If your small business involves a considerable amount of mailing and shipping, then chances are you are throwing money down the drain. By making a few simple changes, you can reap significant savings.
As you go about managing and developing your business, it can be easy to overlook your postage expenses and practices. After all, there's just so many other things to worry about. But this half-attentive, DIY approach to mailing and shipping items may actually be costing your business a whole lot of money.
The following are some of the most common ways small business owners tend to overspend on postage and the delivery of goods as well as some tips on how they can fix the problem. The general rule of thumb is that if you currently spend $50 or more per month on mail, your business may greatly benefit from from considering these tips:
1. Guessing how much postage is needed. Have you looked at an envelope and thought, "This looks like a big envelope. I'd better use two stamps?" By guessing how much postage is required, you can either overspend by using too many stamps or be inefficient by using too little postage and having the undeliverable mail returned (which is a waste of time and a waste of a stamp).
Solution: Use a postage meter to determine the exact weight. Taking the guess work out of mail weight can help small businesses reduce postage costs by 20% annually. The most efficient and accurate way to determine and apply postage is to use a postage meter, which both weighs your mail and prints a postal marking (used in place of stamps); this eliminates the need for stamps all together. Mail meters are available for small businesses in compact desktop sizes.
2. Buying postage stamps in bulk. Buying in bulk sounds like a great idea, except that mailing pieces at varying weights may require multiple stamps. You'll either have bulk stamps in one denomination, or you'll buy a bunch of stamps at varying denominations. Either way, it can be a hassle. The situation becomes more challenging when the USPS issues a rate change, like it did a few months ago.
Solution: Print postage when you need it. Small businesses have two options to print postage: 1) use a non-software solution, like a postage meter, to print postage markings; 2) use a software-based solution, like an online postage service, to print exact postage only when you need it. When the USPS issues a rate change, both postage meters and Internet postage services are easily updated to reflect updated postage pricing.
3. Sending mail that is unnecessarily too big. Your piece of mail may include an eye-catching design and marketing message, but its size could be costing you.
Solution: Reduce the actual size of your mailings and envelopes. Simply cutting down the size of your mail from a flat-size envelope, e.g. a 9x12" envelope, so it fits a letter-size 6x9 envelope or #10 envelope, can save small businesses up to 50% a year in postage costs.
4. Sending mail that is heavy or parcels that need to go a far distance. Sending small but heavy packages around the world can quickly make your postage expenses add up.
Solution: Try using USPS Priority Mail® Flat Rate packaging - available for both domestic and international mail. Flat rate means you pay a predetermined cost based on the packaging. So no matter how heavy your parcel is (not to exceed 70 pounds for domestic shipments), or how far you send it, the cost will be the same. Bonus: USPS Priority Mail® Flat Rate packaging can be ordered online at usps.com and shipped to your home free of charge.
Some Other Tips to Keep Postage Costs Low in Your Small Business...
- Remember to shop around. Depending on what you are sending and where, you may have cheaper alternatives to the standard lineup of mail and package delivery services, such as Fedex, UPS, and the United States Postal Service. In particular, you should consider a transportation company or a local courier service if your shipments will be sent to areas that are relatively close by.
- Use the online comparison tools, such as ParcelsPackages.com to compare the rates of the major international package delivery companies.
- Taking advantage of the savings offered with parcel post, bulk mail, and third class mail delivery.
- Use the lightest packing material, such as Styrofoam popcorn, when shipping items.
- Look for ways to avoid mailing in the first place, such as by offering e-billing or sending letters and other announcements via email.
Shayna Burns is a writer for pbSmartPostage Online Postage Service, the Internet-based postage tool by Pitney Bowes, which also specializes in postage scales and meters.