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?

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.