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Feb. 13 2012 08:49 AM

Are you following developments in the postal world? Staying informed is important. But spending too much time trying to predict the effects of legislative actions, union positions, or top management decisions can be a distraction.

My company works mostly with small to medium size mailers and the vendors that support them. My advice to them is to continue to monitor what is going on with the USPS at the national or regional levels, take advantage of changes that go their way and do their best to minimize the effects of negative actions. I tell them not to dwell too long on the uncertainty that is the future of postal delivery in the United States. Whatever happens, mailers and vendors will be given some time to prepare.

But that doesn't mean I'm advocating a passive attitude for mail and document center managers. In fact, I favor a much more active approach as managers seek out ways to make mail more relevant, efficient, and less expensive.

Almost every organization generates mail that it shouldn't. Some pieces are just useless in the minds of the recipients. There are lots of examples in marketing mail that occur due to poor targeting, inaccurate triggers, or outdated lists. But there are opportunities to improve the relevance in transactional or informational mail as well. Do you mail to closed or zero-balance accounts? To deceased or incarcerated people? Do you send new customer acquisition pieces to existing customers? Or to addresses outside of your market area? Eliminating these types of mail pieces can usually be done easily. It doesn't take a great deal of analysis to reduce material, production, and postage costs on messages that have little chance of being effective.

We see plenty of shops that spend lots of their time running small jobs. The overhead to set up machines, log totals, do quality checks, or track progress is pretty much the same, regardless of the number of mail pieces in a job. The total cost-per-piece of low volume jobs can be excessively high. We recommend looking for ways to consolidate by altering production schedules slightly, modifying print layouts, using plain paper instead of pre-printed shells, utilizing the selective inserting capabilities of your inserting equipment, and standardizing on a common outbound envelope.

Lower Expenses
It's always been less expensive to mail one envelope instead of two. With the next postal rate change, that becomes even more obvious for First Class Presort. All mail weighing less than 2 ounces can be posted at the same rate. This presents some opportunities for strategies like householding that might not have been financially viable before. Or perhaps you can eliminate an entire annual mailing by including regulatory materials in with regular statements instead.

Other popular strategies for lowering expenses include migrating from metered mail to permit or switching from flats to letter format.

Document operations managers sometimes feel powerless. But that's not true at all. I've suggested just a few things that managers can consider to improve how the value of mail (and therefore, the value of your operation) is perceived in your organization. There are plenty of other strategies that may make sense for your particular situation. Take a look at the areas where you can affect change and start taking action. Put off worrying about postal infrastructure changes until it becomes more clear about what decisions will finally get made.

Mike Porter is 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 ideas about how to keep mail relevant, efficient, and less expensive, connect with Mike directly at Or visit and sign up for Practical Stuff â¬" the free newsletter for document operations.