Join Trish Witkowski for an in-depth discussion in this video Guidelines for letter mail, part of Print Production Essentials: Direct Mail.
- Letter mail is the most common class of mail, and can be efficient and cost effective for an array of different formats including cards, envelope mailers, multi-page booklets, and folded self-mailers. Now because this mail category's the most common it comes with some of the strictest requirements, and that's because letter mail is sorted at almost unimaginable speeds. The USPS processes more than 100 million pieces of mail per day. Its machines can scan mail at speeds as high as 10 pieces of mail per second. So if the mail is not properly prepared for machine processing the machines will jam up, slow down the entire process, and those destroyed pieces of mail won't make it to their intended targets.
One thing I do want to clarify is that I'm going to give guidelines for machinable mail. If you want to pay a lot of extra money for hand sorting than you can skip a lot of this stuff and focus on dimension and thickness only. It's up to you, but most marketers are looking for ways to reduce postage costs, and the way to do that is to follow the rules. To start let's look at the minimum and maximum qualifiers for letter mail. The size has to be at least five inches long and 3.5 inches high, and it could be no larger than 11.5 inches long and 6.125 inches high.
One thing to note, if you are designing a letter sized folded self-mailer or booklet the size requirement is different, so you'll want to watch the folded self-mailer video and the booklet video in this chapter. Letter mail has to be at least .007 of an inch thick and no thicker than .25 of an inch. It also has to be uniformly thick to be machinable, so it can't be lumpy and uneven. There is no weight minimum, but the maximum weight for this class of mail is 3.5 ounces. Corners should be squared, but if you must, you can have a corner radius of up to 0.125 of an inch.
That wasn't too bad, but now that we've met the minimum and maximum standards there are a few more requirements to meet. Ask yourself the following questions, is the mail piece or envelope made of paper? If yes it's machinable, if no it's non-machinable. Is it flexible? If it's flexible that's a good thing. If it's rigid it's non-machinable. Is the length of the piece divided by the height between 1.3 and 2.5? This is something called aspect ratio, and if you're unfamiliar with it watch the aspect ratio video in chapter two of this course.
If it meets aspect ratio requirements then it's machinable, if not it's non-machinable. Does the mail piece have clasps, strings, buttons, or other similar closure devices? If it does it's non-machinable. Is the delivery address parallel to the long dimension of the mail piece? Address orientation is critical for machinability, I'll cover this in the address movie in chapter two. If your mail piece is more than 4.25 inches high or more than six inches long, is the thickness at least 0.009 of an inch? It should be, if you don't know ask your printer for help.
If it is a folded self-mailer is it prepared to the guidelines in the folded self-mailer video in this chapter? There are several rules for folded self-mailers that must be followed. It's easy stuff, but it's critical to get it right. If it's a self-mailing booklet is it prepared to the guidelines in the booklet video in this chapter? Booklets, like folded self-mailers, also have their own set of guidelines. Again, fairly easy to follow, but you must be conscious of what you're doing, because while mail mistakes can be very costly the good news is that they're almost always preventable.
So arm yourself with the right information, and you'll be on your way to making smart choices for your mail campaigns.
- 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