Direct Mail Formats: More Choices than Most Think


Most people think of either a 6 x 9 postcard or a #10 envelope when they think of direct mail.  

And God that’s boring. 

There’s so much more out there that is cost effective, so let’s take a look.

Yes, this is a postcard.


A self-contained, closed and sealed without an out envelope – the self-mailer are incredibly effective with more detailed subject matter.

Letters - Classic Direct Mail Package

Notice I didn’t show you the stereo-typical #10 envelope with a window and metered postage without anything printed on it.  You know, the kind you get every 30 to 60-days from local realtors asking if you are ready to sell your home?

The outside or outer envelope has information that grabs your interest, motivating you open it so you can see the ‘surprise inside.’

The letter with a Johnson Box, presented with text that is bold, underlined, bulleted…perfect for scanning as well as deep reading.

Oh and check out the P.S. – and the P.S.S. at the end.  

Then there’s the brochure, lift note and even a reply card – postage paid, I bet!

You might look at this and scream “JUNK!” – and you would be wrong.  Each piece in this classic direct mail package has been tested and is still tested – and they pay for themselves.

Why are Lift Notes Critical to Success?

Lift notes, also known as lift letters, have shown to increase the response rate of a sales letter by as much as 50%.

  • Life notes are physically unique – a different size than everything else in the envelope, and they clearly, concisely deliver the offer and CTA with benefits not listed in the longer sales letter to those who don’t like reading the longer sales letter.
  • Lift notes tend to motivate the reader to read the longer sales letter because the lift note quickly delivers the unique value the reader desires, and makes the reader feel more positive about the other components of the package.
  • Lift notes give extra motivation to the reader to act on the offer – with tantalizing leads such as “Read what these experts say.”

Yes, reply (response) cards work when properly used.  

Look at #1 – that’s an affirmation sentence that is highly personalized and effectively motivates the reader.  And you can customize it based on various factors – potential customer, one-time buyer, long-time loyal customer and more.

In this example, a non-profit’s fundraising campaign is used – so you can add in a reminder of what the recipient donated last year and then offer choices for this year that match and exceed last year’s donation.


Remember your audience – the envelope is designed to grab their attention, stimulate their interest and motivate them to open the envelope.

Once inside, some will turn to the letter and some will read it word for word.  Others will scan the letter, reading the Johnson Box, the bullet lists, bold text and P.S.

Others will skip the letter and go to the brochure. 

The bottom line is this – the class direct mail package works. You have to know how to make it all work – this is not something your email marketing manager is going to understand unless they have a couple years worth of direct mail experience.  (And that’s not common among the email marketing managers of the world.)

Dimensional Direct Mail

That’s a phone inside the box. And the call to action is quick and simple – CALL ME!

Think about the math on this – let’s just go crazy and figure the package cost $50 from concept, design, production, delivery into the hands of the target audience.

And let’s say 1,000 packages were produced and delivered at a cost of $50,000.

OMG, right? 

But if this business is targeting the right audience – one sale might be enough to recoup the investment.

Two sales means a profitable ROI.

Now, this business is a job search/placement service focused on placing hourly employees.  If they target the right businesses, those businesses will easily spend more than $50,000 annually on new employee recruitment.

The lesson here – be unique, stand out and for those sales that are big ticket items, be willing to spend a little more.


Many, many years ago, I was fortunate enough to work at Insight in Tempe, Arizona.

At the time, we printed and distributed millions of catalogs to consumers and businesses – and we sold hundreds of millions of dollars in computer software and hardware.

A well-planned catalog can generate a lot of profitable revenue but, again, you need someone or several someones that understand merchandising a catalog so that you make money on every square inch.

And if you have your doubts, Amazon just mailed their 2019 toy catalog.


Amazon has published a toy catalog two years in a row now means they got exactly the response they were looking for, especially since the format and look and feel of the piece is largely similar. “Amazon will surely see positive responses from this. We know from neuroscience that this medium [direct mail] is extremely effective at building an emotional connection with customers and driving demand. Even the stickers in the catalog—it’s nostalgia. They are doing it right.”

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