In this corner, weighing in at 50 cents each, we have: custom-printed, #10 business envelopes. In the other corner, weighing in between 6 cents and 20 cents each (depending on size chosen), we have custom-designed mailing labels. How do these two opponents stack up on matters other than price?


What custom-printed envelopes have going for them:

  • They look high-end. The very fact that you’ve printed your logo and return address on the envelope makes your marketing look good.
  • You can print on more of the envelope’s surface. Instead of limiting your graphics to the upper left corner for the return address, you can include designs all around the envelope—even all the way to the edge if you’re willing to have the envelopes themselves custom-cut and made after printing (however, this is an even more expensive option). Do check with the post office as well on their requirements—they need some areas of the envelope not to have printing for their processors to scan and route your mail correctly.    
  • You can match your envelope to the color of your letterhead. Not to say you couldn’t do this with mailing labels as well, but if you have, say, green letterhead stock, the white labels will stick out on them. There are clear Avery labels, but they don’t print as well as the white ones, so I don’t recommend using them. 
  • Putting the mail together becomes very easy. There’s no hunting around for your mailing labels—just grab an envelope, stick your letter in, seal, stamp and go. 
  • Custom printed envelopes are really great for high-volume mailings. This is one place where the investment in money can outweigh the investment in time. If you’re mailing out many individual pieces, such as a business introduction campaign, form letter, or even a mass holiday mailing, consider having your return address printed on the envelopes. This approach can save you hours of peeling and sticking work.



Custom-printed envelopes’ competitive disadvantages:

  • They are, as previously noted, expensive. Especially in “low” quantities like 500 or 1000, the price per piece to print an envelope can be large. Add even more to that price if you have more than 2 colors in your logo—the standard envelope printer only handles 2 colors at a pass, so 3 or more colors will mean that the printer has to run the envelopes through the press twice. This takes more time, and can be difficult to align the envelopes a second time to get them printed right—so there’s likely to be more spoiled pieces.
  • You have to print a lot of them at once to get the pricing to make sense. This makes you wind up with a lot of envelopes to go through. And, to throw out if your address changes before you’ve used them all. 
  • Once you have your 1000 envelopes, you need to dedicate a corner of your office to storing them. If you have a home office or a small workspace, this can be inconvenient. Mailing labels stack flat, and take up very little space. 
  • You’ll only have one size of envelope—so choose wisely. Many businesses wind up printing the standard #10 envelope. But, what happens when you have to send out a thick report? Or a booklet? Or even a thank-you card? You have two options: either print out envelopes of multiple sizes (which will turn out being even more expensive, and needing even more storage), develop a mailing label as well, or go to hand-writing those materials. If you already have a mailing label, then you can just use a larger envelope. You can use mailing labels on Priority Mail envelopes and packages as well. 
  • Some clients may never notice the difference. If your clients have an assistant handling their mail, they may never see the envelope you invested in. Or, if they’re busy, they might not pay attention to the printing in their efforts to get the mail processed.


Now, on to the stats for the mailing labels. The pros:

  • You can print them on demand. If you only need a few mailing labels in a month, there’s nothing that says you can’t just print one sheet at a time. If your address changes, or your logo gets updated, then you won’t have hundreds of labels floating around that are suddenly outdated.  
  • If you have a color printer in your office, you can even print them out yourself. No going to a professional printer, or even heading in to Kinko’s. You can just open your document, load a sheet or two of label stock into your printer, and have a new set of labels in just a few minutes. 
  • You can choose the size, and easily customize to fill your mailing needs. Say you really only send out mail in envelopes—then it would make sense to go with a small sized label like Avery 5160 (1″ x 2.6″). If you send out packages as well, you could either add a second label (Avery 5164, which is 3.33″ x 4″) or if you send out more packages than letters, you might go with only designing the larger 5164 labels and using them on your #10 envelopes as well. 
  • They are inexpensive. Though you do have to buy the label stock (and I strongly recommend the higher-quality Avery brand labels), which is a bit more expensive, in addition to purchasing some blank envelopes, the price per piece is still much lower than printing envelopes. 
  • They’re easy to design and lay out in Microsoft Word, which even has a “Labels” design tool that lays out all the standard Avery sizes for you. It couldn’t be any simpler than that.


What mailing labels have stacked against them:

  • They require a bit more manual labor. This is usually not a big deal unless you’re sending out hundreds of pieces of mail, but it does take a few extra seconds to reach for the address labels, peel one off the sheet, and attach it to your envelope. This is probably a worthwhile bit of work unless you send out a lot of mail.
  • They don’t look as finished. If your clients are style-conscious, or have a keen eye, and are likely to pay attention to the way your communications are packaged, then printing an envelope instead of going with mailing labels can have the added benefit of making your materials look sharper. 
  • They can occasionally misalign in the printer. Especially if you’re printing them at home, you might find that your printer doesn’t always feed the label stock through evenly. It may even be bad enough on a sheet that you have to throw it out and start over. This doesn’t happen often, but it is something to keep an eye out for.


Now that you have all the facts on envelopes and mailing labels, choosing which one you’ll use in your company should be easier. Next time, I’ll tell you how you can go about designing your own mailing label, in case you decide to go that route.