How long does direct mail take?

Before you start, it’s important to have a realistic direct mail schedule. 

A direct mail campaign can take 5-10 weeks to plan, create and implement, then another week or two before the finished mailer arrives at its destination.

This, of course, will vary from project to project – and rush services can move things along if needed.


Typical Timetable

Planning – 1-2 weeks

It’s easy to overlook this step because you may already know what you want to do, but it’s important. Included in this step are:

  • mailing list planning – research multiple list sources, review pros/cons of each, select the best potential lists, place list orders.
  • offer planning – in lead generation, you will need a white paper or special report.  If you don’t have one, you will need to create one before you do anything else.
  • format selection – depending on your objective, message and audience, you will need to decide what your direct mail format will include.
  • budget planning – based on your list quantities and your format, you can now develop a budget.

Creative – 2-4 weeks

With your offer developed and your format selected, the creative team can develop the mail piece.  Included in this step are:

  • Message planning – this involves identifying the key selling points and getting all parties to agree.
  • Concept development – depending on the project, you might have the creative team develop two or three concepts to help in the decision-making.  This will add time and money.
  • Copywriting and graphic design – following the selected concept.
  • Feedback, revisions and approvals – this can eat up time.

Production – 2-4 weeks

Once the lists and the creative are ready, the project goes into production.  Included in this step are:

  • Printing – a postcard can be printed in several days, but other direct mail packages may take longer.   Remember some formats have multiple components (envelope, letter, brochure, reply card, etc.).
  • Data Processing – once you have your lists, they will need to be prepared for the mailing.  If you are using multiple lists, you may need to remove duplicates or add tracking codes. This will also help to determine your postage costs.
  • Personalization – this is when your mail house will add personalization to all the elements you select.  You may personalize your outer envelope, your letter, your reply card or any other element.  Today’s technology gives you many options.
  • Inserting and mail processing – once everything is addressed, it now goes to final stages before it is delivered to the post office.

Delivery – 1-2 weeks

From the moment your mailers are delivered to the post office, delivery time will depend mostly on the postage rate you pay, but also on the distance the mail needs to travel.

  • First class postage – you should expect delivery within a few days.  If the destination is nearby, it might arrive the next day.  If the mail      needs to travel across the country, expect 3-4 days.
  • Standard postage – you’re saving money with Standard postage, but you are sacrificing time.  Your mail piece could still arrive in a few days, but the post office has flexibility in delivering Standard mail and it could take as much as three weeks.

Subsequent mailings

The good news is that subsequent mailings can be produced in a fraction of the time – assuming you want to use many, if not all, of the same components as the first mailing.  Of course, if you want to start from scratch, you will likely face the same 5-10 week timetable.

If you’d like to discuss an upcoming campaign – or if you’re looking for ways to improve an existing mailing program – call us and let’s schedule an introductory call.