Direct Mail How To

May 18, 2011
May 18, 2011 bcook

Direct Mail How To

Direct Mail can play an intricate part of a businesses marketing. Some businesses collect addresses from customers and send monthly mail outs to keep customers informed and reminded of events and sales. Others might use D.M. to target new customers by purchasing a mail list and blasting a geographic area or demographic. Depending on your marketing objectives, D.M. might be a good outlet to use. Here are a few things to know about how Direct Mail works!

1. Your Mailing List

The mailing list for direct mail is what separates it apart from other traditional media outlets. Business owners are able to niche their target audience much more than they could with broadcast or print publications. For example:

  • Lists can be made of customers who have made a purchase
  • Lists can be pulled from zip codes or even a particular mile radius from your business
  • Lists can be niched to age, sex, household income
  • Lists can even be pulled on psychographics (Interests that individuals have)

A combination of geographic, demographic and psychographics can really niche your audience! For example you might want to reach women living within 20 miles of your store with a household income of $60K plus that like gardening. Keep in mind that the more specific you get in a list the price per address will increase.

Business owners should always start with the mailing list. This can help determine how many pieces you can send and still keep within budget.

Companies we have used: InfoUSA 800.321.0869 (Lindsey Brown is a great rep!)

2. Your Mailing House

A Mailing House is often needed to print the address labels and indicia on the piece. An indicia is the printed markings on the direct mail piece that show the postage has been paid. Often mailing houses have their own indicia and can get breaks in the price of postage. The USPS have commercial offices that weigh the mail and the indicia permit holder pays before the mail is sent out. Often times mail sorting will be needed and can help reduce costs.  Mailing houses will take care of all the sorting for you.

Although mailing houses are often needed, especially for larger amounts of direct mail, BE CAREFUL! Many times the mailing house might want to package everything together including the list, printing labels, design and print original piece. Sometimes it could be a good deal, but not always! It’s always good to have them quote both ways and mailing houses are often negotiable with pricing.

Companies we have used: MailCo USA in Fayetteville or Target Direct Mail in Springdale

3. Your Printing

If you use a mailing house, they will want to know dimensions. It’s always good to ask your sales rep their opinion on a piece that is cost-effective, attractive and that can stand out in a mail box. The post office has guidelines that you must follow:

  • The address label must be printed in a particular area
  • The return address must be located in specific area
  • If the piece has a fold, it must be tabbed a certain way
  • And many other rules might apply!

If you do not use a mailing house, ask your printing sales rep if they have seen a direct mail piece do well. They can help guide you as well. Looking at some examples could only help!

An important part of the printing process is deciding what type of paper to use. Again, if you explain your demographic to your sales rep they should be able to give good advice. Many times a printers buy paper in bulk and it could be cost-effective to use it as long as you do not jeopardize the overall look and feel you want for your audience.

Companies we have used: Sir Speedy in Springdale or  Harmony in Missouri

4. Design

It is always good to wait until you have all the dimensions of the mail piece and where the label, return address, indicia, etc. will be placed before you design your piece. Your design will be the first message your audience receives so make sure it communicates your objectives in an eye pleasing kind of way.

Businesses should take a “realistic look” at the design. By realistic, put yourself in the shoes of your audience and use common sense to determine what the audience might do.  Too many times businesses focus on the very minute details. For example, once we had a customer that obsessed over rather or not to have dots or hyphens in the phone number. I think using common sense you can make the decision that a very small percentage of people have ripped up a mail piece because the phone number was listed as 555.5555 instead of 555-5555. More important is the overall look.

  • Is it clean?
  • Does it communicate easily but effectively?
  • Does it have the information in it for the audience to execute your objectives?

Design is important in creating synergy. Try to create one image for your company and incorporate it in all your marketing pieces. This includes:

  • Knowing your CMYK colors and sticking with them.
  • Stay with the same font(s)
  • Make sure media outlets incorporate your layout instead of developing their own.
  • Use it in everything, including letter head, envelopes, signage, clothing, etc.


Cost is tough to determine because the price per piece will go down with the more impressions. A high estimate for list, labeling, sorting, design, printing and postage of 1000 pieces is about .70 cents per piece but some can be as low as .30 cents per piece.

We hope this information can be helpful in deciding if Direct Mail is an outlet you can benefit from using. If you have any questions or comments pleas feel free to comment below or give us a call at 479.445.2657

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