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The Best Direct Mailing Services of 2021

By
Sean Peek
,
business.com Contributing Writer
| Updated
Jan 14, 2021

Looking for the best direct mailing service? We compare and review the top companies to help you succeed with your next direct mail marketing campaign.
Best Overall
Thousands of design templates
Excellent online design tool
Good customer support
Best Full Service
Reasonable price for SMBs
Comprehensive campaign options
Eco-friendly printing
Best High-Volume
Fast turnaround
High-volume mailing campaigns
Affordable design help
Postcard Mailings
Multiple campaign options
Rigorous tracking capabilities
Social media integration
Looking for the best direct mailing service? We compare and review the top companies to help you succeed with your next direct mail marketing campaign.

Whether you're just starting out or simply trying to get more people through the door, a good direct mail marketing strategy can increase brand awareness and bolster your business. While it may be tempting to spend your advertising budget on digital marketing campaigns or your social media presence, one channel is practically guaranteed to reach people directly: their physical mailboxes.

After an extensive look into the direct mail industry, we've determined the best direct mail services for different business needs.

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How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
15
Considered
5
Researched
4
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

  Vistaprint PrintingForLess.com Next Day Flyers PostcardMania
Standard postcard pricing Not published Starting at $0.28 each Starting at $0.30 each Starting at $0.27 each
Online design tool or file upload Both File upload Both File upload
Order minimum N/A 500 250 1,000

Overview

Although email and SMS may have surpassed physical mail as the most common method of sending messages, the United States Postal Service delivers over 187 million pieces of first-class mail each day.

With a direct mailing service, you can send postcards, brochures and other printed items to hundreds, if not thousands, of existing and potential customers. It differs from other types of snail-mail marketing in that it allows business owners to cater to a certain target audience. If you're looking to reach a specific demographic or ZIP code, nearly every direct mail company will be able to generate an address list for that subset of the population. You can then purchase or rent the list for use in your direct mail marketing campaign.

Along with sending out your material, direct mail services generally offer design and printing solutions. This may save you time and money, especially if you don't have a designer on staff or an in-house printer that can produce the quantities of printed materials you need.

Our Reviews

Vistaprint: Best Overall

Vistaprint offers more than 4,000 templates so you can quickly design, print and mail out your campaign.
The company's size and resources allow it to offer fast turnaround and custom design services.
Vistaprint only offers mailing services for postcard-based campaigns.

Vistaprint is well known for its business card products, but this printing company also offers an all-in-one direct mail solution. Whether you want to use one of Vistaprint's 4,000-plus templates, hire its in-house design team, or just use your own design, the company makes it easy for small businesses to run targeted direct mail marketing campaigns. We also found that the company's printing facilities allow for fast turnaround, and its mailing efforts are on par with nearly all of its competitors.

Vistaprint Pricing

No matter which printer you work with, calculating the cost of a direct mail marketing campaign is difficult. Prices vary by the mailers you select and the current postage rates from the United States Postal Service.

While many direct mail services require you to reach out to a sales representative for a price quote, Vistaprint's direct mail page features a useful price calculator to give small business owners a feel for how much their campaign may cost. Another good thing about Vistaprint's service is that there are no contracts to sign, and payment isn't required until just before the campaign goes out.

If you ordered 5,000 standard-sized postcards (5.47 x 4.21 inches) with full-color printing on both sides to be shipped first-class through Vistaprint's direct mail service, and you needed to buy a mailing list, the total cost (including shipping and other fees) would be $2,446, according to the price quote we received for a hypothetical campaign. That price estimate is similar to the rates of other direct mail companies on our list.

When calculating your potential price, Vistaprint takes these data sets into account, in addition to how many pieces you want to order:

  • Postcard size: Since the company's direct mail service only deals in postcards, its calculator focuses on that type of product. According to the company, business owners can choose from two sizes for their mailers – a "standard" 5.47 x 4.21 postcard and an "oversized" 8.52 x 5.47 postcard.

  • Backside printing options: Vistaprint gives you the option to print the back of your postcard in either black and white or color. Naturally, a color-printing process on both sides has a higher price tag.

  • Mailing lists: Like other direct mail services, Vistaprint is flexible when it comes to your mailing lists. If you already own a list of households to send your mailers to, you can simply upload the file to Vistaprint. Most of the time, however, you will need to either buy or rent a new mailing list. Mailing lists from Vistaprint are generated by AccuData and yours to keep once purchased.

  • Postage type: Direct mailing vendors of all sizes must contend with postage fees. The costs depend on whether you choose first-class shipping or first-class rush shipping. Vistaprint officials said their postage fees are lower than their competitors' because they sort mailings before shipping them out.

  • Addressing and handling fee: This fee includes processing, address validation, address printing and delivery to the post office. The amount of this fee depends on the size and scope of your campaign. For our 5,000-postcard order, the fee would be $250.

  • Graphic design services: If you need the in-house design team to create your postcard mailer for you, Vistaprint charges just $10 for those services. A Vistaprint representative told us that after you pay upfront for design help, the entire design process takes approximately 24 hours. There is also the DesignLive option, where you work directly with a designer over video conference. This service starts at $5 and is by appointment only.

Features

As we searched for the direct mailing company with the best design, print, and mail services, we examined what features each company offers that make all three aspects of creating a direct mail campaign easy and viable for small businesses. Here are some of the features and services that Vistaprint offers its clients.

  • Quick turnaround: Vistaprint has two printing facilities, allowing it to quickly turn around direct mail orders. According to the company, orders take three days if you choose expedited printing or up to seven days with its standard printing process. After an order is printed, Vistaprint estimates that mailing takes five to 12 business days if you choose first-class shipping, or four to eight business days with first-class rush shipping.

  • Speedy in-house design team: Vistaprint offers graphic design services from its in-house design team to its direct mail customers. It can turn a project around within 24 hours, and its services can make your mailers stand out. To use this service, you pay the $10 fee upfront, select a postcard size and describe what you want. You can even schedule an online video chat with a graphic designer to discuss your design.

  • Thousands of free templates: If you prefer to design your mailer yourself, you can use Vistaprint's free design tools, which include more than 4,000 templates.

  • Mailing lists: The backbone of any direct mail campaign, mailing lists are generated through Vistaprint using data from AccuData. You can create targeted lists by selecting demographics like location, income level, age range and other delineating factors. You then purchase the list, allowing you to reuse it for future marketing campaigns.

Pros

Vistaprint offers a wide variety of template options on its easy-to-navigate website. You can use the drag-and-drop platform to design your postcard, select your address list and launch your campaign, all from one place. Your entire custom design can be ready in 24 hours.

Cons

One potential downside to Vistaprint's services is that it only provides a direct mail service for postcards. If you want other types of printed products for your direct mail campaign, you will need to coordinate the delivery yourself. Vistaprint also doesn't offer a tracking feature for customer response rates to your print campaign.

Customer Support

When we called Vistaprint posing as a small business owner, the customer service representative we spoke with didn't try to upsell us with additional items or services, but they didn't volunteer much information about the company's offerings either. Although they listened attentively and gave clear responses, they often pointed us to the website for information, rather than answering the question for to us. This may be frustrating for small business owners who want to receive a quick answer from a knowledgeable person at the company rather than searching for information on the company's website.

The company offers telephone support from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. EST on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. You can also contact customer service via 24-hour live chat and email, though the latter option has a response time of about 24 hours.

In case you prefer to find answers to your questions online, Vistaprint's support site has a knowledge base and video tutorials.

More

PrintingForLess.com: Best Full Service

PrintingForLess.com can help you through every step of the process, including design, printing and mailing.
The company offers transparent pricing for printing services, which is helpful to small business owners looking to budget for mail campaigns.
PrintingForLess.com does not provide analytics or any means of quantifying the success of your mail campaign.

We chose PrintingforLess.com (PFL) as the best full-service direct mailing company because it can quickly and easily handle every step of the direct mailing process. While it offers many of the same services that other companies do, what sets it apart is the variety of items it can send through direct mail. PFL can help you design, print, and send postcards, brochures, newsletters, greeting cards, staggered mailings and multi-piece mailers. With this range of choices, your business can create and deliver promotional materials that stand out in your recipients' daily mail.

PrintingForLess.com Pricing

You can get a ballpark price estimate on PFL's order pages for the various items it offers. This is a welcome feature, since many vendors we considered require you to speak with someone in the sales department to get any pricing information.

As part of our testing, we reached out to PrintingForLess.com for a quote, posing as a small business owner. We were quoted these prices for a direct mail campaign of postcards (5 x 7 inches) with color printing on both sides to be delivered through bulk mail:

  • $539.25 for 500 postcards
  • $764.45 for 1,000 postcards
  • $1,440.05 for 2,500 postcards
  • $2,516.05 for 5,000 postcards

These prices are comparable to what other vendors in the direct mail space charge. While these figures can give you a good idea of how much a direct mail marketing campaign with this company could cost, your exact price will depend on the printing options you select.

Features

PFL has an impressive selection of features that make it easy for a small business to run a snail-mail marketing campaign, including the following.

  • Format options: PFL offers a variety of mailer formats. You can choose from brochures, postcards, newsletters, catalogs, greeting cards and other printed products.

  • Design options: If you've already created a design for your mailers, you can upload it directly to PFL's site to use for your campaign. Alternatively, if you need design assistance, PFL has an in-house team to help you create eye-catching mailers. There is an additional cost for this service.

  • Eco-friendly printing: At PFL's 100% wind-powered production facilities, it prints direct mailers on recycled paper and card stock with vegetable-based inks.

  • Mailing prep services: After printing, you can insert any additional items you want into your mailers. The company also offers tabbing, addressing, and labeling services and ensures that each bulk mailing effort meets postal service guidelines before it goes out.

  • Reasonable turnaround: The overall turnaround time for PrintingForLess.com is consistent with other services, though it's on the lengthy side of our average findings. Design takes up to two days, production can take another four or five days, and shipping time depends on the option you choose – first-class mail takes one to three days, while bulk mail takes two to nine days. Turnaround time also depends on how many pieces need to be printed and shipped.

  • Direct shipping from facilities: The company handles shipping directly from its facilities. If you have your own mailing list, you can send it to PFL, and it will remove any duplicate or inaccurate addresses. In most cases, however, you will need to rent a mailing list. You can select specific addresses based on a variety of demographic options, allowing you to maximize the potential impact of your direct mailing campaign.

Pros

Of the direct mail companies we examined, PFL is the most comprehensive and reasonably priced option for small businesses with various direct mailing goals. The company can handle the entire mailing process from start to finish and boasts an impressive selection of features that make it easy for a small business to run a snail-mail marketing campaign. Eco-conscious small businesses will also be happy to know that PFL's products use recycled paper and eco-friendly inks.

Cons

PFL's design options are some of the most expensive among the companies we examined. The company told us that design could cost $90 to $129 for a 5 x 7 postcard, depending on whether the final product would be one-sided. While you will own the design afterward, we found other companies that provide design services for less money.

Furthermore, PrintingForLess.com has no way of quantifying your direct mailing campaign's success in terms of customer engagement. Some direct mailing companies offer telephone and online tracking to help you learn how effective your mailers were, as well as insights into what your potential customers want. The only tracking PFL offers is for shipping, which is helpful but doesn't provide any customer insights.

Customer Support

When we called the company, posing as a potential customer, we had a positive interaction with the customer service department. The rep we spoke with was courteous and took the time to go over the company's offerings. Throughout the conversation, they asked us questions about our business and made helpful suggestions to make sure our direct mail marketing campaign would be successful. At no point did we feel pressured to consider upgrading to higher-priced materials for our mailers, though we were told of their existence.

In case you prefer not to speak with a customer service rep, PrintingForLess.com also has a support email address, as well as an extensive FAQs section on its website.

More

Next Day Flyers: Best High-Volume

Next Day Flyers offers the highest available volume of direct mail pieces per order – up to 100,000.
As its name implies, Next Day Flyers boasts a quick turnaround, regardless of the size of your order.
The company does not provide marketing support services, such as customer response tracking or marketing consultations.

Next Day Flyers allows the highest number of mailers per campaign of any company we researched – up to 100,000 – making it our pick as the best direct mail service for high-volume needs. This company can help your business design, print and deliver massive campaigns in a matter of days.

Next Day Flyers Pricing

Next Day Flyers has a clear, helpful breakdown of its prices on its website that makes it easy to estimate how much your project will cost. Below is a pricing example for a full-color, double-sided, 4 x 6 postcard, including printing and mailing services:

  • $481.95 for 1,000 pieces, or 48 cents per piece
  • $878.95 for 2,000 pieces, or 44 cents per piece
  • $1,980.95 for 5,000 pieces, or 40 cents per piece

During our research, we called the company and posed as a potential customer to get a price quote. For a 5,000-piece, full-color, 4 x 6 postcard direct mailing campaign, we were quoted a price of roughly $1,980. We didn't get a precise figure, since many factors determine the ultimate price; however, we found Next Day Flyers' prices to be comparable to its competitors. Again, because several factors affect direct mailing prices, the amount you're quoted for your campaign may differ.

Features

In our search for the best high-volume direct mail marketing company, we sought vendors that provide quick turnaround, regardless of the order's size. Here are some of the features we found at Next Day Flyers that led us to recommend this company.

  • Two coastal production facilities: With the company's printing capacity split between two main production facilities on either coast – one in California and another in New Jersey – Next Day Flyers can quickly print and send mailers to any mailbox throughout the country. The company says it has a turnaround of approximately four days, though it can complete some orders the same day it receives them.

  • Flexible shipping options: If you don't want Next Day Flyers to mail your campaign for you, you can pick up your order from one of its locations. Of course, that option is only viable if you're close to one of those pickup points.

  • Highest volume available: While speaking with a customer service representative, we were told that the company can design, print, and ship up to 100,000 direct mail pieces, including postcards, brochures and mail rack cards.

  • In-house mailing services: Along with its production capabilities, Next Day Flyers can ship your entire direct mail marketing campaign from its in-house postal service. Deliveries take three to five days if sent via first-class presort, or seven to 21 days with standard shipping.

  • Affordable design help: Along with printing and shipping, Next Day Flyers can help you design your mailer. You choose the card stock, coating, size, and fold style for the piece, and then you discuss the details of your campaign with the design team by email. Graphic design services cost an additional $35.

  • Mailing lists: Like all other direct mail companies we researched, Next Day Flyers has targeted mailing lists available for purchase. You can select households in a specific area using several demographic data points to give your marketing campaign a focused approach. While many vendors sell their lists, Next Day Flyers only rents them out. If you provide your own mailing list, the company will verify addresses for you, ensuring no postage is wasted.

Pros

Of all the companies we researched, Next Day Flyers offers the highest number of direct mail pieces per order: up to 100,000 postcards, brochures or mail rack cards. It also boasts fast turnaround for large orders, with an average time of four days (some orders are even completed within a day). Next Day Flyers offers various support services to help small businesses run a successful campaign, including affordable design help, targeted mailing lists and in-house mailing services.

Cons

While Next Day Flyers has many features that led us to recommend it for high-volume orders, it has some limitations. It does not track customer responses, so you won't know how well your direct mail campaign is going. Its packages don't include any marketing consultation services either. Small businesses that don't have experience using this type of service may need expert advice on how to optimize a direct mail campaign, so it would be ideal if Next Day Flyers offered this.

Customer Support

Although the customer service representative we spoke to was nice, it was a little difficult to get information from them. Rather than discussing service options with us on the phone, they pointed us to the website for answers to our questions. This could easily be frustrating for small business owners who prefer to receive information from a live person who can provide context and answer follow-up questions.

The customer service phone line is open 24 hours Monday through Friday, and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST on weekends. The company has a live chat app on its website and an email address for customer support. The company website also has a help center with a FAQs section and training videos that explain its online design services.

More

PostcardMania: Postcard Mailings

PostcardMania provides numerous options for direct mailing campaigns, including one with social media advertising.
This company offers exemplary customer service for businesses interested in its services.
You can only use PostcardMania's rented residential mailing lists three times within a 90-day period.

Whether you're a small business owner looking to dip your toe into direct mail marketing or a seasoned veteran of targeted mailers, you can't go wrong with PostcardMania. It has more than a decade of experience in the industry, an array of customization options, and speedy production and shipping.

The company's all-in-one direct mail solution beats out the competition with its tracking system that shows you how customers react to your marketing campaigns. For these reasons and more, it earns our best pick for postcard mailings.

PostcardMania Pricing

While PostcardMania offers a basic postcard printing price guide on its website, the full cost of a direct mail marketing campaign depends on many factors. As such, the final price tag will differ from one campaign to another.

To find out how much a potential campaign would cost with PostcardMania, we used the same basic criteria we did for all the companies: The hypothetical campaign requires 5,000 full-color 4 x 6 postcards, to be designed by the company, and an accompanying mailing list of 5,000 households.

After discussing this campaign with a sales representative, we learned that the total cost of products and services (without sales tax) would be $1,492. The costs broke down as follows:

  • 5,000 postcards: $768 at approximately 15 cents per piece
  • Design services: $199
  • Addressing 5,000 postcards: $275
  • Resident/occupant mailing list for 5,000 homes (three uses within 90 days): $250

Postage costs are invoiced and paid separately. Once the mailers are ready to be shipped, the cost is calculated based on current USPS rates.

We ran another estimate, this time for a campaign that included PostcardMania's Everywhere Small Business feature. For a 5,000-piece campaign, the cost was $1,200. However, there are additional monthly fees for this service after the initial three-month period

Features

The features of PostcardMania's direct mail service are what really differentiate it from other companies. According to the company's website, its direct mailing solution takes a "Swiss Army knife" approach to this particular type of marketing.

If you design a direct mail marketing campaign with PostcardMania, here are some of the features you will have at your disposal:

  • Quick turnaround: The time it takes for a campaign to be printed and shipped largely depends on the company and how many pieces need to be produced. According to PostcardMania, its average turnaround is three to four weeks. Broken down even further, that time includes three to five business days for the first proof, six days to print, and approximately one week to ship everything out.

  • Flexible design options: Like other direct mailing companies, PostcardMania gives you a choice between uploading your own postcard designs and hiring its in-house team to create something new for you. This process can take up to two days, though more complex graphic design options can take three or four days. What makes this feature impressive is that it allows you to make an unlimited number of revisions before anything goes to print, giving you ample opportunity to perfect your message.

  • Other mailer types available: While this review focuses on PostcardMania's postcard options, which include standard 4.25 x 6 cards and larger 6 x 11 postcards, the company can also print folders, door hangers, business cards and other items.

PostcardMania offers two main campaign options: Direct Mail 2.0 and Everywhere Small Business. Here's what you can expect from each:

Direct Mail 2.0

Featuring four distinct steps that integrate the power of the internet with the company's direct mailing efforts, PostcardMania's Direct Mail 2.0 aims to bolster customer engagement with the following marketing techniques:

  • Like other direct mail solutions, the company will send out postcards to your targeted mailing list. If this is successful, those homes will turn into new customers or leads.

  • Using a proprietary "cutting-edge barcode technology system," PostcardMania tracks the entire mailing process, allowing you to see exactly when your postcards reach your targeted households.

  • When someone visits your business's website through the link provided in the direct mail campaign, it triggers an "automatic follow-up system." Text and visual ads matching the postcards and powered by Google will follow your visitors around as they surf the web.

  • Each campaign comes with a unique phone number that forwards to your business's normal phone line. Each call to the special phone number is tracked and each conversation recorded so you can monitor how your employees handle potential clients.

Like other add-ons, Direct Mail 2.0 comes at an additional cost. The company says this is "pennies per piece," but the exact price depends on the complexity of the campaign.

Everywhere Small Business

If the tracking and advertising options of Direct Mail 2.0 aren't enough for your needs, PostcardMania's Everywhere Small Business option gets your business in front of Facebook and Instagram users as well. This feature works like Direct Mail 2.0, except it also displays targeted ads using your direct mail campaign's assets on the social media platforms. It has a stronger phone call tracking system that displays a caller's full name, address, gender and age.

According to the estimate we received, Everywhere Small Business costs an extra 24 cents per piece, resulting in a $1,200 charge for 5,000 postcards. How much this feature costs to add to your mailing may differ, depending on the specifics of your postcard marketing campaign.

Pros

PostcardMania offers many different options for creating a targeted mailing list. The Everywhere Small Business option goes beyond print mailing, helping you reach customers via their social media accounts. Based on our experience, the company's highly personable and helpful customer service team will guide you toward the right offering for your business's needs.

Cons

This provider may not be ideal if your business can't pay in full upfront for your chosen package. Additionally, PostcardMania's residential mailing lists are only available for three uses in a 90-day period, limiting your options for campaign length.

Customer Support

During our research, we had an exemplary customer service experience with PostcardMania. When we reached out as a potential customer, the customer service representative not only showed interest in our hypothetical company, but also asked follow-up questions to get a quote together for us quickly. They sent that quote directly to us by email.

Their answers to our questions were easy to understand, and they were friendly through the entire process.

In case you don't want to speak with someone over the phone, PostcardMania offers live chat and a FAQs section on its website.

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Pricing for Direct Mailing Services

When you look for a direct mailing service that fits your business's needs, it will quickly be apparent that most companies don't share their pricing details online. While that may be frustrating, especially if you're looking to get an idea of the cost before you commit to a direct mail campaign, the omission of a pricing structure is for good reason: No two orders are the same.

Whether you want postcards or brochures, regular card stock or 100-pound glossy paper, black-and-white or color printing, several factors affect how much orders cost. Some companies have quote calculators on their websites that can give you a general idea of how much your project will cost, but most of the time, you will have to call a sales representative to go over the specifications of your project before you can find out pricing.

Generally speaking, these are the expenses you can expect from direct mailing:

  • Printing costs. These vary by the format of your project, the paper you choose and the type of printing it requires.

  • Shipping fees. Shipping costs depend on the number of items you're sending out, the type of product you are mailing, and the geographic area you are targeting. There may be other mailing service fees.

  • Postage rates. Like shipping rates, postage rates may increase periodically.

  • Design services. Every direct mailing service offers some kind of design service that can help you design an eye-catching product that converts a recipient into a new customer. In most cases, design services are optional; most companies allow you to create your own design online or upload a file.

  • Mailing lists. Many direct mailing companies sell address lists, so you don't have to find, create or purchase one from a different company.

Along with the design, printing, and shipping services direct mail companies offer, some vendors offer add-ons like response rate tracking, which can give you valuable data about your customers and the effectiveness of your campaign. Whether you need those is up to you, though they can help you decide if you're getting a good return on investment from your marketing campaign.

Buying Guide

Benefits of Direct Mail Services

There are many benefits of working with a direct mail service rather than doing it yourself. Here are some benefits to consider:

  • Direct mail services save you time. Perhaps the best benefit of working with a company that specializes in direct mail campaigns is that it saves you the time and energy of designing promotional material, compiling lists, printing addresses, and mailing letters internally.

  • Their design teams can create high-quality products. To get new customers from a direct mail campaign, you need a visually pleasing, informative piece of mail that entices recipients. The design teams at direct mail companies can help you create letters, brochures, postcards and more that will land sales.

  • They can help you target the right audience. The most effective direct mail campaigns start with the right address lists. Direct mail services often allow you to purchase address lists directly, but, more importantly, they can help you find the right customers by targeting locations based on age, home values, household income, and renter or owner status.

  • They're cost-effective. Direct mail services are a cost-effective marketing solution because they create a tactile experience that helps businesses build brand recognition and customer loyalty. Compared to other advertising campaigns, direct mail services have a surprisingly high ROI.

What to Consider When Choosing a Direct Mail Service

Before you decide to work with any direct mail company, consider these four factors:

How much experience does the company have?

It may seem obvious, but before choosing a direct mail company, make sure it has experience in printing, working with the USPS and handling large-volume orders. A company that knows what it's doing will save you time, energy, and money in the long run, as it's better equipped to catch errors, offer meaningful advice and work efficiently, ensuring a successful campaign.

How does the company acquire its data?

The quality of address lists is arguably one of the most important factors in a direct mail company. When you start speaking with different companies, ask about the quality of their address lists, and make sure they can help you target customers based on geographic and demographic data.

Does it offer campaign-tracking features?

Another important factor to consider with a direct mail company is its ability to track your order and the progress of your campaign. Proper tracking capabilities not only ensure your mail is being delivered to the correct addresses at the correct time, but also allow you to manage the effectiveness of your campaign and see how you can improve in the future.

How much of the process will it handle?

For any small business, working with a single company that can handle the entire process in question is preferable to juggling multiple vendors. For direct mailing, look for a service that offers strategy, design, printing, mailing and tracking services.

Direct Mailing Services FAQs

What is direct mail marketing?

If you have ever received a piece of advertising mail without requesting it, you have experienced direct mail. Direct mail marketing is any type of physical advertising material a business sends through the mail with the goal of making a sale.

What makes direct mail marketing effective?

An effective direct mail campaign relies on multiple factors to interest potential customers in your product. According to a neuroscience study by Ipsos, direct mail campaigns work because they require less effort to understand than digital equivalents. For this reason, the design must be eye-catching and the copy easy to understand. The mailers should also be relevant to the interests or needs of your target market.

What types of mailers can be sent through direct mailing services?

You can choose from a variety of mailer formats. These are the most common:

  • Standard 4 x 6 postcards
  • Oversized postcards
  • Brochures
  • Booklets
  • Flyers
  • Letters
  • Catalogs
  • Dimensional mail (boxes, pop-up letters, tube, etc.)

What is a good response rate for direct mail?

As with most marketing efforts, an effective direct mail campaign is one that gets consumers through the door. While each campaign is unique to the business running it, the Direct Marketing Association found in recent years that direct mail has a 4.4% response rate versus email's 0.12%.

What is Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM)?

Every Door Direct Mail is a direct mail service that allows you to send mailers to a specific mail route or area. Rather than relying on mailing lists that target certain demographics, EDDM is an indiscriminate method designed to reach as many residents as possible within a specific geographic area.

What is the difference between EDDM and direct mail?

Direct mailing differs from EDDM in that you are paying to choose who gets your mailer at a granular level. This allows you to cater to certain demographics through targeted mailing lists. EDDM, on the other hand, targets homes in a specific area, regardless of demographics. For this reason, EDDM is generally cheaper than direct mail advertising.

What mailing restrictions are involved?

With traditional direct mail, there are no size restrictions on the items you send. If you opt for EDDM, however, you need to follow some guidelines when designing your mailers:

  • Each mailer must be larger than 11.5 x 6.125 inches or more than a quarter-inch thick.
  • Mailers cannot be bigger than 15 x 12 inches or three-quarters of an inch thick.
  • Mailers must be rectangular, with four square corners or finished corners with a radius of one-eighth an inch or less.
  • While the orientation of the address doesn't matter, it must be located in the top half of the mailer.

Our Methodology

To properly evaluate direct mailing services, we dedicated significant time to learning what plans, features and options make a good service. Our process began with compiling a list of vendors. In addition to the companies we came across in our independent research, we considered vendor lists and reviews from other sources and requests from companies that wanted to be on our list.

Once we had our initial list, we visited each company's website, noting its direct mail offerings and pricing structures when available. We also sought out customer testimonials and examples of previous campaigns from each company.

After gathering information about each company, we compared services and narrowed our list based on the criteria below. We called each company on our short list and spoke with a customer service or sales representative to get details about the company's services and pricing, as well as a taste of how they treat their customers. During our conversations, we posed as a potential customer and asked each representative the same questions, noting our experience for each interaction. We compared pricing, availability of features and our experience with company representatives to determine our best picks.

Here are the criteria we considered when evaluating each vendor:

  • What design options does the company offer? We looked for direct mail companies that offer a variety of design options, because making a good first impression is important for a small business. As such, direct mailers should be eye-catching and informative. With the right design, your targeted audience could become new customers.

  • What types of mailers can be sent through the service? What a company is willing to print and send via direct mail varies. We looked for companies that offer multiple direct mailer formats, including brochures, newsletters, postcards and menus.

  • Are consultations and product samples available? A good direct mail company will have representatives on hand to help you throughout the process. Similarly, it will provide you with digital or physical examples of your custom design before sending the mailers out, so you can be confident in the quality of the direct mail piece you're sending to your current and potential customers.

  • Are direct mail lists available for purchase? Every direct mail service allows you to buy or rent a mailing list from it or upload your own. If you buy a list, you can use it as much as you want for your future marketing efforts. Renting a list, however, restricts how often you can use it and for how long.

  • Does the company track direct mail response rates? Once your campaign is underway, it's important to find out how it's resonating with people. Some companies have additional services that track customer engagement, such as through call monitoring to analyze customer engagement or online impressions.

  • How fast is the turnaround? It's important to properly plan and time a campaign. The last thing you want is for your customers to receive mailers after a promotion ends or too far in advance of a sale. Some of the better companies offer timed or staggered releases to help you reach your customers at the right times.

  • What is the pricing structure? Given the unique nature of each direct mailing campaign, pricing varies widely by company and the quality of your mailers. Additional services like customer tracking and design usually cost extra. We looked for companies that offered competitive prices when we called them as part of our testing.
Sean Peek
Sean Peek
business.com Contributing Writer
Sean Peek is a writer, small business owner and SEO specialist. He began his career in digital marketing as a freelance writer in 2013 and has over five years of experience in the B2B space. You can learn more at lightningmediapartners.com.

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Can direct mail marketing still work for restaurant or other small business owners?
9 Responses
Steven Freeman
Steven Freeman
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We often receive positive feed back when we send real tangible items in the mail to existing clients as way of thanks for example. There is too much focus for online marketing to the point that some of the tried and tested traditional forms have been forgotten or ignored of late. Many direct marketing techniques (with a little modern day tweak) have stood the test of time. In many cases it is still the most targeted and powerful way to reach a busy prospect. Here is an article we recently...
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Is direct mail the "morse code" of advertising?
6 Responses
Steve Menard
Steve Menard
Answered
I wouldn't say that direct mail is dead, it just plays a much less prominent role in an advertiser's portfolio. When used selectively and when targeted to the right demographic, direct mail still is an effective tool. Rather than focusing on the advertising channel, I would spend more effort as an advertiser strategizing on the type of campaign to use. Hard sell is definitely out. Today it's all about relationship building and trust. A direct mail campaign can definitely play a role in this...
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Do you still use old fashioned snail mail to attract new customers and generate leads?
30 Responses
Al Shultz
Al Shultz
Answered
In marketing, any time you can differentiate yourself, that's a very good thing. When everyone else is is just pounding the audience with digital, if you send an attractive, well-conceived 4-color printed piece with a compelling message -- something they can hold and study, and perhaps put out on their desk or kitchen counter to look at again later or more likely, several more times -- that can have tremendous selling power. Everyone needs to get over this lemming mentality of chasing after...
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How do I build email and/or snail mail contact lists for recreational boaters in the US, both power and sail?
8 Responses
Lin Shearer
Lin Shearer
Answered
Kyle S is on the right track - find out where your target market hangs out - both online and in the real world - become part of their community by offering useful advice - either by posting on their community forums or by publishing your own "lead bait" articles on a blog - make sure your blog or website has a popup that invites them to join your email list "for helpful boating tips" (not direct marketing material). You should also do what Kyle S suggests and have an offer of some sort and a...
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Recommendations for a (mini <500) direct mail campaign?
11 Responses
Vincent Kernaghan
Vincent Kernaghan
Answered
For small mailings, I've just normally done them by hand. Turn on a movie and fold/stuff/lick. Ok, well...maybe not so much the lick. Gums up the tongue too much. Curious as to why you refer to it as "brief copy". Does that mean it is intentionally short? If so, why? Are you mailing postcards? Is it direct response copy? Is there a captivating headline/subhead, a compelling message/offer, risk reversal, scarcity/time-limit, etc.? Has the mailing been tested for results against a...
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