If you create or use direct mail, you may know that the United States Postal Service has not always had a helpful website. There was a time when it was poorly designed and made finding information difficult.
But as the USPS feels the pressure to act (or pretend to act) more like a competitive business, they have shaped up their website nicely. Today usps.com is nicely designed and offers an easy-to-navigate treasure trove of resources for business mailers and consumer mail users alike.
Here are just a few of the key resources you’ll find when you click on the “business” button at the top left of the home page.
- Domestic Mail Manual — The DMM is the granddaddy of all mail guides. It covers everything you need to know about official standards, mail classes, services, rate eligibility, mail preparation, and more. This is the “bible” of mailing standards, so it’s a must-have for any direct mailer. If you mail internationally, you will also want the International Mail Manual. Time was when you had to order printed versions of these massive guides (and I still have a big DMM in my office), but they are now online and searchable.
- Quick Service Guides — The DMM can be a little overwhelming, so the USPS has put together dozens of short guides, each on an individual subject. These include guides for letters and cards, flats, parcels, nonprofit mail, periodicals, addressing, postage, special services, and more. The only problem with these guides is that if you don’t know what you don’t know, selecting the right guides can be tricky.
- Business Mail 101 — This is another good resource for beginners or infrequent mailers wanting an overview. It’s written like an introductory-level class on the subject. It walks you step-by-step through key pieces of information and shows you how to decide what mail services are best for your business. Subjects covered include postal rates, mail classes, addressing, sorting, and all the basics. There is also a series of checklists to help make sure you don’t forget anything when you’re actually creating and preparing a mailing.
- Postal Explorer — If you’re searching for something and are not sure where to find it, Postal Explorer is a good place to start. It’s a comprehensive library of postal information for business mailers. While you can search within any publication or resource anywhere on the Web site, here you are able to search for subject matter that appears across multiple resources. So if you’re looking for, say, addressing standards, you can find every reference for this without having to read or search through every publication from the USPS.
- MailPro — This is a new publication from the USPS. In January of this year, it replaced Mailers Companion and Memo to Mailers. It’s a free, bimonthly newsletter for everyone involved in mail creation or production. It provides information on programs and services, rates and classifications, mailing success stories, and industry news. To subscribe, just mail your name, title, company name, address, and phone number to: NATIONAL CUSTOMER SUPPORT CENTER, US POSTAL SERVICE, 6060 PRIMACY PKWY STE 101, MEMPHIS TN 38188-0001. You can also fax to 901-681-4521 or e-mail to email@example.com.
- Design Templates — This is a super handy resource for designers. It’s a collection of templates for Business Reply Mail and Courtesy Reply Mail for use with Adobe Illustrator® or Macromedia Freehand®. You just download a template, add your delivery address, barcode, and other information, and you’re finished. This makes compliance with USPS standards for spacing and positioning a snap, and there is a wide variety of standard sizes to choose from.
But wait! There’s more! (I love to say that. I used to be a TV and radio guy.)
There’s just tons of stuff at usps.com, so whether you’re a copywriter who writes direct mail, or a designer who designs direct mail, or a business owner who advertises with direct mail, you really need to poke around and see what the Postal Service has to offer.