Direct What? Demystifying Direct Mail

Direct mail is a highly effective element of any integrated marketing campaign that remains relevant even in today's world. While direct mail serves as a valuable compliment to any digital campaign, there is still some confusion about what exactly direct mail is. This leads to direct mail being excluded from marketing efforts, which is a shame considering it’s a unique, long-proven way to get your message out there and bring business in the door. Below we examine some key terms associated with all things direct mail, to help clear up the confusion.

Direct Mail: Terms To Know


Direct Mail

  • A physical piece of branded marketing material sent and delivered to an extremely-qualified recipient through a highly-targeted list via the postal system.

General Terms

  • Bulk Mail: A special category of mail that refers to a large number of identical pieces to be mailed in the same batch. Bulk mail may be processed in advance.
  • Creative: Refers to the content of the direct mail, what will be printed on the mailer, including the copy and design.
  • Mailhouse: An outside vendor that offers mailing services. Services might include addressing mail, acquiring deepest postage discounts, assembling, sorting and much more.


  • Database: A collection of data that includes contact information as well as demographics and key details needed to execute a campaign.
  • Deduplicate (de-dupe): The process of removing duplicate entries in a mailing list. This can occur during a list Merge (combining two existing lists) or List Cleaning.
  • Demographics: Statistical data relating to population, often used in targeting.
  • List Cleaning: The process of organizing your mailing list to ensure it’s complete, accurate, and does not include any duplicate entries. The cleaner your list, the better your success rates and less wasted postage dollars and pieces of mail to invalid or duplicate recipients.
  • Mailing List: The list of recipients, including names and addresses, for a direct mail campaign. This list is targeted based on selected criteria and can be very granular. It is the list of everyone who will receive the communication.
  • Segmenting: The process of dividing your mailing list based upon a selected criteria, whether that be demographics or geographical location.
  • Undeliverable: A mailing piece returned to the sender for some reason, such as a vacancy or having an invalid name or address.

Marketing Terms

  • Targeting: The process of selecting a very specific audience, based upon criteria, to send your message to. Targeting is essential to any direct mail campaign and can be done on a variety of factors, such as geolocation and household demographics.
  • A/B Test (Split Test): The process of testing the effectiveness of an element of your campaign to see what performs better. This element could be a line of copy or design element. To conduct an A/B test you send the two variations on your campaign out to groups at the same time and compare results. For A/B testing to be effective, only one criteria should be changed per test.
  • Conversion Rate: The number of people who convert to customers as a result of your direct mail campaign (or any marketing campaign). Conversion rates are generally displayed as percentages.
  • Cost Per Piece (CPP): The cost of each item in the mailing to reach the recipient, inclusive of all associated costs - from design to postage.To calculate CPP, take the total cost of the mailing and divide by the number of recipients.
  • Response Rate: The success rate of your mailing based upon the number of inquiries received as a result of the mailing. Differs from conversion rate, as response rate does not require someone to become a customer and can include online, phone and in-person results.

Have a term you’re confused about but don’t see on the list? Want to get started with a direct mail campaign now that you have a clear view of what it entails? Contact us today!