Friday, January 30, 2009

Stamp? Meter? Indicia? A Primer on Postage

Since we seem to have a theme going about envelopes and postage, here's what you need to know about affixing that postage on those envelopes.

There are 3 ways to affix postage. You've got to use one of them to get your piece in the mail. No exceptions. The USPS doesn't take IOU's.

Having said that, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Here's why:

Indicias--that little black box printed directly on an envelope in lieu of a stamp or meter--are hugely popular. They are also the cheapest form of affixing postage as they can be printed on the piece instead of being affixed in another pass later.

But they are not right for every application.

They scream mass mail if you're mailing a letter package. They are impersonal and don't make you feel warm and fuzzy about the person/organization that sent the mail to you.

If, however, you're mailing a postcard, newsletter or "self mailer" then an indicia is clearly the best way to go as affixing a stamp or meter makes you look chintzy and do-it-yourself penny ante. On these types of mailings an indicia makes your mailing look more professional.

All my comments after this point assume you're mailing a letter package, which have different "rules" than postcards, newsletters and self-mailers.

Meters--you know, that Pitney Bowes thingy that's been around for years. Meters are what you would use if you wanted your letter to look like it came from a business.

The USPS has just introduced new meter regulations that allow greater variety in the meter marks--you can even get customized meter marks, for a price.

On an envelope, metered mail gets opened faster than indicia'd mail. So if you were concerned about what postage technology you should use, this would be a consideration.

But wait! It gets even better.

Postage wisdom--and years of actual statistical data--say that Stamps outpull indicias and meters. By "outpull" we mean that tests have shown letters with stamps get opened before metered mail, and metered mail gets opened before indicias. (Remember, these rules do not apply to postcards, newsletters and self-mailers.)

Stamps come in two varieties. Lick 'em stick 'em and pressure sensitive.

Lick 'em and stick 'em stamps are activated by water. This is the technology that your father used to mail his electric bill each month. Newer technology is pressure sensitive or sticky back.

Every class of mail (First, First Class Presort, Standard, Non-Profit) has at least one stamp that is appropriate to that class. So yes, we can mail your job and have a "live" stamp on it.

At any given time, the USPS can have special stamps (think Fat Elvis or Love stamps) that are appropriate for First Class and one or two stamps appropriate for each presorted class.

We could go on an on about hand affixing stamps…using multiple stamps…overprinting stamps with mailer's cancellation marks and any number of other postal strategies that may help your mailing get noticed and opened.

If you want to know more, call us at 703-996-0800 and ask for Ellen.


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Tim Alexander said...

I never really saw how great of a difference having postage machines around could make for the office but after using them for a few months we have seen such big improvements in not only how much we are spending but also our efficiency!

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