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Nov. 7 2011 08:43 AM

By now you've probably heard about the postage increase slated for January 22, 2012. The increase was expected - part of the annual USPS process that allows for pricing adjustments within the limits specified under current law. According to the announcement, the rate increases will average 2.1%.

As in the past, different classifications of mail will experience varying degrees of rate changes. Some will go up more than 2.1%, others less.

Free Postage! Will You Be Ready?
One item that transactional mailers should celebrate is a change in First Class Presort. Beginning January 22, the second ounce on this kind of mail will be free. This change can open up lots of possibilities for transactional mailers who may have been thinking about adding promotional or educational content to their statements or bills. If you've been looking for a way to satisfy the marketing department's requirements without adding pages that would push mail into the more expensive two-ounce tier, this new development may be an opportunity.

Adding extra pages to handle transpromo, cross-channel, or trans-educational material means you don't have to compromise the transactional portions of the document by reducing font sizes or skimping on the white space. Even companies that use composition software that does not support white space management can take advantage of the free second ounce. They can generate transactional documents along with advertising, notifications, or educational content pages without paying extra postage.

Pick Your Benefit - But Think it Through
There are other benefits as well. Opportunities are related to householding, distribution frequency, material modifications, and paid advertising. The USPS "two for one" program could be a source of significant cost savings or product improvements. It all depends on your particular operation, workflow, and documents. At Print/Mail Consultants we'll be working with our clients to help them evaluate options and point out areas where they can take advantage of this program. I suggest you do the same.

Here are a few items to consider:
· Upgrade to heavier paper to reduce jams or enable duplex printing without affecting readability
· Change from weekly distribution of some documents to bi-weekly
· Improve postal presort qualifications by not separating two-ounce mail
· Simplify insert hierarchy logic based on a one-ounce weight limit

I can also think of dozens of decisions that might negatively impact productivity and quality in a shop that wants to maximize the free postage benefit. One must understand the limits before inviting organizations like marketing or advertising sales to freely add weight to your envelopes.

Adding to your page count or making any of the other changes that can add volume or weight to your mail pieces requires a careful analysis of the document workflow. Do your performance commitments allow for enough time to print those extra pages? Will you be able to get them all inserted in time? Will thicker envelopes result in more jams and reprints? The ramifications could be far-ranging.

We'll be helping our clients avoid the pitfalls, too.

Almost every mailer can benefit from this new pricing from the USPS. Start making plans now. The sooner you implement the changes that make sense for you, the sooner your benefits will start to accumulate after January 22nd.

Mike Porter is an expert in print and mail operations and President of Print/Mail Consultants, an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide be more productive, adapt to changing requirements, and lower costs in their document operations. For more tips and commentary visit and sign up for Practical Stuff - the free newsletter for document operations. Your comments are welcome. Send them to