DM Glossary

Russell House Marketing’s DM Glossary

Common Direct Mail and Direct Marketing Terms

We understand that, at times, a term or two may escape you. That is why its always handy to have a good glossary close at hand. This glossary defines some of the most common direct mail and direct marketing terms used in direct response marketing throughout the industry.


Accordion fold: Two or more parallel folds in a letter open like an accordion.

Acquisition mailing: A mail package mailed to prospects to acquire them as new customers, members or donors.

Add-on: A related product offer sometimes included in the original promotion, otherwise as a follow-up communication. (Example: accessory items such as head sets or remote control devices for use with applicable audio equipment)

Address accuracy: The percentage of matches that a database attains when compared with a national address database.

Address block: The format in which the name and address is printed on top of letters and applications.

Addressed Admail: Canada Post Corporation’s category for bulk or third-class postage that applies to large quantities of identical pieces that are prepared for mailing before being delivered to the post office.

Address correction requested: An endorsement that authorizes Canada Post Corporation (CPC) to charge a fee to provide a new address (where known) of a person no longer at the address on the mailing piece.

Ad-hoc report: A reporting method which permits you to ask questions like: How may women over 60 have bought more than $200 from us in the last 4 months?

Attrition rate: The percentage of customers who are not likely to renew or complete their commitment.

Average gift: In a direct mail fundraising campaign, the total money received divided by the total number of gifts received.


Back end: The activities necessary to complete a transaction once an order has been received and measure a buyer’s performance after ordering the first item in a series.

Back Test: A test mailing designed to reproduce, and therefore confirm, the results of a recent direct mail test. Also called a retest or confirming test. Usually run when the results of a test fall within an acceptable range but do not give the mailer enough confidence to roll-out to the entire list.

Bangtail/Bangtail Bre: A promotional or payment envelope with a second flap that is perforated and designed to be used as an additional order form or change of address form.

Bar code: A coding structure printed/lasered on a mailing piece that is used for sortation by CPC or used for internal tracking.

Batch processing: Technique of executing a set of computer programs/selections in batches instead of managing each order/selection as it is received. Batches can be created by a computer program or by manual data collection into groups.

Benefits: An outline, listing or description of advantages the prospect will realize in using the product. Most benefit statements should be “you” oriented.

Best customer: An impact report which is a psycho-graphic “snapshot” of your best customers

Bill inserts: Secondary document, usually of a promotional nature, is mailed along with a customer’s bill to optimize the mailing. (See Statement Stuffer)

Bingo card: A response device used routinely by magazines where readers can request one or more pieces of additional information by circling select numbers on a self-mailer card.

Bind-in: A promotional response device with a reply or order form that is stitched directly into the spine of a magazine.

Bleed: In printing, the extension of colour to the very edge of a page. The effect is produced by printing on oversized paper and trimming to the final size.

Blow-in: A loose promotional card inserted in a publication during the assembly process.

Blueprint: A printer’s copy of direct mail material for review and possible correction before the final press run. So-called, because it is generally printed in blue ink.

Body copy: The principal portion of the message without headlines or illustrations but including descriptions, benefits and features of the product or service.

Bounce back: An additional offer enclosed within a product shipment made to customers.

Breakeven: Dollars of response, measured by order margin, equal the total cost of promotion.

Brochure: A multi-page presentation of the offer, which may include product or service descriptions, “sell” copy, benefits, features, pricing, discounts for quantity purchases, ordering instructions and a call-to-action.

Buckslip: A separate insert, generally in dollar bill size, provides additional rationale and incentives (bonus offer, premiums, etc.) designed to encourage the reader’s response.

Bulk mail: A category of Third Class Mail with Canada Post Corporation (CPC) involving a large number of identical pieces – especially processed for mailing before delivery to the post office.

Bulk postage rate: CPC offers a reduced postage rate to mailers who can accept less than first-class delivery speed. The bulk rate privilege requires special processing by the mailer – postal code sorting, banding, etc.

Business to business: Marketing efforts directed from one business to another.

Business to consumer: Marketing efforts directed from one business to a consumer.

Business Reply Card (BRC): A card included in a mailing to simplify reader response. One side contains a response form that the donor completes. The other side features the return address and pre-paid postage.

Business Reply Envelope (BRE): A self-addressed envelope whose postage is paid for by the organization that prints it.


Call out: Short copy blocks that direct reader attention to unique benefits or features worthy of emphasis.

Call to action: Copy that encourages the reader to respond and provides clear details on how (i.e., by mail, 1-800#, website, fax) and expiry date for response.

CPC: Canada Post Corporation

Card deck: A series of postcards, each promoting a separate product or service, in one mailing. Each card will normally include a trackable mechanism for reader’s response.

Carrier route / Walk presort: Mail which identifies the carrier walk number for mail delivery by CPC. Mailers who sort down to carrier walk can mail at the carrier walk discount rate.

Catalogue: A multi-page pamphlet or book detailing various products, most frequently with illustrations and including an order form. Larger and more detailed than either a brochure or flyer.

Circulation: Of a print publication, the total number of copies distributed.

Combination: A mailing in which more than one product or service is offered.

Controlled circulation: Usually the number of paid subscribers to a publication.

Control: Standard against which test results are compared. For example, a previously utilized direct-mail package compared to test packages that have some copy variation or employ new concepts in graphic design.

Conversion rate: The ratio of inquiries converted to buyers. This ratio is used to track two-step programs, such as trial offers or lead generation, with the percentage of responses converted to customer status.

Co – op: The inclusion of several different offers (not necessarily related products) in a single mailing.

Copy testing: The use of two (or more) messages mailed to selected individuals in the same audience. By utilizing different codings on response forms, it can be determined which message drew the more significant percentage of requests or orders.

Cost per inquiry (CPI): A simple arithmetical formula derived by dividing the total cost of a mailing or an advertisement by the number of inquiries received.

Cost per order (CPO): Similar to Cost Per Inquiry except based on actual orders rather than inquiries.

Cost per piece (CPP): Total cost to produce each individual mail piece divided by the total quantity mailed. Includes all agency, data, production and back-end processing costs.

Cost per thousand (CPM): A standard way to compare costs. The entire promotional cost of a mailing package is divided by one thousand. May include all operations to get packages into the mail stream: production; rental of outside mailing lists; postage costs; and fulfillment.

Coupon: A promotional piece intended to be filled in by the inquirer or customer and returned to the advertiser.

Creative: All elements of a direct mail package, including copy, font style, images, colours, etc.

Criteria: Distinguish one list from another, one segment from another, one selection from another by looking at the attributes of each customer.

Crop marks: Limit lines drawn on a photograph or design area, designed to enhance the illustration by eliminating distracting elements or an extraneous background and establishing where the trim lines for printing will occur.

Cross – section: Statistical selection of a representative sample.

Cross – selling: Encouraging customers to buy products from other departments or categories, beyond the initial offering.

Customer base: Those individuals and companies which you regard as your primary market. In other applications, the phrase is used to identify those who have purchased from you on at least one occasion.

Customer profile: A statistical picture of the typical buyer of your product as drawn from purchasing records and other market research sources. Includes demographic and psychographic descriptions, containing such data as customer’s size, location, type of industry, dollar amount of orders, buying habits, etc.


Database: A collection of tables which often includes forms for entering data, rules for checking and validating data that which has been entered, and the format for creating informative reports.

Data Capture: The entry of data records onto a computer file.
Data card: Information/description of a specific mailing list – source, type of buyers, titles (if appropriate), recency of list, prices, selection options, etc. Available from brokers or list owners.
Data Enhancement: Improving the quality of the data, i.e. Changing the casing of the data, improving the post code, breaking up the salutation field into Title Initial Surname, and much more! Call us if you need some help.
Data Entry: Entering names and addresses into a computer one at a time from printed or hand written material.
Data Processing: Actions taken on data files such as sortation, file formatting, generating salutations, suppression, deduplication etc.
Data Protection Act: 1984 Act of Parliament guaranteeing certain rights to individuals and control of the use of personal data held on a computer. The most well known of the rights is that of examining a computer record held by a company by the individual in the data record.
Data Record: An individual entry within a computer file containing – in mailing terms – the name and address plus demographic data of the person named within the record. A group of records makes a data file.

Demographics: Socio-economic characteristics pertaining to a geographic unit (city, postal codes, group of households, education, ethnicity, income level, etc.)

Direct Mail: Is the delivery of advertising material to recipients of postal mail.

Direct Marketing: Direct Marketing generates profitable business results by using targeted communications to engage specific audiences through a combination of relevant messaging and offers that can be tracked, measured, analyzed, stored and leveraged to drive future marketing initiatives.

Direct Marketing Advisor: An experienced direct marketing person whom can help coordinate every aspect of a mailing – from strategy right through to deployment.

Digital proof: An off-press color proof produced from digital data without the need for traditional separation films.

Direct response advertising: Advertising, through any medium (such as mail, TV, print) designed to generate a response by any means that is measurable.

Drop rate: The calendar date, generally determined at time of scheduling the campaign, when the direct mail package is due for delivery to CPC.

Dummy (mock-up): A diagram or representation which indicates how the promotional piece will appear when printed and ready for mailing.

Dump: Printed display of a data file or a portion of that data file for purposes of reviewing data prior to personalization.

Dupes (de-dupe): Two or more identical names and addresses on the same mailing list. To achieve cost efficiencies remove duplicate names (de-dupe) must be performed.

Duplication elimination: A database cleansing process which provides that no matter how many times a name and address is on a list, and how many lists contain that name and address, it will be accepted for mailing only once by that mailer. Also referred to a “dupe elimination”.

Duplex lasering: A laser printing term that indicates two-sided imaging (front and back of promotional piece)


Exchange: A transaction where two mailers exchange equal quantities of mailing list names.

Expiration date: An imposed deadline for ordering beyond which time either the offer will be withdrawn or product price increased. It is often used to create a sense of urgency in the mind of the receiver.


Feature: A specific advantage built into the product

File: A structured collection of customer records.

Film proof: Proofs made from the separate plates in color process work, showing the sequence of printing and the result after each additional color has been applied.

Flap: An “extra” section added to standard size paper which is then folded over. Normally used to highlight some aspect of the offer or to act as the response device.

Flyer: An offer detailed on a single sheet of paper as opposed to a brochure or catalogue format.

Focus group: A research approach which gathers a group of present or prospective buyers in one location and through presentations and questioning, by a moderator, seeks opinions on products, services, ad campaigns, offers, etc. Those selected for the focus group should have a profile similar (if not identical to) the intended target audience.

Format: The actual structure of the mailing piece.

Forward sortation area (FSA): A three-character code indicating a Canada Post Corporation distribution area. It is the first three characters of the postal code. In urban areas, it describes an area roughly the size of 25 letter carrier routes.

Free ride: A second promotion piece added to an already planned and scheduled mailing – without resulting in additional postal charges.

Free-standing insert (FSI): A promotional piece loosely inserted or nested in a newspaper or magazine.

Frequency: How often a customer has purchased or responded in a given time period. It also may describe the number of times a promotion piece is mailed to the same target.

Front end: Activities necessary, or the measurement of direct marketing activities, leading to an order or a contribution.

Front-End Premium: An item (such as return address labels) offered to a donor in a direct mail package, usually at no charge, to encourage them to make a donation.

Fulfillment: The process which involves responding to the responder – either by providing additional information, shipping or billing products ordered.

FPO (for placement only): A term placed on copy and images during draft creative stage, which is not final and only to be referred to for placement only.


Hot-line list: The most recent names available on a specific list, with names no older than three months.

House list: An internal directory of your own buyers or prospects. May include current and former (but now inactive) purchasers.


Indicia: A printed artwork box in the top right hand corner of an envelope indicating that postage has been paid by the mailer.

Invalid record: Any customer record which is mechanically unacceptable, which does not conform to the list owner’s editing rules or which does not meet the list user’s specifications.


John Samples: Project samples, with personalization defaulted to “John Sample”, and used for future reference.

Johnson Box: Wording that appears at the top of a letter highlighting the key benefits and offer of a mailing.


Kill file: Deleting customer records from a file for a number of reasons, such as expiration, inactivity, change in demographic status and so forth.

Kindness index: An impact report based on statistical and behavioural patterns of your current customer base. Your database is ranked by Postal Walk using two variables: Customers per Walk, Revenue per Walk.


Laser printing: It is common for direct mail forms to be preprinted and then variable copy is “lasered” for more sophisticated customization. The process is similar to a photocopy machine where the laser printer uses a laser beam, toner and fuser to “etch” the image onto a photoelectric drum.

Lead-in: Words, phrases or sentences which precede and “set up” a following headline.

Letter shop: An outside vendor providing a variety of mailing services including any or all of the following: addressing, labeling, folding, collating, assembling, inserting, metering, sorting, etc.(Same as Mail house – Russell House Marketing is an example of a Letter shop)

Letter text set-ups: The portion of a letter that is constant for all recipients prior to personalized text being added. It usually constitutes most of the letter’s body copy, with room for several insertions of a recipient’s name and address.

Life time value (LTV): Total profit or loss calculation (more complex than simple profitability measurement) realized over the active life of the customer.

Lift letter: Similar to a back slip (in that it offers additional reassurance or a further inducement to buy) except that it is presented in letter format over the mailer’s signature.

List cleaning: A process by which list names are checked for accuracy of address, title, location, etc. Accomplished by letter, postcard or other request form directed to the receiver.

List (mailing list): Names and addresses of individuals and/or companies having in common specific interest, characteristics or activity.

List broker: An organization offering a variety of lists, from a variety of sources, for rental or outright purchase.

List catalogue: A directory which identifies (and normally provides brief descriptions of) available mailing lists.

List compiler: An organization, service bureau (or individual) active in “developing” mailing lists from directories, government records and other public sources.

List manager: One who, as an employee of a list owner or as an outside agency, is responsible for the use, by others, of a specific mailing list(s). The list manager generally services the list owner in several or all of the following capacities: list maintenance (or advise thereon), list promotion and marketing, list clearance and record keeping, collecting for use of the list by others.

Lives: Prior to lasering, live lasers are generated with data applied to the letter copy to check for accuracy.

Local delivery unit (LDU): The last three characters of a postal code which denote a very small and easily defined section within an area described by the FSA. These characters can specify one side of a city block, an apartment building, an office building or a large firm or organization which does considerable business with the Post Office. They can also denote service from a post office or postal station.

Long copy: A detailed and lengthy approach to describing the product or service, its uses, benefits, features and the like versus those of competitive products. As a general rule, expensive or complex products or unique services require longer copy — since it is sometimes necessary to “educate” the prospect.


Magalogue: A mail order catalogue that includes paid advertisements, and in some cases brief editorials, making it similar to a magazine format.

Mail house: An outside vendor providing a variety of mailing services including any or all of the following: addressing, labeling, folding, collating, assembling, inserting, metering, sorting, etc.(Same as Letter shop – Russell House Marketing is an example of a Mail house.)

Market penetration: The proportion of buyers on a file to the total list or to the total area. For business lists, penetration is usually analyzed by two-digit or four-digit SIC.

Matrix: Model relating marketing strategy to general strategic direction. It maps out what cells will receive what direct mail piece and all the components that are to be included within each piece.

Merge / Purge: The processing of two or more lists and the merging of same into one. At the same time, the “purge” process eliminates duplicate names.

Meter: A process of affixing postage to an envelope.

Monetary value: Total expenditures by a customer during a specific period of time, generally twelve months.

Multi-media: A selling approach which includes a variety of promotional mediums from among direct mail, telemarketing, space advertising, radio or television commercials, etc.

Multiple buyer: One who has bought two or more times (not one who has bought two or more items, one time only); also a Multi-Buyer or Repeat Buyer.

Multiple dwelling: A housing unit for three or more families at the same address. For adequate delivery to apartment dwellers it is necessary to include the apartment number in the address. Multi-dwelling families can be selected or omitted on major compiled files.


National distribution guide (NDG): A guide produced by Canada Post Corporation which sets out mail preparation requirements and schematic for publications mail, addressed admail and catalogue mail.

Net name arrangement: An agreement, at the time of ordering or before, whereby the list owner agrees to accept adjusted payment for less than the total names shipped to the list user. Such arrangements can be for a percentage of names shipped or names actually mailed (whichever is greater) or for only those names actually mailed (without a percentage limitation).

Nixie: The return, by the post office, of a mailing piece that proves undeliverable because of an inaccurate name or address. Most mailers process such returns against records to eliminate invalid or inactive names.

Non-name addressing: The process by which business mailings are directed to a title or function (Controller, Personnel Director) rather than a specific name.

Nth name: A method of testing the pulling power of a list by asking the list source to provide a representative sampling. This could be every 10th name, 20th name or whatever mathematical selection will provide a valid representation.


Occupant addressing: Use of the word “Occupant” in place of a specific name. This device is used primarily for consumer-oriented mailings to residential addresses. It may also be used in addition to the customer name if it is likely the customer has moved and the mailing is not targeted to an individual.

Offer: The specific proposition being presented to the reader and encompassing product, price and supporting copy.

One-Time Usage: On a standard list rental, it is agreed that the mailer will use supplied names only once. If subsequent mailings to the same audience are planned, extra payments are required.

Opacity: The extent of “read-through” possible from an unopened envelope to its contents or from one page of a multi-sheet package to the sheets which follow. The amount of “read-through” is determined by the type and weight (density) of the paper stock used.

Overlays: The authorized use of a list to add information and data, through match identification, by tagging to another list. The transfer can be demographics, a telephone number, a job function, even psychographic data on buying habits.


Package: The total of all elements (brochure, catalogue or flyer; buck slips; lift letters or similar enclosures; response devices, BRE or BRC, etc.) which, together, make up the promotion mailing.

Pass along: In newspaper or magazine publishing, and in direct mail, this phrase is used to describe the “secondary” reader beyond the original subscriber or addressee.

PDF(portable document format): A software by Adobe that allows previewing documents, especially creative layouts, across various computer platforms.

Personalization: Printing personal information, such as a first or last name, in a direct mail campaign.

Personalized letter: A standard format letter that can have variable information by inserting the receiver’s name, location, prior purchases or other data.

PMS (pantone matching system): PMS is the acronym given to colour codes associated with a specific ink library. Print shops often refer to a PMS colour.

Poly bag: Transparent polyethylene bag used in place of envelopes for mailing.

Postal Code: A group of six characters used by Canada Post Corporation to designate specific Post Offices, stations, branches, buildings or large companies. In urban areas, the LDU in conjunction with the FSA contain enough information to determine the destination of a letter right down to one side of a city street between intersections, and sometimes even further.

Postal Code sequence: Arranging names and addresses in a list according to the numeric progression of the Postal Code in each record.

Premium: The addition of a gift to an offer to induce a greater response. Usually, a buyer who responds may keep the premium, which raises the cost per completed sale, even if the product ordered is subsequently returned or cancelled.

Presort: CPC offers discounts for those who prepare the mail for direct delivery to post offices or to carriers at post offices.

Pressure-sensitive label: A label that can be removed from its backing and reaffixed to another surface, such as an order form.

Price testing: Offering the same product or service at two levels of pricing to determine which is most effective in producing revenue and income.

Print-ready: Copy, illustrations or photographs in final, proofed format and requiring no additional processing before being delivered for printing.

Process colours (CMYK): The four basic colours of ink used in process colour printing are cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y) and black (K). These ink colours are transparent and “process” with each other when overprinted in predetermined amounts.

Projection: An estimate of expected returns from a particular mailing campaign or a determination of total returns developed from responses during the early days or weeks of offering.

Proof: First print or copy of a mailing piece. A photograph prior to re-touching or cropping.

Prospect universe: The total market of potential customers. The “universe” is developed through the determination of buyer profiles, evaluation of prior mailing results or other marketing studies.

Prospecting: Mailing to get leads for further sales contact rather than to make direct sales.

Psychographics: Any characteristics or qualities used to denote the life style(s) or attitude(s) of customers or prospective customers.

Purge: Eliminating duplicates and unwanted names and addresses from one or more lists.

Pyramid testing: A process in which increasingly more significant portions of a mailing list are tested – until the full list is sampled or a determination is made that the list is unproductive.


Qualified leads: Names and addresses of individuals who have taken a positive action to indicate a genuine interest in a given type of offer.


Random proof: A film proof of an image outputted in order to approve colours before printing (see Film Proof).

Recency: The latest purchase or other activity recorded for an individual or business on a specific customer list.

Record: A collection of related data or words treated as one unit, e.g., customer name and address, could constitute one record.

Record layout: A written, field by field description of the data contained in a record, typically describing each field as to its length, beginning and ending positions, name, editing characteristics and data format (I.e. character, hex, packed, etc.).

Reply card: A sender-addressed card included in a mailing on which the recipient may indicate his response to the offer.

Response device: The coupon, request form or order blank by which the reader replies.

Response rate: A method of quantifying the success ratio of a mailing based on the number of sales or inquiries vs. the number of promotion pieces mailed. Normally stated as a percentage (i.e., total inquiries divided by total mailing quantity).

Retention: Communication with existing customers, based on customer behavior, directly aimed at building long term loyalty.

Return envelopes: Addressed reply envelopes, either stamped or unstamped – as distinguished from business reply envelopes (BRE) which carry a postage payment guarantee – included with a mailing.

Return on investment (ROI): Determined by a basic formula, measures how effectively the marketing investment is used to generate net profit from an activity. The higher the ROI, the better.

Return postage guaranteed (RPG): An endorsement printed on the address face of envelopes or other mailing pieces if the mailer wishes the postal service to return undeliverable mail.

Reverse type: Copy which is printed in white against a color background (also known as “drop-out” printing). Can be effective in highlighting part of the message but sometimes difficult to read, it should be used sparingly.

RFM (recency-frequency-monetary value ration): A formula used to evaluate the sales potential of names on a mailing list.

RFQ (request for quotation): A standard business process whose purpose is to invite suppliers into a bidding process to bid on specific products or services.

Roll fold: A method of folding that involves rolling one end of the piece up to the other end, leaving one closed edge.

Roll out: The process of launching a mailing campaign upon completion of promotion development, printing, selection of audiences, testing and acquisition of lists.

ROP (run of paper): When a direct response advertisement in a newspaper does not have a specified section and can be placed anywhere.


Salutation: How the customer is addressed in the beginning of a letter in a direct mail piece. (I.e. Dear, To, Hello)

Seed list: The inclusion of additional names in a mailing list before it is released for rental or use. These additional names are selected employees of the list owner who are required to monitor how and when the list has been used. This practice allows list owners to evaluate time and quality of delivery and safeguard against unauthorized use. The procedure is also known as “seeding” the list.

Segmenting: Division of a mailing list by some internally established criteria – city, province, postal code, company size, prospect titles, etc.

Selection criteria: Definition of characteristics that identify segments or subgroups within a list.

Self-mailer: A promotion piece designed so that it can be addressed (or labelled) and mailed without an envelope.

Sheet fed press: An offset printer that prints on paper which is fed one sheet at a time. Used primarily for short runs or higher-quality printing.

Short copy: As the phrase implies, a brief presentation of the “story”. Most effective when the product requires no explanation as to purpose or use. Focus is on benefits, features and price.

Simplex: A laser printing term that indicates one-sided imaging.

Slippage: The discrepancy between test and volume mailings.

Slit & nest: Folding and cutting a single sheet of paper in order to produce two or more personalized direct mail package components.

Social media: Are media channels for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques.Examples include Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.

Software evaluation and recognition program (SERP): Canada Post Corporation has developed a testing program called Software Evaluation and Recognition Program (SERP) which evaluates software packages for their ability to validate and/or validate and correct mailing lists to Canada Post requirements. Once the evaluation is complete, Canada Post publishes a list of all “recognized” software packages. This list of recognized packages is available on the Canada Post website.

Solo-mailing: A one-time or single mailing as opposed to a continuing series of communications (also called Standalone mailing).

Source codes (marketing code): Internally developed codes (letters, numbers or combinations) printed on response forms so returns can be tallied as to sources of promotion material. Used to measure selling effectiveness of differing messages.

Split test: Two or more samples from the same list, selected by the same criteria (such as an A/B split) used for testing different packages, offers, mail dates or any other part of the mailing.

Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code: SIC Codes are numerical codes in order to create uniform descriptions of business establishments. SIC codes can be used to identify companies that produce similar products or services.

Statement stuffer: A small, printed piece designed to be inserted in an envelope carrying a customer’s statement of account (See Bill Insert).

Statement of accuracy (SOA): A statement of accuracy (SOA) is used to report the percentage of accurate addresses on a mailing list. Both urban and rural addresses are included in the calculation. The Canada Post Corporation address accuracy standard is 95%, meaning that 95% of the addresses on the database being evaluated are deliverable. This standard must be achieved, otherwise an adjustment is applied to the mail pieces with inaccurate addresses.

Statement of mailing (SOM): A receipt from Canada Post Corporation, outlining all pieces that were mailed, date and the costs incurred.

Stock: The type of paper that a direct mail piece is printed on (I.e. card stock, glossy, matte coated etc.)

Stuffer: A promotion piece mailed with an unrelated communication. The latter could be an acknowledgement form, shipping notification or invoice.

Subscriber list: In normal use, the list of current purchasers of a publication – newspaper, magazine, trade journal, etc. However, many non-publishing companies also use the term “subscriber” as a synonym for a customer.


Target market: The ideal audience for a mailing effort. Usually defined in psychographic and demographic terms.

Tear sheet: A printed proof of a page of copy.

Teaser: An intriguing (and sometimes provocative) question or statement designed to catch reader attention and “pull” them into the copy. Envelope messages are a common use of the teaser.

Test campaign: Introduction of a new product, offer, creative execution or promotion on a small scale to measure/test consumer responsiveness prior to full campaign implementation.

Test panel: A term used to identify each of the parts of samples in a split test.

Testimonial: A statement, letter, comment (or edited version thereof) made by a recent buyer/user which tends to endorse or recommend the product or service being offered. Ideally, the testimonial should identify the individual by name, title, company, affiliation or occupation.

Third party letter: A message over the signature of someone other than the mailer or one of the organization’s employees. Such letters may serve as the total message or as simply one element in a direct mail package.

Tip-on: An item glued to a printed page.

Top 20:  An impact report that identifies your top customers (For example – 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers.)

Truncate: To drop characters at the end of a data field because the field being converted or keyed is too long to fix in the record positions in which it must be stored.


Undeliverable: A mailing piece returned to the mailer as undeliverable for reason of incorrect name or address.

Universe: Total number of individuals that might be included on a mailing list; all of those fitting a single set of specifications.

Upper/Lower conversion: Intelligently converting non-case character data to mixed upper and lower case.


Variable-data Printing: A form of on-demand printing in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process and using information from a database or external file.


Web Press: A printing press that is fed by a large roll of paper instead of individual sheets, and usually used for long print runs.

White mail: Mail that comes in from customers. It can include complaints, commendations, names of friends, orders, cheques, even cash. A very important part of every direct-mail operation.

White space: As the name implies, that portion of the promotion piece left blank, intentionally, without print or illustration. White space eliminates a cluttered look and makes the piece more inviting to the reader.

Window envelope: A mailing envelope with a transparent panel for the address.


Zip count: Number of names in a given mailing list for each Zip Code.