Mailing 101

There are a lot of factors involved in putting together an effective direct mail campaign. Below are many of the questions that we receive every day from businesses like yours in the Richmond area. The answers to these questions can be very helpful to you as you plan your campaign. If you find that you have additional questions, do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly customer service professionals. We would be more than happy to help you in any way that we can.

How do I initiate a direct mail campaign? Where should I start?

Define your target audience. Who do I want to mail to? What does my ideal customer look like? What are the demographics that define my ideal customer base? Defining your target audience will help determine the number of mail pieces you want to send out. It will also help determine what kind of mail piece you want to create, i.e., a postcard, a brochure, an enveloped letter , etc… Pose these questions to yourself and look discerningly at the your answers. Also, take a look at your current customer base and decide which are your best customers. Then ask yourself, what are the characteristics of that kind of customer.

In order to do a direct mailing, do I need to go to the Post Office and purchase a bulk-mailing permit?

No. There is no reason for you to spend $450 to get your own mailing permit. You are welcome to use our Presorted Standard or Presorted First Class mailing permits. The only condition to using Commonwealth Mailing’s mailing permits, is that Commonwealth Mailing has to be the organization that prepares and processes your mailing, and presents your mailing at the post office for entry.

What is the minimum number of pieces that required to do a bulk mailing?

The minimum quantity required by the post office for Presorted Standard mailings is 200 mail pieces. The minimum quantity for Presorted First Class is 500 mail pieces. However, if you are sending out a direct mail piece prospecting for new customers, we would recommend that you send out at least 2,500 to 5,000 mail pieces. Sending out only a few hundred direct mail pieces will get little to no response. A small response rate also makes it very difficult to analyze the effectiveness of that particular mail piece.

Does a non-profit organization automatically get to mail at the non-profit postage rates?

No. You need to take appropriate documentation to your local Post Office and apply for a Non-profit mailing permit. The USPS will take your application and decide if you qualify to mail at the Non-profit rates. If you meet their requirements you are then eligible to purchase a Non-Profit Mailing Permit and then you can mail at the special non-profit postage rates.

How do I take advantage of the maximum USPS postage discounts?

Postage discounts come from presorting and pre-barcoding the mail before it is presented at the post office. There’s a prevalent misconception that postage discounts based on the volume of mail sent out at one time. However, postage discounts are not volume based, but are based on how well the mail is pre-sorted and pre-barcoded. The process starts when our data processors Zip+4, Standardize, CASS certify and Move Update your mailing list. Once we’ve scrubbed the data, then we prepare your mailing to make sure it Automation Compatible with the USPS sorting equipment. Once your mail is completely prepared, then it has to go through the process of being inspected by the post office upon entry into the mail stream. The Post Office then determines if your mailing qualifies for the discounted postage rates. Presenting mail that is already pre-sorted and pre-barcoded reduces the work for the Post Office to process your mailing. And in return, they give you reduced postage rates when we present your mail for processing.

What is the difference between Presorted Standard mail and Presorted First Class mail?

The difference between Presorted Standard Mail and Presorted First Class Mail is the amount of the postage paid for each piece, and the level of service the mail piece receives from the Post Office as it travels to its destination. The level of service provided by the Post Office is different between the two classes of mail. For instance, Presorted Standard mail does not get forwarding or return service. If the mail piece is determined to be Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA) by the Post Office, it is disposed of. Standard mail does not get forwarding or return service, whereas First Class Mail does. Standard Mail also moves slower through the mail stream and at a lower priority than Presorted First Class mail. First Class Mail travels on airplanes. Standard Mail travels on trucks. Because Standard Mail travels at a lower priority and gets less services than First Class Mail, it gets much greater postage discounts when the mail is presented at the post office than Presorted First Class mail.

Can I send correspondence mail at the Standard mail or Non-profit mail postage rates?

No. Any mail that has personal details and personal information in it about the person you are mailing it to, for example social security numbers, billing amounts, etc…. cannot travel at the Standard mail or Non-Profit mail postage rates. For instance, a church cannot send out their end of year Statements-of-Giving at the Non-profit postage rates. To preserve privacy and to ensure the mail piece get delivered to the proper person, it is important to send correspondence mail via First Class.

Is it important that I have my mailing list updated, scrubbed for bad addresses, de-duped, and verified before I send out a mass mailing?

Yes. By cleaning up your mailing list before each mailing, removing undeliverable addresses, removing duplicates and bad addresses, you will ultimately have to send fewer pieces of mail. Why pay to send out mail that is going to be deemed UAA (Undeliverable as Addressed)? Standard Mail that is deemed UAA is neither returned or forwarded, it is destroyed by the USPS. It is pointless to keep mailing to and keep paying for, over and over again, for mailing to those addresses which are undeliverable. Also, Standardizing your addresses via CASS Certification and Electronically Move Updating your database improves your overall response rate. When the address is correct it travels directly to its intended recipient in your target audience quickly and accurately. This causes your response rates to improve substantially.

What data processes does Commonwealth Mailing do to my mailing list?

Zip+4 / Address Standardization / Move Update / De-dupe / CASS & PAVE Certification. Once we have your mailing list, the first thing we do is take out all of the duplicated addresses, so that you are only sending one mail piece to each address. Then we Move Update your mailing list to see if the person you are targeting still lives at this address. If they have moved, we can update their address with the new information. Then we Zip+4/CASS certify your mailing list by verifying the delivery address and assigning the nine-digit zip code. This process also “standardizes” the address information , which means the address is rewritten to correctly match the way the post office has that particular address listed in their files. After updating all the mailing list address information, we then pre-sort and pre-barcode your mailing according to USPS regulations so that your direct mail piece is ready to travel straight to the USPS barcode sorting machines. This process is called PAVE Certification.

What does “Move Update” mean?

‘Move Update’ is a term used by the USPS in regard to updating mailing lists with the NCOA (National Change of Address) file maintained by the post office. Every time someone moves they are supposed to fill out a Move Update card with their new address and give it to the post office. The post office then adds this information to their NCOA file. ‘Move Update’ has to be performed on all presorted and discounted mailings presented to the USPS. We are able to provide this service to you while we are preparing your mailing list. The reason the Post Office requires this is to reduce the amount of Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) mail.

What is the easiest and most cost effective way to comply with the USPS “Move Update” requirement?

Electronic “Move Update”. The easiest way to update your mailing list is by doing it electronically with the mailing list database, before the addresses are actually applied to the mail piece. Whenever someone fills out a change of address card, or goes to the USPS Change Of Address web page, a record is generated in the post offices NCOA master database. We can electronically compare the addresses in your mailing list against this NCOA master database. When the new addresses of the people that have moved is located, we can update your mailing list with the new information. “Move Update” is a mandatory requirement for all discounted presorted mailings. Mailers failing to comply with the “Move Update” rules stand to lose their automation discounts on the entire mailing. Here at Commonwealth Mailing, we have effective means to electronically “Move Update” your mailing lists prior to each mailing in order to make sure your mail complies with the USPS Move Update regulations, allowing you to receive the maximum postage discounts.

What is UAA mail?

Mail that is “Undeliverable as Addressed”. There are several factors that lead to a mail piece being undeliverable. Most common being that the mail piece recipient has moved and is no longer at that address.