Direct mail continues to be an effective marketing strategy, even in this digital age. According to research by Statista, spending on direct mail marketing has gone up almost a billion dollars in the past year, which goes to show that marketers across the nation are rediscovering the power of a good direct mail campaign. Picking the perfect format to carry your message and offer is one of the key components your campaign’s success. However, there are so many different formats to choose from when planning a direct mail campaign. How do you select the most appropriate format for your offer? Every direct mail format has its own unique strengths to consider. Below is a list of some of the most popular direct mail formats to help you decide which one to use for your next campaign.


Although often overlooked, the traditional letter format is one of the most common formats you will encounter in the direct mail world. This format can be a letter by itself, or can include additional items, such as business cards, reply forms, brochures, and a flashy outer envelope. Some marketers try to make the letters look more “official.” They do this by personalizing the envelope and letter with the customer’s name and using phrases like “verified mail,” “urgent,” or “rush” to create a sense of urgency and legitimacy. These words are tactics to make sure the direct mail piece gets noticed. Since letters require extra letters and envelopes, they can be a bit pricey. They are best for current/returning customers, and prospects who are already very likely to purchase from you, which will help cover the additional costs. Letters also work exceptionally well for non-profit donation requests.


These are brochures that fold into themselves and stay shut with tape or a tab. Self-mailers are very versatile. There are many types of self-mailers, but here are the top 2 designs:

  • Slim Jim – No, we are not talking about the dried meat-stick snack. A slim jim is like a standard catalog but smaller (5 inches x 10 inches). Their smaller size qualifies slim jims for “letter” postage rates, which will save you money compared to rates for larger mail pieces.
  • Digest – A digest looks like a small booklet. The size is around 6 inches x 9 inches. Its small size is appealing to readers because it does not look daunting to read through.


Catalogs are best for showcasing a wide range of products and services. Since producing catalogs can be expensive, it is best to target them towards a highly-targeted audience or current customers. Even though they can be pricey, catalogs can offer great cross-selling opportunities, which usually makes them well worth the cost if targeted correctly. These traditional marketing mediums can be used to enhance new-age digital marketing as well. According to an article by the DMA, direct mail catalogs increase online searches and website traffic.


Postcards are wallet-friendly and simple. They are great for relaying brief and clear messages. They work well as reminders, thank-you cards, and special offers. Unlike other direct mail formats, postcards do not require any opening or unfolding, and have a great chance of grabbing immediate attention. They are also the least expensive format of direct mail. It’s important to remember that space is limited on postcards, so you have to make sure your creative and copy are compelling yet brief. Postages rates for postcards are relatively low, so they are great for targeting a larger audience.

Although the direct mail format you choose may not seem very important at first, it can strongly impact the first impression a prospect receives of your company, and choosing the right format may be the difference between your mail piece being read or thrown in the trash. Choosing a format should be a strategic decision, just like any aspect of marketing. With so many different forms of direct mail available, your business needs to make sure to choose the format that best fits the offer and audience. If you would like additional advice on direct mail marketing or choosing a mail piece, our marketing experts at US Data Corporation would be happy to help you. Please call us at (888) 578-3282 today!