Direct mail is a marketing strategy that involves sending a physical letter, package, mailer, brochure, postcard, etc. to prospects or current customers. It’s unsolicited, and it sometimes gets a bad rap. But in a world inundated with email, snail mail can feel like a refreshing change for consumers. In fact, the Direct Marketing Association found direct mail’s response rate is 4.4% — compared to 0.12% for email  — so it’s worth taking a second look.

Moreover, Sara DeForest of says, “with COVID-19 still raging and many knowledge workers continuing to work from home, direct mail will have a banner year in 2021 and will be the most powerful tool for getting on the radar of prospects who have become digitally overwhelmed with an onslaught of sales email and Linkedin messages.”

In this article, we’re dusting off the dictionary to review some terminology and comparing the different types of direct mail, so you can feel confident you’re picking the right media for your business.

According to Stephen Lett of Total Retail, “the catalog is the grandfather of all direct mail.”

He goes on to assert that [catalogs] yield the highest response rate and average order size.

Catalogs come in different sizes but 8” x 10 ½” is the most common. They are created by folding printed sheets in half then saddle-stitching them into booklets. Saddle-stitching is when wire is sewn through the paper to look like staples, or they can be bookletized utilizing actual staples. They can also be “perfect bound”, which involves gluing pages to the spine. Perfect binding takes longer because the glue has to dry, and set, and it is typically more expensive.

Like a catalog, a slim-jim contains multiple pages and is stapled down the side. It cannot, however, be more than 6” x 10.5” in size. The advantage of a slim-jim is the postage rate, which is considerably less because slim-jims can mail through the USPS at a “letter” rate. The downside is that slim-jims are sealed with tabs that must be torn to open, and this can be a hindrance for some consumers.

A self-mailer is typically a flyer or trifold brochure that has been sealed with tabs and sent through USPS. Self-mailers are great for introducing your business to new potential customers or announcing a sale or event. Like slim-jims, the tabs can sometimes be a hindrance for consumers (especially if they are not perforated to tear easily).

Postcards are a cost-effective way to send direct mail despite their limited size. If you want to make an announcement or drive customers to a store, website, or event, a postcard is a sensible choice. Here are the most popular postcard sizes:

  • Standard postcard (4¼” x 6″)
  • Oversize postcard (9″ x 6″)
  • Jumbo postcard (11″ x 6″)

Lett says [with postcards] it’s important to communicate a clear call for action with a strong promotional offer.

“I believe that postcards can be effective when mailed to existing customers, but not so much to prospects. Postcards are strong retail store drivers when targeted to the correct geographic audience.”

Now that you know the different types of direct mail and their specifications, it’s time to decide what will work best for your business goals and budget.

If you need help comparing options, feel free to reach out to one of our friendly customer service representatives at Dingley.