Join Trish Witkowski for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing the right format, part of Print Production Essentials: Direct Mail.
When you look at the big picture of all of the different mail formats there are to choose from it can be really overwhelming. Do you want to send a card, an envelope, something folded and tabbed, something large or with lots of pages, maybe even a box? Strategy will have a lot to do with your decision, so if you've not watched my direct mail strategy course yet you can learn about the strategic side of format choice. But in a nutshell, cards and postcards are great for prospecting campaigns and special offers. They're cheap, easy, and can offer some of the lowest postage rates.
The simplicity and visibility of a card can be very effective, and they're a great place to start if you're new to mail. Letter mail is more of a size and thickness requirement than a specific format, so letter mail can take the form of a card, a folded self-mailer, and envelope mailer, or even a multi-page booklet. Letter sized mail can also be economical and useful for sending special offers, letters, invoices, and small product catalogs that are called bookalogs. Booklets fall into the letter-sized mail category, and they're great when you need a smaller scale multi-page format to showcase your products or services.
A folded self-mailer or FSM as the mailing industry calls it is a single sheet or multiple unbound sheets of paper folder into a mailable format that meets USPS letter requirements. However, bear in mind that requirements are very different for letter sized FSM versus larger flat sized folded mailers. There are endless configurations and styles to choose from, some as simple as two panels with a single fold which is called a double card format, all the way to multiple panel, and specialty formats.
Folded self-mailers are commonly used for special offers, coupons and events. Flats are larger format mail that exceeds at least one letter size mail dimension. The machine ability requirements for flats are less strict, so some marketers actually choose to mail as a flat to avoid these requirements, but flats can be much more expensive to mail. Magazines, catalogs, and large envelopes fall into this category. USPS also offers a very low cost saturation mail program for small business called Every Door Direct Mail which requires that the mail is sized as a flat.
Parcels exceed the thickness, rigidity, and weight requirements of the other forms of mail, and they're great for targeted marketing campaigns. If you really want to stand out send a box. As you're thinking about format I want you to think hard about where you are in your marketing process or sales pipeline. You should be developing an array of mail pieces that suit different audiences and scenarios rather than making one mail piece and sending it to everyone. For example, if you're prospecting you should be sending very inexpensive formats, maybe a card or a simple folded self-mailer. You're in the relationship building part of the process, so it may take several mailings before the potential customer raises their hand.
You don't want to waste money on expensive formats at this stage in the sales cycle. Once they show interest or become a customer you may consider moving to an envelope mailer, or a more elaborate folded self-mailer, or a booklet size mini catalog of your products or services. Then once someone becomes a loyal customer or is in a highly targeted demographic think about spending a little more, given the higher likelihood of the sale, and the great opportunity to impress the customer. Maybe through size or special print finishes, format or dimension, or technology integration. If you're trying to lure back former customers there's a voice and a strategy for them too.
So think hard about the nature of what you're sending and who you're sending it to, because it can really help to dictate the format of your mail piece.
- Choosing the right mail format, printing method, and postage
- Engagement strategies to increase open rate and response
- The rules of envelope mail, reply mail, and folded mail
- The components of a mailpiece
- Mail-design tips
- Identifying and preventing the most common and costly mail errors
- Presorting and other postal-optimization strategies