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Mail your newsletter with less labor and cost

By Geoff Hart

Previously published, in a different form, as: Hart, G.J. 1999. Mail to your Canadian members with less labor and cost. Tieline, the Society leaders' newsletter, 12(3):4, 7.

Based on the envelopes I receive and anecdotal evidence such as “overheard” complaints from newsletter editors, it appears that a lot of STC chapter and SIG mailings are done the old-fashioned way: envelopes stuffed by hand, and stamped manually or—occasionally—with a stamp machine. That’s an awful lot of work, and expensive too. When I confronted this problem a few years back for my current employer, some research revealed a solution that eliminated the annual pressganging of volunteers to stuff envelopes and also saved us a fair bit of money. Sound too good to be true? Read on!

But first a note of caution: This article is based on the Canadian situation in effect at the time of writing, and the regulations on bulk mailing were in the process of changing. Currently, it appears that there will be two categories of bulk mail: publications, which are not personalized, and “ad mail”, which can be personalized. The final regulations should be in place by the summer of 1999. Readers from other countries should consult their local post office or a mailing-services firm, because even though bulk mailings are likely to be available in your country too, the details are likely to differ.

When I first began my research, the Canadian postal regulations were such that bulk mailings were only really effective for large publishers, with minimum print runs of at least 1000 copies. The advantage of bulk mailing is significantly reduced per-envelope charges, often representing a savings of up to 50%. (The actual savings depend on the envelope size and the weight of its contents.) Recent changes intended to make the post office more entrepreneurial opened up bulk mailing to everyone by reducing the minimum mailing size and providing access to the post office data that had to appear on each envelope for your mailings to qualify. Moreover, the new rules allow you to send certain classes of printed material at the reduced rates with no minimum quantity; most STC publications should qualify because they are considered “academic or scholarly writing”. In Canada, to qualify for bulk mailing, you must meet certain criteria:

It’s not rocket science to sort your mail according to the post office codes, since this data is available in print, on CD-ROM, and in the form of specialized mailing-list management software. It is tedious and complicated. Fortunately, there are plenty of contractors willing to do the hard work for you, often for a surprisingly low price; look for them in the Yellow Pages under “mail”, “mailing services”, “addressing services”, and so on. You can also ask your printer, since many printers offer “order fulfillment services” and will mail out your publications right after they come off the printing press. Locally produced and distributed magazines are another excellent source of contacts and testimonials.

Our current contractor has the necessary software and envelope-stuffing hardware to do all the hard work for us. Every time we have a mailing of more than a few hundred envelopes, we send him a box of our envelopes, a computer disk with the current address list (which he sorts for us), and a cheque to cover the postage and his handling fee. Automating the process lets us do bulk mailings at the full discount rate, with only a small surcharge for stuffing the envelopes. Given the savings in staff time, it’s a small price to pay, and even after paying that price, we’ve cut our mailing costs nearly in half by pooling mailings (e.g., sending several of our reports simultaneously). An additional bonus is that the contractor’s specialized mailing software often turns up data-entry errors in our mailing list, such as mistyped postal codes for a given street address.

I suspect that most large STC chapters and SIGs could attain significant costs savings by implementing this approach, and would also make the lives of their volunteers much easier. A true win–win situation!

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