Design Advice for a Do-It-Yourself Direct Mail Campaign

Date: September 07, 2009

More advertising resourcesYou've decided to launch a direct mail campaign, so you call a few graphic design firms. Yikes! Sticker shock sets in when you're quoted high hourly fees to create a postcard touting your new product or a flyer about your services. Before you hire a pricey agency, consider designing your direct mail project in house.

A do-it-yourself (DIY) project doesn't mean you have to do it alone. Try these three suggestions for help:

  • Rely on your office software suite. Microsoft Office users can download templates to design flyers, letters, envelopes and more. You'll also find free clip art and photos on For instance, if you're a nursery advertising a sale, there are more than 1,200 images of plants available. In addition, you can link to numerous stock photography sites to buy inexpensive royalty-free images.
  • Get advice from the U.S. Postal Service. Check out the USPS online for tips on constructing a mailing list, creating a direct mail campaign, mailing the pieces and more. There are also links to three online companies where you can create direct mail pieces that are guaranteed to be USPS compliant:, and In addition, the USPS employs Mailpiece Design Analysts who are specially trained to answer questions about direct mail design. Search for one in your area
  • Seek out a student. Consider offering an internship to a graphic arts student from a local technical high school or community college. They may bring a fresh perspective to your direct mail campaign and other projects, such as Web site design. If you don't want an intern, pay a student a flat fee to complete one direct mail project.

Design on a dime
As you begin to create your direct mail piece, consider these tips for controlling your costs:

  • Keep the piece simple. Don't design a complicated mailing with multiple folds, scratch-off inks or lots of inserts. Try a postcard or letter that fits in a standard business envelope. Not only will it be easier to design, but you'll also save on printing and mailing costs. Work with a Mailpiece Design Analyst at USPS to ensure your mailing meets all the guidelines for postal processing equipment.
  • Keep your copy simple, too. Words, paragraphs and sentences should be short. You'll hold your reader's attention as well as reduce paper and mailing costs.
  • Use color carefully. While a 4-color piece may look great, it's expensive to produce. Also avoid bleeds (ink that extends off the page) and large areas of solid color, which will increase the price of printing. While black ink on white paper is the least expensive option, adding one or two extra colors will help your mailing get noticed.
  • Don't procrastinate. If you delay on the design then ask your printer for a rush job, expect to pay extra.
  • Proofread carefully. Then do it again. Pay particular attention to your company name, phone numbers, email addresses and other critical information. One small typo can lead to a costly reprint.
  • Clean up your mailing list. Keep your records up to date using the USPS National Change of Address capability, eliminate duplicate names and maintain postal standards (such as ZIP+4 codes).
  • Take advantage of postal discounts. By adhering to certain guidelines, you may be eligible for discounts. For more information, check out the U.S. Postal Service's "Business Solutions."

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