Need a Hyper Targeted Direct Mailing List?

A well-executed direct mail campaign remains one of the most cost effective ways for a business to generate sales. That is especially true for small businesses whose advertising budgets may simply not include dollars for radio, television and major publications. Following are some tips to keep in mind when designing direct mailers.

Size and Shape

All mail is divided into two primary shapes: “letter-size” and “flats”. Letter-size can be as small as 3.5” x 5” and as large as 6.125″ x 11.5″ with an aspect ratio of 1:1.3 – the ratio of the height to the width. In essence, it is always rectangular. A mail piece is considered a “flat” if either of its dimensions are larger than letter-size.

The most common dimensions for letter size are 4.3” x 9.5” (actual number 10 letter size), 5” x 7”, 5.5” x 8.5” and 6” x 9”. Besides letter size and flats, another type of mailing is called “dimensional.” Dimensional pieces may be either letter or flat size, but they have an unusual characteristic, such as an insert that causes them to be somewhat asymmetrical. 

Postage for letter-size mail is determined by piece rate. Postage for flats is determined by piece rate plus a weight rate calculation. The piece rate is determined by the number of pieces going to a specific area and how correct the address is. A proper address will be coded by the Post Office (or your mailing house) to a complete zip+4.  A “specific area” might be many pieces to the same 5-digit zip code, or the first 3 digits of the zip code. Postage for dimensional mail will be determined by correct addresses, number of pieces to an area and a surcharge.


The simplest direct mail program utilizes post cards. For quality and economy, we suggest 100# card stock. This type of stock is heavy enough to maintain structural integrity while going through the various systems and hands of the United States Post Office.

Another option, with slightly more heft and structure, would be 14 pt. card stock. You can also add a bright finish, such as a UV or AQ coating.

Design Considerations

Fonts: You’re best off using just one font, or two at the most. If you do use two, stay within the same font family.

Readability: Respect your target audience when coming up with font type and size. Use a Gothic font for your band, but a larger, more traditional font for older customers.

Graphics: A direct mail program designed to solicit funds for a non-profit may have one or two graphics. A campaign to sell tickets to a theatrical production may be almost all graphics. And a direct mail program from an accounting firm to prospective clients may not have any graphics at all. Keep all important text and graphics (such as logos) within 1/8” of the final trim lines with respect to the bleed line. If you include your photo, it must be in high resolution, 300 DPI (“dots per inch”).

Anything that helps increase your return on a direct mail campaign is called a “lift.” Some things that help lift your mailing are the use of testimonials and a call to action. Another simple but effective tool is to duplicate a bit of your body text within a box somewhere on your mail piece.

While we can’t suggest what you should offer to prospective customers, keep in mind that the offer is responsible for 30-40% of the return. You want people to take an action, perhaps even change the way they are doing something or purchasing something. You must give them an incentive.

Mistakes to Avoid

People frequently make a lot of mistakes in regards to direct mail pieces, such as forgetting to include phone numbers or other contact information, or referring to holidays and using the wrong date. The most common mistakes by far are spelling and grammar errors.

The second biggest mistake is failing to offer something that is sufficient to entice a potential customer to actively do something or to change their purchase behavior.

Perhaps the greatest mistake in direct marketing has to do with expectations. Customers very frequently ask what kind of return they should expect, or they tell us they expect 1% – 1.5% based upon what they have read. And those percentages are real – but only for those companies who have tested different graphics and copy in their mailings. Companies who have in-house advertising departments with copywriters or who use advertising agencies see those results.

Determine ROI

How should you determine your ROI? Add up all our costs for a direct mailing, your expenses for design, copy, printing and postage. Now determine your average sales ticket, and divide the former by the latter. That’s how many sales you will need to cover your costs. If you get that many sales, you’ve broken even. If you get one more, you’re ahead of the game. And if you get repeat business from each client, factor that into the calculations.

If you’re ready to start designing your direct mail, Your Marketing Stuff is here to help!