Post cards or Tri-fold mailer?

What is the best postcard size for direct mail?

I had a new client ask me what she thought was a simple question. “Which is better, a small postcard or a large postcard? That isn’t a simple question. There were so many things to consider and the right answer depends on how big the available list is, what the average order value is, what the overall marketing strategy is and, of course, what the budget is. She hadn’t even considered doing a tri-fold since she had always done postcards in the past.
Here’s the basic breakdown I sent her so we could discuss which would best fit her goals and budget. If you’re wondering which kind of mailing you should send, here are some pros and cons to consider.

Small post card:


  • Allows you to mail to the most prospects because of low production and postage costs
  • Cheapest to print and mail
  • May work as a web driver if there’s a good, targeted landing page set up for prospects.
  • Low cost of creative


  • Will have the least impact in the mailbox
  • Will only work for one or two products

Large Postcard:



  • More impact in the mail
  • Cheap to produce
  • May work well as a web driver if there is a good, targeted landing page set up for prospects.
  • Low cost of creative and printing


  • Limited in the number of products it can feature
  • More expensive to mail than the smaller postcard

Tri-Fold Mailer:


  • More impact than a postcard
  • Can feature many products
  • Room to promote brand
  • Room to promote benefits
  • Room to promote multiple offers


  • More expensive to produce (though the design format could be reused in further mailings)
  • Mails at the slim jim rate which is better than a flat but more than a postcard
It’s hard to say how much better response a tri-fold mailer would get than a postcard of either size, but it should be a decent bump up because it gets more impact and it offers more options to buy. Let’s say my client is mailing to a list of 10,000 with an average order value of $225 (be sure to use your actual AOV) a 1% increase in sales would bring in an additional $22,500 in sales. Even if the creative is more expensive (+$2,000) postage is 20 cents more (+$2,000) and the tri-fold is $4,000 more to print she would still better off with the tri-fold. To break even on the additional costs of the tri-fold my client would have to increase her response rate by .6%. This seems reasonable. When you factor in the additional branding, greater product assortment and space for benefits and up-sells, the Tri-fold is the clear winner.
If you have flexibility in your production budget, your list is large enough, and your merchandise is expensive enough, moving up to a trip-fold isn’t much of a risk. Postcards work well as targeted interrupters. They are cheap to produce and cheap to mail. If you have a smaller list and a low average order value or a limited budget they may be the best choice.

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Sarah Fletcher
President/Creative Director Catalog Design Studios Inc.
Co-Founder Catalog University