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The US postage and shipping rate increase that has been proposed to go into effect in January, 2014, will take yet another nip out of small business' budgets and profits. The significance of the increase for any individual business depends, of course, on the amount of mailing and shipping they do. But with the proposed cost of a first class letter going up to 49 cents in January and other shipping costs rising as well, businesses of all sizes should be focusing on keeping their mailing and shipping charges as low as possible.
Here are 14 practical ways for small businesses to minimize their mailing and shipping costs.
Avoid sending documents by US mail. Use email instead. If your customer agrees, consider sending invoices, proposals, presentations, contract terms and even signed documents via email. (Many office printers can scan documents and save to PDF format. So to send a signed document just print it, sign it scan it, save it to a PDF format and send it as an email attachment.
While you're sending email to customers, include a PS at the end of the email with a promo and link to your website. For example, "PS I thought you might want to know about the special we're running this week on green and blue widgets."
When you do send invoices by mail or ship merchandise to customers, insert ads and promotions for other products and services you sell. The ad gets to ride along for free as long as the weight of the paper it's printed on doesn't bump the cost of the mailing into the next rate range.
Get a scale. Weigh each piece of mail to determine the exact amount of postage for each piece you mail, then use the exact amount of postage required. If you use stamps, keep stamps in several denominations on hand.
If you're mailing a document that weighs less than an ounce, fold it to fit in a standard business size envelope instead of mailing it flat. Postage for the business size-envelope is significantly less than the postage for mailing the same document in a 9 x 12 envelope.
Use standard sized envelopes and postcards. You'll be charged extra postage for odd-sizes.
If your designer suggests very heavy stock for a mailing, get a sample of the paper and envelope you'd mail and weigh it and find out what it will cost to mail the piece. If the weight of the document increases postage, ask the designer to choose a lighter weight alternative.
Send a postcard instead of a letter. Sending a standard size postcard first class saves about 30% over the cost of sending a first class letter.
Use bulk mail if you regularly mail quantities of letters. Bulk mail is a term the Post Office uses for both first class and advertising mail that is sent in bulk qantities. Items sent as bulk mail require a permit and cost less per piece to mail. Check with your local postmaster to find out about costs and mail preparation requirements to determine if getting your own permit is practical for your business, or if it would be economical to use a third party mailing service to prepare and send your bulk mail.
Consider Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). EDDM is a relatively new service from the Post Office which can save small local business money if they want to mail to residents in their service area. What it does is allow you to send mail to every mailing location in an area you specify, which can be narrowed down to just a mail carrier's route, if desired. A "retail" version of this service can be used without getting a mail permit. Check the Post Office's website for more information about EDDM, or talk to your local postmaster.
Clean you house mailing lists to eliminate bad addresses and duplicates. When you mail to a bad address you lose the cost of the postage and the cost of the mailing piece
Consider Priority Mail if you want to make an impact, but don't have to have a document or package delivered overnight. Depending on the shipping location, Priority Mail may only cost a few pennies more than regular parcel rates.
Save on boxes and mailing envelopes. If you plan to ship an item by priority mail, consider using the boxes and mailing envelopes provided by the Post Office and other shippers. They're sturdy and free. One caveat: weigh those boxes and envelopes. In some cases the priority mail boxes are heavy enought to bump the mailing price up to the next level, making it more expensive to use the free box than it would be to purchase a box and ship priority mail.
If you sell information products, offer a downloadable or cloud-based version of the product or training material at a reduced cost. You'll save the postage and handling..