Learn About Bulk Mailing and Tracking → Personalizing Bulk Mail

Yes, you can include some personalized information in USPS Marketing Mail ("bulk mail")

Scott HochbergScott Hochberg
 Postage $aver Software


Many mailers think that all pieces in a USPS Marketing Mail mailing must be identical except for name, address and salutation ("Dear Bob"). But that's not correct. There are some important exceptions that you can use to your advantage to make your mailings more effective. And there are also some specific things that are not allowed.

Postage Saver software makes postal bulk mailing easy Nonprofit mailers should be aware that their mailings are subject to additional rules beyond those discussed here. A good place to review the rules for nonprofit Marketing Mail is the USPS Nonprofit Eligibility Guide.

Here's what this page covers:

red dotWhat is considered personal information for USPS Marketing Mail?

red dotThe "directly related to content" exception.

red dotThe "two identical pieces" rule.

red dotBills and statements prohibited, unless for enclosed goods.

red dotHandwriting and typewriting prohibited, but there are exceptions.

What does USPS consider to be personal information for USPS Marketing Mail?

Personal information generally cannot be included in mail sent using Marketing Mail rates (though I'll discuss exceptions below). So it's important to know what USPS considers to be personal information.

Personal information (for USPS purposes) does not include: So you can include those items in Marketing Mail without any restriction.

Personal information (for USPS purposes) does include any other information specific to the addressee. For example: So you can not include those items, and others like them, in Marketing Mail unless they meet the "directly-related to content" exception below.
You can use personal information in Marketing Mail if it meets the requirements in the following rule:

Rule 243.2.2 Personal Information: Personal information may not be included in a USPS Marketing Mail mailpiece unless all of the following conditions are met:
 (a) The mailpiece contains explicit advertising for a product or service for sale or lease or an explicit solicitation for a donation.
 (b) All of the personal information is directly related to the advertising or solicitation.
 (c) The exclusive reason for inclusion of all of the personal information is to support the advertising or solicitation in the mailpiece.

For example, if you're soliciting contributions to your church, you can say:

Dear Bob,

Thanks for all of your support last year. Your contributions totaling $125 are greatly appreciated.

As you know, we've started a drive to expand our activities center. Can we count on you for at least $150 this year?

In this letter, there is clearly a solicitation for a donation, as required by (a). The personal information (the amount of last year's contributions and the amount requested this year) are directly related to the solicitation as required by (b). And the only reason the amounts are included are to support the solicitation, as required by (c).

But, you cannot say:

Dear Bob,

Thanks for all of your support last year. Your contributions totaling $125 are greatly appreciated.

As you know, we've started a drive to expand our activities center. Can we count on you for at least $150 this year?

Please keep this letter for your tax records in acknowledgement of your past year's contributions.

By adding the last line, the personal information now serves a second purpose: completing the recipient's tax record. Since the personal information now serves a second purpose beyond just supporting the solicitation, the letter cannot be sent using Marketing Mail.

In another example of personal information that was allowed in Marketing Mail, USPS ruled that including a subscriber's expiration date in a subscription renewal notice was ok, since the expiration date was included to support the solicitation for a renewal and served no other purpose.

USPS has also ruled that a person's voting location can be included in a Marketing Mail campaign piece encouraging the recipient to vote for a candidate or ballot proposition, as long as there is no other purpose for including the voting location.

Here are more details on the "directly-related" rule.

The "two identical pieces" rule for Marketing Mail

The rules for Marketing Mail never say that all pieces must be identical. What the rule actually says is that every piece in a mailing must be identical to at least one other piece in the mailing, not to every other piece.

Rule 243.3.2.10 Identical Pieces: The contents of printed matter in a USPS Marketing Mail mailing must be identical to a piece sent to at least one other addressee. USPS Marketing Mail may include the addressee‘s name and address but may not transmit personal information except as permitted under 243.2.2.

That means that you can mix pieces with different content in the same mailing (for example, to do A/B testing), as long as you don't violate the personal information rules discussed above.

You can't use Marketing Mail to send bills or statements, except...

Generally, you can't send bills or account statements as Marketing Mail, since they contain personal information and can only be sent using First Class Mail even if there's advertising included with the bill.

There is an exception, however. Under Rule 243.2.5.2, USPS allows "incidental First Class Mail attachments or enclosures" to be included in a Marketing Mail piece without causing the piece to have to be sent as First Class Mail. By incidental, they mean that the attachment or enclosure is "closely associated with but secondary to the host piece."

A bill is considered to be an "incidental First Class Mail attachment or enclosure" if the bill is for a product or publication that is the main contents of the Marketing Mail piece. Similarly, a statement of account is allowed if it is for past products or publications like those that are the main content of the piece. This exception even allows a personal message or greeting included with a product, publication, or parcel and mailed as Marketing Mail.

There is a fine line here, so if you are considering using the exception, it might be worth checking with USPS first.

Marketing Mail cannot include handwritten or typewritten material, except...

Handwritten and typewritten material is generally prohibited in Marketing Mail under Rule 243.2.4, but again, there are exceptions. Most of the exceptions are obscure and would not likely be something you would come across when preparing Marketing Mail.

The following are allowed in Marketing Mail even if handwritten:
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Scott Hochberg
Scott Hochberg started Postage Saver Software in 1994. He's been helping small businesses and nonprofits save postage with postal bulk mail for more than 25 years. Scott's based in Austin, Texas. He's happy to answer your bulk mailing questions!