Printing and Design Tips: May 2013, Issue #142

Bulk Mailing Software

If all you sent were a few First Class letters, your life as a direct mail marketer would be easy. However, bulk mailing is more the norm, and it is often a good way to reduce postage costs by doing some of the addressing and sorting work the Post Office would otherwise need to do. Keep in mind that Post Office delivery is often the cheapest and most reliable source for distribution, and the more work you do to prepare your mailing, the more of a discount you will receive from the USPS.

There are a number of software suites out there to help you with this task. As you review the offerings, here are some things to consider. All of these capabilities listed below should be available in a single software suite. For the most part, these goals are to:

  • standardize and update the addresses
  • put mail in delivery order
  • eliminate duplication
  • comply with Post Office address formatting regulations
  • suppress “do not mail” names/addresses
  • add barcodes
  • complete all required Post Office documentationn

Here are the technical names for the various capabilities built into a bulk mailing package. This should help you communicate with bulk mailing software vendors as you research their products:

CASS Certification: This bulk mailing application standardizes address abbreviations and formatting to comply with USPS guidelines. It also corrects the spelling of street names and adds missing postal data such as ZIP Codes and carrier route numbers.

PAVE-Certified Postal Presorting: The goal of presorting is to put all mail in order by ZIP Code and then by carrier route. The closer your sorting matches the actual walk sequence of the postal carrier, the cheaper the postal rate you pay. PAVE-certified postal presorting supports First Class Mail, Standard Mail, and Periodicals.

Move Updating: Software that can match your address database against NCOA (National Change of Address) data is invaluable. Mail sent to erroneous addresses wastes your postage money, and your prospective clients never receive your promotion. Move updating software works in unison with databases accessed over the Internet to keep all addresses current.

Deduping Software: Due to your having rented multiple address lists, or due simply to human error, your address databases may include duplicate address records. Or they may include the same address repeated (once or a number of times) with slight variations. You can reap postage savings by using software that compares address records, combines them when needed, and eliminates duplicates.

Do Not Mail: Make sure the software suite you buy allows you to suppress names and addresses of prospects who have opted out of receiving direct mail. A good bulk mail package can match your database against a current registry of “do not mail” addresses.

Barcoding: Intelligent Mail barcoding combines POSTNET and PLANET Codes. You can identify these on mail you receive if you look for vertical barcode lines extending both upward and downward from the baseline (i.e., unlike their predecessors, which were horizontally aligned on the same baseline). These Intelligent Mail barcodes allow precise tracking of letters, flats, and packages, and even give customers the ability to access this information themselves. Choose a bulk mail software package that automatically prints these barcodes.

Document Generation: Select a bulk mailing package that generates all of the USPS reports, documentation, and postage statements you will need. These may include the Qualification report, CASS Summary Report, PAVE-Certification report, and mail tray and mail sack labels. Make your life easier and ensure accuracy with this automated process.

Most good bulk mail programs will include all of these functions. They may even allow you to add images or your logo to the label information, or even change fonts and adjust the placement of design elements. When you consider how much you will save over time in reduced postage costs by complying with Post Office design and formatting regulations, the cost of this software becomes more of an investment in your business than an expense.

One Writer’s Opinion About 3-D Printing

I just read an interesting article by Shareen Pathak in the 2/25/13 issue of Ad-Age Digital about 3-D printing. The article is called “3-D Printing: The Hype Cycle Is About to Meet the Adoption Cycle.” It is subtitled “Changes in Store for Everything From Medicine to Manufacturing.”

I have written a number of PIE Blog articles about this technology, but what makes Pathak's article compelling and unique is her assessment of why this is currently becoming more than just hype.

Pathak notes that 3-D printing is “capable of changing the way we do things in just about every industry, from manufacturing to medicine to space travel.” This is not new. However, Pathak believes that “what makes this year an inflection point for the technology is a combination of affordable printers hitting the market, consumer-adoption readiness, and a maturation of the ecosystem needed to support 3-D printing.”

For some time, dentists have used 3-D printing to create dental molds. NASA and Ford also have been using 3-D printing technology for years. It's not new. It's actually quite prevalent on the industrial side of the fence.

However, for consumers, 3-D printing has been an element of science fiction.

But now, the cost of a functional 3-D printer has come down to just above the $2,000.00 mark (i.e., a 3-D printer made by a New York firm, MakerBot, called the Replicator 2).

CAD (computer aided design) software is also readily available (such as Autodesk 123-D), as are cloud manufacturing services and laser scanners, which can produce a 3-D CAD file of whatever you scan.

Therefore, we have a perfect storm brewing: all the elements are in place for a home-based manufacturing revolution.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]