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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

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Archive for the ‘Mailing’ Category

Commercial Printing: A Few Bulk Mailing Postage Tips

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

If you design marketing materials of any kind, it will benefit you to learn as much as you can about the USPS rules and regulations. (Go online and read the United States Postal Service Business Mail 101 web pages, or visit the Post Office and ask for printed business mailing guides.) As a start, here’s some introductory information culled from the USPS website on ways to pay for postage.

Let’s say you have a 3,000-copy brochure print run ready to mail to clients. How do you pay for postage?

Stamps and Precanceled Stamps

If you are an individual, you put stamps on individual letters or packages. If you’re a business, one of your options is almost the same: the precanceled stamp. These stamps can be used on bulk mailings, but they require a permit, and there are regulations regarding address formatting and return addresses for the items mailed.

In addition, the face value of the precanceled stamp is not your total cost. You will have to pay an additional amount on the entire bulk mail drop.

The main appeal of this option is that precanceled stamps look like stamps, and direct mail marketers have found that people are more likely to open mail with a real stamp. It looks more personal. (Marketers also have found that hand-addressed mail is opened more often, which is why type fonts simulating handwriting are particularly suited to bulk mailings.)

The US Post Office recommends precanceled stamps for the low-volume mailer, presumably since they must be affixed to the letter or package.

Permit Indicia

The permit indicia is a much easier option than the precanceled stamp in that your commercial printing supplier can print the necessary information right on the letter, catalog, or package. You don’t need to affix anything as you do with a stamp.

In addition to the notation for bulk rate postage, the indicia includes the permit number and the city and state of the permit holder. As with the precanceled stamp option, you will need a permit. In addition, you will need to pre-fund an advance deposit account with the postage amount. The US Postal System will then debit the account to pay for postage on your mailing. You can also maintain funds in the account for future mailings.

This option comes with two other requirements. First, the indicia cannot be produced with a typewriter or be hand-written, and all items in the bulk mailing must weigh the same amount.

In addition, you need to bring the sorted bulk mail to the business mail entry unit for the specific indicia. You can’t just go to any Post Office.

You may want to choose this option, for instance, if you print a large number of self-mailer brochures to get a good printing price, but you plan to mail them over an extended period of time. The same indicia can be used for all mailings as long as the advance deposit account contains adequate funds.

Unlike individual letters and packages, though, you can’t use an indicia for a handful of brochures you drop in a mailbox. If you do, they will be returned to you, postage due. Like precanceled stamps, the indicia can only be used for bulk mailings.

Postage Meter Imprint

Postage meters allow you to buy a predetermined amount of postage and then print the exact amount needed right on the individual mail item. The imprint shows the amount of postage used and the date.

You can use a meter to pay for all your postage needs (except for Periodicals), but you will need to pay for a separate permit for bulk mail.

Once you have a permit for meter imprinting, you have various options for software and printing equipment (from very small options based on your computer, printer, and Internet service all the way up to equipment that folds, inserts, weighs, and meters the postage).

Fees for These Options

Do some research into costs and fees before you choose one of these options. Keep in mind that you may need to pay both a mailing permit fee (for one of the the various postage options, such as the start-up fee for an indicia) and an annual mailing fee if you’re doing bulk mailings. And in most cases the permits are tied to a particular commercial Post Office.

Commercial Printing: The Upcoming USPS Postage Rate Increase

Monday, January 20th, 2014

If you design periodicals for a living, or direct mail, or anything else that must go through the USPS mail stream, you’ll be getting a rate increase on January 26. First Class stamps will cost $.49 (up from $.46); stamps for postcards will cost $.34 (up from $.33); and bulk mail, periodicals, and package delivery costs will rise six percent. This rate increase has a limited life of two years. It is specifically designed to help the Post Office recover from the decrease in mailing caused by the Great Recession of 2008.


A confluence of events has caused the US Postal Service to lose an increasing amount of revenue. Here’s why:

  1. The increasing shift of correspondence from paper to the Internet in the form of email
  2. The economic downturn of 2008 and its ensuing effects over the years
  3. The congressional mandate for the US Postal Service to fund $5.6 billion a year in expected health care costs for future retired postal workers

The Effects of the Postage Increase

  1. Unfortunately, postal rate increases cause a vicious circle. Although they are needed to stop USPS revenue losses, they have the side effect of driving direct mailers and periodical publishers to other modes of distribution. As the Internet has reduced customers’ need for the Post Office, increased postal rates have actually fostered this migration from print to digital distribution.
  2. Brick-and-mortar stores (such as print bookstores) must compete with online-only vendors. Due to their storage and distribution requirements, physical stores often cannot beat prices offered online. With shipping costs on the rise, this will further erode the profits of brick-and-mortar retailers.
  3. Non-profit organizations can be crushed by the yearly postage increases. Although direct mail has proven to be an effective channel for fundraising, non-profits on a limited budget may need to find alternatives.
  4. Although not directly related to the rate increase, the possibility of canceling Saturday mail delivery has arisen as a way to ease revenue loss. Unfortunately, this will hurt magazine printers and publishers. In an environment in which magazines and newspapers must already compete with online news sources, lengthening delivery times will make print publications even less timely and potentially hasten their decline.

Ways to Mitigate This Postage Increase

To combat the effects of the rate increases, here are a few ways to save money in your mailing efforts:

  1. Clean your mailing lists. Make sure all addresses are complete, accurate, current, and consistently formatted. This involves processing your lists through CASS certified addressing software (for accuracy and completeness) and NCOA software (for updates brought about by a move or change of address). It will also save you money if you add Intelligent Mail barcodes to your addresses. Your goal is to make sure everything you send actually gets to the intended recipient—quickly, easily, and without postal worker intervention. Talk to your USPS representative about your options.
  2. Look into “drop shipping” and “co-palletization.” Drop shipping involves shipping your periodicals or direct mail packages to the bulk mail center closest to your final destination. Co-palletization involves mingling your mail pieces with other publishers’ or direct mail marketers’ materials to reduce overall costs by sharing them with the other mailers.
  3. Follow all USPS formatting requirements to reap the greatest possible discounts for automation. That is, if the USPS equipment can read and sort your mail without operator intervention, this will keep your costs down. These USPS specifications pertain to mail piece size; aspect ratio (ratio of width to length of a mail piece); address formatting and placement; proper use of tabs, wafer seals, and glue seals; etc.
  4. Follow all requirements for bulk mailing, especially sortation of all mail pieces to the finest level possible. Again, the more you do, the less the Post Office must do. And the less the Post Office must do, the cheaper your postage bill will be.
  5. Research the most appropriate postal class for your mail. Standard costs less than First Class, for instance. If you can qualify for Nonprofit rates, this will cost you 40 percent less than Standard.
  6. Consider the trim size and weight of your mail piece. If you make a print catalog a little smaller, for instance, it may qualify as a mini-catalog or a letter (instead of a flat), and this will reduce postage costs. If you print on thinner paper, your overall piece weight for a print catalog or direct mail package will be less, so the postage will also be less.
  7. Use two-way custom envelopes for direct mail or transpromotional mail (like a cell phone bill). When designing your piece, make margins smaller and/or use smaller type sizes in your text. But be mindful of the legibility, appearance, and “ease of use” of the direct mail package. Reducing postage costs won’t help if you drive away potential clients.
  8. Invite a Postal Representative to speak to your office as a group, noting ways to reduce postage costs without affecting the quality of service.

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