The 7 Critical Elements of Direct Mail (Part 5)

By Wayne Gurley

Next in our review of the seven most critical variables in direct mail is Format.


In direct mail, “format” (or package) is the manner in which you transport your message to your intended audience. And you have a wide variety of choices from which to choose.

From postcards (single, double and triple)…to self-mailers (usually a single piece of paper folded and labeled)…to catalogs, to the traditional classic workhorse envelope package (window and closed face)…each has its own advantages, disadvantages and usages.

Let’s talk a bit about each one:

Postcards – These inexpensive mailers are often used to promote subscription and other offers requiring “two-steps” – in other words, a response and a follow-up invoice.

Since they have no mechanism for returning a payment, they are usually only good for offers that seek “sign-me-up–and-bill-me-later” respondents.

Postcards aren’t very useful for charities or other offers that require immediate payment. You also can’t add a credit card payment option since sensitive information goes back through the mail in full view of anyone who wishes to see it.

Self-Mailers – Like postcards, these are a lot cheaper to mail, but also have their limitations. Unlike postcards, many of them have their own tear-off reply envelopes so that checks can be returned. These messages are viewed more as “announcements” or promotions than solicitations, and therein lies their weakness.

Many fundraising consultants say they don’t work and flatly refuse to use them. I tend to agree. That’s why you don’t see them very often.

Envelope Mailers – The workhorse of direct mail. Classic envelope mailers work because they approximate the personal, one-to-one correspondence from one individual to another.

Due to cost, most envelope packages favor window versions, but their more expensive cousins – the full-front or closed face envelope – also have their unique place with certain audience segments.

You can get envelopes in a variety of sizes and different types of materials – including a thin plastic called a “polybag.”

Catalogs – Not often seen in fundraising, catalogs are normally reserved for companies that have a wide variety of products or services to promote. Catalogs often have built-in reply envelopes but mostly are used to promote online or telephone sales.

Copyright 2018 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

Wayne GurleyComment