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Is your direct mail getting the response you want? If it isn’t, it could be because people are having trouble responding to your offers. One way to make it easy for prospects to act on your offers is including business reply mail (BRM) with your direct mail. BRM makes it as painless as possible for your prospects to respond to your direct mail by offering a postage paid envelope or postcard. All your prospects have to do is drop it in the mail – no stamp required.
To send BRM, you need a USPS BRM permit. Sounds straightforward enough, right? The details and costs surrounding BRM permits can be confusing and complicated, though. That’s why this guide is designed to make the process of getting a BRM permit as easy as possible.
Let’s get started by defining business reply mail (BRM) and BRM permits.
What Is Business Reply Mail?
Business reply mail is a USPS program that allows you to prepay postage for responses to your direct mail campaigns. You pay an annual USPS business reply mail permit fee, along with a fee for each piece of return mail you receive. Business reply mail comes in several forms, including:
- Letter-size envelopes
- Postcards bound into magazines
- Mailing labels
So you know what BRM looks like. But how do you send business reply mail with your direct mail campaigns?
What Are BRM and QBRM Permits?
A USPS business reply mail permit lets you distribute an unlimited quantity of return mailers in the U.S. and its territories. Each BRM permit is authorized with a unique permit number. Authorization is based on completing two forms: PS Form 3615 and PS Form 6805.
If your pieces are compatible with USPS automated processing equipment, you can apply for a Qualified Business Reply Mail (QBRM) permit. Having a QBRM permit lowers your postage costs for large mailings. This is because automated equipment can rapidly sort your mail through computer scanning of ZIP codes and barcodes. As a result, USPS employees spend less time sorting and preparing your mail, which leads to discounts.
QBRM mailings require your pieces to have a USPS Intelligent Mail® barcode (IMb). In many cases, standard BRM mailings will also contain an IMb. IMbs combine tracking and routing information, along with the ID code for the individual or organization sending the mail.1
Should I Use BRM or QBRM?
Whether you use BRM or QBRM isn’t your choice – it’s based on your circumstances. If you’re not sending automation-compatible mail, you have to use BRM. If your mail is automation compatible, you can apply for a QBRM permit.
Some printers and direct mail companies might not offer automation-compatible printing. And if you’re taking the DIY route, you might not want to spend time making your pieces automation compatible.
Once you know which permit(s) you’re eligible for, you’re ready to move forward with the process of sending BRM.
How Do I Get Started with BRM?
You know what BRM and QBRM permits are. The next step is getting your own permit and giving that information to your direct mail company. They’ll design and print your BRM, then send it out with your direct mail. If you’re handling your own design and need help, you can contact a USPS Mailpiece Design Analyst (MDA). We’ll provide more details on that below.
Want to get started with BRM for your business? Let’s explore how to get a BRM or QBRM permit.
How Do I Get a BRM or QBRM Permit?
Only USPS workers can issue and authorize BRM permit numbers. To start, you’ll need to complete the forms above and pay your annual permit fee, if applicable (see table of fees in BRM cost section below). You’ll also set up an advance deposit account at the postal facility where you hold your permit. Postage is then deducted from this account for return mailings. When your balance runs low, you simply add more money to your advance deposit account. Basic BRM mailings can also be paid for by cash, check, or meter strip when the USPS turns your pieces over to you for mailing.
Can I Get Help with My BRM Permit Application?
Applying for a BRM permit can be tricky. If you need help, your best bet is to visit the USPS office in your area that handles BRM applications. This is called a Business Mail Entry Unit (BMEU). The USPS also has a tool to locate your nearest BMEU.
You receive your authorization number and pay your business reply mail permit fee at the BMEU. Business reply mail permit renewal can also be handled at the BMEU. Or, you can renew online through the USPS Centralized Account Processing System (CAPS).3 The CAPS also manages advance deposit accounts.
Make sure you bring two types of personal identification (including one with a photograph) when you apply for your BRM permit. Another piece of information necessary for the application is what the USPS calls a ZIP + 4 code.
What is a ZIP + 4 Code?
The USPS first started using nine-digit ZIP+4 codes to decrease the number of times a piece of mail was sorted and to increase correct delivery. But now it’s necessary for automated delivery because USPS automation relies on rapid address sorting down to the exact street or building floor.
But what do the nine digits mean? The first five indicate the area and the local post office to which mail should be delivered. The next two numbers refer to a sector, such as a neighborhood or large apartment building. The last two denote a segment within the sector, like a street or a floor in the building. Altogether, the last four digits should identify either your business’s physical address or PO Box.
How Much Does Business Reply Mail Cost?
BRM and QBRM categories are divided into high-volume and basic (low-volume) levels. Each have different fees and per-piece charges. The prices in the following two sections went into effect in January 2019 and come from USPS Notice 123.2
Business Reply Mail Postage Rates
The USPS charges a specific cost-per-response for both BRM and QBRM. These rates vary based on the mail format you’re sending and its weight. The table below contains costs for letters, flats, and parcels.
|Categories||Cost Per Response
for 1-Ounce Letter
|Cost Per Response
for 1-Ounce Flat
|Cost Per Response
for All Parcels
Business Reply Mail Permit Fees
The table below lays out all the fees associated with using BRM or QBRM. It also includes approximate expected return mail volume figures to help you decide whether you need basic or high-volume BRM or QBRM services.
|Categories||Approximate Expected Return Mail Volume||Annual Permit Fee for Letters & Flats (N/A for Parcels)||Annual Account Maintenance Fee||Quarterly Account Maintenance Fee|
|Basic BRM||Less than 961 responses annually||$235||N/A||N/A|
|High-Volume BRM||More than 961 responses annually||$235||$710 for each postal facility where you hold an advance deposit account||N/A|
|Basic QBRM||Approximately 613 responses or more annually||N/A||$710 for each postal facility where you hold an advance deposit account||N/A|
|High-Volume QBRM||Approximately 42,947 responses or more quarterly or approximately 171,786 responses or more annually||N/A||$710 for each postal facility where you hold an advance deposit account||$2,405 for any consecutive three month period|
Can I Get Help Designing My BRM Template?
Good question! The USPS has specific rules about what the face of your BRM must look like. Be sure to pay close attention to the precise measurements and placements of items as presented in Quick Service Guide 505.4 The USPS offers several services to help you create your BRM, including its online Automated Business Reply Mail® (ABRM®) design tool.5
Although the USPS itself doesn’t design barcodes, their team of Mailpiece Design Analysts can suggest where to do your barcode design.6 MDAs can also analyze completed templates for acceptability. You can contact them here. When you work with Mail Shark, our team of graphic designers will create your BRM for you, guaranteeing it will be compliant with USPS regulations. This service is included free of charge for our clients.
Make It Easy for People to Act on Your Offers
Including BRM with your direct mail makes it quick and easy for prospects to respond to your offers. In turn, you’ll get better response rates to your campaigns to maximize your direct mail investment.
Now that you know how to get your BRM permit, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Our experts will answer any questions you might have and talk to you about how you can add BRM to your direct mail letter campaigns.