Direct Mail Jargon Buster | DMA

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Direct Mail Jargon Buster


Like any industry, the world of direct mail and fulfilment comes with its own world of words, phrases and jargon.

And – unless you take a bizarrely in-depth interest in the world of direct mail – it's difficult to know what all of these terms mean.

But if that's you, never fear: our handy jargon buster will help you make head and tail of anything you read about direct mail and fulfilment. In this revised direct mail jargon buster, we have updated and added new terms to help you further.

Direct Mail Terminology


Accordion Fold:

Guess which musical instrument this fold looks like? You got it. With 2+ parallel folds, a letter folded this way looks like an accordion.

Acquisition Mailing:

Any mailer that you send to your prospects with the aim of acquiring them as new customers, clients or members.



You've probably heard this term bandied around a lot. The bleed is that border you see around artwork that will be printed. It is intentional and works as a guide for trimming. It also ensures there aren't any unprinted edges in the final design. Your typical bleed is 3mm. For instance, for an A5 flyer, which is 148mm x 210mm, the total size would be 154mm x 216mm.

Business Reply Card (BRC):

People include a BRC in mailings to encourage a response from recipients. For example, one side of the card will feature a response form, with the return address (usually with pre-paid postage) on the other. BRCs are the sort of thing that charities use a lot. We can either do this for you, or you can create an account with Royal Mail. With this and BRE (below), you only pay for returned envelopes, and the price is around 50p for each mailer.

BRE (Business Reply Envelope):

Similar to BRCs, these allow recipients to respond to direct mail with a pre-paid envelope for their order form or reply slip. Handy for the recipient, you can often expect a greater response rate with a BRE.

Bulk Mail:

It's simply sending out lots of mail (and with a reduced postage cost). The first significant price saving is at the 4,000 quantity.


CTA (Call to Action):

This is any text that's there to incite the desired action from your reader. E.g. Call Today and Receive a 10% Discount.

Card Deck:

A set of postcards which each promotes different products or services. The whole set will be sent in one mailing, and each card would typically feature something trackable, which could gauge the reader's response to each product.

Carrier Sheet:

This is simply the sheet which features a recipient's address. It goes at the front of the mailer.


Standing for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (or black), these are the four inks used in the colour model for the print process.


People refer to "the creative" when talking about the ingredients that go into their direct mail campaign, such as branding, fonts, images, colours and copy.

Crop Marks:

These marks appear in the corners of artwork and simply show where paper needs to be trimmed. Some folk call them "trim marks".

Cleansing Data:

When you update and remove old records in your database, you're cleansing your data. It's best practice to do this after each campaign.

Conversion Rate:

The number of enquiries that have led to a sale. It's typically a percentage. To learn how to increase conversions, click here.

Cost Per Piece:

Divide the total mailing cost by the number of individual items being sent out, and you get your cost per piece.


This file type allows data to be merged for mail purposes. Make sure you save your databases in Excel as CSVs!

Customer Base:

Got a database of the people you've already sold to? That's your customer base.



This is all the personal information you hold on your customers and prospects. Direct mail databases usually include name, address, occupation and email at least.

Data Capture:

Lots of websites use data capture forms to ask prospects to safely enter their data into the company's records.

Data Entry:

When someone manually enters data from some form of hard copy into a computer.

Data Processing:

This is basically anything to do with data; from file formatting to sortation to deduplication.

Data Enhancement:

People do data enhancement to improve the quality of their data. There are several different tasks they might do to achieve better quality, like changing the casing or breaking up the salutation field.

Direct Mail:

Marketing is done by sending a physical piece of advertising in the post to select customers or prospects. Direct mail comes in many different shapes and forms!

Direct Marketing:

The umbrella term that includes things like direct mail. It's the type of physical marketing that goes from businesses to customers or prospects.

Digital Print:

Different from litho printing, digital print happens when an image goes directly to the printer as a digital file. It's usually used for small, personalised print runs.


You'd be hard-tasked to target the right people with direct mail if you didn't have some demographical info to help. Demographics like gender, age, location and income will all help you get your mailings in front of the right people.


A print on both sides of one piece of paper.



Popping printed materials into envelopes. That's it! Sometimes enclosing is done manually, but usually on high-speed machinery.



It's the preparation process between the conception of a direct mail campaign and its collection.

FPO (For Placement Only):

People say this when describing the generic images and copy that have been used for "placement" purposes in a first creative draft. With FPO, a designer can show their client what the final piece will look like before the content is provided.


Gummed Envelope:

The sort of envelope that can be processed by a machine.

Gsm (grams per square metre):

This is the standard measure of paper weight. The higher the number, the thicker the paper.



That's the pre-printed mark that shows postage has been paid. You'll find it in the top right-hand corner of a piece of mail.

Ink Jet Printing:

It's the process used to spray coloured ink onto paper and it's often used for putting addresses onto envelopes.


Litho (or Lithographic) Printing:

This happens when you place the image of your artwork onto a plate and cover it in ink for printing. It's our favourite process for large print runs.

Lead Generation:

Done in all sorts of ways, lead generation – well – generates leads. It's how you identify your potential customers for your future marketing.

LTV (Lifetime Value):

How much net profit could a customer make you over time? That's their LTV. Rather than how much they make on the first purchase, consider how much they will make over the expected time they will remain a customer. LTV is especially pertinent for subscription-based companies.

List Cleaning:

When you check the details of your data are up to date and accurate, you're doing list cleaning. For example, you might check you've got the right address by sending a simple postcard for the recipient to respond to.

List (Mailing List):

Everybody loves their list. It's the set of names, addresses and all the data you've got for your customers and prospects. A good list should include contacts with the same interests, activity or demographics.


Mail Mark:

This is just the barcode that our machines read to help them track and sort mail.

Mail Shot:

When you get in touch with a load of your customers or prospects via direct marketing channels, you're doing a mail shot.

Mail Merge:

When you personalise documents and address labels using the data in your database, you're doing a mail merge.

Mailing House:

Duh, that's us! The company that sorts out the big-scale sending of all your direct marketing for you.


That's just printing in black ink.


Occupant Addressing:

When you don't know the name of your mail's recipient, you put "the occupier".


PDF Proofs:

PDFs are easy to ping about the place so they're the file type that people tend to use to send copies of a final proof to a client.

Poly Wrapping:

This happens when you enclose a mailing inside a clear wrap.


The price you have to pay to post!


When your artwork is signed off and good to go, it's ready for print.


Qualified Leads:

This is what we call the people who take positive action or show real interest in your product, service or offer.



To retain customers and clients, companies do "retention marketing".

Return Address:

That's where your mail will come back to if it can't be delivered.

Return Management:

This is the way you manage your returned mail. It'll include doing things like getting rid of any item that contains personal data and recycling.

Response Rate:

How will you know how effective your mailings have been if you can't work out a response rate? You'll base the calculation on the number of enquiries you received compared with the amount of mail you sent out.

Return Envelopes:

These are just envelopes that feature a returns address and prepaid postage.

ROI (Return on Investment):

It's the measure of how your campaign has performed and is basically the profit you made once you've taken all your costs into consideration.



This is the bit of a letter that addresses the reader; "Dear Chris", for example.


This is how you sort through your data and divide it up into sub-lists (or segments) for you to target. You might segment according to buying patterns, for example.

Seed List:

When you don't want to go hell for leather the first time, you might test your mail shot on a seed list. It's made up of the people who'll be first to receive your mailer. Mailing initially to a seed list will give you some time to review the quality of your campaign.


When you can send something without an envelope, you call it a self-mailer. Think postcards.


The opposite of duplex, this is the simple process of printing onto one side of a piece of paper.

Split Test:

You might like to trial different approaches to see what sort of campaign works best. So you'll split up your data and send different versions of your marketing to each list simultaneously.


Target Market:

Who's your ideal customer? What sets them apart from other consumers? Work that out, and you've worked out your target market.


When you get rid of the characters at the end of any data field that's too long to be stored properly.



If you've got a name or address wrong, your mailer will return as undeliverable.

Upper/Lower Conversion:

This is where you convert non-case character data into mixed upper- and lower-case data.


Window envelope:

You know those envelopes that have a see-through window in the front so that you can see the address on the letter inside? They're window envelopes.

That's it! Phew! If you would like more info, please get in touch today.

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