Higher postage doesn't have to hurt small business

AP News
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Posted: Oct 27, 2011 12:01 PM
Higher postage doesn't have to hurt small business

The cost of sending letters and packages through the U.S. mail will go up in January, but small businesses can find ways to lessen the pain. They have plenty of options not just for sending mail, but for saving on it.

The U.S. Postal Service is raising the price of a first-class postage stamp 1 cent to 45 cents. Prices for bulk mail and parcels will go up 2.1 percent.

While email has replaced billions of pieces of business mail that's sent each year, most companies still need to physically send many things. That's especially the case at this time of the year, when they start sending cards and packages to customers and clients for the holidays.

The good news is that the mailing and shipping business is very competitive. A small business owner can take advantage of the rivalry.

FIRST, SHOULD YOU SNAIL MAIL?

If you have documents to mail and they're so large they might be rejected by email systems, you might have them delivered by other electronic means. There are online services that allow you to share documents with multiple users. You may have to pay for them, but depending on how many documents you send and how much each package weighs, it might be cheaper to subscribe to one of these services.

THE POSTAL SERVICE

If you're sending hundreds or thousands of pieces of mail, you can save money by using standard mail rates. You can save even more by relieving the post office of the work of sorting the mail in the order that it needs to be delivered.

The Postal Service has a section of its website devoted to helping businesses learn how to use the mail. It's at http://pe.usps.com/businessmail101/ It has links to pages on pricing, sorting, addressing and a glossary to help explain postal terms. It can help you figure out what's the best way for you to do your mailing.

If you're a novice to sending mass or bulk mailings, you might want to get some help. Mailing services can do the work for you, but that will add to your costs. It may be worth it if means you can spend your time on other work.

You can save time and money on a mailing, depending on what you're sending and who you're mailing it to. Let's say you have a fast-food or home cleaning franchise and you want to send coupons to residents in the area. You can get discounts by using standard mail. And more discounts depending on how your mail is sorted. There's also a service called Every Door Direct Mail that will deliver your mailing to every address in the area you want to reach. It's low-cost and the post office addresses your mailing for you. Click on http://www.uspseverydoor.com/

Of course, there are some letters that you're going to have to put a first-class stamp on because they're not part of a mass mailing. But be sure that you're not overpaying if they weigh more than one ounce. Keep on hand 20 cent stamps that are used for additional ounces on a letter. Their price is staying the same when rates go up in January.

SENDING PACKAGES

You're in a great position if you need to ship packages _ especially if you need to ship a lot of packages. The big shipping companies and the post office are competing for your business.

If you go to the website of the Postal Service or UPS, FedEx, DHL or any other shipping company, you'll find a rate and time calculator that can help you determine which is the best for you. But don't stop there. If your business requires you to do a lot of shipping, call each service and see what kind of volume discount you can get. Find out if they can pick up your packages, or if you can drop them off without cost at a convenient location.

There are Internet sites that say they'll help you compare rates. But these are usually sites that are operated by mailing companies that will tack their own charges on to what you need to pay a company like UPS, FedEx or DHL. You'll probably run into similar charges at stores that advertise themselves as shipping centers that work with the big shipping companies.

AS ALWAYS, ASK AROUND

Other business owners who do a lot of mailing know the shortcuts. Find someone who has the same kind of mailing requirements that you do, and see what they suggest. If you're new to being a business owner, try your local chamber of commerce or a trade group. You'll get a lot of tips.