You’re sold on direct mail. It’s a $44-billion industry that’s getting stronger each year. But with so many types of direct mail to pick from, what’s the most effective direct mail format for your brand to use? We’ve got the statistics—and some brand examples. Let’s look at the direct mail marketing success rate for the top direct mail formats.


What’s the Most Effective Direct Mail Format?


According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), oversized envelopes have the highest direct mail response rate at 6.6%. Postcards come in second at 5.7% followed by letter-size envelopes at 4.3%. Given this information, we’re not telling you what the most effective direct mail format would be for your business. That’s something you’ll need to determine based on your audience’s needs and your resources. What we can tell you is these are the norms and your brand might do well to follow suit. At the very least, it’s a starting point for direct mail testing—to see what works best for your brand. That’s how to use direct mail marketing effectively.


Most Effective Direct Mail Format: Oversized Envelopes


direct mail marketing success rateNow that the secret is out of the mailbag, let’s define the most effective direct mail format: the oversized envelope. According to the USPS, these large mailers are also known as “flats,” which not only applies to large envelopes but also to some newsletters, magazines, and catalogs. Whatever you want to call them, they must have one dimension larger than 6-⅛ (wide) x 11-½ (tall) x ¼ (thick).


As an example, a 9″x12″ envelope is a pretty standard option, appropriate for a wide variety of uses including sending proposals or publications you don’t want to fold. This larger size will generate higher postal rates from the USPS but remember, it also produces the highest response rates.


Stephen Curry is the CEO of CocoSign, a company that specializes in making secure digital signatures that streamline business processes. CocoSign tried various direct mail formats but discovered that oversized envelopes worked best for their needs. The cloud-based SaaS provider tried leaflets and brochures with little success before settling on oversized envelopes to delight its audiences.


Direct Mail Marketing Success Rate: Postcards


direct mail marketing success rateWhile not statistically the most effective direct mail format, postcards still generate impressive response rates and ROI. As we mentioned earlier, every brand is different and you should experiment with what works best for your business. But postcards are generally a cost-effective way to implement direct mail into your marketing strategy. If you’re announcing a product or service or if you want to influence customers to visit a retail store, website, or even attend an event, a direct mail postcard is a smart choice.


Some of the more popular postcard sizes include:


  • Standard (4¼” x 6″)
  • Double
  • Oversized (9″ x 6″)
  • Jumbo (11″ x 6″)


Direct Mail Marketing Success Rate Case Study: VEM Tooling


David Reid is the sales director at VEM Tooling, one of the fastest-growing mold manufacturers in the world. VEM currently operates in over five countries and has served multiple businesses including large corporations from the auto and steel industries.


“Building successful direct mail campaigns is an art and science, and many big brands have used it successfully,” Reid said. “They can take advantage of printing efficiencies and postage discounts—and target their messages to particular audiences for the best direct mail marketing success rate.”


Reid used an example from Total Wine & More, a family-owned alcohol retailer based in Bethesda, MD. Total Wine is one of the nation’s largest alcohol retailers with nearly 200 stores across 24 states.


“Direct mail is a significant component of Total Wine’s marketing outreach, like the postcard campaign they created during American Craft Beer Week. They used the occasion to promote a special design feature on their craft beer cans. They were marketing to their clients when their competitors weren’t. That’s an effective strategy. Another good trick they used was to add a coupon to the back panel of the postcard. That’s a great way to drive traffic to a retail store.”


Direct Mail Marketing Success Rate Case Study: WeInvoice


Alex Wan is the co-founder of WeInvoice, a free, online invoicing system. Wan has used direct mail to promote a new product, service, or event. After A/B testing and comparing several formats, he found the most success with postcards and self-mailers and continues to send them.


“You’ll probably benefit from a postcard or self-mailer if you’re selling a product with low-profit margins and you need to keep your direct mail costs low,” he said. “Postcards are attractive to the eye and can include short personalized messages, images, and graphics. Plus, you can utilize variable data printing to personalize them for each recipient. We used to send generic direct mail with the label “Current Resident.” But when people only receive mail due to their physical location, no one feels respected. As a result, we decided to use names to help individuals feel recognized. Adding a human touch to direct mails has increased our response rates. Adding graphics and photos also helps a lot. I recall sending out mailers to generate funds for a great cause. We used visuals and images to demonstrate how their monetary contributions and volunteer hours had influenced the mission’s growth. This was quite beneficial in getting a positive response.”


Direct Mail Marketing Success Rate Case Study: Numlooker


Lynda Fairley had a similar experience. She’s the co-founder of Numlooker, a reverse phone number lookup service. As the brand’s marketing lead, she found success with direct mail letters and postcards to promote sales and products, generate new leads, and get current customers to renew their subscriptions.


“It’s an old marketing tool, but it’s still effective today,” she said.


One of the common misconceptions with direct mail is that it’s an antiquated marketing channel. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Direct mail marketing statistics show that the USPS delivers approximately 80-billion pieces of direct mail every year. Modern-day marketers spend about 20% of their budgets on direct mail. That comes out to be about $167 per person on direct mail. But they’re earning about $2,095 for each of those customers.


Most Effective Direct Mail Format: The Standard Letter


most effective direct mail formatThe standard direct mail letter is one of the most common and personal types of direct mail. This popular format provides a cost-effective way to introduce your business to a target market or start a fundraising campaign. A well-written direct mail letter creates a valuable one-on-one connection with your customers. The direct mail marketing success rate may not be as strong as oversized envelopes (6.6%) and postcards (5.7%), but it still produces a strong response rate (4.3%) compared to other digital marketing channels.


The most popular sizes for direct mail letters include:


  • Standard (classic) #10 business and correspondence envelopes (4-⅛ x 9-½).
  • Monarch envelope (3-⅞ x 7-½).
  • A-style (announcement) envelopes, ranging from A-2 (4.375” x 5.75”) to A-10 (6” x 9.5”). These envelopes are popular for mailing pictures, greeting cards, small booklets, and more.
  • 6” x 9” envelopes are typically ideal for folded letters accompanied by printed materials like brochures and other sales materials.


Direct Mail Marketing Success Rate Case Study: Mobitrix


Jonathan Tian is the co-founder of Mobitrix, a US-based smartphone solution provider for data transfer and iOS system errors. Tian’s most successful campaigns have been with the standard direct mail letter.


“It’s an old-school strategy to communicate with customers, but many people like it,” he said. “Plus, you don’t need much to create a mailing. For us, it’s an envelope, letter, and reply device. Then if you want to add complementary components, you can look into brochures, sell sheets, life notes, price lists, or testimonials.”


Create the Most Effective Direct Mail Format for Your Brand


Whatever direct mail format you choose, your best option is to work with an experienced partner. MSP will help your brand find the most effective direct mail format for your audience—and your budget. We’ll work with you to create, print, and send successful direct mail marketing campaigns that your customers will love. The first step is a free consultation. Contact us and let’s talk about your direct mail goals.

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