How long will your mail take to reach its destination?

*note*: this is for USA based campaigns using the USPS postal service. Unfortunately I can’t give expert advice on how slow or fast international postal systems are.

There’s nothing worse than having a great campaign put together only to find out that your mailing ends up reaching homes much later than you anticipated, translating in less response and lots of stress.¬†With some proper planning you can avoid this situation entirely.


Every Door Direct Mail is lightning fast, pure and simple. If you’re using the Retail EDDM option (where you drop your postcards off at the local post office that services the carrier routes its going to) then it’s probably going to hit homes within the next one or two days. Although EDDM isn’t as ‘important’ as first class or priority mail, the fact that you’re preparing it for the carriers means that it’s ‘ready to go’ as soon as you drop them off.

If you’re using the Business EDDM option, where you need a postal permit, your mailing will take a little longer. After you drop off the mailing to the Bulk Mail Entry Unit, you’ll have to wait for the post office to deliver your pieces to the local post offices where it will then be delivered to the targets. This is a good option if you’re doing some large quantity mailings or EDDM that’s not in your local area.

If you’re doing an EDDM campaign to locations that are not within your local postal service area, it’s going to take a few more days to arrive because once you drop it off at the Bulk Mail Entry Unit, you then have to ship your pieces by priority mail (I suggest flat rate boxes) to the distant location. This means it will take roughly 5 or 6 business days days to actually reach your target.

Targeted Mail

If you’re not doing EDDM and instead are mailing to a targeted list of people, this is where it gets a little more complicated in terms of timing. Regardless of whether you’re sending out your pieces via first class postage or standard postage, there’s some time that you’ll need to allot due to the printing and preparation process.

This is the initial process that you can expect to happen on every targeted mail campaign you begin:

  1. You upload the artwork and pay for the job.
  2. You upload your list in CSV as well.
  3. Your artwork must be checked over to make sure it has proper resolution, colorspace, dimensions, bleed, safety zone, and addressing/permit indicia space. This can take up to 24 hours.
  4. If there’s a problem with your artwork, it will be sent back and you’ll need to fix it or have me fix it for you. This is what can really throw people for a loop, because they may have missed something and now the process sucks up more time that they didn’t plan for.
  5. Once the artwork is approved, the printing will take a couple days and the mail preparation will take another few days. When you factor in non-business days like weekends, this means an order sent to press on wednesday might be printed on friday and then mail prep completed the following wednesday.
  6. Once the mail preparation is completed, the mail is then delivered to the bulk mail unit. The mail is all delivered to the post offices once or twice a week, so depending on when your postcards are finished, it may take a few days to be delivered to the USPS.
  7. The USPS will place your pieces into the mail stream.

What happens next will depend on the USPS’ delivery speed. If your mailing is via first class, it will only take 3 days or so to reach its destinations. First class mail also gives you the luxury of having your bad addresses returned to you, so you know exactly how many pieces didn’t make it to their destination. No matter how good your list is, you can sometimes see 5 or even more percent of your postcards returned.

Note: 4×6 or 4.25×6 postcards are ALWAYS sent first class (that’s the ‘postcard’ rate).

If you’re mailing via standard class, the post office will take its sweet time delivering your mail to the carriers, and the carriers will take their sweet time delivering your pieces to the targets. You also won’t get any of your ‘undeliverables’ returned to you. That’s the trade off for cheaper postage, so you’ll have to deal with it because it’s worth the cheap postage. Standard class mail takes the post office anywhere from 5 to 10 days typically. It all depends on the mail load, which can be influenced by a lot of things like holidays, time of the month, and seasons.

If you’re sending a standard-class mailing during Christmas, it’s going to take longer to be delivered than if you’re sending it in January. The post office is incredibly good at getting the mail delivered but with standard class mail, the priority and ¬†first class stuff will always take precedence.

So in a nutshell, I recommend that you give yourself a good three weeks of time from when you order to when you want them delivered for standard-class mailings. ‘Standard Class’ by the way is the term that the USPS used to call ‘Bulk Mail’.

Here’s some tips on how to keep the printing and processing speed as smooth as possible:

  1. Get your artwork correct. The design needs to be in CMYK colorspace and at 300dpi resolution or else it will look like crap and no good printer will allow it.

    There must also be .125 inches of ‘bleed’ so that the color can run to the edge of the postcard. This means that your final dimensions will be one quarter inch bigger. A 6×11 postcard will need to be designed at 6.25×11.25 to provide the bleed. I have templates for all the sizes you need so just ask me for them.

    Utilize the ‘safety zone’ which is .125 inches inside of the postcard so that if the bleed cutter trims it a little too much, you won’t lose important text. Again, this is provided on templates so you can be sure your text or images won’t be sliced off.

    You must have the correct space available for the addressing and postal permit indicia. This means a 4.25″ x 2″ rectangular space in the corner of your postcard and a 1″x1″ space at the top right.

  2. Get your mailing list together properly. It needs to be in CSV format with only the fields required.

    bob ross mailing template for 6x11

    bob ross mailing template for 6×11

If you’ve got this stuff together your mail processing and printing will go smoothly. Email me for any questions as always, I’ll help you out any way I can!