Small Business: Targeting mailers to save on postage

Should the price of postage rise in 2014,

Should the price of postage rise in 2014, as the U.S. Postal Service is proposing, small business owners must be ready to make careful decisions on how to spend on mailed materials, experts say. (Credit: Getty Images, 2009)

Jamie Herzlich

Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

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The U.S. Postal Service is proposing price increases next year including a three-cent hike in first-class stamps to 49 cents, the largest increase since 2002.

The news comes on the heels of the Postal Service's recording a nearly $16-billion loss last year and expectations that it will end this fiscal year with a roughly $6-billion loss.

The increases could put a crimp in the budgets of companies that do a lot of direct-mail marketing, requiring them to become more focused and targeted in their approach, say experts.

"It requires strategic planning," says Peter Stein, president of the Direct Marketing Association of Long Island in Bohemia and director of business development for the New York region for Rees Associates, a Des Moines, Iowa-based mailing services firm. "We tell clients to mail smarter."

This includes targeting your audience better so that you're sending the right message to the right people, he says.

No room for waste

There should be no wasted mailers, says Greg Demetriou, president of Lorraine Gregory Corp., a Farmingdale-based marketing communications company.

Budgets are tight, and the proposed increases are another "roadblock to some people that want to use the mail," he says. While the Web and email marketing side of his business has grown, the firm has seen a 20 percent drop in postal mail volume since 2010. Demetriou attributes the decline to postage increases, the economy and the Internet.

But the USPS says the increases, which would take effect Jan. 26 if approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, are necessary.

"First-class mail is declining rapidly," explains USPS spokeswoman Christine Dugas.

She says the Postal Service works with customers "to provide them the best, most cost-effective way to mail." Various business offerings can be found at usps.com by clicking on the business solutions tab.

One popular program is Every Door Direct Mail, which allows businesses to target a specific geographic area for up to 5,000 pieces of mail and receive a discounted rate of about 14 cents per mailer vs. 46 cents for a first-class stamp, says Dugas.

It's targeted, you don't need a mailing list, and it doesn't require sorting or pre-addressing mailers -- all of which reduce costs, she notes.

"It really does help," says Philip Cherian, owner of Jericho Pharmacy in Syosset, which uses EDDM. Last year, he distributed more than 40,000 postcard mailers within a one- to two-mile radius of his store, he says, noting any savings make a difference.

Sort to save

Presorting mail can also result in savings, says Joseph Crook, vice president at Star Communications, a Hauppauge-based marketing communications firm with a full-service printing plant.

By presorting, he says Star Communications can get clients' costs as low as 36 cents on first-class mail, or as low as 14.6 cents for standard mail.

Marketers should keep clean, up-to-date mailing lists to avoid sending wasted mailers, Crook advises.

You may also want to use a multichannel approach, including the available online platforms to enhance any direct- mail efforts, says Demetriou.

Concerned about rising postage costs, some groups are already doing this.

"We have taken steps in the past to assess and reduce the number of direct mailers we distribute and increase our usage of email and social media," says Terri Alessi-Miceli, president of the Hauppauge Industrial Association-Long Island.

The HIA "will closely watch this latest proposed postage increase and respond by using smart suggestions from our mailing vendors" to control the cost of the mailings it continues to send, she said.