10 Common Mistakes in Mail Piece Design

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

What they are and how to avoid them

Millions of dollars are spent on mail to customers and prospects each year. Yet nearly 6.6 billion mail pieces were undeliverable in 2016* and most of it was avoidable. In addition, a significant portion of delivered pieces did not take advantage of available discounted rates. That begs the question… why pay for mail that doesn’t reach its destination or costs more than necessary?

You can avoid most of these costs by understanding the USPS mail design requirements. Some deliverability issues can also be avoided through address correction but that’s a topic for another post.

Fact...
If you don’t follow the USPS’ mail design requirements, you’ll either pay more for postage or your mail will not be delivered.

 

Because understanding USPS requirements will keep you from throwing away your mailing dollars, we prepared a summary to help you avoid common pitfalls. For those who want to dig into the nitty gritty, you can read a detailed USPS report here.

  1. Not meeting minimum mailing dimensions
    Minimum size of any mail piece is 3.5″ x 5″. Anything smaller is considered unmailable by the Post Office.
  2.  

  3. Dark/Black background color on mail pieces
    Dark and black backgrounds should not be used because addresses and barcodes can’t be read by USPS automation equipment. Even dark borders or edges can affect processing and are
    not recommended for mail pieces.
  4.  

  5. Screening/Imaging
    Show-through from the envelope lining (e.g., a security tint) or from an insert that is visible in the addressing area can impact whether barcodes can be read by automation
    equipment.
  6.  

  7. Placement of return address on Letters and Flats
    The return address on a letter-size piece should not appear in the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Read Area, but be placed above 2-3/4” from the bottom of the mail piece (green area on the example) and extend no more than half the length of the envelope.
  8.  
     

  9. Text or graphics in the Barcode Clear Zone
    The Barcode Clear Zone extends 4-3/4” from the right edge and 5/8” from the bottom edge of the envelope. This is where the USPS places its automation barcode. There should be no printed numbers, text or graphics in this area to interfere with scanning equipment.
  10.  

  11. Postcard design
    Postcards must fall within the following dimensions:

    • Minimum: 3.5″ x 5″
    • Maximum: 4.5″ x 6″

    Vertical and horizontal formatting requirements apply. More details

  12.  

  13. Insert shift
    The complete address and/or barcode must be fully displayed at all times, even if contents shift. There must be a minimum of 1/8″ space on either side of the barcode and address within a window.
    There are a number of requirements/restrictions on placement of the barcode in an address.
    More details
  14.  

  15. Folded self-mailer construction
    Self-mailers are just that – they are self-contained and mail without an envelope. Gatefolds, Accordion and Z-fold are non-machineable and qualify for discounted pricing.
    Additional guidelines for self-mailers are outlined in the detailed information or in the USPS DMM, Section 201.3.14,
    which can be viewed on the USPS Website.


Two additional mistakes are difficult to summarize briefly in the space of this blog:

  • 9. Address placement on Flats
  •  

  • 10.Requesting uniquely assigned Business Reply Mail (BRM)Zip+4 codes

You can find information on these two topics in the complete report.

Becoming familiar with the design requirements of the USPS is vital to ensuring your mail can be delivered and automation discounts are applied. Having the right equipment and processing tools to meet mailing standards is critical. Check out our addressers, mail machines, folder/inserters and document processing options for more information.

If you need help, contact us at 303-761-0681 or the USPS MDA Support Center at 855-593-6093.

*USPS UAA Rollup 1998-2016

How to improve customer communications and reduce costs

By Paul Johnson, President Complete Mailing Solutions


Are the number and type of documents you need to send to your customers growing? Are you pressured to do more with the same or fewer resources without compromising quality? Would you like to improve the customer experience while reducing costs and increasing efficiency?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then a communications management solution is worth considering. The key components of an effective communications management system are: 1) communications management software, 2) folder inserter(s) and 3) address validation software. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the role and functionality of communications management software and provide a case study with hard data on the results one organization achieved by implementing a communications management solution.

Communications Management Software

This software is at the core of the solution, the brains, if you will. Communications management software electronically gathers documents such as invoices, statements and reports from a variety of sources (billing, ERP, CRM system, etc.), processes them (more on this in a moment) and routes them to the appropriate communications channel including email, mail, web portal or fax.
linked communications
An example of this type of software – Neopost’s OMS-500 – provides centralized administration and distribution of documents from different departments (in different locations if desired) to be custom-processed and routed through the appropriate communications channels for each document. OMS-500 opens up a whole new world of possibilities in the way that you communicate with customers (or others you send documents to).

What are the results of communications processes optimized with OMS-500?

  • Time & Cost savings
    • Multiple documents can be consolidated into single, rather multiple emails, envelopes or faxes
    • Paper documents don’t require manual sorting, folding, etc.
    • Documents sent via USPS® mail receive the lowest rates
  • Improved Accuracy & Confidentiality
    • Recipients never receive documents not intended for them… thereby increasing security and reducing compliance and privacy risks
    • Bad addresses are corrected prior to mailing
  • Improved Customer Relations
    • Customers can choose how to receive communication: email, mail, web portal or fax
    • Documents are appealing and easy for customers to understand
    • Bills can contain personalized messages or offers/promotions

 


To read about a real-world scenario, check out this case study on how Seattle Children’s hospital uses a communications management solution to get the following results:

  • 88% reduction in labor costs.
  • Improved job satisfaction for employees doing the work.
  • Ability to re-assign existing staff to higher-value and more fulfilling tasks.
  • Improved data quality and deliverability of mail.
  • Improved mail handling including grouping documents by recipient instead of sending multiple documents per recipient.
  • Postage savings achieved from combining reports for the same recipient.

For more details on OMS-500 software you can download a brochure here or watch a video on OMS-500 here.

How Much Money Are You Wasting?

By Paul Johnson, President Complete Mailing Solutions

Oh, the humble folder/inserter. No one gives it much thought. However, it’s an unsung hero for saving both time and money for your organization.
Are you:

roi-up

  • Pulling staff from day-to-day tasks to help stuff envelopes, causing delays in other projects?
  • Paying for temps to help process statements or mailings so your staff can stay focused on their work?
  • Processing multiple page invoices or statements manually?


On average, an office worker can manually stuff 2 inserts in about 95 envelopes per hour, compared with a minimum of 1,350 envelopes on an entry-level machine, or up to 12,000 envelopes on more sophisticated models. Matching, folding and inserting multiple pages by hand reduces that average exponentially.

Old school thinking says: “Employees are at work for 8 hours anyway, so what does it matter?”
Progressive thinking asks: “How can we maximize our employee’s time and profitability?”

Utilizing the right tools can:

  • Improve employee morale –tedious, disruptive projects can increase frustration
  • Increase accuracy – reduce error rates inherent in manual processing
  • Improve timeliness of communications – missed deadlines can result in revenue delays
  • Maximize communications – seasonal volume and #/type of inserts are easily accommodated
  • Impact customer satisfaction – prompt communications lead to greater customer satisfaction


A folder/inserter, working in tandem with output management software, provides greater flexibility, accuracy, cost-efficiency and timeliness when sending communications to your customers. The need to handle communications with varying number of inserts manually is a thing of the past. Technology adapts automatically, so you can tailor communications to specific customer groups on the fly.

Want to quickly identify areas for potential cost savings and productivity improvement? Check out our Labor Cost Comparison to better understand the savings available with a folder/inserter. It includes an ROI Calculator to help you determine specifically how much you can save.

How have you improved profitability in your company? Share your experience with us!