Direct Mail and the USPS
One of the secrets to Direct Mail in the US is playing nicely with the USPS. You may be an expert marketer but if you fail to obey the many detailed rules of the Post Office you will be burned. Here are some of the more important rules to follow:
Designing a Folded Self-Mailer Using the Old Rules
January 2013 ushered in new rules for folded self-mailers (not booklets) that reduced the allowable size, altered folding parameters, and increased tabbing requirements. Now, a folded self-mailer can be no larger than 6″ high x 10.5″ wide and cannot be open along the bottom. The only options are that it is open along the top or the left (trailing edge). Also, tabbing has been changed to require more tabs for a piece that weighs over 1 ounce.
Finally, be careful of paper stock: the minimum basis weight for a folded self-mailer is now 70# text (more if the piece is perforated or die cut). Ensure mail piece design is presented to your mailing expert prior to finalizing the piece.
The USPS is strict regarding nonprofit (Standard) mail rates. A difference in organization name, return address, content in the mail piece or post office of mailing will—at best—delay your drop date. At worst, you could be forced to pay around 40 percent more in postage. Make sure you have your nonprofit ducks in a row when designing the mail piece and deciding to which post office your mail will be brought. Remember that a small difference in organization name on the mailer versus what the post office has on file could raise a red flag.
Flat-Size Address Placement
This is a biggie, because the USPS charges First Class rates to any mailing that does not comply, even a nonprofit mailing. The rule is that any flat-size mail piece (magazines, catalogs, etc.) requires the address to be entirely in the top half. This is regardless of copy position or graphics. Generally, the top half is defined as the upper part when you hold the piece with the stitching to the right. The “top-half rule” is why you see so many magazines delivered with the address upside down in relation to the cover. (This rule does not apply to First Class Mail.)
First Class postcards enjoy a low postage rate with speedy First Class service. However, there are many limitations on the design of these pieces and, while they are an awesome medium in which to convey a message by mail, failure to properly design them can result in some big postage penalties. Here are some rules to keep in mind:
-The maximum size is 4 ¼” x 6″, and it has to be a single card (unless the second-half is a reply card).
-Designers must allow enough room (around 3.5″ wide x 2″ high) for the barcode and address.
-The USPS mandates that either the entire right half or the entire top half be reserved for the return address, indicia/stamp and outgoing address. Technically, no other copy is allowed in that area. If you violate this rule, you could be charged higher “letter-size” rates.
-Do not design vertically (6″ high x 4 ¼” wide).
-There is no “postcard” rate for Standard Mail. If you are a commercial mailer (not a non-profit), you should mail First Class when mailing a postcard. You will actually save a couple of cents and get faster, more predictable service.
Poor Merge/Purge or List Hygiene
Most folks want to believe their databases are clean and free of duplicates or other trash. Data processing (DP) experts in direct mail testify otherwise. It is a huge waste to mail two pieces to one person or to be mailing to outdated or bad prospects. Mailers should be allowing time for the DP team to process the list and provide results so that issues can be corrected before the mailing. In many mailing environments, DP work is done the day before the mailing and National Change of Address (NCOA) results are not even examined nor merge/purge results checked. Each piece of wasted mail can easily cost 50 cents to $1 each in plus the missed opportunity of sending non-deliverable mail. Allow more lead time for data processing if you want to make changes to your database prior to mailing.
(via Target Marketing)