Self-Mailers Make Great Direct Mail

Why do I love self-mailers? They are really versatile and allow you plenty of room for creativity to grab attention quickly. You can fold them in fun ways, too. Best of all, they are cost-effective. Color images are really important for self-mailers. Colors make your piece unique and help convey your message.

Why do I love self-mailers? They are really versatile and allow you plenty of room for creativity to grab attention quickly. You can fold them in fun ways, too. Best of all, they are cost-effective. Color images are really important for self-mailers. Colors make your piece unique and help convey your message.

When do self-mailers work best?

  1. Sending to Consumers — Consumers like to get mailers. On the other hand, businesses tend to sift through mail before it gets to the designated person so many times, mailers are tossed before they are ever seen.
  2. You Have Great Images — Images drive attention and response, so if you don’t have good ones to use, skip doing a self-mailer.
  3. Tear-offs — When you have a tear-off section, like coupons, for your prospects or customers to keep or use, self-mailers make it easy.
  4. Sharing — A creative self-mailer will get shared with family and friends; this allows your message to spread farther.

There is no one best format. As a matter of fact, the more unique the format, the more engaged your prospects and customers will be. Think beyond the standard layouts. As with any type of direct mail, there are some pitfalls you need to keep an eye out for such as:

  • Size — The maximum letter size is 6 x 10.5. This still gives you tons of room; especially when you have three panels to use.
  • Paper Stock — You will need to use at least 80# text weight stock to meet mailing requirements. But in many cases, you want to use something thicker in order to prevent tearing during processing.
  • Aspect Ratio — When selecting your final size, you need the length divided by the height to be between 1.3 and 2.5. Anything less or more will be a problem.
  • Folds — Make sure that you design the folds in the correct places. Your final fold needs to be either below the mail panel or to the right of the mail panel.
  • Tabs — You will need to make sure that you are placing the correct size tabs and placement. If you don’t like tabs, you can also use fugitive glue.

There are so many creative things to do with self-mailers that just don’t work for envelopes and postcards. Test out some new ideas and see what your prospects and customers think. Consider folding in a different way. Don’t just take an 8.5 x 11 sheet and tri-fold it. Be unique. You could try a four-panel fold in from an 18 x 27 sheet; this would cut out so that the top panel folding down would be 6 x 9 then the left panel would be the same size, so would the right and bottom. Once folded, the final fold would be below the mail panel. This makes for a memorable experience for your prospects and customers. They do not get a self-mailer like that every day. Of course, there are tons more folds you can create that are different. Check out some ideas at: FoldFactory.com.

Consider ideas beyond folds, too. You can have die cuts on the inside panels, you can use foil stamping or embossing to have areas really stand out. There are fun ways to grab attention on a self-mailer that people do not see every day. Not all of them will fall in your budget. But if you take time to research options, you will find something that you can afford and helps increase your ROI. Are you ready to get creative?

Stand Out With Texture

How can you get your direct mail to stand out in the mailbox? Have you considered using texture? Coatings do more than just protect the print from scratching damage in the mail. They can capture interest for your direct mail piece. With all the different types of coating available, you can now choose one that really emphasizes touch. By creating a unique textured feel, your response rate will increase. Think of all the different ways you can add texture to your piece to grab attention to it.

How can you get your direct mail to stand out in the mailbox? Have you considered using texture? Coatings do more than just protect the print from scratching damage in the mail. They can capture interest for your direct mail piece. With all the different types of coating available, you can now choose one that really emphasizes touch. By creating a unique textured feel, your response rate will increase. Think of all the different ways you can add texture to your piece to grab attention to it.

Some fun coatings for you to consider:

  • MiraFoil: Create metallic effects in a precise fashion.
  • Raised: Gives the embossed look without actual embossing.
  • Pearlescent: Gives an elegant shimmer look.
  • Sandpaper: Gives a rough sand paper like feel.
  • Soft touch: Creates a velvet texture for a nice soft feel.
  • Glitter: A large glitter flake that is available in a variety of colors.
  • Metal Flake: Fine metal flakes similar to car paint.
  • Thermochronic: Temperature activated, changes color when heated.
  • Photochromic: This coating is activated by sunlight to change color.
  • Glow in the dark: This is a high gloss coating that will glow in the dark.
  • Scratch off: Available in gold or silver provides a non-see thru coat

Now that you have selected your coating, imagine how creative you can get with your design. You want to have the feel of bricks? No problem. 3D raised steps? No problem. It’s like the old “Pat the Bunny” books: You can have so many textures at your fingertips to choose from. It is not advised to go crazy and put several on one mailer, but you can mix a couple to really get a pop. Show your recipients how your product or service feels; grab that sensory emotion to increase response.

The standard coatings are:

  • Varnish: This is basically like a colorless ink and can be applied in gloss, dull or satin forms as the piece is printed. This is not environmentally friendly.
  • Aqueous: A water based coating applied as the piece is printed. It protects better than varnish and is more environmentally friendly.
  • UV: This provides superior protection and comes in glossy or dull.
  • Laminates: This is best for protection from water as it seals in the paper. This is not usually needed for direct mail pieces.

With any of the above coatings, it is a good idea to check with your mail service provider to make sure they can inkjet over the coating. You do have a couple of choices if the coating is not inkjet compatible. You can knockout the mail panel when coating to leave it unfinished for inkjet. Or you can use and envelope/poly bag as a cover. Just one more thing to consider is that a paper envelope can be inkjeted, but a poly bag will require labels. Make sure to consider all your options and costs before proceeding.

Direct mail is about engagement, pulling the recipient into your marketing by creating interest in your mailer. The more interesting it is, the better response you are going to get. You will also find that when you create a direct mailer that people really enjoy, they show it to others. The more people who see your mailer, talk about it and share it, the better your response will be. Sensory input leaves a lasting impression on the recipient. If you want to add another layer of input, check out our blog post on adding scent to mailers. A good combination of texture and scent can knock your ROI out of the park!

Why Can’t I Mail It? – Flats

As you know from parts one (postcards), two (self-mailers) and three (booklets) of “Why Can’t I Mail It?,” there are many times a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Finally, let’s look at flats:

As you know from part one (postcards), two (self-mailers) and three (booklets) of “Why Can’t I Mail It?,” there are many times a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Finally, let’s look at flats:

  1. Flat-sized mail is between 6.126 x 11.51 to 12 x 15. These mailers have fewer restrictions as the equipment they run on at the USPS is very different. They lay flat, mail-panel side up, as they run through. Unlike the letter-size machines that run so they stand up on the edge below the mail panel.
    This means less damage happens to flat-size mail pieces. They also stand out in the mailbox better.
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum of 0.009 thick. The maximum thickness is 3/4 inch for the whole mailer. Usually this is not a problem since many flats are mutli-pages.
    Many people get creative here, since you can go a lot thicker. Just make sure you keep the thickness even throughout the mailer.
  3. No aspect ratio requirement. Since these run laying flat through the equipment, there is no need to adhere to a ratio.
    This gives you more freedom in your size design. If you want a more slender look, you can do it!
  4. Flats are required to have address blocks in the upper half of the short edge. For instance, with an 8.5 x 11 mailer, you would need to address from the top of the piece down only to 5.5, do not address below the 5.5. There is no barcode clear zone for flats. You will need to use an address block that includes the barcode, a 4 x 2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text or images. You must also make sure that you have at least a 0.125 clearance for the address block from the edge of the piece and any text or graphics.
    This requirement is not actually for the machines, but for the employees to more easily see the addresses when distributing the mail.
  5. The fold or binding must be to the right of the mail panel. If you are using a poly bag or envelope, this is not necessary.
    The reason they want it to the right is because as they pass through the machines laying down, the lead edge is on the right side.
  6. No tabs are required. In some cases, such as when you are inserting a piece loosely into the mailer, you may decide to use tabs to hold it closed. You may do that if you wish, it is just not a requirement to do so.
    Most people opt to not use tabs even when they have a loose insert, since in most cases they do not fall out.
  7. If you use a poly bag/envelope, the maximum extra space you can have inside the bag from the edge of the piece to the edge of the bag is 0.5. This is very popular now. It allows the recipient to see the creative through the clear material, as if it were just mailed without an envelope and then lets you put loose pieces together like when using a standard envelope.
    You can either address the materials on the inside of the bag or you can label the outside, both are acceptable as long as you are using USPS approved bags.

Your best bet is to design your flat and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage. As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create self-mailers that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

Why Can’t I Mail It? – Booklets

As you know from Part One of “Why Can’t I Mail It?” with postcards and Part Two with self-mailers, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Now let’s look at Booklets:

As you know from Part One of “Why Can’t I Mail It?” with postcards and Part Two with self-mailers, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Now let’s look at Booklets:

  1. Booklet sizes are between 3.5 x 5 to 6 x 10.5. A booklet consists of multiple sheets or pages that are bound by saddle‐stitching, perfect binding, pressed glue or other binding method that creates a nearly uniformly thick mail piece. You also have the option of creating a top flap to fold over onto the opposite side of the mail panel so you can seal it with fugitive glue instead of tab.
    This category way created in 2009 and was driven by the USPS to curb the marketing industries use of smaller catalogs since flat-size catalogs were so much more expensive.
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum weight for the cover of between 40lb to 80lb book depending on the design.
    The USPS found that thinner stock on the covers tore off, and then they were not deliverable because the address is on the cover.
  3. Keep your aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. In order to calculate the aspect ratio, you start by looking at the mail panel, then take the length of the booklet and divide it by the height.
    The USPS says that when pieces are too narrow the machines cannot feed them.
  4. There are two options for addressing a Booklet.
    Barcode in the address block
    : 4×2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text, or images for the address block. The block needs to be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly, the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of 0.125 inches.
    Barcode clear zone addressing
    : The barcode clear zone is the bottom 5/8 of the postcard and must be free of all color, text and images. Next the address block must be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and minimum of 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly, the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of 0.125 inches.
    As you know from part one and two, these requirements are meant to keep the address in the OCR (Optical Character Reader) read area of the postal equipment. Honestly, the current equipment has more read area than this, but getting the post office to change rules is like pulling teeth!
  5. Binding requirements allow for two locations on the binding. You may either bind to the right of the mail panel or to the left of the mail panel. This is so that the machines feed the booklets with the least amount of jamming.
  6. Tabbing or Fugitive Glue:
    3 tabs are required
    with a minimum 1 ½ inch diameter and they may not be perforated. If binding is below mail panel, then two tabs are required to the right of the mail panel and 1 tab to the left. If the binding is to the right of the mail panel, then two tabs are required above the mail panel and one tab to the left.
    These are very large tabs—they need to be to hold the booklets closed—but be aware of the size when designing so they do not distract from your overall message.

    For Fugitive glue:
    Continuous glue line along flap or 1-inch glue spots within ¾ inch of right and left edges.
    The fugitive glue on the flap does look much nicer and is easier to open.
  7. Poly bag/envelope: If you use a poly bag or envelope, your mail will have to go at flat postage rates. You cannot use them with booklet letter size mail.
    The USPS tells us that they will not feed through the machines. So, we will have to use them only for flat size mail.

Your best bet is to design your booklet and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation-compliant and save on postage.

As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get recipients’ attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create self-mailers that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

Why Can’t I Mail It? – Self-Mailers

As you know from part one of “Why Can’t I Mail It?” with postcards, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Now let’s look at Self-Mailers

As you know from part one of “Why Can’t I Mail It?” with postcards, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Now let’s look at Self-Mailers:

  1. Self-Mailer size is 3.5 x 5 to 6 x 10.5, anything larger is not mailable in this category. A self-mailer is a single or multiple unbound sheets of paper that are folded together and sealed to form a letter-size mail piece.
    The USPS created this category in Jan. 2013 to stop jamming and tearing of mail pieces. To us it has been a pain to redesign sizing and folding. Why not just slow the machine down a little? But, alas, that is not the case.
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum of 70lb, as long as the weight is under an ounce. If the weight goes over 1 ounce, the minimum is 80lb. Anything less will need to go in an envelope.
    Our main issue with this one is how the heck will the postal clerks know what kind of paper stock was used? Are they really going to measure them all? We get it that thin equals floppy and floppy equals bad for machines, but it could have been addressed with a thickness of 0.009 or something along the usual guidelines.
  3. Keep your aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. In order to calculate the aspect ratio, you start by looking at the mail panel, then take the length of the self-mailer and divide it by the height.
    We are told that the reason for this rule is machine compatibility, when the mailer is short and long it does not run through the equipment correctly, causing jams and again torn mailers. We don’t want that!
  4. There are two options for addressing a self-mailer.
    • Barcode in the address block: A 4 x 2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text or images for the address block. The block needs to be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of 0.125 inches.
    • Barcode clear zone addressing: The barcode clear zone is the bottom 5/8 of the postcard and must be free of all color, text and images. Next the address block must be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and minimum of 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of 0.125 inches.
      These requirements are meant to keep the address in the OCR (Optical Character Reader) read area of the postal equipment. Honestly, the current equipment has more read area than this, but getting the post office to change rules in our favor does not happen!
  5. There are two kinds of folds: horizontal and vertical:
    • Horizontal folds: The final fold is below the mail panel. This can be an 8.5 x 11 half folded, an 11 x 17 half folded and half folded again and so on. If you use the 11 x 17 keep in mind that the first half fold needs to be to the right of the mail panel, the second below it.
    • Vertical folds: The final fold is to the right of the mail panel. Folding requirements are very strict so make sure to adhere to them.
      This rule was created so that mailers would have a fold in the two areas that most often cause machine jamming the bottom and lead edge. These seem a little stringent, but we do want the mailers to arrive looking nice!
  6. Tabbing or fugitive glue closures are required:
    • Tabbing: Up to 1 ounce mailer needs two 1 inch tabs, mailers over 1 ounce need two 1.5 inch tabs and if you are using perforations or inserts it needs two 2 inch tabs.
    • Fugitive gluing: use a continuous glue line of 1/8 inch wide or glue spots of 3/8 inch diameter, three to four spots or elongated glue lines 1/8 inch wide, three to four lines. As an example, on a horizontal fold you will have two tabs above the mail panel or two to the right and one to the left. On a vertical fold you will have one tab above the mail panel and one to the left, or two to the left.
      This one really hurts! With all these tabs and glue, the mailers are really hard to open and in a lot of cases they tear. Not really the presentation we are looking for!
  7. Poly bag/envelope: If you use a poly bag or envelope, your mail will have to go at flat postage rates. You cannot use them with self-mailer letter size mail.
    This is not too onerous, but it would be nice to be able to use the clear envelopes to keep the mailers looking nice and still be able to see them.

Your best bet is to design your self-mailer and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage. As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI.

Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create self-mailers that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.