[MAILER SERIES] The Dirty Details

by · July 29, 2010

This post is part of our series ‘Direct Mail and Church, A Love Story’.

The design is done, now you just need to figure out who gets this awesome mailer you just created. There are several administrative tasks to accomplish before you are ready to mail. Think of them as a check list. The only thing more boring than this part of the process is reading an article about it, so I will keep it brief.


Earlier in the process, you decided who this mail piece was directed at or who your target audience is. This can be as specific as “young families with children under 12″ if you like. Once you have decided on you target demographic, you have to buy the mail list. Typically, the mail house you use can also label and drop the individual pieces at the post office for you. The more specific you get with your target, the more expensive the mail list will be. Depending on how many ZIP codes you buy and the population density of those areas, do not be alarmed at the cost. The mail list can be one of the most expensive parts of the mailer process.

Indicia and Other Details

Most of the time, the mail house will take care of these details for you, but when things go wrong with direct mail, they most likely are because the return address or the indicia. The indicia is the little square where the stamp would normally go, it contains the permit info and tells the post office who to charge for the bulk mail fees. If your return address does not match exactly with what the post office has on file for the permit number in the indicia, they will not mail your piece. Not only that, most of the time they will not tell you there is a problem. It probably is no surprise, but post offices can be very difficult to work with. Double check the indicia and return address, make sure the font and formatting are exactly as they should be. Keep the space for addresses clear of everything but white space.

Drop Date

Picking a drop date is an art form. The drop date is the day you plan to drop your individual mailers to the post office for delivery. Unless you can afford first class postage, you have little control over when the mailers get put in the mailbox. Typically, the post office will do it when they feel like it, but roughly speaking, you can expect the mailers to hit homes 3-5 days after you drop. The tricky part is figuring out when you want the mailers to get to the homes and then counting backwards.

Weekends are a bad day to get mail, the best target day is Wednesday or Thursday for mail to arrive. If you want people to respond by coming to church on a weekend, it would be a good idea to drop the mailers at the post office on the Friday of the prior week. The best thing to remember when going through the detail part of a direct mail campaign is to pay close attention. There is no need (or room) for creativity, so just get the checklist done on time.

So, just to review:

  • Addresses: Look at a map and pick out the closest ZIP codes to your location
  • Indicia: Do EXACTLY what the post office says
  • Return Address: If you have moved or changed names, this needs to be updated with the post office internally
  • Drop Date: Unless you can afford first class mail, you will have to guess when your mailer will hit
  • Iburgei

    Where is the best place to find a cheap address list? There are just so many company's out there that do them. Thanks


  • nickasolas

    Usually your mailhouse vendor will provide the mail list based on the ZIP codes you give them. Of course they markup the price to make a profit and cover their time spent doing the research. Another option if you want to purchase the list yourself is LeadsPlease.com. They have very affordable lists and are often cheaper than the USPS.

    Good luck!