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What is USPS Full Service intelligent Mail

Full service Intelligent Mail® is a technology that is required for automation discounts and allows for extensive tracking of your mail campaigns.  Automation mail is barcoded for the USPS' processing equipment. Intelligent Mail® uses barcodes to assist the USPS in sorting mail therefore allowing the sender to receive a discount on the mailing. 

The discounts associated with Full Service Intelligent Mail® are $0.001 per piece in addition to the additional postage discounts associated with presorting mail.

The benefits of utilizing Intelligent Mail® are two-fold. Firstly, the sender will be able to take advantage of the discounts indicated above.  Action Mail passes these discounts directly onto our clients. Further, the increased tracking capabilities of the mail will give you the power to follow every piece of mail to delivery. If you are interested in tracking services an additional code will need to be inserted into the barcode to enable this tracking service.  With improved tracking you know exactly when each piece of mail is delivered. In addition, this tracking allows you to coordinate your direct mail campaigns with follow-up campaigns to develop the integrated nature of your marketing efforts.  Action Mail applies Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes to all mail that qualifies and gets you the lowest postage rates your mail piece qualifies for.

 Please contact an Action Mail representative at 760-480-2323 to see if your mailing qualifies for automation and the Intelligent Mail® discounts.

Printing Personalized Color Letters at Lower Costs

Printing personalized letters is often times more expensive than printing static print as the printing process can be different.  The difference in cost will depend mostly on the quantity as for larger quantities it is much more cost effective to offset print static images.  Yet, there are a few ways you can print personalized color letters at lower costs.

In order to reduce the price many times it is preferable to print static shells then over print the variable information onto the shells.  This can drastically save money especially if the shells are printed in color but the variable personalized information is in black and white. 

Typically Action Mail will overprint variable data with a digital laser printer but it is even cheaper to print the variable data on our inkjet printers.  The inkjet printers have a limited 4 inch space which they can print on and the print quality is not as good as a laser printer, but this can significantly reduce costs and for some pieces it will be difficult to tell which printer the personalization is printed on.

Non-profit postage rates

One of the advantages of being a non-profit is that the USPS has heavily discounted rates that non-profits can use to send direct mail.  These rates depend on the distribution of the list but are almost half the cost of standard mail rates.

Non-profit postage rates qualify for standard mail postage which is slower than first class mail and typically takes 3-10 days depending on where they are going and how quickly the post office can process them.

Non-profit postage can be applied to a mailing either by a stamp, meter, or permit.  A nonprofit organization does not need to have a permit to mail at nonprofit postage rates, as they can use Action Mail's but they will need to have the nonprofit status approved by the USPS.  This non profit authorization consist of an application supplied to the USPS for review.  There are certain requirements the USPS has for non profit mail, and just because an organization has non profit status does not automatically qualify the organization for non profit USPS postage rates.

In addition to being authorized to mail at non profit rates the organization will also have to include the exact return address on the mail piece which the organization is registered as.

Please contact us and we can help you navigate the USPS nonprofit mailing status of your organization and help ensure your organization can qualify for these highly discounted rates.

Online Print and Mail Pricing

Online pricing is convenient, but for print and mail everything should be customized for your specific project.  Often times printing a specific size or paper weight can save thousands in postage costs as well as providing a completely different look and feel. Instead of inputting specs into an online calculator it is better to walk through your project and goals with an expert who can provide the lowest price for the objectives you are looking to accomplish.

Often times online print and mail prices are on the lower side, but that is because you get what you pay for.  Many times these are cookie cutter solutions with low quality paper and list hygiene that may not represent your company adequately. 

Anytime you see postage advertised online beware.  Postage should be calculated based on your list, and any company that has an all inclusive pricing is likely to be making money on your postage.  At Action Mail we prefer to estimate postage high and charge the amount that is owed to the post office for your mailing once we have calculated the exact rate.

Online direct mail pricing is available, but even if this looks like the cheapest option keep in mind that mailing can be complex and there are often different tricks to reduce postage and printing costs as well as increase ROI.  It is best to contact us to receive a customized quote for your specific project and goals.  In the long run this could save you lots of money and our direct mail and print experts are happy to give advice on the most cost effective methods to print and mail as well as suggestions to increase ROI.

Quick Turnaround Political Mailings

Political landscapes change quickly and the key to a great campaign is sending the correct messaging at the correct time.  Action Mail specializes in quick turnarounds and is here to support your election direct mail campaigns.  Contact Us to get a better estimate on the turn around for your specific project.

Turnarounds depend on the size of mailing, size of the piece, complexity, and location, but typically we can turn around political mailings in 24 hours.  If they are local in the San Diego area, we can also deliver them to local post offices for expedited delivery by the USPS.  San Diego mailings typically get delivered in 1-3 days as they are tagged as election mail.  For mailings outside of San Diego we can drop ship the mailing which adds a few extra days depending on the distance.

In order to expedite your political mailings it is important that your artwork is setup correctly, all data is properly formatted and organized, proofs can be approved quickly, and that funds are ready to pay for postage.  There is also the option of pre-printing shells that just need to be addressed, which will save time and money, but limits the flexibility of changing messaging.  Anything you can do to prepare for the mailing beforehand will help expedited the turnaround time.

At Action Mail we know the importance of rush turnaround times for political mailings and are here to support your campaigns.



Political Mailing Personalized Targeting

With mid-term elections around the corner it is important to make sure your political mailings are targeting the right individuals for your political campaign.  Political marketing campaigns should be highly targeted, because the data is readily available and your messaging and outreach can be tailored for each specific voter.  This increases the effectiveness of your direct mail political marketing campaigns while saving money on postage.

Action Mail can provide lists based on voting trends, demographic information, or basically anything you think would be relevant to your political campaign.  Action Mail can also access list of large donors for outreach campaigns. The amount of data available for political campaigns is immense and if utilized correctly can make huge differences to your campaign.

The data available for direct mail campaigns is as vast as that of Facebook and can even be more personalized with variable data printing.  Yet, direct mail is much more trusted as the sources of the data are much more transparent than Facebook.  Especially now with the negative reputation of political Facebook ads, direct mail is playing a much larger part in election marketing.  

The game has changed in direct marketing, as everything is about data and personalization.  Connect directly with your voters and tailor your messaging directly to each segment.  Data is king and if used correctly can really make a difference in political campaigns.

Variable Image Printing

With digital printing you can easily incorporate variable text or imagery into your printing.  This is commonly used when printing is personalized with variable text like the name or any associated datapoints.  Yet, you can also pull variable imagery like variable product photos customized to prior purchases, variable imagery based on location or variable imagery based on demographics.  The ability to customize your printing to personally target individuals is very effective.  Just putting someone's name on a piece makes a big difference, but if you can customize your printing to be more personalized your ROI will increase.

With variable image printing you can also incorporate various logos for marketing that involves multiple companies and branches.  This enables printing to be gang run at the same time, saving on setup costs and often enabling your mailings to qualify for lower postage rates. 

It is also common to use different images for different customer segments.  If you can segment your house data incorporating images that will resonate with each segment will help increase your ROI.

The more your campaign can be targeted and personalized the better it will be to improve your ROI and help you tailor the experience your customers and prospects have with your company.

Who should my marketing target?

You best customer is a current customer.  You should do all you can to market to your current customers, but when looking for new leads and prospect who should you market to?


The answer is simple market to people or businesses who look like your current customers.  Your customer database is extremely valuable not for just being able to market to your current customer base but also to better understand your customer base and why they use your product or service.

At Action Mail we can take your current customer database and append demographic data to it and provide a demographic report of your customers.  This will help you better understand what your customers look like including age, income, geographic distribution, gender, ethnicity, education level, marital status, and many more demographic indicators.  This information is very helpful in understanding the demographics of your customer base and how to market directly to them in ways that they can relate to.

In addition to helping you understand your customer database Action Mail can also help you market directly to audiences that look like them.  Using the information gathered in the analysis of your customer database, Action Mail can generate a list of new prospect that have the same demographic composition as your current customers.  This takes the guess work out of developing a marketing plan and you can look to gain more customers similar to the ones that have proven to generate revenue.

Action Mail can then help you design a direct mail campaign to target these individuals and can even help you develop specific messaging targeted at each segment.  Targeting the right people is the key to any successful direct mail campaign and what better place to start than targeting people with the same characteristics as your current customers.

Data Encryption for Mailings

Some mailings require additional protections to ensure data remains confidential when sent between parties.  For most of these mailings we use PGP encryption to protect data.  Depending on your data requirements we can always adjust to comply with your policies, but PGP encryption is most common in the industry.

Since different industries require different data security for mailings and each company typically has their own systems to protect and manage data, we will look to comply with the systems you have setup to manage your data.  Though if systems are not developed we recommend that you acquire a PGP encryption software to encrypt data that will be sent for processing.

PGP stands for Pretty Good Encryption and each file is encrypted and locked with a public key.  The only way for this file to be decrypted is for the owner of the public key to use their private key to unlock the file.  There are a number of PGP software providers but we prefer to use Symantec.

Data security is big part of direct mail  Action Mail will always keep files confidential and will work with your data management plan to make sure mailings and data storage complies with your policies.  

HIPAA Compliant, Protecting Data in the USPS Mail Stream

When sending confidential information or information the needs to be HIPAA compliant it is important that the information remains confidential even once it is mailed.  It is a federal offense to tamper with and/or open mail addressed to someone else, but precautions need to be taken to ensure information remains confidential while the mail remains unopen.  

It is important to use security tint envelopes that will prevent the contents from being seen through an unopened envelope.  Security envelopes have patterns on the inside of the envelope so that if someone tries to look through the envelope they will be unable to read the contents.  There are a few different tints available, but regardless of the tint security envelopes will be sufficient to ensure the data concealed in the envelope will not be able to be deciphered by looking through the envelope.

Many companies take the precaution of using security tint envelopes with confidential and HIPAA compliant mailings, but many do not evaluate whether confidential information will be able to be seen through the window on and envelope. It is important to design your mail piece to ensure that no confidential data can be seen through the window, as this can be seen by mail carriers and other individuals who come in contact with unopened mail.  Once inserted into envelopes letters will move, mail houses are required by the USPS to tap the contents of the letter to the bottom of the envelope and ensure that the address fits to a specific area within the window.  Yet, it is very likely that the letter can shift up in the envelope while the mail is being processed.  It is important to understand this and design the letter so that confidential matter cannot be seen if the envelope shifts.  The best way to do this is to ensure that the confidential contents are below the fold and thus cannot be seen regardless of how the letter shifts in the envelope.

It is important to take any step to safeguard confidential information. Ensuring the use of security tint envelopes as well as designing the contents appropriately will help ensure that confidential information cannot be seen when the piece is in the USPS mail stream

Facebook Ads, Cultivating Trust

With the growing concern of Facebook's data policy and how Facebook utilizes user data, Facebook Ads are becoming much more controversial.  It will be likely that response rates to Facebook Ads will decrease as Ads are now being looked at with some skepticism.  One solution is to use a multi-channel marketing approach supplementing direct mail with digital campaigns to build trust and a relationship with recipients.  

Direct Mail has similar capabilities to Facebook as list can be purchased that specifically target people.  Yet, direct mail is looked at as less obtrusive as the sources of the data are vast.  Since recipients cannot pinpoint where the data is coming from it is more difficult for them to realize why they are receiving a certain mail piece and they are more likely to focus on the offer instead of why it is being sent to them.  Direct Mail is also view as less obtrusive as a mail piece cannot follow you around on the internet and know your every mood, but in the same breath the mail piece will have multiple touches in the recpient's home. 

Direct Mail also has a more personal approach than Facebook Ads as each individual advertisement can be personalized and customized for each recipient.  This cultivates trust and a connection as opposed to users focusing on which algorithm is targeting them. It is also possible to retarget house lists and develop relationships with customers with constant communication.  

Facebook is a great marketing tool, but with all the negative publicity it will be beneficial to supplement Facebook marketing with offline channels.  This has also been proven to increase online response rates as there is a much higher brand recognition and sense of trust that can be built.

USPS Secure Mail Destruction

The USPS is now offering a services where a mailer may select to have deliverable first class mail destroyed securely by the USPS instead of being returned to sender.  This new services by the USPS allows mail with personalized information that cannot be delivered to be sustainable and securely destroyed.  Instructions for the USPS to destroy mail pieces in incoded in the barcode of the mail piece and will ensure that returned mail is destroyed instead of returned to the sender.

This service is helpful for information that contains sensitive data and allows mailers to ensure that either the piece is delivered as addressed or destroyed if the USPS is unable to deliver to the address on the mail piece.

There are no additional postage fees for this service but there is some additional work involved to set everything up correctly and monitor the destruction.  Please contact us to learn more.  

Mailing Magnets

It is possible to send magnets within your mail piece, but there are some restrictions which will allow the mailing to qualify for the best USPS and not stick to USPS equipment.  Magnets are a great way to extend the shelf-life of your offer and will get the attention of your recipient.

To send magnets through the mail and get the lowest USPS postage rates follow the guidance below.

For letter-size pieces:

  • The magnet should not be thicker than 1/32.
  • The magnetic surface may not exceed 26 square inches (length times height).
  • The magnetic surface must face the carrier piece but can face either side of the piece
  • Enclosed magnets cannot shift excessively.  They can be affixed to the contents, wrapped within the contents, or fill the mailpiece with no more than 1/2 inch clearance between the left and right edges of the magnet and the mailpiece edges.
  • Magnets permanently attached to, or prepared as, an integral part of unfolded cardstock pieces should be located on the leading edge of the mailpiece.

For flat-size pieces:

  • The magnet should not be thicker than 1/32.
  • The magnetic surface must face the carrier piece but can face either side of the piece
  • Enclosed magnets cannot shift excessively.  They can be affixed to the contents, wrapped within the contents, or fill the mailpiece with no more than 1/2 inch clearance between the left and right edges of the magnet and the mailpiece edges.

If you have samples of the mailpiece we can have it approved by the USPS to ensure it can run smoothely on the USPS machinery and receive the stamp of approval from the post office.

Direct Mail Price Match

We do our best to match our competitor's listed price, while continuing to offer the same quality and service our customers are accustomed to. 

When comparing estimates or quotes it is important to compare apples to apples.  With direct mail there are many different ways one can conduct a mailing, and each technique or tactic can have a very different price point.  For this reason we custom quote every job to make sure we provide options that are best suited for your mailing and goals.

Direct Mail is complicated and often a few additional expenses can save thousands in the long run and result in a much higher ROI.  For most mailings postage is one of the largest expenses.  Many times a few extra services from a mail house may result in thousands of dollars in savings on postage.  You also want to ensure the accuracy of the mail house, because once your pieces are delivered to the post office the USPS will not refund postage. 

There are different ways to design a mailing which could be a bit more costly but will result in a better looking piece to represent your company appropriately as well as increase your ROI.  For instance using a better quality paper stock can give your direct mail piece a very different look which will better represent your brand and set your piece apart in the mailbox.  There are also additional touches you can add to mail pieces like personalization, live stamps, intricate components, etc that can cost more but have also been proven to increases ROI.  Additionally using a more expensive list will result in additional costs of both the list and per piece postage, but a targeted list will have a higher ROI and you will save on avoiding wasted postage and printing that would have been sent to people outside of your target audience.

Action Mail's direct mail prices are many times the lowest, but instead of the lowest price we focus on providing the best product for you at the best price.  Sometimes it will be a product at the lowest price but other times it will be a bit more expensive but will be higher quality.  We will try our best to price match, but we make sure to provide you with the best priced product for your goals which many times is not cheapest option.

Appending Email Addresses to Data

It is possible to append email addresses to direct mail lists.  All you need is a list of names and addresses and Action Mail can append email addresses to your database.

Match rates are typically about 20%, but it depends on the list, and it is only possible to know the match rate once the list has been processed.  The email addresses we match have opted in to receive marketing emails.  Yet, this does not mean it is appropriate to use these email addresses to send email blasts.  Many email providers ban the use of purchase lists on their platforms, and if you send bulk emails from your own account it is probable that your server will be black listed for sending spam.

Action Mail typically recommends the use of appended email addresses for matching the email address with an IP address or account, so that you can target the individuals through banner adds or social media marketing.  We have also seen people use these lists to send individual emails as opposed to researching and looking for each email address, though this will need to be done carefully to avoid spamming individuals and having a server blacklisted.

We recommend that appended emails be used to target individuals solely by matching the email address to an account or IP address.  Success with email appened data really depends on how it is used and the expectations and understand on what should be done with the data

Prospecting Email Blast

Sending an email blast to your clients who have opted-in to receive emails is a great idea, but what about generating new prospects through email blasts.  This is much trickier due to opt in laws and servers being marked as spam.  

Action Mail offers a service where you can rent an email list of emails who have opted in to receive marketing emails and we can send this prospecting email on a white listed server.  This allows you to access a large quantity of prospects while following the law and protecting your servers.

The open rates are typically about 7% and click through rates are about 1%.  This is not bad especially since these are cold leads.  Conversion really depends on the offer, email design and landing page.

We typically do not recommend stand alone email campaigns but recommending combing them with a direct mail campaign.  Stand alone email campaigns will let you target a large quantity of people for a low cost per an email, but emails to cold leads often get discarded or looked at with suspicion.  When these emails are combined with a physical direct mail piece it will increase the response rates of both the email and the direct mail piece.  It is often also recommendable to send multiple blasts and to cultivate the relationship.

Emails blasts can be an effective marketing tool, but we advise to use caution when implementing them, have realistic expectations and supplement email campaigns with direct mail campaigns

Targeted Political Mailing

Direct mail is integral for political campaigns, but there are a few different approaches that can be taken for political mailings.  Many political campaigns saturate areas, mailing to everyone in a specific area.  This has advantages in that the campaign has a wide reach and there are also postage savings as well as the ability to mail larger pieces at similar postage rates.  This is great for some campaigns, but other times a more targeted approach is necessary.

Targeted political mailings can use data from the registrar of voters or other data sources to specifically target voters, interests, or demographics.  One advantage of targeted political mailers is that you can specifically target voters which saves money on postage and printing.  You can also eliminate certain voters and focus on your mailings on your base.  

Targeted political mailings also give you the option of tailoring the message of the mailer to the specific audience.  Lists can be created and/or segmented so a specific message that resonates with a certain group or demographic can be used.  Creating specific messaging for based on data can be much more effective then canvasing an entire area with a generic message.

There are additional costs in using a targeted approach like an increase in postage, possible increases in printing costs due to variable data printing, list costs, increased design costs for different messaging, etc.  Yet, many times these additional costs are offset by the fact that the mailings will be smaller than the saturation mailings so you will spend less on postage and printing.

Both forms political mailings are very effective but the choice as to using a saturation mailing vs a targeted approach will depend on the type of campaign and which strategy is best suited for the campaign and its messaging.  It can also be very effective to use a mixture of generic and targeted mail pieces.

Machine Insertable Envelopes

Selecting the correct envelope can save thousands in labor costs.  In order to automate the inserting/stuffing of envelopes they will need to be a certain design, as the machine inserters are only compatible with certain envelope types.

Most envelope manufacturers will brand their envelopes as machine insertable, but below are a few tips in order to identify and select the correct type of envelope.  Additionally, if you are looking for something a little bit different than standard envelopes some can be custom made to be machine insertable.

Size: The simplest envelopes to insert by machine are #10, #9 reply envelopes, 6"x9" and 6"x9.5".  For other sizes it is best to contact us to see the most cost effective way to insert these envelopes, as depending on the piece some envelopes are actually more efficient to hand insert.  You will also need to ensure that there is enough room in the envelopes for your inserts.  Many times people try to insert a #9 into a 6x9 which is just too tight of a fit.

Flap: Typically the flap style is what will determine if the envelope is machineable.  The flap needs to be short (about 1.5") and will need rounded corners with about 0.25" radii.  Below are a few samples of what this typically looks like.

#9 envelope.jpg
booklet envelope.jpg

Envelopes with square flaps like the one below are not machineable.  Many invitation style envelopes are designed like this.

A-10 envelope.jpg

Seal: Machineable envelopes should be gummed moisture sealed envelopes. Peal and stick as well as press and stick envelopes will not be able to be machine inserted.

These are the basic factors contributing to whether an envelope can be machine inserted, but it is best to contact us to make sure everything is correct.  We can also provide envelopes to ensure they are machine insertable and are the most efficient for your specific mailing. We can also provide color printed envelopes or custom make envelopes for your specific mailing.


Why you should not use word for mail merge documents.

Microsoft word has the ability to create mail merges but we often recommend not using this function as there are a few issues with mail merges in Microsoft Word.  We prefer to use software which allows us to create mail merges within PDF documents.

The problem with word is that the program was not designed specifcally to create mail merges.  Using a PDF software give much more control over the merge and allows for many additional functions.  PDF software allows additional rules to be created, and essentially any rule can be coded into the document.  Some examples are dynamic changes to formatting, change to fit options, variable imagery, etc.  It is also much better to print variable data from a PDF, as opposed to printing from a word file.  

PDF software also allows more options to review the merge to make sure nothing is being truncated or causing unintended changes in the document.  Microsoft word documents often change depending on the settings on each computer.  The alignment and design of the document can also be difficult to control especially with variable data being inserted into the document.

Though we highly recommend using setting up variable data mail merge documents in a PDF software, we can and do use microsoft mail merges for some mailing.  This should only be done for simple merges with address merge and perhaps a variable salutation.  Everything else we recommend using PDF software.  The best way to set something like this up is to send a PDF document with either notes or highlighted fields that indicate the merged field and any other notes indicating special requests.