Direct Mail: Best Practices and Direct Mail Envelopes

Despite the heavy shift toward computerized advertising and marketing strategies, the response rate to direct mail is still higher than any other form of advertising– including digital. That could be because of the tangibility of direct mail; there’s nothing quite like opening a letter or thumbing through a handful of letters. It’s a lot harder to ignore a physical letter than an email sitting in your inbox, and using direct mail envelopes creates a much more personal form of advertising.

Direct mail is more than getting your company’s name into the world. Your business can use direct mail to track the trends and interests of your customers. As you begin to learn and understand your customers better, you’ll be able to produce more material that will be of actually value to your industry.


Direct Mail: Best Practices

If you choose to send direct mail, it’s important to look at the strategies behind the most effective direct mail campaigns. To help you out, we want to take a look at direct mail best practices, benchmarks, and strategies so you can start things off on the right foot and have a successful direct mail plan. Here are some guidelines for creating one of the best direct mail campaigns.


Compile a Recipient List

As a business, you should know your target audience. Take this into account when making your recipient list, because it’s one of the main factors in creating one of the most effective direct mail campaigns. Don’t be afraid to devote a substantial amount of time toward making this list. A short, precisely researched list will reap a higher return than a long, but carelessly assembled list.

Always begin with your “house list” of customers, and include past, current, and prospective individuals. It may be useful to segment your list depending on purpose of your direct mail campaign.

Once you’ve included these leads, find ways to grow your list effectively. Here are a few options for generating more leads for your direct mail list:

Compile a mailing list manually

Compile the list yourself

You can manually compile a mailing list of individuals and/or businesses. If your company is designed to appeal to those who are local to your area or who operate niche businesses, building a list from scratch can work well. Searching through hashtags specific to your demographic on social media is another great way to collect leads for your direct mail campaign. However, depending on your target audience compiling your own direct mail list may not be the fastest or most effective method. If you’re trying to reach a wider demographic like stay-at-home moms or young entrepreneurs, purchasing a direct mail list is probably a wiser option.

Buy a mailing list

Utilize a list broker

Purchasing or renting a list of names makes the process of compiling a list much less daunting. This can save you a great amount of time, as a list broker can build a targeted list for you based on who exactly you’re trying to reach. List brokers search to compile a list that is specific to your company and it’s needs. If your company focuses on appealing to certain geographic location, demographic, or specific type of interest, list brokers can help to formulate a list.


When you are beginning the process of compiling your list, whether you are using a list broker or doing it yourself, you should take into consideration a couple of things:

  1. Be specific when you are targeting your list. The more specific you make your list, the higher return you’ll have.
  2. Start small. Don’t feel like you must have thousands and thousands of recipients in order to be successful. If you are specific with your target customer, then a small list will be just as beneficial as a big list that might be less specific.
  3. Keep refreshing your list. It’s not one and done. After sending out your first round of mail, revisit the list to remove returned mail and add new prospects who fit your target audience.


Where Can I Find List Brokers?

Here are some list broker services  recommended by for 2019:

All of these offer options for purchasing or renting mailing lists.

Renting a mailing list will only allow you to use this list once. You will not receive any details of the contacts on the list. A benefit to renting a list is that you may be able to discover the clients who will be persistent customers and you only have to send out information once, so you won’t be sending out needless mail.

Purchasing a mailing list allows you to keep the details of the contacts on the list so you can more directly track the results of your campaign or contact the recipients more than once. While purchasing a list certainly costs more than renting a list, it is sometimes possible to negotiate a discount if you only plan to use the list one time.

Implement a Tracking System

Like most marketing strategies, direct mail is hardly “set it and forget it.” Even if you have a really great direct mail marketing campaign, the work doesn’t stop once you send it out; it’s also important to track the results.

Without some kind of tracking system implemented into your direct mail campaign, your efforts will largely be wasted. You might gain a few new customers, but you would never know where they came from. Worse yet, you won’t get any new customers at all after investing valuable time and money into sending out mail. Here are some ways to avoid that and track the effectiveness of your direct mail:


Coupon code

Include a unique coupon or a discount code. When customers utilize this specific promo code, you’ll be able to directly track the ROI of your direct mail campaign.

QR code

Try a QR code or PURL. Custom QR codes make it fast and easy for your customers to visit a direct link showcasing your direct mail offer, and a personal URL will definitely catch the recipient’s attention. They will feel prioritized because you have made a URL that isn’t just for any customer, but made specifically for them.

Phone number

Put in a unique phone number or landing page. By utilizing Google analytics or a virtual phone system, directing customers to take a specific action makes it easy for you to track the exact number of leads who are responding to your mail. Adding an extra incentive for calling the phone number or going to the landing page, like a discount or a free resource (eBook, checklist, etc.), can help engage potential customers and make them more willing to follow up.


What is a Personal URL?

PURL’s are designed to help track customer traffic on your site. A PURL will usually include some form of the company’s name along with the recipient’s name.

What is a PURL?

You can personalize this site to welcome your customer with their name, special discounts, or personalized messages. 



Tracking your direct mail results is crucial for helping you make your next marketing decisions because you’re able to understand what types of content or marketing materials are best converting into leads or customers. The more appealing or incentivizing the materials you send out, the more likely your customers will make a connection with you. Do your leads convert more when they receive physical coupons or digital discount codes? Do they ignore longform letters, but act on colorful postcards? Do they prefer deals on existing products, or are they quicker to leap on new releases? Whatever your demographic prefers, tracking the results of direct mail campaigns is imperative for determining the effectiveness of your of advertising strategies so you can make the most of your marketing budget in the future.

Choose the Best Direct Mail Services

You can always go with the old-fashioned way of sending out mail: mailing it yourself. However, you likely have more contacts than you can count.

 When it comes to choosing the best direct mail marketing companies, the answer is dependent on your specific needs and what you want this mailing service to provide.  Mailing services provide anything from compiling a mailing list, like a list broker to designing your direct mail. Because there are so many options for what direct mail services provide, you can pick and choose the elements you want for your direct mail campaign. Here are a few important factors to consider when you are picking your direct mail service: 


USPS regulations

Do their mailing practices fall under the USPS mailing standards? Most mailing services should follow USPS mailing regulations, but it’s always a wise decision to check that before picking a company.

Compile list for you

Do they compile a mailing list for you? Some services do compile a list for you; however, each company has a different extent that they go. Some mailing services will include an excessive and specific list for you, others may not be quite as specific. You choose what is most efficient and effective for your company.

Tracking options

Do they provide tracking options? Every mail service should offer tracking options, but make your sure check out what kind of tracking options they have and their effectiveness. Since tracking is such a big part of the direct mail campaign, you want to be sure that the tracking system you use will get the job done well.

To make it easier on yourself and your employees, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best direct mail services. Each of these services listed offer mailing lists, design options within the service, tracking options, and they fall under the USPS regulations. 


Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM)

EDDM IndiciaIt’s offered by the postal service and it’s a less expensive option when it comes to sending out direct mail. However, EDDM’s list broker service only breaks up your recipients by age, income, and household. It’s designed to target a certain geographical area rather than a more specific demographic. Depending on your goal, EDDM might be the best direct mail service for you.

Incorporate Attractive Design

No matter who you are or what you’re trying to say, unique direct mail pieces can catch the attention of your recipient and help them remember your company. Furthermore, taking the time to design unique direct mail pieces instead of going the boring route can make any individual feel less like a name on a contact list and more like a valued customer. Here are a few ways to create the best direct mail design for your brand.



Consider your company, your target audience, and what you want to say to figure out the best format for your company. Most of the examples below are less formal and rely more on design than text. Text is still important, but the actual mailer design will usually attract attention and engage the reader much faster. Hiring a good graphic designer or is integral to the success of your direct mail campaign. If you want something a little more direct and formal, or you require more room for text, you can always go with the letter layout for direct mail.

Direct mail brochureSource
Direct mail postcardsSource
Direct Mail FoldersSource
Promotional Items:
Direct mail promotional itemsSource
Interactive or Dimensional:
Interactive or dimensional direct mailSource
Direct mail lettersSource


Direct mail letter example


Organization and Layout

Once you’ve chosen your format, begin thinking about the way you want the information laid out. If you have several pieces of text, arrange them by importance. If you have images, try layering them with text. Don’t forget to include a specific “call to action” for the recipient – what action do you want them to take? Being clear and direct with a single call to action helps ensure the customer knows exactly what to do next as a result of receiving your mailer.

Grid format

Creating a grid for your direct mail designcan be really helpful. It will keep everything clean and orderly, so that it will be easy for your receipt to read and easier for you to assemble. Don’t forget to adhere to USPS mailing guidelines, which specify exactly what spaces must remain clear for the mailing address, postage, or other required information. Printing companies will often provide these design templates free of charge, or you can find detailed information on the USPS website.



Determining the best color palette for your direct mail (or any form of advertisement) is extremely valuable. Colors have a psychological effect on the brain that trigger certain areas. You can use this to relax your customers, get their attention, or simulate a certain feeling.

Direct Mail - Color Emotion GuideSource



The key to successful text layout in direct marketing is consistency. While it’s okay to add a few other fonts for your direct mail, stay consistent with your brand. Use your brand font for the biggest text on the page. You can add other fun or fitting fonts but stick to no more than 2-3 different font styles.



Keep your images in line your brand’s visual style. Don’t overcrowd your direct mailer with too many images – this often has the opposite intended effect, as too much imagery or information can overwhelm the reader and take away from the most important information or hide call to action.


Designing Your Direct Mail

Most direct mail services or online printers come with simple design programs and pre-designed templates that allow you to create your own direct mail online. These options can be quite beneficial, especially when you’re in a hurry, short on cash, or using the same platform to send out your direct mail.

However, for the most unique and well-branded mail, uploading your own design is ideal. Enlisting the help of a professional designer is the best choice. If you don’t have a designer on staff or can’t afford a professional, consider using an affordable alternative such as Fiverr or Upwork to hire a freelance designer that can create attractive designs at a fraction of the cost.



    You’re sending out the best direct mail, so you need the best direct mail envelopes. The kind of formatting you go with will determine whether or not you need an envelope. If you’re going with a postcard format, you won’t need an envelope. If you go with a letter, brochure, or flyer format, then you’ll need to use an envelope. A promotional envelope that is pre-printed with company branding or unique designs is a great way to make an impression while ensuring that your direct mail piece arrives safely.

    First impressions are important, so choosing the best direct mail envelopes is a big part of direct mailing. The envelope is as much a part of the mail as the content inside, so don’t be afraid to make it just as eye-catching. Here are a few guidelines to help you pick out the perfect direct mail envelope for your campaign.

    Direct mail envelope size
    Choose the right size. There are many different sizes you can choose from, dependent on what you’re sending. The most commonly used envelope is the standard envelope No. 9 or 10, but don’t let that limit you.
    • Standard envelopes: No. 8, 9, 10
    • Catalog Envelopes: 10x13, 9x12, 6x9
    • Specialty envelopes: Custom sizes and unique designs. If you want more information on how to customize your windowed envelopes check out this resource to make your mail more personal.
    Direct mail window envelopes
    Decide whether to use windows or no windows. Windowed envelopes can be an effective way to save time and money, but maybe a windowed envelope doesn’t suit your needs or the design of your direct mail piece. In this case, a windowless envelope might work better.
    Direct mail designed envelopes
    Design the outside. Would a crisp white, professional envelope suit your needs, or a bright colored envelope? Perhaps an all-over design is worth the effort to best deliver your messaging. When it comes to choosing the best color envelopes for direct mail, it’s important to take into consideration your branding, direct mail design, and the content inside the envelope and coordinate your outer envelope accordingly. Remember the color chart we discussed earlier? Try to pick a color that corresponds to the emotion you want your customer to feel.


    Follow along with these guidelines and you’ll be sure to find direct mail envelopes that work perfectly for your brand’s next direct mail campaign. If you want to learn more about different envelope options check out our envelope size and style guide.


    Best Place to Buy Envelopes

    If you’re looking for standard white envelopes, you won’t have to look very far. Any office supplies store near you should carry good quality direct mail envelopes.However, you may have more luck finding the best place to buy envelopes online rather than in the store. Online, you’ll be able to buy in bulk or buy more for your money. If you want to go with custom envelopes, then buying online or from a local print shop will be your best options. While we of course recommend Blue Summit Supplies for plain white envelopes, here are a few options for the best place to buy custom envelopes:

      Stay Active

      We’ve provided some great direct mail marketing ideas that can help brand visibility and boost sales. But if you’re unable to stay consistently on top of your data analysis and direct mail output, it’s nearly useless. Keep sending out content and tweaking it as you analyze your direct mail marketing data for the best return on your mailing system.It’s had sometimes to stay on top of everything, while producing new ideas that will appeal to your recipient. Check out our Pinterest board of direct mail marketing ideas to help you think outside the box and keep your content fresh.


      Direct mail timeline: Best time to send direct mail

      When is the best time to send direct mail?

      As with any advertising efforts, the effectiveness of a direct mail campaign’s timing is dependent upon your target audience’s buying habits. For instance, early January is an ideal time to sell fitness products and services; late summer are a better bet for back to school supplies. Knowing when your leads are most likely to buy what you’re selling should help determine the best time to send direct mail.

      • As far as the best day to send direct mail, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are considered to be the prime days for receiving direct mail. When preparing a direct mail campaign, you should take into account the time mail will spend en route, weekends when many post offices are closed or business mail may not be delivered, and the distance of your customers from the sending location, since you may have to alter your perfect ‘send’ date so that it arrives in the best time frame.
      • If you are uploading direct mail to an all-in-one printing and mailing service, where they both print and then mail for you at once, you’ll need to take into account the lead time before customers receive the mailing. It it will take time for the printer to produce the printed mail piece, to prepare the mailing, to deliver to the post office, and for the mail to arrive in mailboxes. Each of these steps is subject to a variable timeline or unforeseen circumstances, and if you’re sending mail with less expensive bulk rates instead of first class postage, the delivery date could be anywhere from 3 to 7 days (or more) after mailing.
      • Sending time-sensitive content in your direct mail is a great way to create urgency with prospective customers, and can encourage them to take action. However, ensuring that direct mail arrives on a specific date is virtually impossible. Take into account that mail might be delayed when setting any kind of deadlines for offers that you’re including so potential customers don’t miss out simply because their mail didn’t arrive in time. 


      For any further questions on envelopes, outreach, and more, send as an email! We are happy to answer any questions.Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to keep up with all things exciting at Blue Summit Supplies. 



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      Calais Eledui is Blue Summit Supplies’ Content Writer. She is a full-time student studying writing at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Writing is not just a job for her, but a way of life. While writing is a huge part of her life, coffee is huger. Coffee shop hanging, family-time talking, and Sunday afternoon napping are the only ways to get the best out of life.



      Thanks, Melissa! We’re so happy it helped.


      As a real estate investor, direct mail is a huge part of our marketing. This post has great information!

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