Data & Audience Insights

Getting Your Direct Mail Data Right the First Time

And the No. 1 factor affecting the success of your direct mail marketing campaign is … ?

Your direct mail data!

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

For more than 50 years, smart marketers have followed the success formula laid out by the late Ed Mayer, who said 40% of a marketing effort comes down to data (AKA “the list”). Your offer or message makes up another 40%, and 20% is everything else, like format, copy, and other creative elements.

But something’s different today. Using bad direct mail data to produce and mail campaigns can be more costly than ever.

Sending mail that is Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) can do serious harm to your campaign’s ROI, if not its overall success. It means you’re wasting your mail (or your client’s), and that equals money lost on postage and printing.

You’re also losing many valuable opportunities to reach customers with mail that is personally relevant to them.

Our data guide

Do you have clean data on your audience?

If you’re not sure, check out our guide to the fundamentals of data for marketers. In it, we cover the basics (and much, much more) of direct mail data management. For example:

Defining your audience

“Developing your own list only goes so far. To be more effective more quickly in marketing your products and services, use a third-party provider.”

At, our partnership with data compilers like Accudata makes it easier for you to target selects based on a broad range of demographics. At the same time, you’ll save money and feel peace of mind with our expertise.

Segmenting your lists

Did you know this? “Behavior is one of your most reliable segmentation factors because it reflects what your customers or prospects have done.”

Using personalization and Variable Data Printing (VDP)

Create custom direct mail printing with VDP that “tailor-fits a direct mail package to each recipient based on individual data points … to produce copy, images, and offers unique for every prospect or customer in a mail campaign. Because it is personalized in a deeper way, often with high visual appeal, the mail piece has a higher perceived relevance to the recipient.”

Preparing your mail

Use Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS), presorting, and deduping. These are the bare minimum (and yet, most critical) steps. Never bypass them when you’re working on your mailing list. CASS, for example, is a USPS certification that corrects and standardizes address elements like zip codes and misspelled street or city names. The other two steps are more self-explanatory.

Updating with National Change of Address (NCOA)

This is a database of all new address information filed with the USPS. With an average of almost 40 million Americans moving every year, the importance of cross-referencing your data using this process cannot be overstated.

Here’s another important reason to constantly use these tools to validate your addresses: Campaigns with an Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) will be checked against established thresholds on the Mailer Scorecard each month. Accurate data means a better score.

Other data tools

You have other ways to make sure that your data doesn’t include old, incomplete, or duplicate records even after you have sent out some mailings.

Address Change Service (ACS)

This service gives mailers a data file with address changes (or other reasons for non-delivery) after a mailing campaign is dropped. Using it means you get up-to-date address changes at a reduced cost per record.

Ancillary Service Endorsements (ASE)

ASE is a type of manual address correction that gives USPS options on how to proceed after delivery of your mail is attempted. For example, your mail can include a printed “Return Service Requested” endorsement.

Wrapping it up

Good data drives direct mail campaign efficiency and effectiveness. So, you must get this right. Tear down all those channel silos, and centralize all of your customer data in one place.

When you do, go back to your data warehouse to reactivate, cross-sell, or upgrade your past customers with personalized offers leveraged on your data. Response rates for house lists doubled in 2018, according to the ANA-DMA Response Report.

Clearly, something big is trending with direct mail, so you have a real opportunity here to make it work better.

If you need help, the direct mail marketing experts at have years of experience working on complex campaigns using data of all kinds. We can help you put together a complete and cost-effective direct mail campaign to accomplish your goals quickly.

Drop us a line or call us! We’d love to show you how you can put modern direct mail to work in your next campaign.

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