Whether you’re running a large corporate mailroom, a high volume printing business or an organization with regular mass mailings, you may be paying too much for your postage. The U.S. Postal Service always catches flack over raising their rates, but they do offer discounts to high volume users if you’re willing to do a little upfront prep work.
Since the USPS handles and sorts mail several times through the delivery process, they are willing to give you a break if you do some of the work for them. One of the best things to do is pre-sorting addresses. There are several software programs on the market that will do this for you. They range in price from $25 to several thousand per year. Of course the higher priced ones offer more features and potentially more savings as well.
There are several things to look for in a pre-sort software. Most importantly, it should be USPS certified or “PAVE (Presort Accuracy Validation and Evaluation) approved” so all regulations are adhered to. The higher end software programs stay updated with the latest rates and regulations.
Other software features include CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) certification. While this has nothing to do with sorting itself, CASS can save you additional money by verifying your addresses against those on file with the USPS. It will correct invalid addresses and zip codes and put them into the standard USPS format, like the two letter abbreviation for states.
There are some stipulations. In order to get a discount on a first class mailing, you must have over 500 pieces. A standard or third class mailing must have at least 200 pieces or weigh at least 50 lbs. For standard mailings all the pieces must be identical. Therefore, you cannot use this class for invoices or other receiver specific mailings. Personalized form letters are accepted. The letters must remain sorted to go to the post office. The USPS will provide free of charge trays, lids, rubber bands, sacks, etc.
Bulk mailing requires a permit with an annual fee of $120 to $160. Bulk and pre-sorted mailings must be delivered to a designated place at the post office where the permit was issued. They cannot be given to a carrier or placed in a collection box. Permits are post office specific, so if you plan to mail from different post offices you will need permits from each.
Pre-sort software is pretty simple to use. You start by importing your address database into the program. Most programs will automatically detect the file type your database is in. After filling in some basic information about your company and your mailing, the program will sort the addresses to maximize your postage savings. Typical savings can be $.15 or more per piece with a simple 5 digit zip code sort. Non-profit organizations can save even more – sometimes two-thirds the regular cost.
There are two forms associated with pre-sort mailing. Most software packages prepare and print them for you. Be sure to take these forms with you when delivering your mail to the post office.
1. Mailing Statement – provides a summary of the mailing (your company information, number of pieces, rate per piece, etc.)
2. Rate Qualification Report – lists which bundles are in each tray with a running total for each rate.
Having your own postage meter simplifies the process even more. You can run each letter through at the appropriate rate. Postage meters can be leased from USPS authorized dealers. You can find a list at www.usps.gov along with lots of other helpful information. Check out Publication 49 if you’re just getting started with handling large mailings.
There are savings to be had. With a little technology and planning you could cut your postage costs by one-third or more.