Direct Mail Checklist

Whether you are an experienced marketer or new to the industry, the following overview and checklist can be useful in planning your next direct mail effort. It is our goal to provide an overview of the steps involved in going from concept to final delivery in the mailbox. Maintaining clear communication with internal resources, vendor partners and all stakeholders is critical in managing your budget and timeline expectations. Put in the effort upfront, and be better prepared to manage any issues that may arise over the course of the project.

Define the objective

Determining the purpose of the direct mail campaign is the most important step. A creative brief is a great way to start the process and develop a document that all interested parties can refer to. It should include:

  • Target audience
  • The most important message being conveyed
  • Action(s) you want the recipient to take

Set the budget, response goal

It is important to know the budget and response goal before the creative process can begin. Each project’s budget can vary greatly. Champagne taste on a beer budget is a different set of expectations than champagne taste on a champagne budget. Postage class will be an important decision for your budget. Here is a quick overview of postage costs and delivery time:

Presorted Standard Class Mail:
Estimated per piece cost: $0.251 to $0.292
Delivery timing: 5 to 14 days

Presorted 1st Class Mail:
Estimated per piece cost: $0.378 to $0.50
Delivery timing: 2 to 3 days


The goal(s), budget and creative will all play a role in determining the proper format to communicate your message. Options include, but are not limited to:

  • Standard/oversized postcard
  • Self-mailer
  • Letter
  • Brochure
  • Catalog


Format, design and printing require more of a holistic approach. Armed with a comprehensive creative brief, the team can get to work on providing graphic design and format options that will best fit the goals and budget. Items to consider in design process:

  • Brand standards
  • Variable or static design
  • Provided copy or copywriting services
  • Confirm high-resolution artwork
  • Preflight files for print readiness
  • USPS approval


Format and design will drive the best print solution for your budget and goals. Items to consider include:

  • Printing process (digital/variable, sheet fed, web)
  • Ink (spot color or 4-color process)
  • Special treatments (coating, die cut)
  • Paper stock (gloss, matte, specified paper or house stock)
  • Paper weight


You’ve put in the work to design a mail piece to meet your goals. Without good data the entire project is for naught. Define your target audience and determine the best source for fresh and accurate data. The list options could include:

  • House list (current customer, prospects)
  • Rented list
  • Specialty list (ex. new homeowners)

Mail services

A professional lettershop will provide the service needed to gain postage savings, potentially target a specific in-home date or range of dates, and ensure your mailing will be delivered as you intend. Services you may need include:

  • Addressing
  • Applying postage (meter, stamps or permit)
  • Machine inserting or hand assembly
  • Mail tracking


Once the mailing is complete and has entered the mail stream, your job is not complete. Depending on the call to action, there may be additional steps needed to support the mail campaign.

  • Train/inform call center or other stakeholders of campaign
  • Ensure any web response is working and being monitored
  • Confirm postal funds and applicable reply mail procedure in place
  • Order fulfillment of purchases or incentives for response

Trent Weber • May 10, 2018

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