Seven Steps to Navigating USPS Direct Mail Flat Requirements
There are many times that a flat design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a flat size direct mail campaign.
- Flat sized mail is between 126 x 11.51 to 12 x 15. These mailers have less restrictions as the equipment they run on at the USPS is very different. They lay flat, mail panel side up as they run through. Unlike the letter size machines that run so that they stand up on the edge below the mail panel. This means less damage happens to these flat size mail pieces. They also stand out in the mail box better.
- Paper stock must be a minimum of .009 thick. The maximum thickness is ¾ inch for the whole mailer. Usually this is not a problem since many flats are mutli-pages. Many people get creative here since you can go a lot thicker, just make sure you keep the thickness even throughout the mailer.
- No aspect ratio requirement. Since these run lying flat through the equipment there is no need to adhere to a ratio. This gives you more freedom in your size design. If you want a more slender look, you can do it!
- Flats are required to have address blocks in the upper half of the short edge. For instance, with an 8.5 x 11 mailer you would need to address from the top of the piece down only to 5.5, do not address below the 5.5. There is no barcode clear zone for flats. You will need to use an address block that includes the barcode, a 4 x 2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text, or images. You must also make sure that you have at least a .125 clearance for the address block from the edge of the piece and any text or graphics. This requirement is not actually for the machines, but for the employees to more easily see the addresses when distributing the mail.
- The fold or binding must be to the right of the mail panel. If you are using a poly bag or envelope this is not necessary. The reason they want it to the right is because as they pass through the machines laying down, the lead edge is on the right side.
- No tabs are required. In some cases, such as when you are inserting a piece loosely into the mailer, you may decide to use tabs to hold it closed. You may do that if you wish, it is just not a requirement to do so. Most people opt to not use tabs even when they have a loose insert, since in most cases they do not fall out.
- If you use a poly bag/envelope the maximum extra space you can have inside the bag from the edge of the piece to the edge of the bag is .5. This is very popular now. It allows the recipient to see the creative through the clear material, as if it were just mailed without an envelope and then lets you put loose pieces together like when using a standard envelope. You can either address the materials on the inside of the bag or you can label the outside, both are acceptable as long as you are using USPS approved bags.
Your best bet is to design your flat and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage. As you are going through the process, don’t let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create direct mail that stands out and gets attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions. Are you ready to get started?
Summer Gould is Account Executive at Neyenesch Printers. Summer has spent her 31 year career helping clients achieve better marketing results. She has served as a panel speaker for the Association of Marketing Service Providers conferences. She is active in several industry organizations and she is a board member for Printing Industries Association San Diego, as well as the industry chair for San Diego Postal Customer Council. You can find her at Neyenesch’s website: neyenesch.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @sumgould.