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Designing for Direct Mail

You’ve dabbled with direct mail—maybe sent out a few postcards now and then—but now you’re ready to start taking deeper advantage of the beauty, tangibility, and interactivity of print. What do you need to know?

Postage Rates

To get the best postage rates, you must design within the United States Postal Service’s requirements for automation. You don’t want to design a beautiful piece that costs a fortune to mail. For example, you can mail a 6x11” postcard for automation rates, but if the piece is folded, it must measure 6x10 ½” to qualify.

At the same time, mail pieces you think might be more expensive might not be. For example, as long as a rectangular postcard is not folded, it costs the same to mail regardless of size. It costs the same to mail a 6x11” piece as it does one that is 6x9” or 5x8”. (Square postcards do not qualify for automation.) For a nominal extra cost in paper, you can take advantage of the larger surface area.

There are other guidelines for stock weight, trim size, and placement that are important, as well.

Attention-Getting Tricks

There are a variety of attention-grabbing tricks that mail specialists can share with you. For example, instead of using permit indicia, you might want to use specially designed “precanceled” stamps. This trick is used for runs over 250 pieces, and it makes the mailing seem more personal. This technique uses specially designed stamps that look like canceled USPS stamps (but aren’t), and the postal cost is the same as for indicia. These stamps are available for Nonprofit, Standard, or First Class mailings.

Protection in the Mail Stream

When designing for digitally produced postcards and self-mailers, it’s also important to consider the need for protection in the mail stream. Although digital prints have become much more durable than they used to be, marking can still occur. Aqueous coating can protect your mailing from being damaged in the USPS postal processing equipment. Or, if you have a design for which aqueous coating isn’t appropriate, you can use First-Class Mail to bypass the high-speed automation process.

There is a lot to learn about direct mail, but with the right partner, you can get up to speed quickly. It just takes a little experience and insight. Learn more about our direct mail options here!

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