The Most Successful Direct Mail Formats

The Most Successful Direct Mail Formats

The world of direct mail marketing is pretty confusing. There are so many things you need to think about just to get your marketing piece in the mail. You have to segment your mailing list, create a compelling offer, meticulously design it, and craft a well-rounded message. Before you can do all of those things, you have to know what direct mail formats you will send to your audience.

However, not all direct mail formats are created equally. We have seen nearly every size and weight go through our shop over the years, but we usually recommend the same three formats: postcards, catalogs, and letters.


Postcards are the first direct mail format we usually recommend to our clients. The beauty of the postcard is in its simplicity. There are only two sides, which means no fumbling through pages. The recipient can flip it over, and that's it.

We've seen companies who are running promotions or hosting an event have great success with postcards. In addition, postcards are one of the cheapest direct mail options. With postcards costing less upfront, you can spend additional money on nailing your creativity to make sure you get the ROI you are looking for.

The USPS has requirements, however, for what classifies as a postcard in terms of their postage rates. Postcards that are sized 4"x6"  are considered a First Class Postcard Rate. On the other hand, postcards sized 5"x7" may qualify for Standard Letter Rate. Deciding what size postcard you want will be a significant factor in your overall cost, not to mention the labor that goes into it.


Catalogs are one of the most classic direct mail formats. They have been around forever and were made famous by Sears and Roebuck.

The beauty of catalogs is in the options you can include in your piece. You can include all of your top-selling products or services, add coupons specific to that catalog, advertise your new products, and so much more. Even in the digital age, catalogs still play an important role in the customer journey.

According to USPS, 84% of online shoppers find it easier to shop online when they have a catalog in hand. When you have your direct mail pieces and online properties working together, that is a huge advantage for your company. This is why it is so important to spend the time and resources on getting your catalogs designed just right.

We always recommend that companies create catalogs. You can put a lot of information in there and can directly see the results of your campaign.


The last direct mail format we usually recommend is letters or envelope mailers. All of the letters that are mailed this way have to include an envelope.

In its simplest form, you can have an envelope with a letter inside. However, there are plenty of creative opportunities you can take when designing your direct mail letter. You can customize your envelope and include more information than the initial letter. We often recommend the letter format to our clients who are looking for lead generation.

Colortech recently had a local non-profit come to us looking to use direct mail as an additional way to generate donations. We recommended the letter format over postcards for a couple of reasons. With the letter, they could include a personalized message to the donor, last year's financial records, and a return form that would ultimately be used as a way to collect the donations.

There are so many pros and cons to using letters in your next direct mail campaign. One of the biggest advantages of using letters is the ability to personalize each piece. Each letter can be specific to that specific person. However, a lot of people view the letters as spam mail and put them right in the garbage bin. The key is to refine your list and to write an effective copy.

Helpful Hints

July 8, 2019

(3 min. read)