Mail is a core aspect to an organization’s daily operations. For some businesses, it is essential for invoicing and direct marketing efforts. Small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) range in size from one to 500 employees, and mail requirements are across the board. It’s usually not the size of a business, but instead the nature that determines outgoing mail requirements.
Mailing solutions and services are available through a variety of vendors. The list of options is overwhelming, from simple postage meters to folders, tabbers, and complete mailing systems. Additionally, list verification and management software help businesses reduce return mail and save money. When evaluating your business’ mail requirements, think about the organization’s goals and how advanced mailing systems could benefit or improve current processes.
Direct mail marketing is popular among small businesses. While it took a hit in the past few years, it is expected to rise once again. Zoomerang, in partnership with GrowBiz media, surveyed over 500 businesses’ 2010 marketing budgets and 2011 projections and found direct mail among the top five budget allocation areas.
Metering to Mailing Systems
To operate an effective mailroom, evaluate current and potential mailing needs. Beginning at basic metering systems all the way through to multifunction addressing solutions, efficiency and cost savings are the name of the game. Postage makes up a significant portion of an organization’s operating costs. To help alleviate this, automated mailing equipment helps users achieve postal discounts for bulk and properly prepared mail.
Postage Meters are only available from United States Postal Service (USPS) authorized providers, which include Data-Pac Mailing Systems Corp., FP Mailing Solutions, Hasler, Inc., Neopost USA Inc., and Pitney Bowes Inc. Although the same meters can be used for all mail, there are different conditions for bulk mail. It requires a permit and the application of special markings applied using the meter.
If bulk mail is a consistent task, the inclusion of a folder, inserter, or combination of the two is a smart investment.
FP Mailing Solutions offers the FPi-5500 folding and inserting equipment series. The solution features a full-color adjustable touch screen and fills up to 4,000 envelopes per hour.
Neopost offers the DS-1200 high-volume inserting system, which offers mailroom managers the ability to produce up to 12,000 envelopes per hour. The device features a high-capacity sheet feeder and a vertical envelope reception stacker.
Martin Yale Industries, Inc. offers is 1812 Variable Speed AutoFolder, which fills the gap between desktop and high-end folders. Its variable speed allows for versatile job options.
Addressing solutions also help save time and provide a professional looking mailpiece. Hasler offers the HJ510C entry-level address printer, which is designed to produce full process photo-quality color for high-impact, low-volume mailings. The device prints postcards, envelopes, flats, and documents in a single pass.
Pitney Bowes provides the DA95f AddressRight envelope printer. It produces up to 30,000 mail pieces per hour and offers spot color to help grab the attention of recipients.
New innovations are on the horizon. Connectivity is the wave of the future. The latest mailing devices utilize innovative touch screens and application-based functionality to provide mailers with the ability to access additional services.
Data-Pac offers its Advance Curve Intelligent Envelope Processing System with an optical character recognition camera that reads addresses at speeds of up to 6,000 per hour. As the Advanced Curve reads addresses, it processes for CASS, MASS, and completes address corrections. The system calculates the zip plus 4 plus 2 and then sprays the intelligent mail barcode on the bottom of the envelope. This process qualifies customers for the letter mixed AADC rate, equating to a 5.8 cent per piece discount.
Last year, Pitney Bowes introduced the Connect+ series, which offers Web- and application-based software architecture and features an intuitive color touch-screen display with graphic icons that provide instant online access to numerous mailing, printing, and reporting applications. Customers are able to access accounts online to order supplies, download graphics, place service calls, visit USPS Web sites, track parcels, and access presort services.
The Connect+ 2000 is designed for the mid- to high-capacity mailroom. It is simple to learn and operate due to a touch-screen user interface and application-based navigation. Optional black and process color printing modules simultaneously print marketing messages and postage indicia. The Connect+ 2000 also enables users to download software updates, send reports, check postage rates, and get support directly from the machine.
Neopost provides mailing systems designed for home office to production mail facilities. They include a modern design and intuitive features that expand as mailing needs change. All Neopost IS series mailing systems feature the Neopost iMeter postage meter. Through a series of standard and optional applications, users are able to further expand the systems functionality.
Leasing is a popular method of payment for mailing equipment. With constant technology innovations and changes in the mail space, this type of purchase makes it easy to upgrade as needs change. The popularity of leasing versus purchasing mailing systems is partially due to the fact that federal law restricts users from actually buying metering equipment, they are only leased or rented through authorized dealers.
According to the USPS, postage meters and PC postage products are collectively identified as postage evidencing systems. A postage evidencing system is a device or system of components used to print evidence that postage was paid. Postage evidencing systems print indicia, such as meter imprints or information-based indicia, to indicate postage payment. Mailers print indicia directly on a mailpiece or on a label that is affixed to a mailpiece.
As noted, leasing is a popular form of financing. According to Neopost, one out of every three dollars of financed capital expenditures in the U.S. is leased and 80 percent of all U.S. companies lease at least part of their equipment inventory. Hasler claims that 85 percent of its customers choose to lease their selected products. The company credits this statistic to the benefits leasing offers in terms of leveraging technology while providing a simplified, fixed-rate financing and cash flow forecasting. The company offers a lease-to-buy option by allowing customers to pay the amount specified in the terms of the lease when it ends.
Neopost offers its MailFinance leasing program. In addition to offering special programs, promotions, and incentives, MailFinance combines hardware, software, services, and meter rental into one payment. As a leasing company dedicated to the mailing, shipping, and document handling industry, MailFinance offers customers the flexibility to take advantage of advanced equipment and systems. The company also ensures its customers have the ability to stay in complete compliance with USPS regulations.
Other mailroom equipment vendors offer similar programs, as well as rental contracts. It is smart to obtain multiple quotes and ask about equipment replacement costs in case business needs change. Mailing equipment suppliers are adept at helping customers decide which solutions are best suited for current and future needs and are a great resource throughout the purchasing process.
Boosting Direct Mail Efforts
Crews Chevrolet and Subaru, a Charleston, SC-based car dealership with 110 employees, celebrates a six year relationship with its mailing systems provider, Pitney Bowes. The incorporation of a folder/inserter and a postage meter enabled the company to drastically reduce its direct mail outsourcing, while simultaneously improving the time-to-mailbox of time sensitive and highly competitive promotions. The dealership processes approximately 25,000 direct mail pieces a month, and expects to almost double that number for Spring promotions.
In 2010, Crews’ equipment lease with Pitney Bowes was coming to an end. This coincided with the introduction of the company’s TransPromo desktop solution, Connect+. The dealership decided to lease the device and installed it in Fall 2010. Ken French, marketing and events manager, Crews, was a little intimated by the machine when it first arrived at the dealership. However, he quickly found it to be a user-friendly piece of equipment once he began to utilize its capability to produce full-color messaging outside of direct mail envelopes. It is easier to control cost because they are not wasting unused envelopes and spending money for advanced printing. The new Pitney Bowes folder/inserter provides additional production efficiency.
French is making great use of the Connect+’s ability to transform blank envelopes into marketing pieces. “We put different messaging on the exterior of the envelopes,” says French. Crews is able to use the same marketing tactics as major direct mailers with simple mail-merge software with its in-house mail equipment. For example, they’ve prompted people to open up their mail with outside messaging such as; “look inside and find out how to win a new car” or “get zero percent financing for 72 months.” The dealership also holds lucky number campaigns where recipients are teased on the outside of the envelope to open and find out if a number found on the inside matches the one posted at the dealership.
French appreciates the ability to create up to 4,000 pieces a day, in house, and on his own terms. “Since using Connect+, we’ve had people to come in and say ‘normally I throw this stuff away but I was curious because of the outside of the envelope,’” he explains.
The envelope messaging capabilities of the Connect+ are so effective that the dealership began accepting orders from organizations that wanted to produce similar campaigns. By slightly marking up the approximate $.40 it costs to produce each mailpiece, he was able to generate an additional revenue stream that covers the cost of the machine’s lease.
Times are hard, but French is optimistic about resurgence and is well poised for the upcoming buying season with the help of the Connect+. He is adamant about maintaining a consistent direct mail strategy to help brand the dealership.
ConnectiCare offers a full range of health insurance products, including health savings accounts and individual insurance. Established in 1981, it serves more than 240,000 individuals in CT and MA. The company relies on mail to communicate to its members. Processing up to 2,200 pieces per day, it recognized the need for advanced mailing equipment to stay on top of its workload.
At the end of an equipment lease, the company contacted The Carrington Company, a Neopost dealer, to add a Neopost mailing system, shipping system, and in-bound tracking system at two of ConnectiCare’s locations.
Following an assessment, ConnectiCare added several solutions. For hardware, the company installed two Neopost IJ-110/DS/WJ70 consoles, which process up to 250 letters per minute and track postal costs for up to 500 departments; a DS-86 folder inserter to automate the folding and inserting process; and an AS-990 address printer with Bulk Mailer software from Satori Software, Inc., which enables professional addressing and machine-readable barcodes fully compatible with the USPS reading systems. Mailing accounting software was implemented to help control the company’s postal expenses and provide direct access to mail accounting data. Finally, friendShip Navigator, a multi-carrier outbound parcel shipping system and mail processing solution from Neopost allows ConnectiCare to rate, ship, and track all outgoing non-letter parcels and assign the cost back to individual cost centers.
Installing Neopost mailing solutions had a positive affect on the company’s bottom line and operating efficiency. ConnectiCare was able to achieve a dramatic improvement in productivity and a significant increase in overall cost savings.
Every dollar is critical. Postage costs add up, and time spent stuffing and addressing envelopes could be better spent growing an organization. When evaluating your mailroom, it is important to consider the type of mail your company currently produces, and if any additional mail efforts will be introduced in the near future.