Shipping and mailing needs are different for every small business, and if your business mostly deals with transferring information online, then your mailing needs will be minimal. But if your business regularly sends out brochures, sales letters, promotional postcards, samples and more, you need to get a handle on postage costs before they get out of hand.
Here are some tips and tools to help manage your shipping, mailing and postage needs for your small business:
If your postage needs go beyond buying a book of stamps now and then, look into more sophisticated postage options so you aren’t making multiple trips to the post office. Your business will benefit from the convenience of having postage meters and other mailing tools in-house so you don’t lose any precious working time. You can sign up for a US Postal Service (USPS) account that you can run directly through the USPS, or sign up for a third-party solution, such as pbSmartPostage, which also lets you print postage on your office printer.
Current postage rates are listed on the USPS website. The good news is that if you send out large volumes of mail, you may qualify for lower postage rates. If you mail a lot of Priority Mail Express or Priority Mail items, you can save trips to the post office by ordering packaging supplies, including envelopes and boxes, online. Also, if you prefer to have your packages and mailers picked up at a certain time of day, for a fee the USPS will pick up your mail within a two-hour window. Otherwise, you’ll be on a regular postal schedule.
Shipping solutions such as the USPS, UPS, FedEx and DHL make it easy for small businesses to set up an account to schedule package shipping. Whether you need ground, express or freight shipping, you can take care of most of the transactions online, including scheduling pickups and tracking packages after they’ve been sent. If you mail lots of packages, you can have packages picked up directly from your business on a regular basis; if not, you can request pickups as needed.
With US-based ecommerce predicted to reach $350 billion in sales by year’s end, you don’t want to be left out because you can’t figure out how to fill orders in a timely fashion. UPS and FedEx offer comprehensive ecommerce solutions, but there are a myriad of ways to fulfill your ecommerce orders.
Many small business owners use product fulfillment companies, such as Shopify, Amazon and Shipwire to get products to their customers, especially if they have customers outside the US. Simply send products to their fulfillment centers, and they take care of the rest for you. Shopify and Amazon handle the inventory, sales, packaging and tracking. If you want more control, Shipwire works with your ecommerce system and then fulfills the order.
Cut Your Mailing and Shipping Costs
Try these tactics to keep your mailing and shipping costs to a minimum.
- Keep your mailing list up to date. Sending material to customers who have moved or no longer read your mailers or brochures is a waste of money. Make sure your database system routinely checks for obsolete addresses and non-responsive customers.
- Assess shipping costs. Before you offer free shipping to customers, make sure you’ve done your homework and know how much shipping costs you can absorb in the transaction while still making a profit. You may need to set a higher minimum purchase or increase product prices to cover the cost.
- Help customers calculate. Set up a real-time shipping quote tool on your website so customers will know ahead of time exactly what it costs to ship their item, instead of a general estimate.
- Talk to the experts. Make an appointment with your mailing provider, and talk about the best options for your business. You may assume you know what’s right for your business, but a representative who wants your business can show you how to save money.
- Print in-house. Printing postage at your office is actually cheaper than going in to mail the items yourself. Discounts are available for businesses printing their own postage, and you avoid having to wait in long lines.