause more than ¼” variance in thickness.
- Must be rectangular in shape
- Must meet specific flexibility standards
- Barcode Standards
- Must be at least 1/8” from any edge on the address side of the mailpiece
- Minimum clearance between the barcode and any information line above or below it within the address block must be at least 0.040” for POSTNET and 0.028” for an IMb (IMb is mandatory beginning January 28, 2012)
- Window Envelopes and Address Labels
- Minimum clearance between printing and any left or right edge of the window must be 1/8”
- Minimum clearance between printing and top or bottom of the window must be 1/25”
- Address Standards
- Must be within top half of mailpiece
- A vertical address may cross midpoint if it begins or ends within 1” of top edge (important for small flats)
- Must be on same side as postage
- Flats using the Intelligent Mail barcode may use 6 point type for address if it is printing in all capital letters
- If there is no Intelligent Mail barcode, minimum type size is 8 point.
- Address Format
123 Main Street
Anytown, MO ZIP+4
- Address Tap Test (address readability through envelope window)
- Mail using a window envelope must show complete address, with 1/8” clearance at top, bottom and both sides of window
- Test address placement with two taps on bottom and two taps on each end – address should remain within window with 1/8” clear space
- Print Contrast
- Preference is dark type on light paper
- Recommend light pastels or neutrals
- Avoid dark, bright or black papers
- Avoid dark fibers
- Avoid bleed through
What steps will you take today to ensure your mail is automation compatible? Don’t lose out on reduced postage rates for automation mail!
If you have questions or need more information, please contact one of Strahm’s Customer Service Representatives. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 756-2733.