Postage 101: First-Class vs. Marketing Mail
Of all the various aspects of direct mail, the one that tends to overwhelm our clients most is postage. Postage is often equal to or even greater than the print costs associated with your direct mail. Having a baseline understanding of postage options will go a long way for project planning and budgeting purposes.
The majority of direct mail is delivered using First-Class or USPS Marketing Mail (formerly known as Standard Mail) postage. The primary difference between the two, aside from cost, is speed. In this post, we’ll cover the basics to help you stick to both your delivery timelines and your budget. At the end, we’ll share a postage cheat sheet you can use when planning your direct mail programs (this is a resource our team references daily, if not hourly!).
As the premium mail method, First-Class mail usually delivers in approximately 1-5 business days. It is the best option for time-sensitive or personal information. If your materials are dated and/or have a call to action with a due date or expiration date, you should mail First-Class to ensure timely delivery. First-Class also includes forwarding and return services. If your mail is undeliverable, it will be returned to you—a valuable service to help keep your database up-to-date.
Within the First-Class postage option, there are retail rates available to the general public and commercial rates for qualifying businesses (spoiler alert: More Vang qualifies). For direct mail with a minimum quantity of 500, there’s also a bulk discount known as Presorted First-Class. Presort processing might add a bit to your project timeline, but with around a 20% savings, it’s worth it if you’ve got the volume.
Marketing Mail is a more cost-efficient postage option, but there is no guarantee on the delivery timeline. That’s because the post office prioritizes First-Class mail for immediate processing. Marketing Mail is essentially put at the back of the line, which accounts for the longer delivery times. Still, Marketing Mail is a budget-friendly option for things like advertising flyers and circulars, newsletters, and catalogs. Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), for example, uses Marketing Mail postage. It’s worth noting that there are conditions to meet for Marketing Mail; it requires minimum quantities of 200 pieces or 50 pounds for shipping. Additional services, like forwarding and return, are not included in this postage class but can be added on for a fee.
For those who qualify, USPS also offers a significantly reduced nonprofit Marketing Mail rate. The Postal Service must authorize your nonprofit organization through an application process. For more on nonprofit eligibility, visit the USPS website.
Choosing the right postage class really comes down to what you’re mailing and how quickly you need it to get there. If you opt to use Marketing Mail for the postage savings, be sure to build in additional time for delivery. Even with First-Class mail schedules, it is always smart to buffer time in your transit schedule. To help in your planning, you can download our postage cheat sheet here. These prices reflect the most recent USPS postage increase, effective July 10, 2022.