I need some bulk-mailing tips
September 5, 2011 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I plan to mail 4,500 postcards to a different group of customers every day. And I want to do the majority of the work myself. Can you help me to master bulk-mailing?

Let me explain below the different steps I see in the process (I was really surprised there was no how-to guide for this on the internet!), and perhaps you can give me recommendations as to how to improve the process. I have already decided I want to do this myself for the experience, so comments referring me to a good mailing house will not be helpful.

Step 1: Obtain a permit to use a postal-imprint so I can avoid having to manually put postage on each post card. Should cost around $175, then another $175 in annual fees for mailing.

Step 2: I plan to have thousands of postcards preprinted (including the postal imprint) from PsPrint. I will use their 14pt. C1S Gloss cover stock for the postcards because the front is glossy and the back is matte and printable. (If you have any suggestions for other / better or cheaper printing houses, please let me know). I will store the extra cards and use them as needed.

Step 3: I need to obtain software to CASS-process my addresses, print the addresses on the postcards, print the postal barcode, and also print out the postcards in presorted order to save on postage. I am currently looking at DAZzle Express made by Endicia. It costs about $300, but I can't find any reviews of it online, and there isn't much info about it on their web site. If you have any other recommendations for other software that is cheaper or better, please let me know. Remember it needs to cass-certify the addresses (I have them as an excel file), print the addresses and postal barcode, and print them out in presorted order.

Step 4: I need a printer to print addresses on the postcards, which is able to feed a large amount of 4x6 cards without any problems. I would prefer a consumer level laser printer (although I heard laser might have trouble with the gloss on the postcards due to the heat used in the printer it might gunk up the printer) or inkjet printer if possible because of the cost savings. My impression is none are really designed to feed that kind of quantity of postcards, and even if they do, they might curl the post cards or have other drawbacks.

For that reason I have been looking at the Secap SA3000 Address Printer, which is around $4,000-$5,000. I think that is kind of crazy expensive for a silly specialized inkjet printer, but it is what it is. I have a Canon Pixma 3500 sitting new in the box that I might try to use, but I don't know if it will reliably feed and reliably handle that kind of volume. I also have a Samsung ML-2010, but I think that will only feed cards one at a time which is kind of worthless at this volume.

So the main things I am looking for are suggestions for which printing house to use, which software to use, and for the printer I need to make this all work.
posted by banished to Technology (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here on Metafilter I got the recommendation of Forest Printing in Illinois, for printing my bulk mail pieces. Google them. They're amazingly good. I do everything by email with them, and have had no problems.
posted by jayder at 3:37 PM on September 5, 2011

I used to work for a small design firm/printer that did large mailings. I didn't really work on that side of the business so I can't help much with specific equipment or software recommendations. I can tell you that it's a very labor intensive process and a lot of large volume mailers find it much easier to use a mailing house to do all of this for you. You give them the cards and address list and they do the rest.

I do remember that the tricky part in the workflow was addressing the cards as quickly and legibly as possible, then having a capable person to bundle the cards in zip code batches for the PO. My recommendation is that if you're willing to drop 5k on a printer, at least look at the mailing house option. If you do it yourself, expect to spend a lot of time managing the process. You will need a specialized address printer to pull off the volume you're talking about. Good luck!
posted by Mcable at 3:40 PM on September 5, 2011

I made good experiences with Next Day Flyers. Very competitive pricing.

It is my understanding that they could mail the stuff for you but I have not used this service from them.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:43 PM on September 5, 2011

Your CASS software will tell you which trays and bundles need to be separated out and labeled. I recommend MyPostageRateSaver, which while clunkily named gets the job done. If you plan on getting the barcoded rate, you'll need to buy the more expensive version.

If you have sufficient density and want to use the carrier route rate, you'll need to pay for extra software and sortation becomes more exacting It may not be worth it to you if you are trying to do this by hand. Otherwise, automation mailings (with the barcodes) or machinable (no barcodes) are easy to sort once you get the hang of it.

You'll be mailing different people each day. I have no idea what sort of list you have, but if you can keep them within the same zip codes and 3-digit areas each day, you'll save money. You might also get an entry discount for local mail if you get your permit at your local SCF (the big sorting facility) instead of your corner post office.

What is your list like? Heavily concentrated in neighborhoods, scattered across the state?

4,500 is a lot of headache for one person to do every single day. You will definitely need to invest in an address printer. Your regular printers will not be able to handle the cardstock, and the address printers are much faster than regular printers.

DO NOT USE LABELS. You will be incredibly unhappy with your life sticking 4,500 labels on your postcards every day.

Lastly, you will notice that those mail trays are quite durable and lend themselves to many off-label uses. While using them for purposes other than mail is technically an offense (and this fact is printed on the side), the postal inspector will not come looking for you.

Good luck and have fun!
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 4:44 PM on September 5, 2011

I use Modern Postcard and they have been absolutely fantastic. I actually outsource the mailing to them (seeding my address into the list to monitor arrival time) and they've been great. Of course, you can have them mail the postcards to you and mail them yourself, too.
posted by Ostara at 6:00 PM on September 5, 2011

I actually worked in a mailing house a long time ago.

I'm sorry but you will not be able to do this with a consumer printer. We had production printers (cheap ones, admittedly) and they would jam at the drop of a hat. Furthermore, you are right to suspect that the glossy finish will make them harder to feed through a machine.

The software you linked to actually seems reasonable (it lists all of the steps and uses the jargon correctly). I've never used it, but at least the the marketing copy is accurate.

Keep in mind that it's not just printing the address that counts. You do actually need to sort them in their appropriate trays, take those trays with accompanying paperwork to the post office bulk rate center and have them weigh and verify your paperwork. If you mess something up they usually just refuse it and make you take it back (or mail it at a higher rate).

I would strongly encourage you to at least get a quote from a few direct-mail companies. Their expertise and streamlined operation can make things much easier and cheaper than doing it on your own.

Two more things:
You seem to be planning to use standard bulk rates, do you know about first-class postcard rate? It's almost as cheap as the best sorted standard rates ($0.29 vs. $0.237) and a heck of a lot less work.

Second the DMM is your friend. If you plan to mail a lot it's a great resource.

Good luck (and seriously mailing outfits can be really affordable!).
posted by oddman at 8:46 PM on September 5, 2011

I work closely with a mailing house, and I'd second oddman's suggestion that this may be more of a journey than you realize. Totally doable, given the right setup, but you'll essentially have a second job. If you're fine with a second, non-income-generating job, I can ask my associate fo some tips for you.


Can you give us a hint as to why you'd rather do it yourself? That may change the nature of the answers considerably.
posted by lekvar at 8:55 PM on September 5, 2011

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