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Direct Mail Campaign

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The Postal Service™ offers some great ways to reach out to new customers, and keep current customers happy, too.

Whether you’ve never used direct mail or you’re looking to optimize your current direct mail strategy, we can help with some tips on budgeting and planning, finding your target audience, designing your mail-piece, and working with a printer. Image of seamless, inc. mailings sitting next to a calculator and pen on top of a notebook.

Getting started with Direct Mail

Get the point across with the right delivery.

You’ve got a great story to tell-now all you need are the right words. While you don’t have to be a professional writer to develop your message, there’s a subtle art to fine-tuning what you say in order to make it sell.

The Writing Process

Follow these steps to craft an effective message…

  • Visualize your audience. Who are they? How does your product or service appeal to their needs?
  • Write to this individual in a conversational tone; your message should sound as if it’s coming from a friend.
  • Make the message about the recipient; use “you” more than “I” or “we.”
  • Focus on benefits: What will this person or business get from using your product or service? How will it make them feel?
  • Highlight your offer.
  • Include a clear and compelling call-to-action: What you want your audience to do.
  • Create a sense of urgency by including an expiration date on an offer.
  • Use proper grammar and avoid jargon.
  • Write clearly and concisely.
  • Proofread.

What is a Call-to-Action?

The call-to-action tells your audience how they can respond to your offer. Once a customer is interested, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do business with you.

The components of your call-to-action are the what, where, how, and when of your offer:

  • Relate to the audience.
  • What are you offering or selling?
  • Where is it available?
  • How can a customer acquire it?
  • When does the offer expire?

Make a Compelling Offer

The right incentive is hard to pass up.

To increase responses rates, your mailing might highlight a special offer. An offer will not only help you track the number of calls you get because of the direct mail, its expiration date will help create a sense of urgency.

Some effective offer ideas…

  • Announce a special sale.
  • Send a coupon calendar.
  • Preview upcoming in-store or online bargains.
  • Host an event.
  • Create a special occasion or holiday deal.

Base the offer on who you’re targeting, whether it’s existing customers you’d like to see again, potential new customers who can benefit from your products or services, or a whole new market. Look through incentives you’ve received in the mail, and check out offers in newspapers and stores. Which were appealing and memorable; which seemed too good to be true?

Then ask yourself these questions…

  • How does my product or service benefit these customers?
  • How is my product or service unique?
  • What do I want my customers to do?

Make it easy to respond.

You may invite your customer to your store or choose to provide your customer with a prepaid postcard, a phone number, an email address, or web site so that they can easily take advantage of your offer.

No design school required. You can make your whole campaign with some basic design software that has a variety of fonts, images, and colors. We’ve even teamed up with some easy-to-use web sites* that help you format, design, print, and send your mailing online.

*Private vendors may apply non-USPS charges

Design Guidelines

The design of your direct mail piece gets attention and helps prospects understand your message. Keep these elements in mind…

  • Visualize your audience: picture who they are, and how your product or service fits into their lives when looking for images.
  • Keep your layout clean, airy, and simple.
  • Allow only one element (headline or visual) to dominate the page.
  • If you have a logo, give it prominence so people know the message is from you.
  • Limit yourself to one or two fonts: Use large, bold type for headlines and smaller, easy-to-read type for text.
  • Call attention to benefits or important information with bold statements or bullet points.
  • Make sure the call-to-action is easy to find and read.

Using Photos

A strategically positioned photo or illustration can work wonders for your mailpiece, and it’s a great way to show off your featured product or service. Grab a digital camera and photograph your product, buy illustrations and photos from stock photography web sites for reasonable rates, or consider using royalty-free art.

Try using related-but still relevant-images to create a mood for your mailing. For example, a florist could show a smiling couple to express the joy flowers bring-instead of just showing a bouquet.

Print It

It’s easy to create and print your own professional-looking direct mail pieces with your own equipment or with an online service. A local print shop can give you a high-quality result, depending on your budget. To ensure that printing fees fit your budget, keep the following in mind

  • Choose a standard format size-these are more cost-effective to print and mail.
    Click the Format tab for more information
  • More colors raise printing costs-highlight key messages with one or two colors, and consider keeping the rest black and white.
  • Paper prices vary for different weights and finishes, so select the right kind of paper for your job.
  • Avoid reprint costs by carefully proofreading your mailing before it’s printed.
  • Give the printer plenty of time to get the job done-a rush job may cost more.

Make Your Printing a Little Greener

  • Use recycled materials.
  • Allow customers to opt out of your mailings so you’re not sending them unwanted mail.
  • Design your mailings to be recyclable, too. Print with water-based inks on uncoated paper stocks and use windowless envelopes.
  • Talk to your printer about environmentally friendly options.

Get local printing resources and other information at the Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation web site.

Find a local printer ›

Create Your Own Online

Our Approved Postal Provider® sites make it easy for you to design a mailing and send an entire campaign tomorrow-with standard USPS® formats and postage services-all online.


Business mail, letters, flyers, postcards, and more-printed and mailed the next business day.

  • Professional, business—grade options include Certified Mail®, Priority Mail®, First-Class Mail®, Standard Mail®, and nonprofit mail.
  • Create personalized, direct mail campaigns in minutes.
  • Choose from postcards, flyers, letters, and booklets.
  • Buy mailing lists at affordable prices: business or consumer.
  • Discounted postage on any volume.
  • No permits, fees or forms required—USPS compliance guaranteed.
  • CASS™ address cleansing and IMb Tracing™ included—no minimum mail volume required.
  • Mail-ready Every Door Direct Mail® service.

Get started at

Attractive postcards, countless images, create a mailing and send it the next business day.

  • Choose from our image and template galleries—the possibilities are endless.
  • Send a personal message to each recipient.
  • Protect your postcards with a high quality finish.
  • Sign up quickly with no fees or mailing forms.

Get started at

Design professional marketing materials for your small business online. Do-it-yourself or use our templates to create brochures, newsletters, calendars, and more. You can even upload and save your own mailing lists or create one using our online tools. Create materials based on your industry or your marketing strategy in just 3 easy steps…

  1. Customize your product.
  2. Add recipients.
  3. Let us do everything else!

Get started at

One of the biggest factors in planning a direct mail campaign is how much you decide to spend. Set a budget while you plan the campaign to stay on track and deliver your message cost-effectively.

Keep the following costs in mind when budgeting for your campaign…

  • Renting a mailing list
  • Hiring a writer, graphic designer, or both
  • Printing: compare quotes from different printers
  • Alterations, retouching, and proofs of your piece
  • Quality control check
  • Postage costs

Find other ways to save…

  • Use an efficient size and mailing format
  • Remove undeliverable addresses from your list
  • Use efficient address formats
  • Form a tracking strategy to increase effectiveness

Get an idea with these estimates…

Components Estimated Costs (10,000 Mailing)
Creative $0.1125
Art & Preparation $0.0975
Printing Production $0.2344
Mailing Lists $0.1235
Computer Processing $0.0232
Lettershop Printing Production $0.0403
Allocated Fees $0.1355
Postage $0.2470

Find Your Audience

Who is most likely to be interested in your product or service? Chances are, they’re a lot like your current customers. Use their characteristics as a model for a mailing list.

Start with your customer base.

  • Conduct a simple survey to learn about customers’ tastes.
  • Pay attention to characteristics such as age and income.
  • Look at your records-sales slips, invoices, delivery information. These tell you who your customers are, what they buy, how often they shop, and how much they spend.

Target effectively.

Save money and reduce environmental impact by pursuing your best prospects-why spend money on people not likely to buy? You can carefully determine the characteristics of your audience, tailor your message to match their needs and interests, and increase the chances that they’ll act on your offer.

A mailing list provider can help you find your target audience and supply you with mailing lists that meet your needs.

Find a Mailing List Provider

Keep track of your customers.

An effective mailing list is more than names and addresses-you can use it as a record of each person’s buying behaviors. Depending on the size of your list, you can keep track of their activity in a spreadsheet or use a contact management program to organize your customer database.

Keep your list accurate.

You can avoid unnecessary costs with a few preliminary steps…

  • Double-check the spellings of customer and street names.
  • Cross-check lists to make sure the same address doesn’t appear more than once.
  • Use the Find a ZIP Code™ tool to verify that each ZIP Code number matches the street address, and to find ZIP + 4® Codes for your addresses.
    Verify a ZIP Code now ›

To get commercial Standard Mail® and First-Class Mail® prices, you’ll fill out and sign a postage statement certifying that you’ve checked the accuracy of ZIP Codes within these timeframes…

  • Pre-sorted: Verify 5-digit ZIP Codes within 12 months of mailing.
  • Automation: Verify complete addresses within 95 days of mailing.
  • Carrier Route: Verify carrier route information within 90 days of mailing.

Ask about the National Deliverability Index.

With so many Americans moving each year, think how many might be your customers or members. Make sure the list you rented has accurate addresses-ask about its National Deliverability Index (NDI), which rates the percentage of addresses in a list that are deliverable. You can also use it to target certain address elements and save on postage.


When choosing a format, keep in mind how the message will unfold. The size, shape, and layout of your mailpiece can help you present your product or service and highlight its benefits, and feature a compelling offer.

Format Benefits
  • Give your message immediate attention.
  • Cost-effective way to announce new products, services, sales, or special offers.
  • Customers can use them as coupons or tickets to store events.
  • Send them as thank-you notes for recent purchases
  • Tell your story persuasively
  • Include other elements (like calendars and coupons) in and on the envelope
  • Give news and updates on new activities or promotions
  • Make a case for fundraisers with prose format and reply envelopes
Brochures and Booklets
  • Share information with your audience visually
  • Keep members and customers up to date with newsletter format
  • Introduce new products and services
  • Advertise special promotions or organizational activities
Flyers and Self Mailers Entry
  • Use the larger format to elaborate on the details of your offer
  • Point out key benefits and tell your story
  • Display glossy images of your product or service
  • Send as a sheet with coupons
Picture Permit Imprint Indicia
  • Customize permit indicia with business-themed images or corporate logos
  • Boost mailpiece visibility, value, and open rate
  • Promote company products and services
  • Nominal per piece fee in addition to postage
  • Available for presort First-Class Mail and Standard letters and cards
Reply Mail
  • Reply envelopes or postcards make it easy to respond
  • Customers respond at leisure-no heavy sales pressure
  • Communication is secure and private
  • Postage-paid, pre-printed First-Class Mail® materials
  • Pay only for responses received
  • Customer-paid postage option available
  • High-volume discounts available
Customized MarketMail®
  • Design unique mailpieces in any shape
  • Include offers and response devices
  • Create a tangible, memorable experience
  • No envelope required
  • Express Mail® and Priority Mail® services available
  • Low 200-piece minimum
Repositionable Notes
  • Attach a message on the outside of your mailpiece
  • Highlight an important benefit or call-to-action
  • Customers can peel off and stick them anywhere
  • Available with First-Class Mail and Standard Mail®
  • No special handling needed
Product Samples
  • Send samples to a targeted group
  • Products reach consumers nationwide
  • Results are measurable
  • A cost-effective way to bring in new business