Tutorial on how to do bulk mail

This is in response to a question in another thread regarding how to do bulk mail. This post is about saturation mail, i.e. sending to everybody on a carrier route at one time. Sending addressed mail to your database has different requirements and different postage rates.

First some definitions:

Standard Mail – This just means “bulk mail”, previously referred to as third-class.
Carrier Route – This is a grouping of addresses (usually around 500) that one postal carrier delivers to per day.
Saturation – A type of Standard Mail where you send to at least 75% of all addresses or 90% of all residential addresses on a carrier route. You can specify to omit businesses or apartments or both.
Simplified Addressing – Used on rural routes only, an address is not required. You can simply address to “Patron”, “Neighbor”, “Pizza Lover”, etc., along with the City, State and ZIP Code.

You will need a bulk mail permit at each post office you intend to mail from. The annual fee for the permit is $180.00. In addition it is also helpful to purchase an indicia permit that will allow you to print your permit information in lieu of a stamp. You can always affix or meter postage, but its much more time consuming. The indicia permit is a one-time fee of about $175.00 (not sure what it is today, I bought mine several years ago.)

The first thing you need to do is determine if your target area consists of rural routes or city routes. “Rural Routes” aren’t necessarily in rural areas – my store is in a bustling, well-established, decent sized suburb and it consists entirely of Rural Routes. The other city in my delivery area consists of all City Routes. You can find this information at www.melissadata.com using your ZIP Code.

Rural Routes

These are pretty simple. You decide which routes you want to send to and get the counts from Melissa Data. Use the Simplified Addressing mentioned above and put the proper amount in a mailing tray (your post office will provide you with trays.) Each carrier route goes into its own tray and gets labeled with the ZIP, Carrier Route. Then you just have to drop them at the Post Office that serves the route (more information on this below.)

The mail carrier will just take your stack of cards and drop one in each box. If I bring them in before 3:00pm they go into mailboxes the next day.

City Routes

These are more complicated. The specific type of mail used on City Routes is “Enhanced Carrier Route – Walk Sequence Saturation”, printed as ECRWSS on the address. These must be labeled with a full CASS certified address, including ZIP + 4. You don’t need a name, however, you can still use a general title. As long as you are delivering them to the destination post office they don’t have to be barcoded.

The pieces must be delivered in trays just like Rural Routes; the exception being that you must have them sorted in the order the carrier walks or drives the route. You can buy an occupant list from Melissa Data and it will come sorted in the proper order. Have you ever wondered what the +4 part of the ZIP code is? That’s the order of your house on the route. The occupant list will cost you about 1 cent per address if you purchase an entire ZIP code at one time.

If you’re doing something that’s printed 1-up, you can just do a mail merge and print them in the proper order. The problem that I have is that I print postcards 4-up. That makes it nearly impossible to efficiently print them and keep them in proper order.

Because of the extra work involved with City Routes, I bring mine to a mailing house. I get them counted into the correct routes and leave a space for the address that they will print. They charge 1.8 cents per piece to print the address and bring them to the post office; only 8/10ths of a cent more than if I did it myself because I don’t have to purchase the list. You’ll write a check to the mail house for postage as well.

And for purchasing the list – it must have been CASS certified within the past 60 days and you’ll need to bring the form to the Post Office with you. That means you’re going to have to keep buying it over and over again. I really think it’s best to let a mail house handle City Routes.

Off to the Post Office

When you bring your pieces to the post office you will need to have your paperwork complete. The Standard Mail paperwork can be found here: http://www.usps.com/forms/standardmail.htm. You want the one entitled “PS Form 3602-R”.

You’ll complete the first page completely and then the any other pages that are relevant to your mailing. For saturation, you need to complete “Part H”. When bringing them to the destination Post Office you can claim the best discount, so you’ll use line “H7”, where you’ll see the 13.7 cent rate.

You also have to pay by cash or check. The post office does not accept debit or credit cards for Standard Mail.

You’ll want to find out if your Post Office is a BMEU (Business Mail Entry Unit.) If so, you have your own counter to take your mail to which makes things really nice. If not, you have to wait in the retail line like everybody else.

What I send

I spent a lot of time sending full-color menus out for saturations. On a whim once I decided to just print my own postcards on my laser printer. They’re simple black on a colored cardstock. I found that the response rate didn’t vary significantly from the full color menus, but my ROI went through the roof. The menus were costing me 11 cents each and I had to print 10,000 to get that rate. The postcards I print myself cost about 1.5 cents for paper and toner – and I don’t have to do 10,000 at a time, which is a cash flow helper.

The other benefit is I can move very quickly. If I’m having a few slow days I can have postcards in mailboxes within 24 hours, from just 200 to the entire city. I don’t have to wait a week for the printer to get my pieces to me. I’m only limited by how fast my printer will go, and at $100 for a pretty quick laser printer I can always buy more.

I once got wind that one of my competitors was out doorhanging one morning. The next day all of those people had a postcard from me that said “We saw “XYZ pizza” left some junk on your door yesterday. We just want to let you know we’ll honor that coupon and dispose of their litter for you.” I ended up with about 100 back in the next two weeks and a whole lot of compliments on how “clever” we were. I don’t think they’ve doorhung since.

I feel doing this myself is a massive competitive advantage.

I’m happy to give any help or answer any questions you have on this.


Thanks for sharing!! :smiley:

I wish i were creative enough to think up stuff like this… :frowning:

Great Post. I am always looking for ways to advertise to customers and your post will come in handy. I use a direct mail house that does all my mailing for my shop but for special marketing the laser printed post cards will work great.

Good Post! What program or site do you use for creating your postcards? I would like to do a saturation mailing with postcards and want to keep the cost down. I want to be able to put my logo on the cards and 1 or 2 offers.

Great thread - as a marketing guy I’m always intrigued by some of the clever marketing strategies developed by the pizza world! I loved the story about the postcards after the doorhangers…classic!

If anyone needs postcards or flyers printed extremely cheap - we can help!
5000 full-color, ultra glossy Postcards - $199 (only $0.04 each!)
10,000 full-color, glossy flyers - $395 (only $0.04 each!)

Please give me a call if I can help you with printing your new marketing materials 1-800-481-1656

Great thread OP

2 Questions:

Is there a minimum for bulk mailing? I was thinking 200.

What is the discounted rate you can get on postcards? Regular mail? I’m trying to think of how long it would take me to pay off the bulk mail permit.


With a respectful nod to Taradel, I’ll let you know I have had great experiences with www.GotPrint.com for all my printing s far. They are gang run, so color is not always exactly the color you wanted, and there are some other very minor chances for irregularities like getting someone else’s card included, or a miscut here or there.

5000 cards on 14 pt stock, color both sides with UV coating are 117.99 . . . shipping from CA to GA is about $31, so 5000 cards delivered to my door is about $150.00 if I design them and upload the image (3 cents apiece shipping included)

WOW Piper! This is amazing information. Very well put together.

This should be stickied!!!

I can only speak of the “saturation” mailing that this post was about but…

  1. the saturation mailing uses carrier routes so the numbers are already set there is no minimum
  2. there is no discount on postcards
  3. the rates for mailing depend on the piece as well as how narrow you can get the details…It is a lot more complicated but example is this…for one city is the most expensive, if you narrow to city and zip it is cheaper, if you narrow to city, zip and street, it is even cheaper

We started doing the saturation mail with our full color menus, we just added a coupon page and the necessary permit/address page and send them out twice a week now.

Since we have been doing this we have not done one doorhanging and sales are up!

Our post office even had a free class that you could take to see if it was something for your business.

It have done wonders for us!