Is it any surprise that that the U.S. Post Office is feeling the pressure just like the rest of us? On the heels of the recent failure of a requested postage rate increase, the USPS must do everything in its power to reduce expenses by increasing efficiency. Yes that's right, the U.S. Post Office is trying to be more efficient and this impacts YOU? You will want to read this if you or your organization sends bulk mail so you can understand how this impacts your ability to continue to market to your customers, prospects and donors.
USPS Move Update Requirement: Every time the USPS has to forward a letter it costs them time and money. To avoid having to do this, they have imposed a Move Update Requirement on all bulk mailings. This is not a "new" requirement, but because of the difficult financial times it seems that the USPS has gotten much stricter with enforcing the Move Update Requirement. In fact, the final rule governing move updates was published by the USPS in September 23rd 2007, but to educate bulk mailers, they allowed a grace period until November 23rd 2008 before they were supposed to start enforcing it.
What are the implications to me of the Move Update Requirement? Simply put if you have not updated the addresses on your bulk mailing within 95 days using a method approved by the USPS then your mailing will not be accepted. That's right, the USPS has the right to reject your bulk mailing if this has not been done. If you're on a time-sensitive deadline, this can be a real show-stopper. Please share this information with anyone that you know who does bulk mailing.
What’s the easiest way to satisfy the Move Update Requirement? Unfortunately, the easiest way to do this, and satisfy the USPS requires a financial investment-yes, you’ll have to spend some money!
There are really only 2 viable options. The first is to purchase postal-approved software; typically, this software starts in the range of $1,000 and up. If you do a high volume of mailing, this may be a feasible option for you. Many vendors offer a free trial period where you can “test drive” their product. Bear in mind, that you’ll need to have at least one dedicated team member who understands how to process mailings using your software of choice.
The other viable option is to work with a 3rd party mailing professional who has the software. All reputable mailing professionals should have software that complies with the current USPS Move Update Requirements. Yes, my company has this software and we use it for every single bulk mailing campaign that we do for our clients. If you’re considering working with a mailing professional, be sure to ask how they satisfy the Move Update Requirements. If they ask you what the Move Update Requirements are or can’t answer the question clearly, then you should immediately cross them off your list.
Of course you could always just lie on the paperwork and pick a random update method, but if you're thinking of doing this, it's really not that easy. Why? Because it's very likely that you'll get caught because the USPS checks behind you to make sure that you really did update the addresses. If you didn't really update the addresses (intentionally or by accident), you will be penalized for this. There is a sliding scale of fines depending on the quantity of bad addresses that you have and this ultimately will determine the penalty. Section 3.5.4 provides the details of the "Move Update Assessment Charge" for those who fail to update addresses.
Are there any loopholes? Yes, there is one large loophole, but you need to be aware of this loophole BEFORE you prepare your mailing, and it does come at a cost. If you do not want to worry about updating your addresses, you can simply add "or current resident,” after each recipient’s name in their address. The post office is okay with this because it prevents them from having to forward the mail to the correct address.
So what's the cost of adding "or current resident?" By adding "or current resident,” you are diluting the value of your message. Of course, this depends on who is sending the direct mail piece. If you're a fast food restaurant or you do Chinese take-out, then it's probably not as important that you're not personalizing your mail piece. On the other hand, if you're an established nonprofit or a high-end jeweler, you run into 2 problems.
The first is that by adding or "current resident" you run the risk of offending the recipients-yes, I know this may sound a little ridiculous, but instead of saying "This message is just for you," you are actually saying "We really don't care who gets this message-it's just for whoever happens to pick this up." There is an absolute distinction between what the two convey.
The second issue is that by using "or current resident" you're allowing your customer or donor list to erode. If you don't think that this is a big deal please keep in mind that according to Mal Warwick, author of Revolution in the Mailbox, your customer list determines about 50% of the success of your mailing campaign.
Remember, the "right" way to do this is to have your list updated using an approved method so that you don't have to print "or current resident" at all. In fact, more successful marketing campaigns actually have increased personalization; here's a great example of one from an earlier post. For every address that you are not updating, you are essentially losing a loyal donor or customer.
BEFORE showing up at the post office with your bulk mail, you must determine whether you want to comply with the Move Update Requirement or use the available “current resident” loophole. If you opt for the loophole, be sure that you understand that long-term implications for your customer or donor database. Trying to plead ignorance or cheat the system will only result in financial penalties or worse yet, your critical mail communication being rejected.
I would very much appreciate comments below about your experience at your local Business Mail Unit with enforcement of the Move Update Requirement.