Do You Need a Postage Meter in Your Office?

Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Business Start Up Advice [ 0 Comments ]

postage meterTraditional Mail May Seem Obsolete, but It’s Not

Shipping via mail is often substantially less expensive than using a private shipping company. Paper invoices are still widely used, and direct mail marketing remains popular despite the rise in online marketing techniques. For these reasons, many small businesses use postage meters to ready their products for shipping.

While it may seem that traditional postal services are becoming obsolete, particularly in light of possible service cutbacks, these services are more useful than ever in certain situations. Online businesses have to get products to customers all over the world, and many of these businesses depend on the U.S. Mail for shipping.

Postage Meters Benefit Many Types of Businesses, Including Online Businesses

While the volume of letters handled by the U.S. Mail has dropped since the advent of widespread internet use, the use of mail for shipping packages has increased. From the casual eBay seller to the maker of custom crafts on Etsy, online business often requires the shipment of physical items, and mail is very popular for this task.

Other reasons businesses (online or off) still use mail include tracking down customers who owe money and sending legal papers that must be hand-signed or notarized. The use of registered mail is ideal for letters or other documents that are important enough that a documented chain of custody is needed. With registered mail, package details are recorded in a register so that it can be tracked.

Shipping items inexpensively and securely through U.S. Mail helps many small businesses turn a profit. For these businesses, a postage meter can be a smart investment.

How Postage Meters Work

You might think that you would obtain a postage meter from the U.S. Post Office, but in fact you cannot due to federal regulations. The Postal Service is prevented from competing with private enterprise, and so they only regulate the makers of postage meters and are not allowed to actually supply them.

To get a postage meter for your business, you sign a lease with an authorized postage meter distributor and are supplied with a meter and scale. Sometimes the meter and the scale are all one piece, and sometimes they’re separate.

Every time you print a label with your postage meter, the amount of the postage is automatically deducted from a bank account or charged to a credit card. Because postage meters are leased, the money and time you save by always getting accurate postage rates must be weighed against the cost of leasing the equipment.

How a Postage Meter Saves Time and Money

Postage meters can greatly speed the process of sending out large numbers of identical letters. In fact, some postage meters are advanced enough to fold, stuff, and meter envelopes. Also, while there are no guarantees, metered mail does tend to arrive at its destination a bit earlier than traditionally stamped items.

The main reasons postage meters save businesses money are time savings and accuracy of postage. Making trips to the post office and adding extra stamps to be sure of having sufficient postage on items can cause postal costs to increase by up to 20%. With a postal meter, you’re always putting the exact postage needed on every piece of mail and saving a trip to the post office.

Should You Invest in a Postage Meter for Your Business?

If you are constantly making trips to the Post Office, then it’s time to consider leasing a postage meter. Postage meters let you track exactly how much your business spends on postage, so you don’t have to save receipts for this purpose. Furthermore, mail stamped by a postage meter has a more professional look than stamped mail, and this may be important if you are concerned about maintaining a highly professional image.

Before leasing a postage meter, consider costs, including monthly rental costs, which vary depending on which type of meter you need. You will also need to consider ink fees. Ink is billed on a “per impression” basis, and ink cartridges with most postal meters print 600 to 2,500 impressions before running out. Also keep in mind that postage fees with meters are prepaid and are refilled by your meter provider.

If your business does a small volume of mailing, and if most of your outgoing mail can be taken care of with a simple postage stamp, then a postage meter may not be cost-effective. But if you are a high-volume mailer, or regularly ship items with varying postage requirements, then a postage meter is something you should definitely consider due to potential time and cost savings.

Photo credit: Sporkist

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