Top 5 Direct Mail Format Issues

Since the USPS has strict regulations on direct mail, it is very common for marketers to find themselves in a position where a design format is going to cost extra postage. In extreme cases, it can mean that the mail piece is not eligible to mail at all. The DMM has many regulations and even postal employees don’t always know what they are. Many times there are issues that crop up with mailings that cause large extra postage fees because the requirements were vague or unknown to the mailer. Rather than pay the post office extra money take the time to learn the top five issues and how to avoid them.

Let’s look at the top five:

  1. Aspect Ratio – Postcards, booklets and other letter size mail must meet the post office’s aspect ratio requirements. It must be between 1.3 and 2.5 or you will pay extra fees. In order to calculate the aspect ratio, you start by looking at the mail panel, then take the length of the piece and divide it by the height. This is not an issue for flat size mail.
  2. Thickness – Letter size pieces are required to be a minimum of .009 thick. The post office also limits the type of paper stock to 70lb for under an ounce and 80lb for over an ounce. If your stock is too thin you will pay extra fees.
  3. Address Placement – This can get very complicated because there are different requirements based on what type of mail is going, if there are folds, if it is a booklet and so on. Your best bet is to have your mail service provider take a look at a PDF of your mail piece to determine where the mail panel needs to go before you print.
  4. Size – There are different size requirements depending on what type of mail you are sending. A postcard that mails at postcard rates is smaller than one that mails at letter rates. Booklets which are mailers with binding have a smaller maximum size than a folded self-mailer mailing at letter rates. Postcard sizes are between 3.5 x 5 to 6 x 9. Self-Mailer sizes are between 3.5 x 5 to 6.125 x 11.5. Booklet sizes are between 3.5 x 5 to 6 x 10.5. Confused yet? Don’t worry your service provider can help you.
  5. Weight – Basically the heavier the mail piece the more postage you will pay. Regular first class goes up in price for every ounce. Presorted first class, standard and nonprofit mail go up after 3.5 ounces. Make sure that you take advantage of the additional weight allowance on presorted mail so that you get the most for your money.

Here is a bonus for any nonprofits out there. The most common regulation to trip you up is the post office regulation on lotteries. Many times raffle tickets are included in a mailing. There are strict rules on them to make sure the tickets are not considered to be part of a lottery. To avoid potential problems USPS requires the ticket makes clear that no payment is required to enter a raffle.

The following elements should appear on each ticket in a mailing: use the wording “suggested donation” before the price of the ticket or use the wording “no donation required to enter” or add a check box “Please enter my name in the drawing. I do not wish to make a donation at this time.” An alternative is to not include a ticket in the mailing. It is legal to advertise a raffle by mail, but you should still use the phrase “suggested donation” if you list the price of a ticket on the advertisement.

The best way to make sure you are not paying any extra fees to the post office is to have your mail service provider evaluate your design before you print. They can recommend any changes needed and save you money. Direct mail can be a great return on your investment when done well. Are you ready to get started?