Setup a Direct Mail Postage CAPS Account?

What is a Direct Mail CAPS Account and how do you set one up?

A CAPS Account stands for Centralized Account Processing System. The post office makes it easy for your business to electronically put money into your postal account, instead of the hassle of getting a check prepared and deposited at the Post Office before the 5:30 deadline every day. It is the easiest way to fund your permit, business reply mail, merchandise return service, postage due account, and express mail corporate account.
There are two different CAPS Accounts available for postal customers to use. There is a centralized trust account, where customers deposit funds using electronic funds transfer to the CAPS bank prior to mailing. Then, your account is automatically reduced when your local post office processes postage statements. The next CAPS account is the centralized debit account, where customers designate a debit-enabled bank account for postage charges. The bank account is debited for the total day’s postage on the next bank business day.
Each CAPS account customer will have their own unique account number and password to ensure that funds are properly administered. It makes it quick and convenient to mail under the same permit imprint that they have already held (if a personal permit previously existed.) Postal Customers can set up their accounts to have mailing and accounting fees administered automatically.
To set-up a CAPS account contact your USPS local post office, or you can call the CAPS Service Center at (650) 377-1334. You can also download the forms to sign up for CAPS at http://caps.usps.gov/business/caps.asp and mail them into:

CAPS Service Center Postage CAPS Account
2700 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94497-9442

CSG Direct, Inc works very closely with the USPS and we know all about CAPS Accounts. If you need my help, I am just a phone call away 775-852-9777.

No Postage Rate Increase this January

In an announcement that shocked many today, the Postal Direct Mail PostageRegulatory Commission soundly rejected the Postal Service’s request for a postage rate increase of 5.4 percent on January 1, 2011.

This means that postage rates will remain the same until they can be legally changed under the price cap formula next May.  This is also a stunning loss for the Postal Service has it has pleaded that it desperately needs the money to sustain its operations and it comes in the middle of union negotiations with two of the largest postal unions.

The Envelope Manufacturers Association strongly fought this increase through our Affordable Mail Alliance and we filed many hours of testimony showing how this rate increase would damage a recovery in our industry.  This decision to hold prices stable will have a positive impact on mailings both in the Fall and next year and upholds an important principal in the Postal Accountability and Enforcement Act that price increases could not be greater than inflation.  EMA fought hard for that position as we did to uphold the law.

Direct Mail Services – National Change of Address

Mathematically speaking, National Change of Address (NCOA) is one of the most valuable services any Direct Mail Services company can offer you. With over 17% of the population moving per year many of today’s businesses are using mailing lists that are from 17-34% useless to begin with.

Most people send direct mail using Presorted Standard postage in order to save large sums of money in postage. The backside of this is that any pieces mailed to someone that has moved are thrown away by the US Postal Service.  This is because “Presorted Standard” (old 3rd class) doesn’t include address forwarding the same way 1st-Class does.

So, if you don’t get back the return-mail pieces with yellow stickers like you do with 1st-Class Postage, your mailing list begins to expire over time.  But 1st-Class costs 50% more to send.

So if your boss says they want a better response from their direct mail, tell them NCOA can help you find where all your people have moved.  That is what NCOA is afterall. It is the national Postal registry of every change of address database of every form submitted by moving people.  Your database is compared to this database and your movers are identified, flagged and updated.

On average, even a “clean” mailing list has 3-10% moves.  That is 3-10% of your print costs, your mailing costs and your postage costs being thrown away.  At CSG Direct we let you know where your people have moved BEFORE your mailing goes out.

We are a USPS NCOA Link Limited Service Licensee and have been doing NCOA for about 5 years now.

We got into NCOA because it helped our clients achieve greater marketing results. The US Postal Service has seen great results and is making the service mandatory within 95 days of mailing. They spend too much time and money trying to find people for your .44 cents so they are making cleaner lists a requirement.

From me to you, behind the scenes a technology revolution is happening at the US Postal Service.  Make sure you are working with a vendor that knows what’s going on. There is lots to be gained when working with a Direct Mail Company ~vs~ a printer “that does mail too”.

US Mail Postage Rates Summer Sale

The US Postal Service is having it’s first ‘Sale’ that I have seen in my lifetime of 20 postal years. They are going to give you 30% off of your postage rates for every dollar you spent ‘above your average’.

The details are best to come directly from the US Postal Service so here is the quote from the Post Office customer Relations:

“The Postal Service will offer qualifying Standard Mail customers a 30 percent discount on eligible mailings this summer. This will provide those mailers with an incentive to prospect for new customers and reconnect with existing customers.

We think Direct Mail has tremendous value in growing your business. With Direct Mail accounting for 22 percent of the $250 billion spent nationwide on advertising each year, it’s big business. Direct mail is targeted and measurable to an extent other advertising media can’t match.

The summer sale is currently under review by the Postal Regulatory Commission. We plan to begin the discounted pricing July 1. The sale will run until September 30.

Obviously, this is a new initiative for us and we’re anxious to see how well it will work. Are any of you going to take advantage of the summer sale?”

– Steve Kearney, senior vice president, Customer Relations

The catch is, to be eligable you must mail over 1 million pieces of mail from October 1st 2007 through March 31st 2008. From those dates a ‘threshold’ is being established to compare your current summer mailings to.

You will pay your full postage rates through this season and then after October 31st the US Postal Service will determine your rebate and put that back on your permit by December 31st.

So there is a Sale, but only a handful of our direct mail customers will even apply for it as the discount is 30% of the postage spent above your average amount. Of course you still have to mail at least a million pieces in the 4 months as well.

I estimate that this will affect the ‘publishers clearinghouses’ and ‘Capital Ones’ of the world the most.  I just wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t tell you about it. If you would like us to help you calculate, monitor and apply for your savings with you we will.

Are new postage rates justified in direct mail?

All things being what they are, I am normally one of the first people to bash large bureaucratic entities such as the US Postal Service. The monopoly that they hold over the industry, the civil service mentality and attitude as well as the constant increases in the cost of doing business leave them as a wide-open target.

In thinking about the new Postage Rates, however, I also feel compelled to compliment the postal service for the latest developments that they have introduced. It has been quite an undertaking! Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of room for improvement and a many areas that they can improve on. Today let’s look at some of the positives, because they deserve to be recognized.

One of the most amazing new developments with the US Postal Service is the implementation of the intelligent mail barcode systems. It is mind-boggling to think of the amount of data retrieval, data collection and data distribution that this system is capable of. This helps the post office to track delivery times and pinpoint problematic areas within their system.

It has also been a great tool for mail service providers such as CSG Direct to build systems around for individual US Mail tracking. This is a dream come true for Direct Marketing professionals to be able to track their mailings online. It allows them to gauge delivery times, track individual pieces and better plan their projects.

Another item that I believe bears consideration is the expense of fuel that has spiked and dropped several times in recent memory. As a transportation and delivery entity, the postal service is sharply affected by fuel costs. I know in my household fuel prices have strained the budget considerably. These costs cannot be absorbed for long periods of time – especially at the volumes that the USPS consumes.

I believe that the postal service is working diligently to improve service and delivery times. With some of the new requirements for NCOA standards, enhanced barcoding and ongoing customer relationship building. I am seeing great strides of improvement in a large entity that is slow to change.

If we can only get them to work in a more customer friendly atmosphere in regard to the incessant changes and rules for mailpiece design and construction. They change the rules – industry adjusts – then they change the rules because they do not like the industry adjustments. The recent flat changes are a good example of this.

In May of 2007, the flat rate increase was harsh, so the industry started changing to smaller booklets and slimjims that were subject to the letter rate category. Now the post office is implementing new rules on these types of mailers that will cost the preparers more money to process and slow down the production. This should have been taken into consideration in 2007 when the USPS raised the flat rates to get mailers to change their formats and remove some of the burden from the flat sorters.

OOPS… I am going off on a rant – not the intention here.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the positive changes that the post office and the mailing industry are encountering. The new technologies are very cool, and very useful. If you are not taking advantage of these new technologies, then you are missing the boat! If you would like to learn more about US Mail Tracking, give one of the Direct Mail Specialists at CSG Direct a call. We are here to help!

Direct Mail Flats Postage Rates are Under-Attack

What do you get when you take the heaviest piece of mail possible and force it to either jump through hoops or pay huge postage increases? You get the single largest opportunity for the US Postal Service to increase its income quickly.

As someone who has processed flats and catalogs, I can’t say I blame them due to the backbreaking nature of these heavy cumbersome pieces. But we like to help you save postage at each turn.  So I am here to guide you through this new information.

USPS Poster 182, January 2009 Specifically Reads:

New Address Standards for Commercial Flat-Size Mail
Effective March 29th 2009

Since you can download the document I won’t copy it verbatim. But I do want to talk about what I see and how it relates to all of you.

The first and most obvious aspect of this entire change of mail processing category is the conversation about the “top” of the mailpiece and specifically if it is on the right or on the left of the publication.  Let me repeat that because it sounds so odd (so postal).  The TOP is on the RIGHT or LEFT. *chuckling to myself*

Anyway, once you get oriented about RIGHT, LEFT, TOP and “bound edge” this gets easier to understand.

Look at this example:

Notice the Magazine is upside down to us and the address is vertical and parallel to the bound edge. To us this makes the most sense because if you rotated this 90 degrees to the right it would be envelope shaped and the address would be in the correct area.  Unfortunately, this is with an address block on the front cover. However, “front cover” is not required but the orientation is.  This is not the same place all of you are addressing right now so this was the most important change to look at. Be aware of the address block to the bound edge.

Here is another example:

This is where it goes from obvious to bizarre. First, you now see the “top half” is the bottom half of the magazine. You also see that the address is no longer in the top half and the address block is also inverted.  Interestingly enough this is considered with a “loose enclosure” which means it can slide around, however they want it in a specific location.  I have to imagine this was built very specifically to a certain project or projects because it doesn’t make much sense at first glance.

Here is another example:

This format seems like it makes sense to the Post Office but I imagine they just don’t realize that this is one of the biggest money spots on a magazine. A back cover ad is real estate that we do not want to give up.  It is very common to address on the lower half of the back cover, but rarely ever on the top.

I see this example as the most common money maker for the post office as they struggle to make you give up the largest money makers for you. You’re just going to have to move your customers’ ads to the bottom half and make them happy about it somehow. It is the same square footage ad space but it does feel submissive to the addressing itself.  Remember, this heavy magazine mails at first-class rates without it. $1 or more each.

Perhaps it is time to start addressing on the cover to save this valuable ad space.
Put it where you would put the newsstand UPC for non-mailed versions.

Last Example:

I think the most important part to observe on the large envelopes is that in either example the return address is on the left. The “top half” appears to be whichever side the mail-to address is on. These two formats have the smallest change and the option at the right is already the standard in all the large envelopes we mail.

In summary, the biggest concern from our perspective is magazines. There are so many of them out there that are mailed in the first week of each month.  I imagine that April 1st is going to be April Fools Day to so many of the Post Office’s largest customers. But this time you won’t be laughing.

First-Class Postage Rates Increase Hides the Real Story

We just completed the update on our postage rates short sheet that we share with our clients and prospects alike. It’s a quick glance sheet of the most common rates achieved with all of our mailing services clients. You can find the new postage rates on our homepage.

During my last 20 years in direct mail I have studied the interesting dynamics of the varying rate adjustments made by the US Postal Service each year.  You can tell a lot about the troubles or changes needed at the Post Office by finding the nuances in the rate adjustments.

For years the US Postal Service had been spreading the rates out to create benefits for automation processing.  It was a huge trend for about a decade.  I am noticing that this is no longer the big push over the last few rate cases.

Looking at the First-Class Mail postage rates this year I see that the First-Class stamp went up 5% to 44 cents.  The First-Class non-automation rate went up as well – from .394 to .414, which is also a 5% increase. Compared to the automation rates for First-Class Mail which only went up 3% it would look like the same automation rate spread was continuing.

In standard postage rates (formerly 3rd class), on the other hand, we see a different trend. Standard non-automation rates practically stayed the same while the automation postage rates went up 4-5%.

This area of the postage rates system is the US Postal Service’s bread and butter. Standard postage is the most common rate paid on every piece of direct mail sent. We have spent years creating innovative ways to help clients elminate First-Class postage costs by moving them to standard postage rates with creative add-ons like NCOA and Track Direct Mail services.

To me, this says a lot about the US Postal Service trying to make money at the risk of scaring off automation investment. The biggest value of a mailing services provider is that they can get you automation rates. Many of us have invested millions of dollars in equipment to do so.  The Post Office continues to put more of the burden of equipment and requirements on the direct mailers. They appear to be seeking ways to prosper under the huge burdens in labor and government intervention they contend with.

In nonprofit postage rates we see this same trend continue. In this case though, non-automation postage rates go down while automation goes up. That is complete irony to me.  I can see though that they may be trying to keep the business of the local churches and nonprofit groups that handle their own mailings.

Recent new requirements by the US Postal Service has made it tougher on the little nonprofits and small realtor groups.  It is completely backwards in my opinion to punish those that follow the program and provide automated mail and then reduce the rates for those that don’t get with the program. Nonprofit postage rates went up 4-6% in the automation category as opposed to down 1-3% for non-automation. This sure has reversed the trend I have watched over the last few decades.

The biggest increases of all (18%) was in the surcharges the US Postal Service charges for non-machineable pieces. Keep this in mind and make sure you are working with a mailing services company like ourselves that is US Postal Service trained and certified.

We should talk about this more – feel free to comment.

"To Our Friends at:"

Did you know that we invented the tagline “To Our Friends” and “To Our Neighbors” for use on carrier route mailings. Back in the early 90s I was searching for a more marketing friendly slug-line for addressing to replace the old standard “Postal Customer”.

I started requesting approvals for some localized usage of alternate slug-lines. (The mailing industry calls a generic name line a “slug”.) Originally I started with “To Our Friends at:”. This was meant to read as “To our friends at 120 main street”. Over the years more and more mailers started copying the usage of these lines following our precedent.

The Domestic Mail Manual still doesn’t show these forms of addressing as acceptable, but over the last few decades so many people have duplicated our slug-lines that now they are widely accepted. (check with your local BMEU before using). The Postal Service still requires “Postal Customer”, “Resident” and “Box Holder”.  We must use “Box Holder” for all PO boxes still.

In the last decade I eliminated the “at:” because it didn’t feel like it was really read in sentence form. We abbreviated it to “To Our Friends” and “To Our Neighbors”. I also enjoy adding data to this for a neighborhood feel.  Try using “To our [City] friends”, for example.

Remember, though – you should always check with your local BMEU for acceptance.

New Postage Rates – Intelligent Mail barcodes

To date, mailers have deposited more than 24 billion mailpieces withNew Postage Rates Intelligent Mail barcodes. We’d like to remind you that in May 2011, to be eligible for automation discounts and the new postage rates on your letter-size and flat-size mailpieces, you’ll need to start using the IMB in place of POSTNET barcodes.

In May 2011, the POSTNET barcode will be ineligible for automation prices and the IMB must be used to claim automation prices with either the Full-Service option or the Basic option.

Additionally, the PLANET code barcode, used with Confirm service for mail tracking, will be retired in May 2011. To receive Confirm service after this date, you’ll need to use the Intelligent Mail barcode.US Mail Tracking

CSG Direct has been using Intelligent Mail barcodes since 2008.

The USPS will conduct weekly webinars titled Migrating to IMB during September 2010. The US Postal Service in a letter directed to mailers provided this information.

CSG Direct is an early adopter and IMB developer and recognized for some of Americas most robust US Mail Tracking tools. We’ve invented a whole series of tools, widgets, maps and reports around the new IMB barcodes and the USPS Confirm services.

Our IMB expertise includes US Mail Tracking for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones.

When you use CSG Direct for direct mailing you can track all your projects live and you can track the movement of all your individual mail pieces en route to their individual destinations.

This was our DIRECT MAIL DREAM and we made it a reality!

New Postage Rates 2011

Postal Service Proposes New Postage Rates for 2011

New Postage Rates

No Postage Increases in January 2011

WASHINGTON
— A new Forever Stamp image will be available as part of a pricing package that would add less than 13 cents a month to the average American household’s budget.

The U.S. Postal Service Governors recommended increasing the price of a First-Class stamp 2 cents to 46 cents and authorized the production of a pane of four evergreen tree branches as the newest image for Forever Stamps. The price of a postcard would increase 2 cents to 30 cents.

The Postal Regulatory Commission must approve the recommended price changes. The increases would not go into effect until January 2, 2011. It would be the first stamp price increase in almost two years.

Holiday Evergreen Forever Stamps will be available to the public in October at the current rate of 44 cents. Once purchased, the stamps are valid literally forever – despite any future price changes. No additional postage will ever be needed.

Faced with plummeting mail volume traced to the recession and increased use of the Internet, the Postal Service is projecting a deficit of nearly $7 billion for the next fiscal year. Despite eliminating millions of work hours and reducing expenses by more than $1 billion every year since 2001, a budget gap remains.

The proposed price changes, if approved, will raise about $2.3 billion for the first nine months of 2011. Postmaster General John E. Potter said he does not want customers to bear the burden of dramatic price increases. Instead, Potter announced in March that pricing would be one in a series of solutions the Postal Service is pursuing to become financially sound.

“There is no one single solution to the dire financial situation that the Postal Service faces,” Potter said. “These proposed rate adjustments are moderate and part of a fair and balanced approach to insuring mail service for all Americans well into the future.”

Other actions outlined in March included changes to delivery frequency, restructuring prepayments of retiree health benefits, creating a more flexible workforce and expanding access to products and services to places more convenient to customers.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Complete details of today’s filing can be found on usps.com . No prices will change before 2011