Avoid These Common Mistakes for Effective Mail Piece Design - pel hughes print marketing new orleans la

Direct mail campaigns are one of the most effective tools in a marketing team’s arsenal. It’s one of the best ways to communicate with customers and one of the most important methods for gathering consumer data. However, even the slightest error in the design or mailing process can mean lost customers, and lost business. 

Below are some of the most common mistakes you should avoid when developing an effective mail piece design. 

Not Meeting Minimum Dimensions

When mailing a piece of direct mail, dimensions are extremely important. In fact, when parcels do not meet the minimum requirements established by USPS, the mail becomes undeliverable. There are several reasons why a piece of mail may be undeliverable due to incorrect dimensions. 

One of the more frequent mistakes businesses make is not meeting the minimum height dimension of 3.5”. Some businesses will send out a 3”x5” index card, believing that it would be cheaper. However, this .5” can be the difference between your mail reaching your customer, and it being thrown in the garbage. 

For reference, below are the current postal minimum dimension requirements established by USPS: 

  • Minimum height: 3.5”
  • Minimum length: 5.0”
  • Minimum thickness: .007”

Odd Shapes

Different shapes is a popular way for direct mail marketers to attempt to have their mail stand out from the rest. Although a different shape or size may catch your customer’s eye, it may end up costing you in the end. 

According to USPS, “Certain shapes like squares and tubes are charged a higher price because those pieces must be processed manually. Such pieces are referred to as Customized Marketing Mail, or CMM.” 

Moreover, USPS notes that businesses should not mail “bulky, odd-shaped things like pens or bottle caps in regular letter-size envelopes. You’ll pay more in postage, and the items are likely to damage the envelope and be lost.”

While creativity is an effective marketing tool in some aspects, keeping it simple with direct mail is typically preferred. 

Incorrect Addresses 

Although an incorrect address may seem like an obvious mistake to avoid, incorrect address placement, no return address and elaborate fonts often lead to undeliverable mail. 

For example, postage goes on the top right corner of the parcel. And information on the class of mail, such as First-Class Mail, Marketing Mail, etc., must be printed as part of, directly below, or to the left of the stamp. Also, delivery addresses must go on the front of the mail piece, along with the postage. 

USPS is also pretty specific when it comes to address boundaries. Again, for reference, below are the dimensions USPS currently require for address placement: 

  • 1/2 inch from the left edge of the piece
  • 1/2 inch from the right edge of the piece
  • 2-3/4 inches from the bottom edge of the piece
  • 5/8 inch from the bottom edge of the piece


Screening and Imaging 

Issues with screening and imaging are one of the most frequent mistakes seen in direct mail. Screening and imaging refers to how barcodes are read on a specific parcel. The print reflectance requirements must be met by both the barcode and the surface on which the barcode is printed. If these don’t match, the barcode may not be able to be read accurately.

When printing, it’s important to consider the presence of dark fibers on the outside of an envelope or piece of mail, as well as the potential bleed-through of internal photos, security screens, etc. This bleed-through can disrupt the ability of a barcode to be accurately scanned in transit.  

According to USPS, 15% is the maximum print contrast ratio for fibers, designs or bleed-though. In fact, if you’re unsure if your parcel meets this number, you can have it tested by a print design analyst using the USPS envelope reflectance meter.

Making the right choices and avoiding these common mistakes can help ensure you have an efficient and effective direct mail campaign. It can also prevent you from wasting capital on undeliverable mail, and help you increase your consumer response rates.