Frequently Asked Questions about Direct Mail Lists


Businesses typically know what their existing customers “look like." By taking these demographics of their existing customer, which may include age, gender, children in the home with ages and/or gender, home value, income, length of residency or other data points, we can acquire a consumer mailing list with matching attributes.

There are a few questions that are asked repeatedly by businesses who want to use direct mail. While response rates do vary based on your offer, timing, frequency and audience, the following are frequently asked questions regarding using purchased mailing lists:

What pieces of data should I use to create my list?

The most common pieces of data used to narrow a consumer mailing list include:

  • Age
  • Income
  • Presence of Children
  • Marital status
  • Homeowner

These data points not only allow you to narrow your list to the best-matched prospects for your business, you can also use the data to create personalized messaging for better results.

What is the average accuracy of an acquired consumer mailing list?

Depending on the quality of your list source, the average accuracy for Consumer data demographics is typically between 88-99%. The industry standard average deliverability for Consumer data is 90%. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), up to 10% of the list could be returned undeliverable or mistargeted due to moves or circumstantial changes in demographic compatibility.

Our clients utilizing a customized marketing portal are guaranteed a higher rate of deliverability for consumer mailing lists than the industry average:

  • For most Consumer data, we guarantee 92-94% deliverability.
  • For most Business data, we guarantee 85% deliverability. The industry standard for Business data is 80% deliverability.

What is the Percentage of People that Move Annually?

About 16.8% of the country moves annually, but they move in cycles throughout the year, depending on predominant climate. This number can’t really be correlated with the basic scrubbing of consumer data through processes like NCOA, because only about 60% of movers fill out a Change of Address form, and only about 50% of those people fill it out correctly!

The post office has strict rules for mailers to keep their lists clean by running them against databases. Learn more about the USPS Move Update standard here.

How often are Consumer mailing lists updated?

Depending upon the type of file, most compilers publish a new build to their databases once a month. However, files such as the New Mover and New Homeowner databases are rolling hot-files, and are updated once a week, usually on Fridays.

What kind of response Rate should I expect?

The DMA releases studies every year regarding industry standards on response for various types of marketing campaigns.

For Direct Mail, quantification is based on 90% of the total quantity mailed. The standard 3-drop-over-6-week or 3-drop-over-9-week campaign is considered multi-drop.

  • Single-drop (1 mailer to 1 address 1 time):You should expect a response rate between 0.8% and 1.6%.
  • Multi-drop (More than 1 mailer to 1 address): You should expect a response rate between 1.2% and 2.6%.

For example, if you mail out 1,000 pieces, you quantify based on 900 pieces. If it is a single-drop campaign, you should expect at least 6 or 7 responses. If it is a multi-drop campaign, you should expect around 11 responses. Return on Investment (ROI) can be calculated based on the dollar amount of the responses that result in sales minus your initial investment.

To improve your response rates on mailings, we always recommend conducting A/B tests on elements of your mailpiece. Try different list demographics, envelope sizes, photos, headlines or offers to see what performs the best.

How do I get removed from a consumer mailing list?

If a consumer asks to be removed from your list, you can direct them to the DMA. Keep in mind, however, that there is no legal obligation to remove consumers from mailing lists. The DMA does this as a courtesy, and most compilers subscribe to the DMA Pander file. Please direct recipients to the following resources:

About the author

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Karen M. Wenning

Karen M. Wenning

Karen aspired to be a cowgirl or a farmer, but after graduating from UW Madison she found herself crafting prose for luxury brands at an advertising agency. There, she developed a passion for working with graphic designers and marketing professionals, creating brand-right marketing across their networks. As a former client of Suttle-Straus, Karen joined the team in 2008 serving in marketing and sales. She considers herself an accidental salesperson, on a mission to increase her clients’ traffic and sales. At home, Karen can be found challenging her husband and three children to a downhill ski or swim race, growing organic produce while fending off garter snakes, or herding her small flock of chickens.
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Topics: Direct Mail