Tips for Creating Effective Mailers on a Budget

I’ve been in the marketing business for quite some time, which means I’ve worked with a lot of clients, including database marketers that still use snail mail.

I can hear you asking yourself why anyone would still use mail, but did you know that for many industries, the battle for the customer is often won or lost at the mailbox? Did you know that although millennials seemingly spend a great majority of their time glued to their digital devices, 84 percent of them look through their mail on a regular basis and 64 percent say they would rather search for useful information in the mail than email?

Even though direct mail has a slightly higher acquisition cost, it’s clearly still an important part of anyone’s marketing toolkit. The question is, how can companies be most effective in this arena?

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I turned to Lisa Vincent of M Partners for some suggestions on managing a print budget to create mail that tells your brand story without cutting corners.

“Believe it or not, it’s really very easy to manage a print budget and still create great pieces,” says Vincent. “I’m often tasked with identifying ways to maximize client budgets while still producing a printed piece that stands out.” Vincent says she looks at the following five things when challenged with a budget.

Color: The easiest way to keep costs down when producing a print project is to only use black ink. However, the advent of digital printing has made full color just as budget-friendly. “Because digital printing doesn’t require the creation of a plate, it greatly reduces the time needed to print — time saved on the project and time saved for you,” says Brian Hughes, vice president of business development for New Orleans-based printing and digital marketing company, Pel Hughes. “And because of the lower cost, digital printing is great for small jobs.”

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Size: The size of the piece will also be something you’ll want to address when evaluating cost versus impact. If you’re mailing, you’ll want to get up to speed with the U.S. Post Office’s guidelines to avoid budget-buster oversized mailers. If you’re a direct mail marketer, you’ll want to bookmark the guidelines web page and refer to it often.

“Your agency or printer production manager can always guide you,” Vincent says, “but if you’re trying to handle your production in-house and are in doubt as to whether or not your piece is compliant with USPS standards, take a quick trip to your local post office and ask.”
Remember, ALWAYS understand the printer’s limitations BEFORE you start designing.

Paper Stock: Consider using the printer’s “house stock.” Since printers often buy this paper in bulk, they can pass on the discount to customers. This can not only save you money, it can save time since you won’t have to wait for it to arrive.

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It’s also important to make sure your mailer is an appropriate weight. For the post office, the weight is just as important as size. No one likes a surprise surcharge; it’s right up there with resort fees and checked baggage charges.

Folding: If your piece will be folded and you’re on a budget, you’ll want to design it so that it can be machine folded. has great examples of standard folds. It’s a great resource for you. I’d bookmark that one as well.

Bindery and Finishing: If you need to print something with multiple pages, you’ll want to consider saddle stitching – a process that staples multiple pages commonly seen in brochures, training manuals, etc.

As you can see, there are a few potential budget-busters that are quite easy to manage. For those “we’ve got to figure out how to make it work” marketers, rest assured that you can still create dazzling mailers that will tell your brand story in a cost-effective way.

Julia Carcamo is president and chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates, specializing in brand and marketing strategy. She is also the co-founder of espNOLA, a Hispanic marketing and engagement agency. Learn more at and

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