The Most Bang For Your Buck | Direct Mail and Marketing Tips

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The Most Bang For Your Buck

The Most Bang For Your Buck

We are often asked by clients, “how do I get the most bang for my buck, with direct mail”?

Of course, there is not one “right” answer, it will depend on your audience, the nature of your offer, and the goal of the campaign (e.g., awareness, lead generation, direct response…).

There are three factors that have the most impact on price.

First Class or Standard A Postage – First Class postage typically takes 3 days for delivery anywhere in the United States. First Class also provides a return service if the mail can’t be delivered, so that the sender can update their database.

Standard A (Marketing Mail) usually requires 7 to 10 days for delivery and there is no return service. The delivery times can be highly variable. Since Standard A is still called “junk mail” in some circles, there can be a slight stigma with some audiences (e.g., open/response rates may be slightly lower).

The difference in cost is ~$.10/piece. With smaller mailings, it typically makes sense to go with First Class because results are faster, and the cost difference is small. When sending millions of pieces, the cost differential can be significant. In those cases, a hybrid approach sometimes makes sense. We start out sending campaigns First Class to prime the pump, and then transition to Standard A, as volume builds.

BW or Color – BW is going to be less expensive. The difference is also typically ~$.10/piece. Color stands out in the mail and creates a more visually appealing product. Research shows, with many audiences, opens/responses increase when color is used. BW is more common for notices and other common transactional (informational) mail. 

With postcards we have the option of using black & white, color one side, or color two sides. Color both sides it the most expensive, black and white both sides is the least expensive. The most common choice we see is color one side – the address side is black and white; the image (message) side of the card is color. This approach still provides a pop of color in the mail, yet reduces the cost on the address side – which contains mostly return address, recipient, and postal information.

List Size – The majority of the cost (70%+) in direct mail is postage. The USPS offers pre-sort discounts on jobs greater than 500 pieces. Those discounts are passed along to customers in the form of lower prices.

If a job is less than 500 pieces, then we can still use an indicia (square box on the mail piece that says “postage paid”); however, we don’t get any discounts on postal rates. In this case, there will be a slight uplift in the price to cover the higher postage rate.

If the job falls below 250 pieces, then we do not get pre-sort discounts, and we also cannot use a postal indicia. In this case we need to use a live postage stamp. This type of mailing requires full retail postage rates and an additional step in the process to apply the stamps.

It would be common to have a list of (at least) 500 pieces when possible. If not, that is fine, we will always mail using the most cost-effective postage choice.

There are customers who want to make their mailing appear more personal. In those cases, we have clients who choose to use a live stamp on their mailing or use a colored envelope and incur the extra cost. Some also choose to use a handwriting font in the mail piece and/or for the addressing. There is no charge to use a handwriting font or personalize with variable data – we offer this as added value.

We understand that budgets are limited, and cost is always an important concern.

It is always a priority at Zairmail, to give you the best possible value.

Please let us know how we can an assist you.

The Zairmail Team



About the Author

Wilson Zehr is a Direct Mail Industry Expert, Direct Marketing Specialist, and CEO of Cendix (, the leading provider of Web-to-print solutions that increase sales both online and offline. He is also the founder of Zairmail (, the company responsible for many "industry firsts" in direct mail.


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