direct mail resources.

Business Mailing 101

Welcome to Marketing Mail 101!

Does navigating the commercial postal system with all it’s many rules and regulations make your head feel like it’s going to explode? We’re here to help! We’ve collected all the information you need and put it into one convenient place. Use this super handy guide to answer all your direct mail and postal service questions.  You’re welcome.

Postage Permits

Postage Permits

Postage permits, also known as indicias, are special markings printed onto a piece of mail that indicate to the mail service that payment is coming from a specific account. They also specify what class of mail you’re sending. Postage permits are used for bulk mailing in place of a traditional stamp.

The basics:

Prep – the imprint can be created on an inkjet printer, printing press, hand stamp, lithography, mimeograph, multigraph, or address plate.  Permits can NOT be handwritten.

Is it readable? – The imprint must be legible; no smaller than a 4 pt font. Make sure the size and color contrast sufficiently with the paper or printing on the piece of mail.

Positioning – The entire permit must be parallel with the address of the piece of mail and placed in the upper right-hand corner of the address area. The position of the permit may be altered slightly so that data processing equipment can simultaneously print the address, indicia, and other postal information.

Standard or Company Permit – There are two types of permits for each class of mail. Standard permits are used when the company has an account with a specific city of the postal service.

First Class Presorted Non-profit Standard mail
Non-presorted First Class (bulk mail)

Company permits are used when a company has permits in more than one city. In this case, no city is specified on the permit.


USPS DIrect Mail Manual

USPS Direct Mail Manual

Want to really dig into the nitty gritty of Direct Mail? (Who doesn’t right?) Follow the link below to be redirected to the USPS official direct mail manual.

Get the Complete USPS Direct Mail Manual (PDF)

Postage Calculator

Postage Calculator

Cha-ching! Ready to calculate exactly how much your marketing campaign is going to cost ya? Use this tool to get an estimate:

Click Here to Use the Postage Calculator

Glossary Of Mailing Terms

Glossary of Mailing Terms


Aspect Ratio

The width divided by the height of an envelope or postcard. The aspect ratio of the following envelope is 1.35”. The aspect ratio of a piece of mail is the key to getting the lowest mailing rate. Check the USPS sizing guidelines here:





Bangtail Envelopes
Self contained marketing vehicles that contain a detachable coupon or “tail”. Used by credit card companies and nonprofits seeking donations.

Barcode (Intelligent Mail Barcode)
A series of 65 vertical full bars and half bars representing ZIP Code and tracking information on a piece of USPS mail.

Break-Even Point
In terms of a direct mail campaign, the break even point is the minimum number of sales that  must be generated in order for the business to recover the costs of running the campaign.

A small insert in a piece of Direct Mail that’s often used to highlight a special offer or promotion. Usually the size of a dollar bill.

The process of separating continuous forms at perforations to mail individually.

Business Reply Mail (BRM)
Businesses must request a permit to send this type of speciality advertising mail. BRM usually consists of postcards, envelopes, or labels that allow a customer to easily order a product or service. The business only pays for the postage on the mail that is sent back to them.

BRC (Business Reply Card)




A business reply card is a pre-paid postcard printed on thick cardstock and addressed to the mailer.  Businesses use this service to receive First-Class Mail back from customers.

BRE (Business Reply Envelope)
A business may choose to include this envelope with their BRC if a customer is making an order or requesting a subscription to a magazine or catalog.


Cheshire Label
A specific type of label made by a Cheshire machine that prints onto a continuous piece of paper that are then cut into individual labels. The machine adds adhesive to the back of each label and then adheres them to the mailer. Many magazines use these type of labels.

Cleaned List
A list of contacts that  has been cleared of inactive, repeat, or unwanted names/addresses.

To arrange a set of inserts or pieces of information in a particular order for a mailer.

The direct mail package that has been thoroughly tested and consistently yields the best results or greatest return.

Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM)
A type of mail similar to business reply mail. CRM differs in terms of how the postage is paid. Instead of waiting until the mail is received back for the permit holder to be charged for the postage, they send the envelope to the customer already stamped. For example, this is most often used for bill payments.


DBMC (destination bulk mail center) Rate
A discounted rate offered by the Postal Service for mail that is properly prepared and delivered by the mailer to the Bulk Mail Center.

DDU (destination delivery unit) Rate
A discounted rate the Postal Service offers for mail that is properly prepared and entered at the delivery unit that serves the delivery address on the mail.

Delivery Barcode Sorter (DBCS)
A small computerized sorting machine used by the USPS. A DBCS is capable of sorting up to 38,000 pieces of mail per hour.

Demographics are the common characteristics of a group of people such as age, gender, marital status, religion, ethnic background, education, and income level.

Domestic Mail Manual (DMM)
The document used by the USPS that lays out most regulations and policies for domestic mail services.

DSCF (destination sectional center facility) Rate
A discounted rate the Postal Service offers for mail that is properly prepared and entered at the SCF that serves the delivery address on the mail.


Em Height
An “em” is a unit of measure in typography, measured in points. The em height is also known as the font size. For example, a 12 point font size.

Em Space
A term taken originally from the width of the capital “M” on a printing press. The em space today is used to define the point size of a font.


Facing Identification Mark (FIM)
A set of vertical bars used by the USPS printed in the upper right portion of a piece of mail. Typically use to identify business reply mail.




Fulfillment House
A company that services and processes direct mail campaigns.


A type of document fold where both sides of a piece of paper get folded inward so the edges come together. This is used primarily for brochures and invitations.





A technique of breaking up continuous-tone imagery into a series of dots to reproduce the full tone range in a photo or image. Often used in comics or newstrips.





Household income. The collective measure of all people’s incomes living in the same household.


A small brochure or advertisement that is often included in a Direct Mail package to boost response. Used to emphasize a service or guarantee.

International Mail Manual (IMM)
The USPS’s document containing their most common regulations and policies for international mail services.


Jiffy Bag
A usually manila colored mailing envelope padded with bubble wrap used for packing products for shipment. Named after the Jiffy Packaging Company.

Johnson Box
A box commonly found at the top of a Direct Mail letter. The Johnson box is usually the headline of the letter, used to grab the reader’s attention.


A term in typography. It refers to the spacing between characters; the negative space.


Laser Clear – Labels
Translucent printing labels. Usually waterproof and smudge proof.

Laser White – Labels
Usually used as basic white address labels. These type of labels have an adhesive backing that is peeled off and then stuck onto another surface such as an envelope.

In typography, the layout is the arrangement of text, headlines and graphics on a page.

Letter Fold (Writing In)
The basic letter fold. The letter is folded inwards from both sides so they overlap each other. The writing of the front page is folded facing inwards.

Letter Fold (Writing Out)
The letter is folded inwards from both sides so they overlap each other. The writing of the front page is folded facing outwards.

A company that assembles, addresses, and mails Direct Mail packages.

Lift note
In direct mail, the lift note is a short letter written from the perspective of someone other than the writer of the main letter. The purpose is to boost or “lift” response.

List broker
Someone who acts as an agent for individuals or businesses conducting direct mail marketing campaigns. A list broker is the person who provides the list of names and contact information.

List compiler
A person or company that specializes in gathering names, addresses, and information from a variety of sources to produce a customized list of prospective customers for clients.

Live stamp/live postage
A live stamp is a traditional postage stamp a consumer would use, as opposed to metered mailings. Used to give direct mail packages a personal feel.


Match mail
A type of mail where a unique insert to the addressee is kept together with at least one other unique insert in the same package. This is usually in the form of a personalized letter that needs to be matched with the address on the outside of the letter.

To combine two or more lists into one maintaining the same order, then sorting them together, usually by ZIP Code.

The process of combining more than one data file and also clearing it of duplicates.

A unit of measurement equal to 0.001 inch.


In terms of direct mail, this is done when a smaller piece of mail is placed or “nested” inside another larger piece. For example, when an RSVP card is included with an invitation.


OE (outer envelope)
The outer envelope of a package that is stamped and addressed. In direct mail, the outer envelope is the first component the recipient sees and must successfully grab their attention to entice them to open it.

Overs (or overruns)
In printing, the overruns are the items printed that exceed the quantity specified in the order.


Publications consisting of  magazines, newspapers, and newsletters and scholarly journals. They are generally mailed out at consistent intervals throughout a calendar year. Many require the recipient to subscribe to their publication or organization.

Permit Imprint
This is printed indicia, issued by the post office that excuses the mailer from using a traditional stamp. The post office debits the postage from an account. I.e. first class mail, Paid by [Company Name], U.S. Postage, etc

Personalized Laser Letter
A laser printed letter where each page includes some form of personalization.

In typography, pitch is the number of spaces and characters in one inch of running text, or characters per inch.

Poly Bag
These are most often used to mail magazines and other periodicals. Usually made of thin flexible film like polyurethane.

A free gift or bonus sent to a potential customer to entice them to purchase other products or services.

Prepress Proofs
Otherwise known as off-press proofing, this is a cost-effective way of providing a visual copy to the customer to make adjustments before the final print.

Pinfed Continuous Feed Labels
These are pressure sensitive labels with a peel off  backing that are then stuck onto another surface such as a letter or direct mail package.

Proportional Spacing
In typography, this is the  spacing between characters in a line where the space occupied by a character is proportional to the width of the character.

The classification of people according to characteristics such as habits, attitudes, aspirations, lifestyle and behavior patterns that can help you determine your audience.

The process of going through a list of contacts and eliminating duplicates or inactive numbers and addresses.


A type of fold where a document gets folded in half and then in half again. Both folds are going in the same direction.


Return-On-Investment (ROI)
The ROI is a measure of profitability that is usually found by dividing net profit by net worth.

RFM (recency/frequency/monetary)
RFM is a direct marketing analysis technique that determines your best customers by comparing recency (how recently a customer purchases), frequency (how often they purchase), and monetary (how much they spend).

Right Angle Fold
A way to fold a document in which each new fold occurs at a right angle to the previous fold. Often used for different types of flyers and pamphlets.

Roll Fold
A type of fold in which the outer panels of a document are folded toward each other causing them to overlap.


Saddle Stitching
In binding publications, this is a method in which folded sheets of paper are gathered together and then stapled through the fold line with metal staples.

Any piece of direct mail that does not require an envelope. On a self-mailer, the address and postage are printed directly on it, rather than on an envelope.

In typography, serifs are small lines attached to the end of a stroke in a character or letter.

Service Bureau
An organization or company that provides services such as mail list management, merge/purge operations, scanning, pre-press, etc.

Shelf Life
The length of time before a piece of direct mail becomes obsolete. One of the main advantages of direct mail over email marketing is that it is a physical object, and may linger on a countertop or kitchen table for days, where as an email can be deleted in seconds.

To skew is to intentionally slant a character, bar, or line of text on a mail piece with respect to the bottom or top edge of the envelope.

In Direct Mail, sorting is the arrangement of mail pieces by ZIP code.

In typography, stroke is the line or lines forming a character or letter such as the the top of a letter “T.”

In a computer database system, suppressing is a function where criteria are provided to eliminate duplicate or unwanted contacts from a list or database.


A technique for maintaining records and data pertaining to various aspects of mailings. For example; response rate, date mailed and location of respondents.

A type of fold where the sides of a document both get folded inward, usually one third of the length of the letter or piece of mail.

An individual, company, or machine that composes high-resolution text and graphics. The typesetter is responsible for producing the high-quality output needed to create professional-looking printed materials.


In direct mail, the unders are the pieces of mail by which a printing run is short of the quantity ordered.


Web Press
A type of printing press that prints on rolls, or webs, of paper instead of single sheets. Pages are separated and cut to size after printing.

White Space
Areas on a document that are free of text or graphics.

Window Envelopes
A type of mailing envelope that has has a clear opening or window through which an address printed on an insert is visible.


A type of document fold where the paper is folded inwards once and outwards once, to create the shape of a “Z”.

ZIP +4
A code that incorporates the basic 5 digit ZIP code plus 4 additional digits to identify a geographic place more specific than just the basic 5 digit code.

Non-Profit Mail Information

Non Profit Mailing


  • It costs less! If nonprofit qualifications are met, there are additional mailing discounts offered by the USPS.
  • Nonprofit mail gives you the same low rate of postage up to 3.3087 ounces. Whereas first class mail postage increases with every ounce,
  • The mailer may be seen as frugal: Some nonprofit organizations make it a point to use their nonprofit status to show their donors how careful they are with their money.


  • There are certain restrictions on what content the nonprofit mail can contain. If the nonprofit mail doesn’t meet the requirements, the mailer may be charged back the additional postage.
  • It can be much slower. In state, nonprofit mail usually takes 4 to 8 business days. It can take anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks across states. Additionally, there are no guarantees it won’t take longer.
  • No return requirements.The Post Office is not required to return non profit mail that cannot be delivered. The USPS throws away most undeliverable non profit mail. However, a mailer can use an endorsement for a fee to be notified of bad addresses.
  • Weight Restrictions: A single piece of non profit mail may not exceed 1 pound.
  • Other specific requirements: To qualify as nonprofit mail, one must have 50 pounds or 200 pieces of mail. All pieces of mail must have identical weight.

Zip Code Directories

Zip Code Directories

From me to you to Timbuktu.
Use this tool to determine ZIP code by city and state.

First Class Mail Information

First Class Mail Information


  • Super speedy!: In state, first class mail is usually delivered in 1 to 2 days.
  • Returned Mail: The sender is not charged for mail returned due to bad addresses or moves, so long as the the move was in the last 12-18 months. Address changes made in the last 12 months are automatically forwarded back to sender at no charge.
  • Better customer service. Postal employees are required to make every effort to deliver first class mail.  If it’s first class there’s a good chance it will make it to it’s destination. Despite illegible handwriting or ZIP code errors.
  • More likely to be opened. First class signals to the recipient that it’s something important. Such as bills or travel confirmation. The receiver usually feels more motivated to open first class mail.


  • More costly: First class mail postage is more expensive than some of the other classes of mail to pay for the additional benefits.
  • First class mail postage rises incrementally with every ounce. Whereas standard mail charges remain the same as long as it weighs less than 3.3 ounces.
  • Restrictions by weight: Weight of a single piece of first class mail cannot be more than 13 ounces.

USPS Change of Address

USPS Change of Address

Moving? Use this link to update your address through the USPS.