Here are five tips that can help you develop a direct mail campaign on a tight budget:

Go pro. You may have the software, and you might think you have the savvy to create your own mailer, but they're not enough to deliver the right message. Outsource copywriting and design -- a competent graphic designer can do this better than you can. It's a professional's job to know how to create and position graphics and write copy that sells. You'll pay anywhere from $50 to $125 an hour for this service.

Print in two colors. Choose black and white or single-sided color. Doing so reduces print costs by as much as 33%. It also helps to plan printing around your printer's schedule. You may negotiate a reduced price if you give leeway to fit your job between other print jobs where the printer can reduce set-up, and therefore cost.

Save on labor. Labeling and stamping cards costs more than you think. But if someone in your office can do this and manage the business mail process, you'll save money.

Mail on the cheap. Mailing permits come first, standard, third class, and pre-sort, plus other categories. Pick the right class and you'll save. A pre-sort vs. first-class mailing of 1,500 postcards might save you as much as 15%.

Narrow the list. The list you choose is the most important decision you'll make -- and can potentially return the greatest reward. By tightly targeting whom you mail to, you'll save money, because you aren't wasting resources mailing to homeowners who will never be legitimate prospects. Spend your money where it does the most good. --Stephen Wilson is a partner in Reston, Va., marketing/communications firm Biz-comm Inc.,