A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Options

When it comes to performance-driven direct mail, understanding the nuances of postage is essential for success and optimized ROI. From marketing mail to first class postage and everything in between, there are numerous postage options to consider.

So, whether you’re a novice getting ready to launch your first direct mail campaign or seeking confirmation on your current choices, this blog will help demystify the various types of postage and enhance your postage savings and optimization.

Defining the Different Types of Postage

When it comes to direct mail, there are two main postage types that require consideration: marketing mail and first-class mail.

Marketing mail is commonly used for bulk mailings of advertising materials, giving businesses and organizations a way to send non-urgent, promotional, and informational materials to a large audience at discounted rates.

With that in mind, it’s important to remember that marketing mail consists of two primary types: non-profit mail and standard mail. Non-profit mail is used by organizations holding tax-exempt status like charities, religious groups, and educational institutions, aiming to raise awareness, garner support, or advocate for a cause. In contrast, standard marketing mail refers to promotional material sent by other businesses to potential customers, often highlighting products, services, or special offers to drive sales and foster brand loyalty.

First-class mail, on the other hand, offers expedited delivery for letters and postcards, with a discounted option called presort first-class that streamlines processing by bundling first-class mail by zip code, ensuring prompt delivery without compromising on quality.

Understanding Timelines and Strategies

Understanding timelines and predicting in-home dates is crucial for direct mail campaigns. For example, if you’re sending postcards with coupons or letters with urgent announcements, opting for first-class postage ensures prompt delivery, capturing your audience’s attention when it matters most.

General timelines to keep in mind when selecting postage types include:

  • Standard Marketing Mail: 5-14 business days
  • Non-Profit Marketing Mail: up to 20 business days
  • First Class Mail (including presort first class): 3-5 business days

However, it’s important to remember that packages take priority over letters, especially during peak seasons, where ideal in-home dates significantly affect campaign effectiveness. As a rule of thumb, starting November 1st, switching to first-class postage is advisable to ensure timely delivery, while tax season represents another busy period requiring careful consideration of postage options.

Postage Pricing Considerations

While direct mail is a powerful marketing tool, we know postage costs can be substantial. Selecting the correct postage and working with a direct mail partner that uses proven strategies like saturation, trucking, and co-mingling to lower postage costs are imperative, regardless of your marketing budget size.

Standard marketing mail typically costs $0.39 per piece for letters (prior to potential discounts), with non-profit organizations potentially benefiting from rates as low as $0.21 per piece (prior to potential discounts), provided they have a corresponding classification number registered with the post office.

In the realm of first-class mail, various postage options entail different pricing structures. Presort first class typically costs $0.58 per piece, but to qualify for this discounted rate, all print components such as mailing addresses and barcodes must be properly printed on the piece. Mail pieces using meter postage, which involves printing and timestamping the postage using a postage meter, incur a cost of $0.64 per piece. Conversely, first class mail with a stamp or indicia—a printed marking indicating prepaid postage—costs $0.68 per piece. 

Finally, first-class postcards that are 6”x9” or smaller mail at a lower rate of $0.39 per piece, making it a cost-effective, yet still impactful alternative.

Important Requirements to Keep in Mind

Each type of mail carries specific guidelines for postage requirements.

To qualify for marketing mail postage rates, USPS mandates a minimum of 200 pieces, though aiming for 250 allows for addressing inaccuracies and duplicates. Additionally, each piece can weigh up to three ounces before added postage fees are incurred.

For non-profit organizations, obtaining non-profit postage pricing needs registration and acquisition of a corresponding classification code from the postal service.

Finally, first-class presort pricing requires a minimum of 500 pieces, although we recommend 550 to accommodate inaccuracies, with each piece allowed to weigh up to three and a half ounces before incurring added fees.

Final Thoughts

Mastering the art of postage and cost-saving strategies can make or break your direct mail campaigns. By understanding the nuances of each postage choice and collaborating with direct mail experts like Strata to implement strategic approaches to timing and cost management, you can unlock the full potential of your campaigns and achieve impactful, performance-driven results.

Looking to strategize your next direct mail campaign and select postage options that work best with your goals? Contact us today to connect with an expert.

What You Need to Know

Unless you’re within the marketing world and have been for decades (like us), you may not be super knowledgeable about all the different ins and outs of marketing. That said, you may have heard the term “execution and production”, or “execution” separately from “production”, thrown around, but may not know what they really are, what they mean, and what they can do for your company. We’re here to catch you up – quickly – with this short read.

What is Marketing Execution and Production?

Marketing Execution Services

Generally, marketing execution usually involves the actual practice of executing marketing tools, communication, and materials. It’s a wide-ranged phrase that can mean a lot of things, so when you’re told by a company that they offer “marketing execution” – definitely look into or ask about the details.

These marketing tools, communication, and materials can span from print to digital, and all that’s in between. Digital execution can mean email marketing, website marketing, advertising, print, and so on, while print execution can involve print marketing design, printing, applying, fulfillment, warehousing, and more.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to marketing execution–which is how we’ve always seen it. For Strata, marketing execution involves research, data, design, mailing, application, fulfillment, and warehousing. We also have capabilities to provide digital and print strategy and campaign development as well as workflow. And, we offer things like digital and print combination marketing, multichannel marketing, data-driven marketing, and so on. From a $1 million dollar marketing budget, to a $5k marketing budget, we work with our clients to tailor the right marketing campaign to hit their desired targets quickly and efficiently. Execution is different for every marketing company and works differently to solve every customer’s specific pain-points to fulfill their marketing needs.

Execution of print marketing materials – more specifically mail, could be the implementation of a larger mailing sent by bulk and mass mail, or could be a smaller mailing. Bulk mail can also involve optimized data, postage, and mail-based campaigns, and can use variable data as well, if the campaign calls for it. If execution includes bulk-mailing logistics, this means your provider is knowledgeable of speed to market and in-home dates. And, if data optimization is a part of it, you’ll have access to data services, automation, logistics, and more.

Marketing Production Services

Production is a bit different in that it’s more about the physical creation of marketing services. Usually, marketing production refers to the printing and mailing of marketing materials. It can involve digital printing, large format printing, offset-printing, high-volume printing, variable data printing, ultra-personalized printing, and more, depending on the company you work with.

If these services are all found in-house, this can save you a lot of time, money, and hassle when getting marketing pieces printed. Here’s some information on these various types of printing:

  • Digital Printing: Usually printed on HP Indigos, digital printing is high quality (and is known for using ink rather than toner)
  • Offset Printing: Used for high volume, high-speed projects. Has high accuracy, longevity, and is great for bigger jobs
  • Large-format Printing/Digital Cutting: Used for more immersive, possibly in-store experiences such as wall art, decals, or timelines

Strata has the following printers, used for the various needs of our customers:

  • Xante and Oki Envelope Printers: Used to print full color on envelopes
  • Kirk Rudy High-Speed Inkjet Printers: Print the addresses on envelopes
  • Canon/Oce Black and White Digital Printers: Production printers for black and white pieces
  • Indigo Printers: Production printers for color pieces, prints variable on demand from 15 pieces to 15k pieces
  • Ryobi 2 Color Offset Press: Can print sheets up to 13in x 19in
  • AB Dick 2 Color Press: Can print sheets up to 12in x 18in
  • Shinohara 6 Color Press: Can print sheets up to 23in x 29in, has the highest color quality
  • HP Latex R2000: Prints large format work on roll-fed material (posters, static clings, etc.) or flat-sheet material (such as signage)

Both Combined

When both execution and production are combined, especially within one marketing partner company, this can make for excellent marketing. It provides all-inclusive strategy, execution, and production – leading to ultimate marketing success through consistency yet improvements over time.

What Can They Do for Your Business?

There are a ton of stats out there about both production and execution success for marketing. Here are just a few:

  • 79% of households say they read or scan direct mail ads
  • 56% of customers find print marketing to be the most trustworthy type of marketing
  • 39% of customers say they try a business for the first time because of direct-mail advertising
  • 92% of young shoppers say they prefer direct mail for making purchase decisions
  • In the Print Advertising segment, the number of readers is expected to amount to 63.5m users by 2026
  • Nearly 80% of consumers act on directly printed mail advertisements compared to 45% of consumers that act on electronic advertisements (Potochny, 2017)

Depending on your partner – whether execution or production – or both, marketing execution and production can do a ton for your small or large business.To see some of our production & execution successes, visit our case studies page, here.

Interested in learning more or using Strata’s marketing execution and production services? Contact us.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

You may or may not have heard about the recent postage update from USPS. If you haven’t, we’ll fill you in. The new maximum size for mailing First-Class mail postcards has increased from 4 ¼” x 6” to 6” x 9”. This means you can now send postcards as large as 6” x 9” at the postcard rate of $0.40. But – before you get excited, let’s dig a little deeper into this. As experts in the mailing industry, we’ll help you decide whether or not you should be taking advantage of this change, or if you should continue business as usual.

The USPS Update: The Facts

You may or may not have heard about the recent postage update from USPS. If you haven’t, we’ll fill you in. The new maximum size for mailing first-class postcards has increased from 4 ¼” x 6” to 6” x 9”. This means you can now send postcards as large as 6” x 9” at the first-class postcard rate of $0.40, 30% less than before the change! But – before you get excited, let’s dig a little deeper into this. As experts in the mailing industry, we’ll help you decide whether or not you should be taking advantage of this change, or if you should continue business as usual. 

The $0.40 per postcard price is the price you pay for simply dropping a card in the mail (no sorting necessary). However, if your quantity of cards exceeds 500, you’ll save more if you sort your cards. Why? Because the post office gives you a discount for doing some of the work for them. For first-class presort, you’ll pay between $0.30 and $0.35 per postcard, depending on how your mail sorts. The higher the density, the lower the price. 

You sort standard-class (bulk) mail the same way you sort first-class mail – and if you do, the cost for the same 6” x 9” postcard will run between $0.245 and $0.31. Again, the cost heavily depends on the density of your distribution. For instance, if you’re sending 500 postcards to one neighborhood, it will cost less than sending 500 postcards to several different areas around the country. 

Sorting your mailings and sending them standard-class will save you an additional 15% over the comparable first-class rate, a substantial amount for any large mailing. 

So, what does this all really mean for you, and what is the best choice for your mailing? 

The Perks & Problems of First-Class Mailing

So, here’s the “perks” of first-class mailing. With first-class, you can send impactful postcard mailings at an affordable price – to anywhere. There’s no 500-piece minimum, and there’s a 30% discount on regular first-class mail. You’ll know exactly what your postage rate is going to be at – $0.40 each. 

Quantities larger than 500 can be sorted and will likely get to your regional audience faster than they would with standard-class mail. You’ll pay roughly a 15% premium over the cost of standard mail to do so. 

With that said, the post office has yet to fully recover from issues related to the pandemic. Although we’re hopeful this will change over time and that it will return to its prior state, the possibilities are always in flux. Without knowing when things will return to “normal”, it’s hard to depend on mailing delivery times. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve experienced delivery time issues with first-class mail. For this reason, we’re recommending a “wait and see” approach with the post office as it applies to estimating delivery dates. 

Counter intuitively, for a company whose in-home date is important – the idea of first-class can be a bit of a trap, and even more so with pre-sorted first-class. The post office will often handle it in the same way as pre-sort standard-class. If in-home dates are important to your campaign and your mailing is large, then there are better ways to get more predictable in-home delivery and save money. 

Our Alternative

Since we’ve found some pitfalls in this new update – we’d like to share a little about Strata’s tools and tactics. For large mailings, we’re able to use standard-class mail and predict the delivery date plus or minus one day, in most cases. How? After years of experience, we’ve come to use alternative methods and have taken out several variables. These methods are not allowed by the USPS for first-class mail – only for standard-class mail. Therefore, most of our customers are better off sticking to standard. 

We don’t see us ever recommending this new program for large mailings. Standard mail will always cost at least 15% less, allows you to send many mail formats including even larger than 6” x 9” sized postcards for the same postage, and provides in-home date that will always be more predictable when using our methods. 

Conclusion

If you’re a local company and want to send out mailings in your region or have quantities of less than 500 – this sizing and pricing update is something you may want to take advantage of. 

If your in-home dates are somewhat less critical and you’re mailing regionally, then you may be able to get faster service at a somewhat higher postal rate and, again, may want to try this program. 

If you have non-critical in-home dates and your mailings are at quantities of more than 500, standard-class is always going to be less expensive, and you won’t see much difference in delivery times. 

For large mailings, first-class is less predictable and more expensive than optimized standard mail. Strata has standard down to a science for these bigger quantities. In all cases, standard service will still save you at least 15% and will provide you the option to send even larger cards and mail formats at the same rate. 

Consider this guidance when you’re thinking about taking advantage of this update in USPS services and deciding if it’s right for you. 

Interested in working with Strata to ensure your mailers get in-home when you expect them to? Give us a call.