Direct Marketing Glossary & Direct Mail Terms

1:1 Marketing

Customizing content to meet the user at their level of interest.

1st party data

Data your company has collected.

2nd party data

Data another company has collected to be used through partnership agreements and the users consent.

3rd party data

Data collected from a variety of sites or platforms to understand larger trends.

A/B Testing

The method of comparing two versions of content against each other to see which your audience prefers.


A phrase for when a user leaves an action without completing it.

Accordion Fold

A type of zigzag fold that makes a letter or mailer open up like an accordion, as opposed to a letter fold or roll fold.

Account Based Marketing

A B2B marketing and sales strategy that focuses resources on a clearly defined set of specific targets within the market.

Account Services

A business function where staffers manage the experience of clients, especially responsible for communication with clients, resolution of client challenges and achievement of objectives.

Acquisition cost

The cost associated with gaining a new customer or prospect.

Ad Hoc Report

A reporting method permitting you to ask questions such as, how many men over 50 have bought more than $500 from us over the last year?

Alternate Delivery

Means of delivering an item to households, such as a direct mail piece or sample, that bypasses the post office.


Application Programming Interface, a set of protocols and tools allowing different software platforms and components to communicate with each other.


Evaluates and assigns a value to an individual action (or “event”) that correlates with a desired outcome; commonly associated with the measurement and optimization of a given media mix.

Attrition rate

The percentage of current customers who discontinue services the following year.

Automation-Compatible Mail

Mail that meets post office guidelines for processing by automated equipment, such as barcode scanners and sorting machines.


Return envelope with a reply form attached to its flap. The reply form tears off and is returned within the envelope; also known as a “hot potato.”

Bounce Rate

Percentage of people who visit one’s website and leave immediately without participating in further action.

Call to action

A line of text or image that cues visitors, users, leads, prospects, or customers to take action.

Campaign Attribution

The means of measuring a campaign’s generated revenue.

CASS Certification

Adding the last four digits to a ZIP code to make it a ZIP + 4, creating a common format for address matching.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

The ratio of the amount of times a visitor clicks on an online advertisement per number of viewers who view the website that has the advertisement on it.

Contact Strategy

Efforts taken to better interact with clients once the company has undertaken a journey mapping attempt.

Conversion Rate

An equation that advertisers and marketers utilize to determine campaign performance, measuring the number of targets who become paying customers, subscribers or users.

Cost Per Inquiry (CPI)

By dividing the total cost of a mailing or an advertisement by the number of inquiries received, the cost of obtaining each inquiry can be calculated.

Cost Per Order (CPO)

Similar to CPI but based on actual orders rather than inquiries.

Cost Per Piece (CPP)

Total cost to produce each mailing is divided by the total quantity mailed to give the CPP. Includes all agency, data, production, and back-end processing costs.

Data Blending

The process used by data analysts to integrate data from various sources to reveal deeper intelligence that propels better decision making.

Data Cleansing

Conflicting intelligence often exists across multiple sources for the same prospective or existing clientel. Each data type must also have consistent content and format.

Data Enhancement

Supplementary information regarding contact details, demographics, lifestyle interests, and firmographics.

Data Matching

The act of conjoining entities, such as your customers, in one data set to their corresponding ID codes in another data set.

Data Mining

The process of sorting through large data sets to identify patterns and institute relationships to solve problems through data analysis. Data mining tools allow enterprises to predict future trends.

Database Marketing

A standardized approach to the gathering, consolidation, and processing of current and prospective customers that is managed in a company’s database.


A specialized data compression technique for eradicating duplicate copies of repeating data.

Delivery Rate

An email marketing metric that is calculated by dividing the number of emails sent minus bounces by the number of emails sent.

Direct Mail

A form of direct marketing in which businesses send promotional products, such as letters, postcards, etc., to past, current or potential customers or clients.

Direct Marketing

The promotional method of informing target customers about your company, product, or service without the use of an advertising medium such as TV, print or radio.

Direct Response Advertising

A form of marketing that evokes a specific, measured response resulting from a consumer’s direct response to a marketer.

Drop Date

The calendar date, generally set when scheduling the campaign, when the direct mail package is due for delivery to the postal service.

Duplication Elimination

A specialized data compression technique for discarding duplicate copies of repeating data.


Mapping a location from data sources to an actual location, venue, or place.


A method to identify the location of a prospect to deliver hyper-targeted content.

Hard Bounce

Refers to when an e-mail message is rejected or “bounced” due to a bad address.

House List (or House File)

List of buyers and prospects maintained by a company; typically, the most valuable asset for any direct marketer.


A preprinted mark in the upper right of a mail piece, showing that postage has been paid.

Johnson Box

A type of headline at the top or within the body of a letter, originally set in a box with a solid border or a border of asterisks, named for its originator, Frank Johnson.


A person identified as a potential client or customer after requesting information or meeting certain buying criteria; considered a more qualified possibility than a “prospect.”

Lead Generation

A process for acquiring new indivudals who have not heard of your product, or those who are familiar with it, and ushering them through a series of actions to show interest in your product.


A printing provider that specializes in direct mail, and can print, assemble, address, and mail direct mail pieces.

Lift Note

A second, shorter letter in a direct mail package with a highly focused message, typically signed by a different individual.

Lifetime Value

The net profit a customer is liable to generate during the span of their relationship with a company.


Collection of data that may include names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other information for a group of people sharing a common characteristic.

List Cleansing

A process that cleans and removes any records that are incomplete, duplicates, or not formatted correctly.

List Broker

Person or business that locates and purchases lists suitable for a given direct marketing campaign.

List Compiler

A seller that creates contact lists, but may also collect email data from online sources.

List Manager

An individual or organization that manages list buys or selling their own mailing list.

Mail Preference Service

A service that allows people to remove themselves from mailing lists.

Match back

A process for matching records to determine campaign attribution for sales made without a tracking/source code.

Merge Purge

A process to identify and remove duplicate records in a mailing list.

National Change of Address (NCOA)

A system provided by the U.S. Postal Service to correct addresses on a mailing list prior to mailing.

Negative Option

An offer where the customer agrees to ongoing shipments or purchases of a product which stop only when the customer asks for them to stop, as in a book-of-the-month club.


A mailer returned by the post office because the address is not deliverable, specifically mail returned for reasons other than a change of address, such as “No Such Street,” “Insufficient Address,” “Attempted-Not Known,” or “Deceased.”


A series of communications meant to increase the knowledge and understanding of your product to a potential customer.

Open Rate

Rate determined by the number of people who open an e-mail message divided by the total number of messages sent.


To grant permission for a company to send you e-mail by giving direct consent to be added to a mailing list.


To decline permission for a company to send you e-mail by making a direct request to be excluded from a mailing list.


Direct mailing consisting of an envelope and all its contents, including a letter, order form, collateral, and so on.

Pass Along

Readership of a publication or mailing beyond the original recipient; also, a printed piece meant to be passed on to another person.

Positive Option

An offer where the customer is given the opportunity to repeatedly make purchases, but where there’s no implied obligation. No products or services are provided until the customer explicitly requests them.


A potential customer that has been qualified through a series of actions.

Radius Mapping

A tool to envision the total sales opportunity within one area.


Metric to measure how many customers continue using the product or service.


Creating groups of records based on a defining characteristic that they all share.


A function that removes duplicates or excludes ineligible records from a communication or database.


An inactive customer who engages with content or completes an action from a targeted marketing communication.