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One of the most common questions we get from our clients is about direct mail classifications: What are they, and which one is best for my mailing? In this article, we’ll give you a high-level overview of the four main types, their pricing and delivery timetables and when it’s best to use each one. We’ll also explain why working with an experienced mailing house is a must.

First class mailing

What is it? First class is the “Cadillac” of mailing services. For 55 cents per piece (using a stamp) or 50 cents (using an indicia), the U.S. Postal Service guarantees it will process your mailing within two days. Your letters or printed pieces will arrive at their destinations in two to five days.

When should you use it? First class mailing gives you the ability to have your messages quickly and reliably delivered in a few days. This is ideal for time-sensitive communications, such as event reminders, that must arrive within a certain window of time.

Pre-sorted first class

What is it? Pre-sorted first class mail drops the postage cost to $0.425 per piece, for a minimum quantity of 500. This type of mailing is typically delivered to homes and businesses within three to seven days.

When should you use it? When you have a larger mailing and cost is a factor, pre-sorted first class is economical compared to regular first class.

Standard mailing

What is it? Also referred to as bulk mail, standard mail can save for-profit companies about 30 cents per piece compared to first class pre-sort postage. Non-profits can save even more. To qualify for these discounts, companies must follow specific sorting, tagging and paperwork procedures. Because it’s a lower priority type of mail, the postal service typically takes one week to process standard mailings. They are then delivered in five to 14 days.

When should you use it? If cost is an issue, standard mailing can save you a lot of money. The trade-off is timing; standard mail takes much longer to arrive than first-class mail. If your communications aren’t time-sensitive, it may not matter when your audience receives it. That’s when standard mail can really pay off.

Non-profit mailing

What is it? The U.S. Postal Service gives significant discounts to non-profit organizations. Letters and other flat pieces can be mailed for as little as $0.18 each. A non-profit status from the IRS does not automatically qualify you to mail at non-profit prices. Your local Business Mail Entry Unit (BMEU) office – the department of the U.S. Postal Service that handles all bulk mailings – can assist in that determination.

When should you use it? Non-profit mailings are standard mailings at a preferred price. That means they have similar processing and mailing times compared to standard mailings.

Why you need a mailing partner

U.S. Postal Regulations are complex and change frequently. A mailing partner can save you countless hours of time and a lot of frustration by keeping up with these changes and all the obscure nuances of the U.S. Postal Service for you.

Having a solid relationship with the local Business Mail Entry Unit at the local Post Office is also critically important. It can make the difference between smoothly-managed mailings and painful and often costly delays.

A reputable printer and mailing house can:

  • Help you develop a production timetable that allows adequate time for printing, sorting and preparation for mailing, USPS processing time and delivery to your target audience,
  • Process your mailing list through the National Change of Address registry, to remove any undeliverable addresses,
  • Ensure that all your mailers are sorted and binned according to postal regulations and that all the paperwork is in order. Some BMEUs can be quite strict about bulk mailings – even arbitrary at times. A solid relationship can help you work through these issues faster.
  • Work with the local BMEU office to ensure that any specially folded or glued pieces meet all postal regulations – before you go to print with them. We’ve even had postal shift supervisors sign off on prototype mailers to ensure they won’t be rejected when the actual printed pieces are delivered.

Don’t go it alone

Contact Heritage Printing today to discuss your mailing needs. We’ll make you look good!


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