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  • Writer's pictureJohnston Mailing

What are the costs involved in doing a Direct Mail Campaign.

Direct mail campaigns come in many forms with varying production elements. On this page we outline the elements that need to considered when planning any direct mail campaign and ultimately generate the final proposal for your mailing. We will also highlight some common pitfalls that can be addressed before engaging your direct mail supplier. All direct mail can be disseminated into distinct areas that have to be considered when offering a proposal for your mailing.


Your database is probably the most important element in the mailing campaign process, without an up-to-date customer list you can fail to deliver the result required for your business.

If your data hasn’t been targeted for a longer period of time its always worth a having a data audit completed. Most direct mail suppliers will offer a data audit free of charge but this shouldn’t be confused with the data updates. Once the data audit has been completed you will receive report outlining areas of improvement. When audit is complete a cost for the updates will be known then can be added to mailing proposal

Data Audit generally includes;
  • Movers: Where residents have changed address and new address can be obtained of the contact

  • Gone aways: When residents have moved and new address can’t be obtained

  • Deceased: Sadly, where a contact on your data based has passed away

  • Duplicates: Where the contact details, are added to the mailing data on more than one occasion

Other areas you can tackle before sending the data to your supplier is to make sure that any incomplete address fields are removed, all postcodes are included. Addresses can be updated by running the data against the Royal Mail Postcode Address File but again this can add some cost to the proposal.

Your mailing partner will generally be happy to help with the cleanse of your data but remember the more they have to do the more the increase you are likely to see in cost.

When considering a mailing partner, you should always choose an organisation who will handle all data within GDPR guidelines and are ISO27001 accredited. Accreditations for your supplier mean that have they committed to the highest standards and that they invested in the service delivery for you.

Artwork /Design

The first thing to say about artwork is wherever possible always use a professional graphic designer. In the long run their expertise could generate cost savings as they will know how best to generate artwork for print and personalisation. The graphic designer knowledge can make the difference when producing proofs for print and make the process much smoother. Having a well-designed direct mail piece can be crucial in attracting the attention of the reader and ultimately generating the enquiry you want.

Today many of us have some skill when it comes to pulling together a design but in many cases the software, we use can be the deal breaker. The software solution favoured by many professional for designing any print project is InDesign. This tends to be the preferred solution for Graphic Designers and delivers artwork that fits the bill for print.

If you are working with another solution always makes sure you know how to generate artwork that includes bleed and trim marks. Bleed and trim marks are essential elements for print and are used to set up for proofs and as part of the production process when it comes to trimming the finished items.

Poor artwork design can mean many iterations of artwork and ultimately lead to additional cost. When producing personalised pieces its always worth sending a first draft of artwork to your mailing supplier to make sure they are happy with requirement. Again, this will save time and money in the long run. Always use high quality images, photos and graphics you should always look to a minimum of 300 dpi for good print quality.

When designing printed booklets or folded leaflets always check with your supplier on how best they would like the artwork to be set up. Not all supplier work with the same equipment so may require a specific set up. Setting the artwork in the correct format first time will save you time and if you are using a professional designer it will save money.


When considering printed items, it is always best to stick to standard sizes, A4, A5 DL and so on. This makes life easier for the print process but also keeps cost down, reduces waste. For larger runs of print, Litho printing is generally the most favoured format. Litho printing can used to produce everything from leaflets to magazines and delivers high quality results. Turnaround times for litho print aren’t instant and this needs to be considered when look at timescales for the direct mail campaign. Standard leaflet print can generally be produced in around 5 working day but longer runs of more that 20,000 items may take longer, especially if producing items like magazines.

Your supplier should always make you aware of expected delivery schedules at the time of artwork delivery.

When delivering artwork to litho printers it is all vital to remember that the proofing process is designed to allow you to check all artwork position and colours but is not the time to review text changes, these should be agreed before delivering artwork to the printer. All litho printers will offer a proof for approval. This is your opportunity to make sure the print is what you expect it to be. If you or the printer spot an issue with the artwork and changes to be made this will result in additional proofs. The printer may decide to add an additional cost for extra proofs to cover their time at production.

The proofing process is key to the success of the print work as when approved you are agreeing the artwork you have delivered is fit for purpose and you agree that print should commence. If the print work is produced and afterward you spot an issue with the artwork this is not the fault of the printer.

For smaller print runs digital print is most commonly used. Digital print is generally a toner based laser print solution. Colour digital print produced high quality print with the additional benefit that items can be personalised with variable data and content to provide a specific message or artwork to each contact group. In addition, mono digital print can be used for personalised over print of items such a letterhead.

Turnaround times for digital print are genially quicker than those for litho print and in some cases if a campaign is planned well a next day services could be achieved.

The proofing process for digital print is the same as that for litho.


Personalisation can be applied to mailing campaigns in a variety of formats. The simplest and best known is to apply name, address and salutation to letters. Other options include applying name and address to outer envelopes or to brochure covers.

If applying personalisation to letters always make sure that the address information position matches that of the window envelope. Your mailing supplier will generally help with this but is always best to check as the address information may affect the layout for text of the letter.

If applying address to brochures you should always consider the area required at the design stage. In addition, always include the position of postage paid impression. If possible, ask your mailing supplier to review a first draft of the item before final artwork is approved. This will save time and money at the design stage and could prevent any artwork re-work.

More complex personalisation can be applied to letters or other mailing items. This can include varying text and images to match the client base. If you are planning more complex application, please always work with your mailing supplier at the design stage. Mailing supplier use different software solutions for applying personalisation and it could result is changes to the data supply format.

Finally, always proof read your letter text and finalise it before send it to the mailing supplier. Don’t use the proofing process with your supplier to make final changes to the text as this can add cost and delay the production process.


Direct mail campaigns are generally inserted to envelopes or is some cases poly wrapped. Envelope insertion is the most popular option and is carried out using machines. Using of automated equipment reduces cost and is the quickest most convenient way to produce a mailing.

Cost for fulfilment is dependent on the amount of items inserted to envelope and the size of the envelopes. Its always best to stick with standard size envelopes as the insertion machine operate more efficiently thus keep cost down. Standard envelope options include DL, C5 and C4 with C5 being the most popular choice.

Your direct mail supplier will be able to advise on the best envelope option. Envelope can be printed with your brand or campaign details. There is a number of options for printing envelopes with the most cost-effective mono print to one side. full colour printed envelopes are available but again can add significant especially on lower volume mailings.

Polywrapping tends to be used for magazine and newsletter mailings, standard sizes of A5 or A4 are the most common but other sizes can be easily accommodated.

There is options on poly material that can be used to wrap the products. Compostable material is now very common as is it easily recyclable using a compost bin or added to food waste. Compostable material slightly more expensive than standard poly which can also be recycled. Polywrapping of products also affects the cost of postage on some Royal Mail services.


Postage is probably most significant cost associated with ant direct mail activity, there is a number of ways to reduce the cost.

Mailsorting data is the most common used way to reduce postage cost. There is a variety of options dependent on size, weight and quantity of item. Your mailing supplier will have all the details and should be able to guide you to the best solution


It is easy to see that there many options when it comes to delivering a successful direct mail campaign. Cost can vary greatly dependent on your final design, weight of item, data, print requirement and so on.

If you are currently deciding on your next campaign and need to pull together a budget, complete the form below and we will get back to you with a proposal.


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