Jargon busting direct mail glossary

Whether you’re familiar with direct mail or are completely brand new to it, it’s always handy to have a resource to guide you on direct mail terminology and jargon.

That’s why we’ve created a handy glossary to capture every direct mail related term we could think of.

After all, even for the seasoned direct mail marketer, there’s always going to be the occasional term that comes along and trips you up.

Bookmark this page if you’re never far away from your next direct mail marketing campaign. You never know when it might come in handy.

Our A to Z of direct mail terms


Accordion fold: A letter with 2 or more parallel folds in it. It opens like an accordion hence the name accordion fold.

Acquisition mailing: A mailer sent to prospects, with the intention of acquiring them as a new customer, client or member.



Bleed: A bleed is an intentional border around artwork to be printed. It acts as a guide for trimming the artwork and ensures the design goes right up to the edge with no unprinted edges in the final design. The bleed is typically 3mm.

Business Reply Card (BRC): To encourage reader response, a BRC or business reply card is included in a mailing. Typically used by charities, one side of the card includes a response form, the other side features the return address and pre-paid postage.

BRE (Business Reply Envelope): When a recipient needs to return an order form or reply slip for example, a BRE or business reply envelope is usually included. It’s a good way of encouraging a greater response rate as the recipient doesn’t need to arrange their own envelope. You’ll often find these envelopes in direct mail campaigns run by charities seeking donations.
Bulk Mail: Describes the act of sending out a large volume of mail, at a reduced postage cost.


CTA (Call to Action): It’s text which encourages an action. In direct mail this is typically a response from the recipient of the mailing.

Card deck: A card deck refers to a set of postcards which each promote a separate product or service, sent in one mailing. Each card would typically include a trackable mechanism to gage a recipient’s response to each service.

Carrier Sheet: Often used in polythene mailings, it’s the sheet which has the recipients address printed on it.

CMYK: CMYK describes the colour model in the printing process, The 4 inks used in some colour printing are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (or black). CMYK for short.

Creative: A broad term which describes all creative elements of a direct mail campaign, including copy, font style, images, colours, branding etc.

Crop Marks: The lines printed in the corners of artwork which indicate where the paper needs to be trimmed. These are sometimes referred to as trim marks.

Cleansing Data: It refers to the process of correcting or removing old records from a database.

Conversion Rate: Typically this is the percentage of enquires that have resulted in a sale.

Cost Per Piece: A simple equation works out your cost per piece. It’s the total cost of a mailing divided by the number of items being mailed.

CSV: Databases in excel files need to be saved as CSV so that the data can be mail merged.

Customer base: This term refers to the database you may have on customers or businesses who have already transacted with you.


Database: A collection of personal information about customers or prospects. Typically, a database for direct mail will include name, address, occupation, email etc.

Data Capture: The entry of data records onto a computer file. Many websites use data capture forms to build up data lists for marketing.

Data Entry: The process of manually entering data into a computer (typically names and addresses) from a handwritten or printed copy.

Data Processing: This term covers a number of actions typically taken on data, It includes file formatting, deduplication, sortation etc.

Data Enhancement: A set of tasks to improve the quality of gathered data. This could be changing the casing, breaking up the salutation field into Initial, title, first name, surname and so on plus many more other tasks like this.

Direct Mail: A marketing method which involves sending a physical piece of promotional material in the post to a selected group of customers or prospects.

Direct Marketing: An umbrella term which includes direct mail. It describes the type of marketing where businesses deliver physical marketing materials to customers or prospects alike.

Digital Print: This is the method of printing where an image is sent direct to a printer using digital files such as a PDF. Digital print is typically used for small personalised print runs.

Demographics: Demographical information will help inform targeting of a direct mail campaign. Typical demographic information will be gender, age, education, location and income etc.

Duplex: A term which describes printing on both sides of a piece of paper.


Enclosing: The process of inserting printed materials into an envelope.


Fulfilment: The process required to prepare a direct mail campaign for collection.

FPO (for placement only): A term used to describe dummy images and copy used in a creative draft. FPO allows a designer to mock up the end result before final image and copy is provided.


Gummed Envelope: A type of envelope which can be processed by a machine.

Gsm: gsm is the measure of paper weight. The greater the gsm, the heavier/thicker the paper. Gsm stands for grams per square metre


Indicia: When postage has been paid, you’ll find the indicia, a pre-printed mark in the upper right corner of a piece of mail.

Ink Jet Printing: Commonly used for printing addresses on envelopes, ink jet printing is a process of spraying mono or coloured ink onto paper.


Litho Printing: It’s our preferred methods of printing for large runs. In litho printing the image of the artwork you want to produce is placed on to a plate which is then covered in ink and used for printing. Litho printing is also known as lithography (its full name) or offset printing.

Lead Generation: The process of identifying potential customers for future marketing efforts.

LTV: Short for Lifetime Value, LTV is an estimate of how much net profit a customer will potentially generate during their relationship with a company.

List cleaning: List cleaning involves checking data lists for accuracy. Factors like address, location and title can all be checked as part of a list clean. This can be achieved by sending a letter or postcard to the recipient for confirmation.

List (mailing list): A set of names and address for companies and/or individuals. Typically, the mailing list will include contacts with common interests, characteristics or activity.


Mail Mark: A mail mark is a barcode which can be read by a machine in order to track and sort mail.

Mail Shot: This describes the process of contacting a large group of customers or prospects via direct marketing channels i.e. through the post.

Mail Merge: A mail merge is the process of creating personalised documents, letters and address labels using data collected from a data base.

Mailing House: That’s us! A mailing house is a company that prepares and organises large scale dispatch of letters, packets and parcels.

Mono: Put simply, it’s printing in black only.


Occupant addressing: Occupant or ‘the occupier’ is often used in place of a name on a mailing where the recipient is unknown.


PDF Proofs: Documents are usually saved as a PDF or portable document format for proofing. A PDF can easily be sent to a client to give them an idea of the end result.

Poly Wrapping: Poly wrap is a clear wrap which can be used to enclose a mailing.

Postage: The cost of sending out letters or parcels by post.

Print-ready: Artwork, be that in the form of copy, photo or illustration which has been proofed and requires no additional work before being delivered for printing.


Qualified leads: Details of individuals who have taken a positive action, showing genuine interest in a given type of offer.


Retention: Marketing efforts made by a company to retain customers or clients on an ongoing basis.

Return Address: If an item of mail can’t be delivered it will be sent back to the return address.

Return Management: The process of managing any returned mail. This typically includes things like securely destroying any items with personal data, sending back mail to a client or recycling where possible.

Response rate: A calculation to determine the effectiveness of a mailing based on the number of sales/enquires vs the number of mailings sent out. (e.g. total enquires divided by the total mailing quantity.)

Return envelopes: Envelopes included in a mailing with an address and prepaid postage.

ROI: Return on investment is the measure of performance from a campaign. It’s a calculation of the amount of return made on an investment, relative to the investment’s cost.


Salutation: The part of a letter which addresses the reader. For example, “Dear John” or “Dear Sir” etc.

Segmentation: The process of sorting data for customers or prospects by variants such as demographics, interests or buying patterns to name just a few.

Seed list: A way of testing a mail shot before it is sent to the full database. A seed list includes a series of names of individuals who will receive the mailer first, allowing for time and quality of delivery to be reviewed.

Self-mailer: A self-mailer is a marketing item that can be addressed and mailed without an envelope. Typically, self-mailers come in the form of a postcard.

Simplex: Put simply, simplex describes printing onto a single side of paper.

Split test: Dividing up data to trial different approaches, be that look and feel, promotions, size, audience etc.


Target market: The selection of an ideal audience for a mailer. There are many determining factors which can be explored such as location, interests and behaviour.

Truncate: To remove characters at the end of a data field if the field being converted or keyed in is too long to fix in the record positions in order for it to be stored.


Undeliverable: A mailing item which has to be returned to the mailer as undeliverable due to an incorrect name or address.

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


Window envelope: An envelope used for mailing letters with a transparent window so the address on the letter can be seen.

Talk to the specialists

We’re a professional mailing house and print services provider based in Leeds West Yorkshire. We have the know-how, equipment and resources to deliver on any direct mail campaign and do just that for a number of clients, big and small.

But it’s not just direct mail we can help you with. We offer fully integrated print and mailing solutions so we can handle every aspect for you.

If you’re franking your mail you’re paying too much for your postage. We offer bulk postage rates guaranteed to be cheaper than franking or stamps.

Contact us today to see how we can help.

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