What is a Bulk Mail House?

The term "bulk mail house” is a company that processes large quantities of mail at a lower postage rate.  Bulk mail houses are referred to as bulk mail processor, or bulk mail shop, or bulk mail processor, and sometimes as a bulk mail producer.  They essentially do part of the post office’s job and garner a postage discount for doing so.  The USPS states that bulk mail means commercial first class mail, and advertising mail (advertising mail is referred to as USPS Marketing mail by the USPS).  Lower postage is available for other classes of mail like non for profit, bound printed matter, and packages.   The USPS uses bulk and presorted interchangeably.

Bulk mail prices are significantly lower than single piece prices.  Single piece means that you are paying the full price, which is what you pay when putting a stamp on a piece of mail.  Bulk mail processors like Jefferson Letter Service are able to get postage at a reduced price by doing some of the work that otherwise would be done by the USPS.  Bulk mail processors make a significant investment in machinery, technology, and time to do this work. In turn they charge a fee to do the work, but not even close to what the USPS charges.  By reducing the postage for their customers Jefferson Letter Service pays for themselves.

In order for Jefferson Letter Service to get a discount in postage they had to:

·        Buy bulk mail software capable of complying with USPS regulations. 

·        Purchase machinery capable of addressing each mail piece and then putting those pieces in order for the route carrier.

·        Purchase a mailing permit.   This is essentially permission from the USPS for each class of mail the bulk mailing house wants to mail.  (First – Class, USPS Marketing Mail, Bound Printed Matter, ect)

·        Spend an enormous amount of time studying the USPS regulations.  Their manual is well over 800 pages and doesn’t address all situations you may come into while operating a mail house.

·        Set up a trust account with the USPS to pay the postage on the bulk mail that is processed and delivered to the USPS.

There are numerous advantages to using a bulk mail provider like Jefferson Letter Service.  The biggest is paying bulk mail prices which can be as much as 70% lower than putting a stamp on the mail piece. Many businesses that mail pay single piece postage even when doing larger mailings primarily because they don’t know that a bulk mail house can save them money.  The next time you plan a mailing, give Jefferson Letter Service a call and see if we may be able to save you money! 

Elements of Direct Mail Post Card Design

There is a rule in direct mail post cards called the 40/40/20 rule.  It is a formula for designing a successful direct mail marketing campaign.  

40/40/20 Rule of Direct Mail Postcards

Ed Mayer came up with the rule of 40/40/20 in direct mail marketing.  Very simply he said that 40% of your success depends on who you are targeting, 40% of your success is what you are offering, and 20% is determined by the design, layout, and "everything else." 

So, following this rule you will want to focus 40% of your efforts on determining who your target market is.  Who is the ideal target you are going after?  Researching and defining who your target is will go a long way to helping your success.   Even the best offer and most appealing design will not be effective if you are targeting the wrong people.   So, when mailing you will want to spend about 40% of your efforts, according to Mayer, on developing your target marketing list.  Jefferson Letter Service can help you not only determine who this target is but also help in obtaining the mailing list.

The next 40% should be about your offer. Regardless of how appealing your direct mail piece is, if you are not giving your target customer a compelling reason to purchase from you, the direct mail campaign will not succeed.  In your  direct mail ad, you will want to incentivize your target customers to act when reading your offer.  This is unless your single goal is brand recognition which can work but will take much more time to do so.  You want the recipients to act immediately by responding to this offer.  So, you will need to make sure it appeals to them in a way that compels them to respond.  

The design and layout of your direct mail marketing piece are then factored at 20% of your efforts according to Mayer.  Design is the emphasis that reinforces the idea or action you want your target audience to take.  If your target audience fails to notice your ad, then your efforts have been futile.  So, make sure you put adequate time and effort in presenting your offer in a way that reinforces the action you want your audience to take. 

For many years postcards have been a dominate force in the direct marketing industry.  This popularity comes with good reason.  The response rates are much higher then digital marketing, email marketing, and display ads.  Direct mail can also compliment your online efforts when integrated with services like Platinum Mail Plus.  

Here are elements that you will want to focus on to have a successful Direct Mail Postcard campaign that produces results.  

1. Your Logo

It goes without saying that your target market should know where the direct mail post card came from. Put your logo in a prominent place where it is sure to be noticed.  The logo should not however, overshadow the offer you are presenting your audience.  The offer builds up the brand.

2. Next is Headline

When someone picks up the direct mail postcard, they should be able to identify the main idea immediately.  Make sure your message is clear and concise.  Then seperate it from the rest of your text while using larger font.  

3. Graphics Come next

The choice of graphic, pictures, and illustrations should compliment your headline.  It should reinforce the message you are relaying to your target market.  

4. Typography 

“Typography” is defined as the style and appearance of printed matter.  The art or procedure of arranging type or processing data and printing from it.  Spacing between characters, the length of the lines, and text can be influential to your target audience.  Even emotion can be relayed by the type of typeface you choose.  For example some typeface is considered professional while others are more comical or whimsical. 

5. White Space

White space is the open space between graphics and text.  Not enough white space and your direct mail postcard will look cluttered and cramped.  The white space is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye and allows you to draw the attention where you want it.

6. Perfect Offer for Perfect Customer

The offer should bring the target to an immediate response by giving them an adequate reason to act on your offer.  We have already determined that 40% of success is determined by the offer you are making so it is crucial.  You want them to feel that they need it right when they get the piece.  Expiring discounts, free promotions with expirations, and limited time offers are all great approaches to get them to act quickly.  

7. Color Choice

The colors you use should be relevant to the message you are relaying to your audience.  Use color as a means to persuade your audience.  Although it is true that each person has their own color preferences, there are certain patterns in color perception you may be able to use to your advantage.  Think of how "sky blue" makes you feel?  Or "money green."

8. Message Body

The copy does not need to be long and drawn out.  Keep it clear and concise pointing out the benefits.  Benefits sell, features do not.  Point out why they need to act now.  Relay how your product or service can help them by appealing to their needs and wants.  

9. Post Card Quality

The direct mail postcards in today's market are durable well made.  The cardstock that you choose can be flimsy though and that will reflect on your offer and possibly the perception of your target audience.  Most printers now can print post cards at near picture vividness and clarity with great cardstock.  Choosing to not skimp will insure that your message isn't perceived as low quality.  

10. Call to Action

Finally is a clear call to action.  You will want to tell your audience what you want them to do.  You will want the standard websites, phone, and business address information, but a call to action tells your audience what to do and how to take action on the message you presented.  So, be clear and direct. 

The Anatomy of Direct Mail

The Anatomy of Mail

So you want to design, print, and mail a postcard to your customers with a captivating message and a look which is eye-catching yet functional?  Well these days there are plenty of folks out there who will sell you their design, print, and mail services.  Knowing a few bits of knowledge will help you to save time, money, and most of all hassle at the post office!

The Elements

The USPS requires certain elements to appear on your mailpiece for various reasons such as: processing using automation, revenue protection, who it gets returned to if it is undeliverable, and identifying who sent the mail. These Elements are not glamorous or fun like your artwork and message but they are necessary and easy.  The language used by the USPS is not always straight forward and is riddled with acronyms.  Hopefully, as you read on, the mystery will melt away leaving you feeling confident you are speaking the right language to the right people!

Indicia –


 (Definition) -

-        Signs, indications, or distinguishing marks

-        Markings used on address labels or bulk mail as a substitute for stamps.

The indicia on your mail tells the USPS:

-        The Class of mail (Marketing Mail (Formerly known as Presort Standard), First Class, Nonprofit Org, Bound Printed Matter etc.

-        The City, State, and sometimes Zip Code from which the mailing was actually mailed from.

-        The permit number (account) from which the funds to pay for the mailing came from.

All bulk mailings must have an indicia printed on the direct mail piece.  The placement is usually in the upper right hand corner of the mail piece or the upper-right hand of the designated address area.  There are exceptions and variations as with everything that is USPS, but this is the normal rule of thumb.

The indicia is just the name for the artwork, what it points to and indicates is the postage permit account (which has to be setup first) from which the postage is debited from.  You may use anyone’s permit account with permission from them to do so.  Jefferson Letter Service is a Mail Service Providers (MSP) and will readily allow you to use our permit so you don’t need to pay to activate and maintain one for yourself or your company.

Return Address –

Kind of self explanatory but let’s explain anyhow.   The return address is the address that any mail which can not be delivered for any reason is returned to.  However, not all mail is returned to sender because it is dependent upon the class of mail and/or other marking and services added to your direct mail piece.   There are also times when a return address is required and other times it is not:

Required – First Class mail, Nonprofit mail, Official Mail, when an Ancillary Endorsement is used (“Return Service”, “Address Service”, “Forwarding Service”), and more which can be found using this link https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/602.htm#ep1085528

                              Not Required – Marketing Mail

The return address is normally placed in the upper left corner of the mail piece or in the upper left of the address panel.  There are other places it can be and usually will be accepted so long as it is obivious.

Bottom line, make sure you have your return address on the piece and in the correct location always and you will avoid headaches!

Delivery Address –

There are very specific rules about how your delivery address must appear and where it is placed.  Not allowing enough room in the right place for the delivery address can cause your mail piece to Non-mailable or Non-machinable.  Non-machinable means you pay more postage and Non-mailable is certain to cost you even more money because now your direct mail piece is rendered useless. The basic rules can be found in Exhibit 2.1 from the USPS https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/202.htm#ep1047156

Just know you should allow a 4 inch x 1 inch clear area for delivery address and this space will also accommodate our next element, the barcode.

IMB Barcode –

The Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) is the barcoding technology used by the USPS.  This barcode contains all the information the USPS needs: where the mail is going, what class of mail it is utilizing, any additional services, and mail tracking. Your MSP will take care of producing and printing your IMB and all you need to do is make sure you leave the 4 inch x 1 inch clear area for both the barcode and address.   

There is another option for where the IMB can be placed on your direct mail piece.  This option is usually only used on postcard size (e.g. 4 x 6) pieces but can be used for any letter-size piece.  If you are crunched for space in the clear area for the address and barcode you can optionally place the barcode in the lower right corner, and the entire barcode must be within the barcode read area defined by these limits:

  1. Horizontally, the leftmost bar must be between 3-1/2 inches and 4-1/4 inches from the right edge of the piece.
  2. Vertically, the barcode must be within the area between 3/16 inch and 1/2 inch, both measured from the bottom edge of the piece.

The barcode clear zone is then the bottom 5/8 inch of the card extending from the right edge of the piece 4-3/4 inches which leaves a clear zone around the barcode.  If you are to utilize this barcode placement you will need to make sure your design accommodates the clear space.  The delivery address clear area can shrink down to 2-1/2 inches by 1 inch because the address is the only thing to be printed in this clear space due to the barcode having its own clear space.


This is just the very basic elements on your direct mail piece but knowing the elements and planning for them is foundational first step from which your design will build on with the confidence of USPS compliance.

Chad Watson

Chad Watson has been a Mail Piece Design Expert and consultant at Jefferson Letter Service since 2010.