Changes for Folded Self-Mailers in 2013

The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) published the final regulations for folded self-mailers (FSM’s) and other unenveloped pieces in the December 1, 2011 Federal Register. These final rules take effect on January 5, 2013, so mailers need to make plans to use up remaining stock and to make design changes for affected mailpieces that will mail after the effective date. As part of the changes, the USPS renamed pieces designed to carry discs and expanded the standards that apply to tabs to include folded self-mailers (FSM’s). These new rules do not apply to cards, envelopes, booklet style letters or mailpieces designed to carry discs.

The Changes 
The notice lays out the specifications for the size requirements for FSM’s:

  • Length: A minimum of 5 inches and a maximum of 10 1/2 inches.
  • Height: A minimum of 3 1/2 inches and a maximum of 6 inches.
  • Thickness: A minimum of 0.007 inch; (0.009 inch if the height exceeds 4 1/4 inches or if the length exceeds 6 inches); the maximum thickness is 1/4 inch.
  • Maximum Weight: 3 ounces.
  • Rectangular, with four square corners and parallel opposite sides.
  • Within an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 to 2.5, inclusive (see Domestic Mail Manual 601.1.4).
  • Maximum number of panels, bi-fold, tri-fold and oblongs: 12 for FSM’s constructed of non-newsprint paper 
  • Exception: Quarter folded self-mailers made of a minimum of 100 lb book grade paper may have 4 panels and those made of 55 lb newsprint must have at least 8 panels and may contain up to 24 panels.

The proposals include the definition of a “panel” and lengthy descriptions of permissible fold and panel configurations. The sealing options provided are numerous, including the optimal continuous glue line as well as three or four glue spots, three or four elongated glue lines, and various tabbing options. Many of the options are dependent on the paper basis weight and number of folds or panels. There are also a number of options for other design elements, such as die cuts, perforations, loose enclosures and attachments.

Effective Date
Due to the looming January 5, 2013 effective date, we strongly encourage mailers to review these new regulations and start making plans for any necessary design changes to future mailpieces. Many mailpieces, or components of mailpieces, are designed and prepared months in advance of the actual mailing date and may be kept in stock for remailings. Before you design and order mailpieces for 2013, please review these new rules so that you do not get stuck with additional postage charges or, worse, unmailable pieces.

Further information
For more detailed information on these new rules, comment below or contact us today. 


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Commingle Mail to Save on Postage

Every postal rate increase poses another challenge to direct marketers. Rates rise, and volume falls to offset the increase per piece. Marketers need to increase response rates while mitigating cost increases. One of the greatest challenges is balancing a robust testing program against rising costs for producing and mailing control packages.

Mailers should begin with an evaluation of current packages to ensure opportunities for savings are being realized with all components and processes in the mailing. Commingling may represent dramatic savings opportunities for your program in both cost and time to market.

Postage is not a fixed cost. Our ability to process, sort and transport mail to its destination affects your postage cost. The less the U.S. Postal Service has to handle the mail, the bigger the discount. And mail will arrive faster, letting you focus on in-home dates.

Combining or co-palletizing mail allows for destination entry discounts for drop shipments. Commingling combines programs from multiple mailers into one mailstream, increasing SCF penetration and enhancing the accuracy of test panels since they become part of the control package mailstream. Commingling upgrades your tier qualification and provides destination entry discounts.

Commingling is effective because of USPS requirements to achieve 5-digit discount rates. To qualify, mailers need a minimum of 150 pieces per ZIP code. Commingling improves the chance for ZIP codes to attain the 150-piece threshold. Here’s what happens in a typical mailing:

o 3-cell mailing with 150 pieces total for ZIP code 03458.
o 50 pieces in each cell for ZIP code 03458: all mail in 03458 will be charged at the 3-digit rate.
o Commingling the three cells into the same tray: all 150 pieces qualify for lower 5-digit rate.

Understanding how commingling works and how it differs from combining is critical to understanding the potential value and savings. Here is an example of how one commingling process works:

o Client files (by package) are individually presorted to determine postal qualification without commingling.
o Client files (by package) are prepared in Far Point BMC and SCF sequence.
o Projects (by package) are individually imaged and processed in the lettershop. Mail is processed using high-speed delivery point bar-code scanners (DBCS), the same equipment used by the USPS to process mail. DBCS equipment scans the Postnet barcode on each piece and directs each piece to one of 294 pockets.
o The result is multiple mailings – including small runs, small versions and test panels – become a single mail stream for highest postal qualification. In a typical standalone presort of 50,000 to 100,000 names, 37 percent would qualify for the basic rate and 60 percent would qualify for 3-digit discount rates. None of this mail would qualify for 5-digit discounts. As part of a commingle presort of 3 million pieces, 77 percent of the same names will qualify for 5-digit discounts and 19 percent will qualify for 3-digit, delivering enormous savings over the stand-alone presort.

The benefits of commingling are numerous: highest possible automation discounts, deepest penetration into the postal system, lowest postage expense, commingling plus destination entry to BMCs and SCFs provides maximum postage discounts, and accurate analysis of test panels since they are processed and delivered with control mail.

Continue your evaluation by reviewing your package for automation discount opportunities. The USPS provides a wealth of information regarding format design for automation at In addition, your vendor should evaluate your package for automation discounts. Minor changes in size or aspect ratio may result in opportunities for savings not currently being realized.

Take advantage of in-line finishing and roll-to-roll print capabilities to yield savings in finishing (e.g. folding, die-cutting, perforating) your inserts and package components. Consult with your vendor regarding format design services and education opportunities for designers.

The lowest price for components may not represent the lowest cost for your mailing. BCD Direct Mail Services’ ability to provide a total package solution drives results in hard and soft cost savings, including freight, distribution and project management would prove to be a great benefit to your organization.

For more information, please comment below or request a FREE estimate by calling us at (302) 328-2070 or emailing

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Postal Information Resources… Or Trust BCD for your mailing needs!

Postal Information Resources

Trying to wade through the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) to find pertinent information can be a daunting task, and even when you locate the appropriate information, it can sometimes be difficult to understand. Luckily, the United States Postal Service (USPS) also offers Quick Service Guides, which offer a quick, easy view of the more detailed DMM regulations. This is just one of many handy resources that are available to help make your mailing life easier.

Eligibility guides
How do you decide whether to mail something at First-Class Mail or Standard Mail? Well, you could flip a coin, but it would probably be more effective to take a look at the Determining Standard Mail Eligibility guide from the USPS. It includes a decision tree as well as references to pertinent Customer Support Rulings. Speaking of which, mailers can review these past rulings that have been made by the USPS in situations where the regulations may contain some gray areas. What about if you are mailing at Standard Mail Nonprofit rates, how do you insure your mailpieces are eligible? Consult Publication 417-Nonprofit Standard Mail Eligibility.

Pricing guides
The USPS provides all sorts of great information regarding the pricing for their various products and services. Mailers can access the complete Price List, or check out the rates in Excel format. The Excel format is particularly beneficial when there is an upcoming rate change, in which case the USPS posts both the current and the proposed new rates on the Postal Explorer web page. Mailers can also review the various postage statements, which are used to submit mailings to the USPS, or use the postage price calculators.

Mail Preparation
Of course, the DMM is the most complete source of postal regulations, but there are also other guides available to assist mailers with mail preparation questions. How about the Mailpiece Design section of the Postal Explorer web page? It provides helpful tips, templates, and a look-up tool to locate the USPS Mailpiece Design Analyst closest to you in case you need additional assistance. The RIBBS web site has a dedicated landing page for Folded Self-Mailers, including links to reference materials and locators for Business Mail Entry offices and Mailpiece Design Analysts.

USPS Publications
There are also a host of individual publications offered by the USPS to provide assistance to mailers for anything from Address Change Service to Official Election Mail (how timely is this!?). Mailers can even access past versions of the DMM in cases where you need to see what the old regulations used to be. And, you can keep up to date on new postal changes by checking out the bi-weekly Postal Bulletin.

If you’re a small business looking for help with your direct mail campaigns, contact BCD Direct Mail Services.  We can help you with your strategies, design, list segmentation, printing and measurement. Whether you are just looking for some advice with a one hour consultation or if you need someone to manage and execute your direct mail projects, we can make it happen.

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Post Office Facts

Post Office Facts

  • The largest post office: James A. Farley Post Office, New York NY – 393,000 square feet
  • The smallest post office: Ochopee, FL – 61.3 square feet
  • Oldest post office in the same building: Hinsdale NH, since 1816
  • Second oldest post office: Castine ME, since 1833
  • The coldest post office is in the North Slope area of Alaska, including Barrow and Wainright
  • The hottest post office is in Death Valley, CA
  • The Peach Springs, AZ post office has walk-in freezers for food destined for delivery to the bottom of the Grand Canyon…the mail there is delivered by mule train!
  • The Anaktuvuk, AK post office is the most isolated – it is the only link to the outside world for the 300 residents, and everything must be flown in; there are no roads there.
  • One post office sits on the border between VA and TN, and serves the cities of Bristol TN and Bristol, VA. Of course, this one post office has two ZIP codes, one for each city!
  • Most Unusual Delivery Method – mule trains in Arizona. Each mule carries about 130 pounds of mail, food, supplies and furniture down the 8-mile trail to the Havasupai Indians, averaging 41,000 pounds per week.
  • Another Unusual Delivery Method – dock-to-dock delivery on the Magnolia river in AL. Delivery is performed by a 17-foot mail boat, which delivers to 180 dock-side mailboxes along a 29 mile stretch of the river.

Facts and Figures

Here are some fascinating USPS figures, on a per day basis:

  • $216.9 million – average revenue received
  • 554 million – average number of mail pieces processed and delivered
  • 242.6 million – pieces of First Class Mail processed and delivered
  • 279.5 million – pieces of Advertising Mail processed and delivered
  • $159 million – amount paid to postal employees in salaries and benefits
  • 4 million – number of miles driven by letter carriers and truck drivers
  • 402,640 – number of gallons of fuel used
  • 8,250 – number of letter carriers who deliver mail entirely on foot
  • 136,964 – number of address changes processed
  • 2,100 – number of addresses added to the delivery network
  • 6.17 million – customers served at more than 36,000 retail locations
  • 0 – tax dollars received for operating the Postal Service

Techno Trivia

  • The Postal Service has the largest gantryrobotic fleet in the world using 174 robotics systems to move 314,000 mail trays per day.
  • The Postal Service is the world leader in optical character recognition technology with machines reading 93 percent of all hand-addressed letter mail.
  • The Postal Service uses more than 8,500 pieces of automated processing equipment to sort nearly half the world’s mail.
  • The Postal Service has one of the largest material-handling systems in the world for moving mail. There are over 200 miles of conveyors within postal processing facilities.
  • The Flats Sequencing System (FSS) sorts “flat mail” (large envelopes, magazines, etc.) in carrier walk sequence at 16,500 pieces per hour.
  • In 2011, the Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS) automatically intercepted and forwarded more than 2 billion pieces of mail for the nearly 40 million address changes submitted.
  • The Advanced Facer Canceller System (AFCS) positions letter mail and cancels stamps at 36,000 pieces per hour.
  • The Delivery Barcode Sorter (DBCS) reads the barcode on letters and sorts them at 36,000 pieces per hour.
  • The Automated Flat Sorting Machine (AFSM) sorts flat mail at 17,000 pieces per hour.
  • The Automated Package Processing System (APPS) processes packages and bundles of mail at over 9,500 pieces per hour.
  • The Automated Parcel and Bundle Sorter (APBS) processes packages and bundles of mail at over 6,000 pieces per hour.

If you’re a small business looking for help with your direct mail campaigns, contact BCD Direct Mail Services.  We can help you with your strategies, design, list segmentation, printing and measurement. Whether you are just looking for some advice with a one hour consultation or if you need someone to manage and execute your direct mail projects, we can make it happen.

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Intelligent Mail barcode!

The Intelligent Mail Barcode (IM barcode) is a 65-bar code for use on mail in the United States. The term “Intelligent Mail” refers to services offered by the United States Postal Service for domestic mail delivery. IM Barcode is intended to provide greater information and functionality than its predecessors POSTNET and PLANET. Intelligent Mail barcode has also been referred to as One Code Solution and 4-State Customer Barcode abbreviated 4CB, 4-CB or USPS4CB. It effectively incorporates the routing ZIP code and tracking information included in previously used postal barcode standards.

The Postal Service began requiring the use of the Intelligent Mail barcode to qualify for automation prices beginning in May 2011. Some of the benefits include improved deliverability, new services and increased overall efficiency.

Barcodes can be printed on documents (shown through a window envelope) or directly onto envelopes at various points in the process. Many large companies may use some or all of these approaches based on their business needs and environment, as well as the unique characteristics of an application.

In recent years, more companies have been applying barcodes as part of document creation, with all barcode information included in the initial data payload. This trend has been driven by other initiatives, such as transpromotional transaction documents, where the goal is individualized, relevant statements. Creating barcodes at this point in the process may require some added effort, but with the proximity to databases and business applications, some may find it easier to track back data (such as a corrected address) to its original data source.

With today’s document output technologies, mailers can modify and reengineer print streams – moving and adding information (such as barcodes) on the fly. Likewise, mailers can print barcodes directly on envelopes using an envelope finishing system. Either way, this approach enables mailers to centralize and standardize barcode creation on the production floor using the original data files—without impacting the upstream business applications.

Unfortunately, many organizations may not be able to place IMBs during the document composition step. There may not be sufficient resources to make the production modifications, or the transaction print data stream may come in already composed without the ability to reach back and change the composition process. But the organization may still want to place the IMB into the electronic document before it is printed rather than later in a post-print production process.

Adding Intelligent Mail barcodes post-composition into the electronic print file allows organizations to simultaneously clean up all their transaction print streams while adding the IMBs they need. Other document re-engineering options can also be made at this step, such as adding 2D barcodes for use by the newer Automated Document factory (ADF) systems, checking address blocks, and adding more marketing messages.

Many organizations are finding that by commingling multiple smaller print streams before printing into one larger stream (or a few larger streams, sorted by criteria such as weight or number of inserts) they can gain efficiencies and reduce overall postage costs. During this electronic commingling process IMBs can be added to the documents and mail pieces in the new stream(s). This is an option to in-house sortation.

When mailers run separate jobs and then want to combine them to achieve additional postal savings, they can physically sort mail after it’s produced using sorter equipment. With new or upgraded sorter technology, mailers can accommodate the new Intelligent Mail barcode at the end of the mail production process. This is an option to electronic commingling.

Third-party presort houses may provide mailers an easy way to comply with Intelligent Mail mandate and also provide the benefits of commingled mail. Even if a third-party applies the barcode, however, it may still be possible for the USPS to monitor the quality of the sortation using a mailer’s unique Mailer ID. It will also be important for mailers to coordinate sequence numbers with their vendor so they can leverage OneCode ACS and OneCode Confirm services.

To learn more about Intelligent Mail, and how it can benefit your business, please comment below or contact us today.

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23 Direct Mail Tips!

direct_mailWhen done correctly, direct mail can be a highly effective resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses, even when working together with email marketing. Here are 23 ways your direct mail may be failing you. And although there is talk that the U.S. Postal Service is going to cut down the number of days it delivers mail, entrepreneurs will still capitalize from direct mail to grow their business. Use these 23 reasons as guidance to help you develop and implement effective direct mail campaigns going forward.

1. Call to action is bad or nonexistent: Once you’ve got them reading your piece you’ve got to tell them what you want them to do.

2. Forgetting to test: Direct mail marketing is the art of constant testing. You’ve got to be committed to trying different approaches from everything like design and copy to packaging and offers.

3. Too much fluff and hype: If you sound too much like a used car salesman you’ll end up in the garbage faster than you can say garbage. Practice the art of generating excitement without using too much hype.

4. Bad grammar and no proofing: Yes, the whole world is working off text message language right now, or at least it seems that way. Don’t allow your direct mail marketing to go this route.

5. Can’t grab their attention in headline: Think of the last time you received a direct mail marketing piece. As a direct mail tip remember how you responded to one all because the headline was absolutely catchy?

6. Not studying what works: Direct mail marketing has been around for many, many years and thousands of companies have made a lot of money. Before you do any direct mail marketing you should study what has worked and what has not.

6. No follow up plan: Congratulations. You’ve just sent out a direct mail marketing to your target customers. Now what?

7. Design that doesn’t work: I’d advise against using a tie dye-themed design if your target audience is just not that into tie dye. I’d strongly advise against it, actually.

8. Poor functionality: Your direct mail marketing piece must do more than just look pretty. It must work towards getting the desired response.

9. Bad copywriting: Arguably the most important element of the entire piece. You’ve got to know when to be clever, witty, funny, serious, etc. Know your audience.

10. Targeting not on target: Speaking of knowing your audience, do you really know them? When’s the last time you did a customer audit to figure out what motivates them?

11. Going cheap on the postage: Sometimes it makes more sense to pay a little more to arrive a certain time. Is it worth more to spend more if you ultimately make more? You know the answer.

12. Creative doesn’t hit the spot: In marketing, creativity is ultra important. Think about what gives your creative juices a boost and really spend some time thinking about how to grab your customers’ attention.

13. Not integrating with other marketing: So many small businesses and entrepreneurs have missed out on the chance to tie in their direct marketing with other marketing efforts. Large retailers have become successful at integrating direct mail with email marketing, for example.

14. Lost opportunity to drive traffic to Web and blog: A follow-up to the previous direct mail tip, but today it’s a natural fit to use direct mail marketing to drive people to a Web site, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, etc.

15. Contests that fail: Contests are a great way to get interaction with your customers. But if the contest doesn’t prompt someone to participate, something went wrong and it can destroy the campaign ROI.

16. Looking like your little brother made it: It may not be the best direct mail marketing piece ever made, but it at least has to look professional. Remember, your name is on it and people will create a perception of your company.

17. Lack of branding: You’ve got to always establish and extend your brand identity, including messaging, design and logo. Make sure every direct mail marketing piece always reflects your company’s branding.

18. Going one and done: If you’re going to just send out one direct mail marketing piece and then expect huge results, don’t waste your time. All you’ll do is create more trash for the earth. Direct mail marketing is a commitment that pays off over time.

19. A printer that doesn’t understand your business or customers: Yes, it matters. A good printer can make your direct mail marketing because they may be able to offer great strategy and insight where you lack experience.

20. Not having a DM strategy with calendar to plan out the year: I can’t underscore enough the importance of NOT shooting from the hip. Above all else, have a long-term game plan in place so that your direct mail marketing can become strategic.

21. Paying attention to package size (too much will waste money while too small won’t get noticed): The answer to this one is different for every company, and every mailing. As a direct mail tip study your campaign, offer, incentive and customer to know which direction you should go.

22. Using phrases that tell people it’s junk mail: Avoid using phrases like “No Gimmick,” and “Financial Freedom,” which tend to set off alarms in people.

23. Bad use of testimonials: The right testimonial can enhance the value of any direct mail marketing campaign. The wrong one can quickly make you look like an infomercial.

Which of these direct mail tips will help you the most in your efforts to design and implement an effective direct mail marketing campaign? Tell us by leaving a comment.

If you’re a small business looking for help with your direct mail campaigns, contact BCD Direct Mail Services.  We can help you with your strategies, design, list segmentation, printing and measurement. Whether you are just looking for some advice with a one hour consultation or if you need someone to manage and execute your direct mail projects, we can make it happen.

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Tabbing / Wafer Sealing

Choose from white, clear,
and translucent tabs.

Where do you put tabs? Why do you need tabs? How many do you need? How important are they?

Tabs, also known as wafer seals, are small round adhesive stickers that are used to hold a mailpiece closed. It is important to have your mailpieces sealed properly so that the piece will not be damaged in the mail stream by the USPS high speed processing machines.

Any mailpiece that has been folded and is seeking automation rates will need tabs. If your mailpiece has the opening at the top, your piece will need one tab placed in the center. If the opening is at the bottom, then you will need two tabs. If your mailpiece is oversized or does not meet postal requirements, then you may need more than one tab. Contact BCD Direct Mail Services to find out more!  We can get your offer to potential customers faster and save you money on postage.

Request a FREE estimate by calling us at (302) 328-2070 or emailing 

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