As retail businesses grow, so too must their marketing efforts. Mail service providers, or MSPs, help businesses expand operations in advertising and communications. These third-party companies provide a host of services including designing, printing, sorting, transporting mailers and more.
There are thousands of MSPs in the Unites States. Some only provide specific services from the list outlined below, while others offer a wider range. Services include:
- Printing Only – printing a company’s mail with the necessary bar codes.
- Printing and Mailing – printing, presorting and submitting mail. Some MSPs offer additional drop-shipment discounts.
- List Mailing – similar to printing and mailing, except MSP does not print the mailing components and instead picks up existing mail from its customers.
- Presort and/or Comingling – taking letter-sized mail from one or more customers and presorting and comingling the mail to potentially qualify for presort discounts.
- Consolidating – consolidating mail already prepared into trays or bundles with other mail to achieve deeper discounts.
Deciding what MSP to partner with takes careful deliberation. Below, we map out the most important questions you should consider when choosing an MSP.
Considering Your Needs
Before contacting MSPs in your area, consider what help you need. Are you looking for printing or discounted mail services? How much are you willing to spend? What end goal do you have in mind? What type of customer service do you expect? Once you’ve mapped out your answers, make a list of MSPs in your area and start your search.
Deciding on Services
When contacting each MSP, it’s important to get a grasp of their capabilities. To narrow down the list, companies should determine the answers to the following questions:
- Does the MSP offer the services you’re looking for?
- Are they close enough to your business to make frequent pickups?
- Can they tailor pickup times to your business needs?
- Do their tracking systems collect step-by-step delivery information?
Choosing a Budget
Picking the right mix of services at the right price will have a pronounced effect on your bottom line. Once you’ve decided what you need from an MSP, have each company give you a detailed estimate. Below, we list a few important questions to keep in mind:
- How are the services priced? Are they fixed or volume-related?
- What are the thresholds for bulk discounts?
- Are there discounts for continuously using a service?
- Which companies have the lowest price points?
- What’s the maximum workshare discount an MSP can offer?
- How much could your company save with each MSP?
Looking at Their Track Record
Before deciding on an MSP, you should also look at each company’s track record. For those seeking out design services, it is especially important to find a service provider with an aesthetic that falls in line with your brand. Consider the following:
- Does the MSP have a portfolio of prior work?
- Does their portfolio meet the standards you’re looking for?
- Does the MSP have case studies that showcase past direct marketing success?
- What creative ideas do they have in mind for your company?
Assessing Their Customer Service
Good relationships are the cornerstone of a successful business. Before committing to an MSP, you should gauge the level of attention you’ll be getting.
- Who will be your point person at the MSP?
- How often can you contact them?
- Can the MSP provide a contact for reference?
- What external reviews does the company have? Are they positive?
- What was their biggest customer service complaint in the past? How was it solved?
Negotiating the Contract
Finally, once you have picked an MSP, it’ll be time to sign the paperwork. Work slowly through the contract to be sure all your needs are met. Think about the following questions during the final stage:
- How many creative revisions does the contract include?
- Are any professional services included in the deal? Will employees be trained in the MSP’s systems?
- Are all of your business needs covered down to the very last detail, including services, pickup times and price points?
Deciding on one MSP can be challenging. If you’re looking for different kinds of help, it may be in your best interest to work with two or more service providers. Be sure to ask as many questions as possible to make the final, all-important decision. The right decision could spell out success in any number of arenas – processing and shipping efficiency, discounts and, ultimately, happy customers.
- “Mail Owner Information Sheet,” USPS, 2013.
- Workshare is a process in which MSPs prepare mailings to qualify for postage discounts