Best Practice

What is the difference between First Class and Standard Class Mail?

One of the most common questions in Mail Survey budgeting is the kind of postage to use. Depending on your survey you may be able to cut on cost by using standard instead of first-class mail, however, think about this carefully, as you risk lowering survey response and reducing data quality. To help you decide, we’ve identified some key differences between the two. Choose the best one to fit your project.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) processes mail based on the mail type. The following are the most common types of mail. 

  •  Express Mail – Typically overnight services
  •  Priority Mail – Guaranteed delivery in 1-3 days depending on location
  •  First Class Mail
  •  Standard/Bulk Class Mail

Difference between First Class and Standard Class Mail


First Class Presort

First Class mail will be delivered in 1-2 days for local addresses and nationally; all of it should be delivered in about 4-5 days. If your party has moved and submitted a change of address with USPS, your mail will be forwarded at no cost for a period of 1 year. If it’s undeliverable, it will be returned at no cost with the reason why it could not be delivered.

The mail file must have at least 500 records, be NCOA address updated, CASS certified, and put in presort order before being delivered to the postal service. Typical savings off of list rates depend on the zip code sort; you can expect to save 10-20%. 


Standard Class (formerly known as Bulk Mail)

There is a significant saving using Standard Class mail (aka Bulk mail). Standard mail is processed by the USPS on a “time available” basis. There is NO guaranteed delivery time, only “typicals.” Local mail is typically delivered in about 3-6 workdays, and national mail can be 1-3 weeks. Sometimes it’s faster, and other times it’s slower. Just remember there is no guarantee, and mail is processed as they have time. In our experience, we see longer delays around the holidays. 


  • The “pros”: It’s the least expensive postage mode, almost half the price of 1st class, which enables you to mail a higher volume for less. It also allows up to 3.3 ounces, all for the same low postage rate.  


  • The “cons”: Due to the delivery time, NEVER use Standard mail if you have a rapidly approaching event or expiration date. Standard mail is not forwarded and usually not returned if undeliverable. It merely goes into the USPS recycling bin. Standard Class mail requires a minimum of 250 pieces to qualify for these rates.


Partner with DataForce

Managing a mail survey project can be overwhelming when you have different vendors to deal with. Streamline your project by partnering with a data collection expert that can handle all your needs. Our one-source solution is uniquely designed to align with your organization’s mission at the strategic level while saving you time, risk, and money! For more information on data collection or any aspect of survey mail management, contact us today!

By |2020-05-30T17:03:13+00:00May 24th, 2020|Survey Mailing Services|0 Comments

How to Increase Mail Survey Response Rates

When you’re doing a Mail Survey Project, the last thing you want is to spend a lot of time and resources creating and sending a survey and get a low response rate. Without a sufficient response rate, results are questionable, and data quality is severely affected. To avoid this, we lined up some Best Practices in How to Increase Mail Survey Response Rate:


  1. A Compelling Cover Letter
  2. Reduce Length of Survey
  3. Use Reminder Postcards and Pre-Notification Letters
  4. Ensure Survey Return is Simple and Convenient
  5. Brand your Survey
  6. Use Incentives


1. A Compelling Cover Letter 

The cover letter should not be overbearing but instead a request for help. Emphasize your genuine appreciation for the time and effort of your potential respondents. A study has found that including the phrase “it would really help us out” can increase the survey response rate by 18%. A strong cover letter should include:

  • The purpose of the study
  • The materials included for returning the survey (e.g. return stamp and envelope or business reply envelope)
  • The confidentiality or anonymity of the survey 
  • The significance of a prompt response without being overbearing 
  • The benefits to the respondent 
  • The impact of the respondent’s feedback and how their opinion is valued
  • Contact information in case respondents have inquiries about the survey


2. Reduce Length

A long survey is an instant rejection by most respondents. A study has found that data quality reduces by more than 10% when the survey takes more than 15-20 minutes to complete. For example, respondents only filling out a portion of the survey. Hence, it is best to keep the survey at or below 15 minutes.


How to Increase Mail Survey Response Rates


3. Use Reminder Postcards and/or Pre-Notification Letters

Letting respondents know that you will be sending them a mail survey is an essential component in most survey projects. Notifications can include: sending an email, letter, or postcard in advance. The message should include the purpose of the survey, the survey process, and why the potential respondents’ participation is vital. 

Don’t forget the reminder postcard or letter.  According to Don Dillman (Dillman as cited in Fox, R.J., & Crask, M.R., & Kim, J. (1988). Mail Survey Response Rate. Public Opinion Quarterly, 52, 474) this approach allows you to express your sincere appreciation for the persons hopeful participation, but this also enables you to combat one of the most common reasons that people cite for not participating in a survey – they forgot! In fact, if your budget can absorb it, we have found that a common practice for survey research is to send a prenotification letter, followed by the survey packet, followed by a follow- up contact of some form which will give you 3 different occasions to interact with your hopeful participants. There are multiple studies that have shown a simple reminder can increase response rates by 10-30%.


4. Ensure Survey Return is Simple and Convenient

Survey return should be costless and hassle-free for respondents. Consider using prepaid return envelope for higher response rate and reduced follow up. 

How to Increase Mail Survey Response Rates

Use Return Postage. Enclose postage and an envelope in the survey material for the expected reply. The response rate increases significantly with the use of return postage. Moreover, using stamps on return envelopes has been shown to be better than business reply mail, however, the costs may outweigh the benefits.

Check out this link 3 Tips to Streamline Your Survey Return Schedule


5. Brand your Survey

Make sure respondents know who the survey is from. Include a return address and your logo to identify the sender. This will improve credibility and increase response rates.

How to Design a Survey Form (Easy 7 Step Process)


6. Use Incentives

Answering a survey takes time away from the busy schedule of your respondents. Make it worthwhile by providing value. Money, promotional items, charitable donations, and raffles are the top incentives that are proven to work and reach target response rates of more than 40%. 

  • Money – This should come as little surprise. Monetary incentives include cash, checks, PayPal credits, money orders, gift cards, and coupons.
  • Promotional Item- Product and service samples are also a big hit with respondents. In order for them to work, however, you must know your audience. Offer something that speaks to them that you know they will enjoy.  
  • Charitable Donations- Charitable donations appeal to social and environmental consciousness. The stronger the emotional connection to the cause, the better your response rate will be and the more likely respondents will see you in a favorable light. 
  • Raffle A drawing incentive gives your respondents a random chance to win a valuable prize, as opposed to a contest based on merit. They simply complete the survey and return within a given timeframe and they are automatically entered to win.

If you want to learn more about the incentives, check out our post on 3 Survey Incentives to Explode your Response Rate


Bonus Tips:

1. Multi-modal or Mixed-mode Data Collection  

To increase the response rate, consider using mail surveys with other channels, such as online. This is called a multi-modal survey. Basically, you use two or more modes to collect responses from potential respondents, giving them options to complete the survey with the mode that best suits them. 

Check out our post If you want to learn  When to do a Multimodal Survey

2. Express Mail

According to a study, express mail can increase the response rate, especially to executives and business respondents. Express mail is a good way to validate the importance of the survey response to potential respondents. 

There you have it, the 6 best practice and 2 bonus tips that will greatly influence your response rate. To ensure success, be sure to take a look at these tips before you send out your mail survey.


Partner with Us

DataForce is a premier data collection company specializing in Mail and Multi-modal Survey Management. We are the only data collection company in the industry with large-scale, in-house capabilities for every stage of your survey or study. Rather than outsource your project to various partners, DataForce can streamline your entire research effort with end-to-end planning, printing, mailing, fulfillment, data collection, and analytics – all done in-house! Our one-source solution is uniquely designed to align with your organization’s mission at the strategic level while saving you time, risk and money! From simple, short-term surveys to complex, longitudinal studies, DataForce technology is built to scale. DataForce is also a certified Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), helping you meet diversity requirements.

For more information on Survey Mailing services and Data Collection Services, survey fulfillment services  Contact us Now!


By |2020-04-25T09:32:31+00:00April 15th, 2020|Survey Mailing Services|0 Comments

Good, Fast, Cheap – Pick Two

The other day I got into a heated discussion with a colleague about this quote. You can Google it and it will return 100’s of pages and images. It appears that there are even businesses that post signs, telling their customers they can only have two.

In my humble opinion, any organization that communicates and/or promotes this quote is preparing you, the consumer, to either:

a. Be prepared to pay a lot (Fast/Good)

b. To be able to say “I told you so” when it didn’t go so well (Fast/Cheap)

c. Have the perfect excuse as to why your product/project is 2 weeks over due (Cheap/Good)

Personally, I would never do business with someone that would put themselves into a box. I think we should always be striving for the ‘impossible’ utopia.

Don’t get me wrong, if you are looking for a Cadillac with a Pinto budget; you will never be happy. Make sure that are you working with a vendor that you trust, understands your objectives – if you don’t trust them to give you sound advice; it is time for a change. The right relationship shouldn’t feel like a customer/vendor relationship; it should be a partnership.

Don’t limit yourself, we should always be thinking outside of the box on how to do things better, faster and more efficiently.