Mail Classification for Novices

Mail classification can seem mysterious. Choosing the wrong class, even if the postage rate is lower, can be an expensive mistake. Delivery delays or unexpected service charges can wipe out the ROI a mailing might have produced.

Business mailers need not know all the intricacies of mail classes; companies like EarthColor have mail professionals on staff to help customers with those mailing decisions. It is helpful though, to have a basic understanding of the rules for mailing in the most common classes, how the USPS calculates postage, and what services they include.

First Class

First Class mail is the class of service with which most Americans are familiar. The USPS handles a letter to Aunt Peg bearing a Forever stamp under the guidelines for First Class Mail. Mailers can send letters up to 3.5 ounces, postcards, flats and parcels weighing up to 13 ounces as First Class.

The Postal Service generally delivers First Class Mail in 1-3 days. There is no guarantee of delivery on a certain day, but the USPS is conscious of their targets for delivery and meets them the vast majority of the time.

Rates for First Class Mail are the same, regardless of distance traveled. This mail class includes forwarding and return services, and mailers can add extra services such as Registered or Return Receipt for a fee.

There are several rate structures for determining First Class postage. Commercial mailers earn workshare discounts by performing address hygiene steps to improve deliverability, adding automation barcodes, and by sorting the mail to enable efficient delivery.

Marketing Mail/Non-Profit

Marketing Mail is a new name for Standard Mail, a class many people still refer to as Bulk Mail. Non-Profit is a variety of Marketing Mail that requires special authorization. Postage rates are lower for Non-Profit Marketing Mail, but all other characteristics of the class are the same.

Though allowed to include data such as ID numbers or account codes to identify individuals when they respond, mailers cannot send personalized business correspondence as Marketing Mail. Most commonly sent via Marketing Mail are:

  • Flyers, circulars, advertising
  • Newsletters, bulletins, catalogs
  • Small parcels

Each mailing must have at least 200 pieces or 50 pounds of mail to qualify. There are no single piece prices for Marketing Mail.

It is important to understand the USPS destroys undeliverable Marketing Mail. Even if an individual or family has filed a Change of Address form with the Postal Service, the USPS will not forward or return Marketing Mail unless the mailer has added an endorsement to the mail pieces. This isn’t usually done as the per-mail piece fees for the added service can be substantial.

Postage for Marketing Mail can be 20% – 50% less than First Class, but it takes longer to reach its destination – usually from 2-9 days. To predict in-home dates more accurately, Marketing Mail is sometimes drop-shipped, so it enters the mail stream closer to the destination.

Every Door Direct Mail

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) is a class of service that allows mailers without a mailing list to target addresses within geographic boundaries. Postage rates are low but there is no delivery time standard, and no forwarding or return services available. All mail pieces must be identical, with no personalization allowed – not even recipient names and addresses.

EDDM mailers must follow specifications for minimum and maximum dimensions. Typical jumbo postcards or a letter-size page folded in half are too small to qualify. EDDM pieces must be at least 10.5” long OR 6.125” high OR .25” thick.

Though the USPS aims this program at small businesses and do not require a mailing permit, mailers must still adhere to postal regulations and mail preparation requirements. Most companies will benefit from turning their EDDM campaigns over to mail professionals, saving time and headaches that can affect the do-it-yourself crowd.

The US Postal Service offers other classes of mail for parcels, periodicals, bound printed matter, express service, and international delivery. If you have needs in these specialized areas, please contact us here at EarthColor.

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