Question of the day- How much does a Direct Mail Campaign Cost? We get this a lot – and a lot of people just want a quick answer. But quick answers are not possible when there are multiple variables to consider. Consider asking someone how much does a house cost? So many options and choices that play into the cost of a home, it’s not a quick answer. But lets break down some of the basics in Direct Mail 101 below:

What’s the goal of your campaign? Leads? Inquiries? Appointments? Sales? Customer Engagement? This question needs to be answered first and hopefully you already know the answer if you’re considering a direct mail campaign.

Who comprises your target market? Do you have a list of your prospects or customers? If not, there is a multitude of ways to get there. You can utilize a list vendor with simple geographic pulls or tap into a more targeted universe by utilizing demographics that will match your ideal customer base. If your product sales cycle is a bit longer or you have a high valued product offering, you may consider asking someone to build a prospecting model which will take the guess work out of the equation and allow you to zoom in on the best prospects with the highest probability to convert. Based on these variables, lists can cost anywhere from .03-.05 all the way up to $1.00/name. It depends on the level of detail involved in the selection – as everything comes with a price tag!

Do you know what type of mailing you want to send? Postcard? Size of Postcard? Letter Package? 9x12 Large Envelope package? The type of mail piece you select should fit your offer, but more importantly, engage your target audience. Postcards can be an effective attention getter as there is no envelope to open and your message is easy to read. More personalized and secure financial or insurance offers may be more noticeable in an envelope package because they may contain sensitive information. Do you have a large brochure to sell your product or service? A 9x12 envelope package may be what you need. Now again, all of these variables go into adding up the total costs of your campaign. Postcards can be an inexpensive option and creative sizes like 6x9 or 6x11 can be attractive for the right product offer. Postcard printing can start as low as .15-.32/piece (depending on size & quantity, and the more you print – the lower it goes!) and full letter packages can run as low as .18-.50 (based on larger quantity print and mail runs). So again, it’s difficult to just quote pricing when there are so many choices along the way. How many pieces? Who are you mailing to? What package best fits your needs? Lots of questions to answer to quote a job.

Who will design your mail piece? Again, this has such a varying scale based on large scale agencies to the small freelancers, the complexity of your mail piece and the details of your offer will affect the pricing of design charges. It’s too hard to even ballpark an answer for this one, it just requires reaching out to some folks for estimates.

Postage…ahhhh, the USPS and its inherent challenges! What package and size of package you choose will most likely be determined on your overall budget. Postage can be less expensive for a postcard, where full letter packages cost more, and certainly a 9x12 envelope would be the most expensive option. Postage costs can start as low as .28/piece and run up to over $1.00-2.00. Again variables like first class, standard, presorting, etc. will make this quick question require a long drawn out answer!

So as you can see above, I wish I could tell you “your mailing will cost you $2,000.” But the answer is, it’s just not that easy! There are many options that will increase or reduce costs based on the number of inserts, color applications, personalization, etc. Remember, variables like volume, presorting, size for postage savings, address hygiene, mail tracking and working with a provider that can provide discounts based on numerous mailings all impact how much a mailing costs.

At the end of the day, it’s not the cost of the mailing but the return or ROI you may get. The mailing costs are irrelevant if you sell your product or service to the right number of customers, because it then pays for itself and then some! Consider the chart below. 

Cost-per-lead comparison:

Email marketing became the direct marketing channel of choice in recent years due to the ease of use, cost efficiencies, and ability to have variable messaging in an inexpensive format. But fact is, it doesn’t convert the way other channels do. I know I get far too many email ads daily and they all begin to blur to the point where I take a chunk of them & DELETE! The DMA reports that the cost per lead of direct mail is about the same as print and pay-per-click, and considerably less than telemarketing (as referenced in the table above). Direct mail production costs are a bit more than email, but not substantial enough to make email the "be all and end all" of direct marketing.

Best way to go – call a professional to help you navigate through all the decisions of planning your direct mail campaign. While still an expensive marketing channel, it remains the single-most effective channel at converting prospects into customers. Happy Mailing!

Cathy Crone is SourceLink's Corporate Marketing Director. Cathy has over 16 years of marketing experience, specializing in direct and database marketing, and is a passionate advocate for direct mail as a channel of choice in a multichannel strategy. Cathy enjoys travel,  music, and spending time with her two boys. Reach out to Cathy at

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