Direct mail company turns up the volume: New presort service won’t require minimum order

TRAVERSE CITY – In the past few days, you've probably received a catalog, a postcard advertising a sale, or a bank statement in the mail. Have you ever wondered how companies can afford to do such mass mailings and make a profit at the same time? For many area businesses, the answer is Maple River Direct Mail.

The Traverse City company assists organizations with direct mail campaigns by processing large volumes of mail at a discounted postage rate.

"We decrease the cost to the customer and speed up the delivery process," says Project Manager Deb Bristol.

Maple River Direct Mail was founded 20 years ago in Pellston. Two years later, it moved operations to Traverse City. Now owned by Stephen Bennett of Cincinnati, Maple River has more than 700 customers throughout the country, with the majority located in northern Michigan. Traverse City customers include Northwestern Bank, Munson Medical Center, and The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC).

The GTRLC, a nonprofit organization, uses direct mail to stay in touch with members and perspective donors.

"Maple River's familiarity with the goals of nonprofits, as well as the latest in printing and database technology, allows us to present them with a loosely-formed direct mail concept, for which they quickly develop an implementation plan to make it all possible without our having to work about or micro-manage the details," says Erin Anderson, charitable giving specialist for the Conservancy. "They save us time, stress, mistakes and money."

Maple River Direct Mail is able to save companies money on postage because it presorts the mail for the post office and sends it at a bulk discounted rate. For example, if you were to mail a letter, it would cost you 41 cents. However, if you used bulk rate, it would only be 31 cents.

"It just makes sense to save cents," says Linda Kniat, director of sales and marketing for Maple River. If a company sends 500 pieces of mail per month, mailing at bulk rate saves them $600 each year.

But saving money on postage is not the only service Maple River Direct Mail offers. It has automated machines that can fold and collate papers, add inserts, address and seal envelopes, add postage, and presort mail for its destination, saving customers time and labor.

"Gone are the days of someone having to sit at work and lick envelopes and run them through the postal meter," says Kniat.

Maple River Direct Mail can also help companies with direct marketing.

"We work with six national compilers and will sell those mailing lists to businesses," says Kniat.

For example, if a boat company is having a sale, Maple River Direct Mail can get them a mailing list of boat owners.

Direct mail does require volume. The minimum needed to get bulk rate is 200 pieces. For a first class discount rate, 500 pieces are required. However, starting in January, a new service at Maple River Direct Mail will allow anyone, regardless of how much mail they have to send, to receive a postage discount.

"Whether you have 20 letters or 6,000, it will save you money," says Bristol.

In September, Maple River was approved and certified by the U.S. Postal Service to offer a presort service to anyone. Starting in January, Maple River Direct Mail will have a machine that reads the zip codes on the envelope, gives them a bar code, and sorts them according to destination-whether it be Traverse City, in state, or out of state. They will then be dropped off at the mail processing plant. By using the presorting service, customers will save two cents on each stamp, so a stamp will cost 39 cents.

"We're saving the post office time by doing the sorting here, says Kniat. "So those savings are passed on to the customer."

Maple River is the only company north of Lansing that will offer presort savings to anyone, regardless of mail amount.

Due to the Internet boom, including email and online payments, the volume of single piece first-class mail has shrunk by 11 billion pieces, or four percent since 1998. But Maple River Direct Mail isn't concerned by these numbers…they believe there will always be a need for mail.

"People have a 'mail moment,'" says Kniat. "They get home from work, check their mailbox, and want something to look at, something to hold on to." BN