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The terms that define direct marketing

Per thousand.


Per million.

AOV (average order value):
The average amount of each customer order.

Above the Fold:
The part of an email message or Web page that’s visible without scrolling.

The capacity a paper has for accepting liquids, like the inks of water used to run offset lithographic presses.

Accordion Fold:
Parallel folds that open like an accordion.

Acid-free paper:
Paper manufactured on a machine with wet-end chemistry controlled to a neutral or slightly alkaline pH.

Slang for Advertisement – an individual message about products and services.

Ad Campaign:
The promotion of a product or service including the package, market, offer, product, and frequency.

Ad Copy:
Headline and text for an ad.

Advertising Space:
Physical area on which print ad is displayed.

A logical connection between a mailer’s offer and the names/data on a list.

The degree of agreement, conformance and consistency among organization purpose, vision and values; structures, systems, and processes; and individual skills and behaviors.

Aqueous coating:
A water-based coating applied after printing to give a gloss, dull of matte finish, and help prevent the ink from rubbing off.

Consumers that an advertiser wants to reach.

Automation-compatible Mail:
Mail that can be scanned and processed by automated mail processing equipment such as a barcode sorter.

Horizontal ribbon-like signs typically reserved for outdoor exposition advertising.

The nine-digit ZIP code translated into a coding structure of vertical bars and half bars used in order to speed the sorting of mail and enabling mailers to take a discount on postage. The USPS had asked mailers to switch to a four state barcode, which would replace the 30-plus codes throughout the postal system currently.

Base Rate:
The cost to rent a list sans any additional selects.

A measurement or standard that serves as a point of reference by which process performance is measured.

A structured approach for identifying the best practices from industry and government, and comparing and adapting them to the organization’s operations. Such an approach is aimed at identifying more efficient and effective processes for achieving intended results, and suggesting ambitious goals for program output, product/service quality, and process improvement.

Best Practices:
The processes, practices or systems identified in public and private organizations that performed exceptionally well and are widely recognized as improving an organization’s performance and efficiency in specific areas.

Business Reply Card.

Business Reply Envelope.

An image of printed color that runs off the trimmed edge of a page.

Break Even Analysis:
Calculating the number of customers needed to cover the cost of a promotion.

The reflectivity of pulp, paper or paperboard under test conditions.

Bulk Mail:
Mail that is rated for postage partly by weight and partly by the number of pieces in the mailing. The term is generally used to refer to Standard Mail.

Bulk Mail Center (BMC):
A highly mechanized mail processing plant that distributes Standard Mail in piece and bulk form.

Business List:
Any list of individuals of companies based on business-related interest, inquiry, membership, subscription of purchase.

Business Mail Entry Unit (BMEU):
The area of a postal facility where mailers present bulk, presorted and permit mail for acceptance.

Card Deck:
A cooperative pack of postcards, usually mailed in a clear poly outer, that is used in both consumer and business-to-business direct marketing. The postcard, which either orders that product or asks for more information, can be mailed back to the individual advertiser.

Grade of paper usually 75 pounds or higher – suitable for postcards and is usually used as a return mailer.

Carrier Route:
A specific code used by the postal service to specifically identify a geographical area. Carrier routes are used to define an NTA.

Carrier Route Sort:
The process of arranging a mailing list in thee order of a postal carrier’s delivery route. The USPS gives additional postage discounts for this sorting.

Catalog Bind-ins:
Freestanding advertising pieces glued into the seam of a catalog of magazine.

Catalog Blow-ins:
Freestanding inserts nested inside catalogs or magazines.

Classified Ad:
Specialized, text-only newspaper advertising by category.


A clickthrough occurs when a recipient clicks on a link included in an e-mail.

Clickthrough Rate (CTR):
The total number of clicks on e-mail links divided by the number of e-mails sent.

Abbreviation for the four process color inks: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Also known as four-color process color.

Coated paper:
Paper with an outer layer of coating applied to one or both sides, available in a variety of finishes, such as gloss, dull, and matte.

Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS):
Created by the U.S. Postal Service to ensure the accuracy of software programs used by service bureaus to check addresses and code mailings for delivery.

Color Proofing:
Proofs made from the separate plates in color process work.

Color Separation:
Literally separating the areas of a piece to be printed into its component spot and process ink colors.

Commercial Database Management:
Professional management of large compiled databases for list segmentation and rental.

Compiled List:
Any list created from compilation of public sources such as phone books, deed information, directories, newspapers and courthouse records.

Computer Service Bureaus:
A company that will maintain lists for list owners. Services may include: updating that list, merge/purge, data overlays and preparing the list for mailing or rentals.

A consolidator accepts mail for deposit within a particular type of delivery service. By grouping together mail from more than one company, consolidators are often able to obtain higher volume discounts than an independent mailer.

Consultative Selling:
Selling solutions as opposed to pushing a product.

Persons to whom advertising in directed.

Consumer Buying Pyramid:
An illustration of the various stages of the buying cycle that a consumer is in at any given time.

Consumer List:
Any list of individuals at home addresses who have bought merchandise, subscriptions, given to a nonprofit, etc.

The degree of difference between light and dark areas in an image.

Conversion Rate:
The rate at which qualified leads convert to sales, calculated by dividing the number of closed leads by the number of qualified leads delivered to the sales force.

Co-op Database:
Two of more list owners combine their lists and access each other’s names.

Cooperative Advertising (Co-Op):
A group of freestanding advertising pieces from several different mailers—including direct mail, inserts, stuffers and card decks.

Cooperative Direct Mail:
When more than one advertiser shares the same delivery package and the cost of mailing.

A promotional device used by marketers to increase sales or store traffic by offering a discount when the coupon is redeemed. Can include discounts, limited time offers, free gift with purchase and in store promotions.

Cost per thousand.

Groups or individuals who have a business relationship with the organization; those who receive and use or are directly affected by the products and services of the organization.

Customer Data Integration (CDI):
The combination of technology, software, processes and services needed to achieve a single, accurate and complete view of the customer across multiple sources of customer data, databases and business lines.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM):
A business strategy designed to optimize profitability, revue and customer satisfaction by organizing the enterprise around customer segments, fostering customer-centric behavior and implementing customer-centric processes.

Cycle or Mailing Cycle:
Period of time between Valpak mailings starting the first day after the final order date (deadline) up to the next final order deadline.

Data Hygiene:
The process of keeping data up-to-date. Hygiene tactics include the development of processes to capture all non-delivered mail and update the database accordingly.

Data Mining:
The process of identifying previously unknown relationships and patterns in data, in particular customer databases, to solve a business problem.

Database Modeling:
Using statistical techniques to predict future customer behavior.

Data Overlays:
The matching of two or more lists that contain the same names or addresses but where one list adds additional data such as demographics of geographics to the other.

Database Analysis:
Interpreting information within the database to gain customer insight and improve marketing efficiency.

List information including counts, demographics, pricing, etc.

Delivery Sequence File (DSF):
A computerized file of more than 125 million records containing all the addresses in the U.S. Each address record features ZIP+4, carrier route, delivery sequence; accurate and complete addresses on the lists they own and rent as well as code their mail for walk sequence discounts from the postal service.

Social and economic information about human populations including age, sex, income, education, type of residence, ownership of cars, etc.

Destination-Oriented Advertising:
Media that consumers go to solely for its advertising. Opposite of Interruptive Advertising (Valpak vs television commercials).

Using a formed metal-edged die to precision cut, or to cut shapes into a piece of paper.

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

Digital Printing:
A type of printing that requires no film or plates, where digital information is fed directly onto the imaging units.

Direct Mail:
Using the U.S. Postal Service to deliver your message. Can be used for consumer and for business-to-business offers.

Designated Market Areas (DMAs) are used by Nielsen Media Research to identify TV stations whose broadcast signals reach a specific area. There are currently 210 DMA’s in the US.

Do-not-call Lists:
Lists of consumers who do not wish to receive telemarketing calls.

DPI (dots per inch):
The number of dots that fit horizontally and vertically into a one-inch measure.

Dull Coated:
Finish that falls between glossy and matte.

A two-color halftone image created with two screens, two plates, and two colors.

Scheduled series of TV and/or radio commercials over a specific time period (i.e. one week).

Full page print ad usually 8 1/2” x 11” or larger.

Format or Format Options:
Radio: Type of music and other programming.
Direct Mail: Size and design of actual mailing piece.
Free standing Insert: A promotional piece that is loosely inserted into a newspaper or magazine.
Freemium: A free gift included in the mailing package, intended increase response.

Number of times an ad is presented to consumers.

All activities related to the processing of information requests and product/service orders that come in via mail, phone, fax and internet. Also see Literature Fulfillment, Subscription Fulfillment and Product Fulfillment.

Two or more parallel folds on a sheet of a paper with end flaps folding inward.

General Discount Offer:
Dollars or percent off any purchase rather then a specific purchase.

The process of appending the latitude and longitude coordinates to database records so it can be properly placed on a geographical map.

A computer system for capturing, storing, checking, integrating, manipulating, analyzing and displaying data related to positions on the Earth’s surface. Typically, GIS is used for handling maps of one kind or another. These might be represented as several different layers where each layer holds data about a particular kind of feature (e.g. roads). Each feature is linked to a position on the graphical image of a map. Layers of data are organized to be studied and perform statistical analysis (i.e. a layer of customer locations could include fields for Name, Address, Contact, Number, Area). Uses are primarily government related, town planning, local authority and public utility management, environmental, resource management, engineering, business, marketing and distribution.

The measure of a sheet’s surface reflectivity.

A printed picture that uses dots to simulate the tones between light and dark.

A proprietary color separation process, developed by Pantone that uses six instead of four process colors.

HH (Households):
Locations that receive Valpak and Solo Values.

Hotline Names:
Most recent buyers on a list.

The process of identifying individuals on the customer database residing at the same address.

Imprinted designation on mail that denotes postage payment (e.g., permit imprint).

In-Home Dates:
The date a mailing is delivered to households.

Ink Jet Printing:
Printing technology that uses jets of ink droplets driven by digital signals to print the same or variable information directly on paper without a press- or copier-like device.

Insert Media:
Any means of reaching consumers via print other that by using solo direct mail and space advertising, including: cooperative mailings, card decks, package inserts, statement stuffers, blow-ins/bind-ins and free-standing inserts.

Interruptive Advertising:
Any ad that distracts from subject matter an audience is paying attention to (i.e. TV of radio commercials).

A set of unique alphabetical/numeric characters recorded on the response device, so that its return tells the marketer which list produces the response.

Paper printed with name and address that is affixed to the mailing piece and serves as that mailing address vehicle. Different types of labels include: peel-off of pressure-sensitive labels, gummed labels and paper (or Cheshire) labels.

Laser Printing:
Similar to a photocopy machine, the laser printer uses a laser beam, toner and fuser to etch the image onto a photoelectric drum.

Lead (sometimes also referred to as a qualified lead):
An inquiry that met the agreed-upon qualification criteria, such as having the right budget, decision-making authority, need for the product or service, and readiness to make the purchase.

Lead Generation:
The process of identifying prospective customers and qualifying their likelihood to buy, in advance of making a sales call.

Lead Conversion:
When a lead becomes a sale.

A relief printing method using cast metal type or plates on which the image or printing area is raised above the nonprinting areas. Ink rollers touch only the top surface of the raised areas; the nonprinting areas are lower and do not receive ink. The inked image is transferred directly to the page, resulting in the type of images that may actually be depressed or debossed into the paper by the pressure of the press.

A company that will assemble and insert the various printed elements of a direct mail piece, label, sort, tag, and deliver that mailings to the post office for mailing. The lettershop will provide the mailer with written proof of delivery to the USPS.

The predictable patterns on customer behavior occurring from the first interaction with a business through the last.

Lifetime Value:
The lifetime value of a customer is the net profit the customer generates over their lifecycle.

List Broker:
A list specialist hired by a mailer to make the necessary arrangements to use other companies’ lists. Brokerage services usually include: research, list selections, recommendations and logistics so that the rented lists arrive at the proper time. The standard commission to a list broker is 20 percent.

List Cleaning:
The process of updating a list in order to remove any undeliverable addresses. Other cleaning activities could include removing duplicates, bad debts, names on the DMA Mail Preference Service, prison ZIPs, etc.

List Maintenance:
The ongoing process of keeping a mailing list up-to-date by adding, editing and deleting data.

List Manager:
Whereas a list broker works for a mailer, the list manager works for the list owner. The primary function is to promote the list to mailers and list brokers for list rental. List managers can be either an internal employee of the list owner, or part of an outside list management company paid a commission by the list owner. Management services usually include: marketing of the list coordinating and controlling rental activity and accounting. The standard commission for a list manager is 10 percent.

Long Term Value:
Value of a customer over an extended period. This can be several years.

Mail Date:
The day on which printed pieces leave the production plant.

Mail Evaluation and Readability Lookup Instrument (MERLIN):
The USPS’ tool for evaluating letter and flat-rate mail pieces to determine their qualification for discounted automation rates. One of the tests MERLIN performs is for barcode readability. Pieces that do not meet MERLIN requirements are not eligible for discounts.

A group of Valpak envelopes or single printed pieces delivered by mail on a specific date.

Mailing Cycle or Cycle:
Period of time between Valpak mailings starting the first day after the final order date (deadline) up to the next final order deadline.

Mail Monitoring:
Mailers track their mail in order to verify content within the direct mail package and to determine the length of delivery time.

Mail Preference Service (DMA MPS):
The Direct Marketing Association offers a service for individuals who want their names removed from mailings lists so they will stop receiving direct mail.

All NTA’s owned and mailed by a Valpak franchise.

Market Share:
Percent of a specific market reached by a medium.

Overall business plan to sell products and services.

Marketing Consultant:
Person who is paid to advise businesses on how to utilize, advertise and use other marketing resources.

Match Color:
A custom-blended ink that matches a specified color exactly.

Matte Coated:
A non-glossy coating on paper, generally used to refer to papers having little or no gloss.

Any form of communication that reaches the general public and carries advertising. Direct response media would include: space advertising, direct mail, TV, radio, take-ones, card decks, package inserts, cooperative efforts, on-line shopping services.

Media (plural of Medium):
A vehicle for delivering an advertisement message such as direct mail, radio or TV.

Media Mix:
Use of several advertising vehicles for one business promotion.

The process of combining two or more lists into one while, at the same time, identifying and removing duplicates.

Business specific theme of concept presented to consumers in an advertisement.

National Change of Address (NCOA):
A service provided by the U.S. Postal Service, through licensed computer service bureaus, that enables mailers to make any necessary address corrections prior to their mailing being dropped. The mailer provides a magnetic tape that is run against the NCOA bank and then is returned to the mailer with all the corrections made.

Net Names:
The number of names remaining after a merge-purge eliminates all duplicates.

Neighborhood Trade Area – Mapped mailing zones typically composed of 10,000 non-duplicated household addresses within a geographical area based on income levels and carrier routes.

Nth Name Selection:
A fractional unit of selection that is repeated in sampling a mailing list.

Incentive for consumers to motivate response (i.e. FREE or a discounted price).

Offset Printing:
Commercial printing method in which ink is offset from the printing plate to a second roller then to paper.

OHIO (Link to Designing w/i Tutorials):
An acronym for a design concept for Valpak ads. Every OHIO ad consists of the same four building blocks – Offers, Headline, Illustration and Other information.

One-time List Rental:
The list owner agrees to allow the renter to use the list once in return for a fee.

A measure of how opaque a paper is.

Using an outside service rather than performing the work in-house.

The medium used to deliver an advertising message (i.e. Direct Mail, TV, Radio).

Package Insert Program (PIP):
Freestanding pieces placed in the package/shipment-loose or collated in an envelope-with a customer’s order. Offers may be from that same mailer shipping the product or other vendors who pay to be included.

Using/printing personal information such as a first of last name, in a direct mail campaign. See variable Imaging.

A barcode that will allow mailers to track a mail piece, or an entire mail campaign, throughout the U.S.P.S. delivery system.

PMS Color:
Pantone Matching System, a proprietary color system for choosing and matching specific spot colors.

Point of Purchase (POP):
Place where a consumer purchases products and/or services.

Poly Bag:
An outside mailing envelope made of polyethylene instead of paper.

Postage-paid Reply Service:
A service allowing mailers to use a lettershop’s postage-paid permit and have the business-reply mail sent there instead of opening their own account with the USPS.

A free gift offered to a prospect to induce a greater response to the main product or service that is being sold. A premium need not bear any relationship to the product being offered.

The various printing related services, performed before ink is actually put on the printing press (i.e. stripping, scanning, color separating, etc.)

Presorted Mail:
A form of mail preparation, required to bypass certain postal operations, in which the mailer groups pieces in a mailing by ZIP Code or by carrier route or carrier walk sequence (or other USPS-recommended separation).

Press Proof:
A test printing of a subject prior to the final production run.

Price Point Offer:
Specific low price for a product or service on an ad.

Product Code:
A system of letters and numbers used to represent assigned meanings.

Planned series of mailings. Also referred to as a promotion or ad campaign.

The furtherance of the acceptance and sale of merchandise through advertising. Also referred to as a program or ad campaign.

A trail impression of an ad used in making corrections prior to printing.

The process of locating potential customers through outside lists.

Prospect List:
A list of qualified prospects a company believes is likely to order from them.

The qualities or characteristics of individuals which indicate lifestyle, purchasing habits, attitudes and personal values.

Rate Card:
Printed list of advertising fees divided by product code and quantity. Some rate cards are further divided by frequency.

Re-establish your image in the minds of the consumers.

Recency/Frequency/Monetary Value (RFM):
Three measures considered to determine the value of a customer in terms of the time since the last purchase was made, the number of purchases made during a period of time and the dollar value of the purchases made.

Redeem or a Redemption:
To submit an ad with an offer to a business owner in order to receive the discount.

Alignment of the different elements in a printing job.

The process of preparing mail for deposit in the postal system of another country for delivery to its final destination. With A-B-C remail, mail travels as cargo from “Country A” to “Country B” where it enters the postal stream for delivery in “Country C.”

Action on the part of consumer receiving the ad.

Response Booster:
Any device, token, premium or sweepstakes that will help raise the response rate.

Response Lists:
Individuals who have responded to a direct marketing offer, e.g., magazine subscribers, mail order buyers (also response-generated).

Response Rate:
Amount of responses received as a percentage of total promotions mailed.

A business that sells products from a storefront directly to the consumer.

The process of developing a customer, continuing to satisfy him, stimulating him to buy again and more frequently, and keeping him from defecting to the competition.

Return on Investment (ROI):
A figure of merit used to help make capital investment decisions. ROI is calculated by considering the annual benefit divided by the investment amount.

RFM (Recency, Frequency and Monetary value):
A methodology used by marketers to determine appropriate circulation strategies.

The colors used by a computer monitor to create color images on the screen; stands for Red, Green and Blue.

Rich Media:
Creative that includes streaming video, animation and/or audio.

Advertising piece placed in a catalog, circular, etc. mailed from another company.

Risk Analysis:
A technique to identify and assess factors that may jeopardize the success of a project or achieving a goal. This technique also helps define preventive measures to reduce the probability of these factors from occurring and identify countermeasures to successfully deal with these constraints when they develop.

ROI (Return on Investment):
Sales resulting directly from coupon redemption minus the cost of the promotion.

Sample Pack:
Inserts accompany product sample packages, or “goody bags,” which are then distributed within specific markets.

Pressing a channel into a sheet of paper to allow it to fold more easily.

Sectional Center Facility (SCF):
A postal facility that serves as the processing and distribution center (P&DC) for post offices in a designated geographic area as defined by the first three digits of the ZIP Codes of those offices. Some SCFs serve more than one 3-digit ZIP Code range.

False or “dummy” names are added to a mailing list as a way to check delivery and to uncover any unauthorized list usage.

A process of dividing a market into smaller pieces based on demographic, psychographic or behavioral patterns.

Demographic data compiled/used to mail into a more specific segment of a list, e.g., specific states on a national list. A select charge, a fee to pull specific data, typically is applied.

Selective Binding:
The process which allows an advertisement to be inserted into only certain select issues of a magazine, or allows selected pages to be inserted in a catalog.

Sharing Rate:
The percentage of people who view an ad and give it to others to view.

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.

Shelf Life:
The length of time consumers keep ads.

Short Term Value:
Value of a consumer usually associated with one mailing.

Single-piece Rate:
The “undiscounted” or “full” postage rate available for individual pieces of Express Mail, First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, and Package Services.

The computerized process of reorganizing a list from one sequence to another. For example, a file can be sorted by last name, company name, ZIP code, high donors, multi-buyers, recent buyers, etc.

Source Codes:
An identifier that goes with a particular housefile segment or list. The code must be unique to the particular segment and/or list being coded, so marketing and circulation efforts can be measured.

Space Advertising:
Display advertisements in any print publication.

Spot Color:
Single colors applied to printing when process color is not necessary (i.e., one, two and three color printing), or when process colors need to be augmented (i.e., a fluorescent pink headline or a metallic tint).

Statement Stuffers:
Freestanding inserts placed in the monthly billing statements from other reputable companies.

Promotional literature found in racks, often at the grocery store.

Consumers the advertiser is attempting to reach.

An order that is placed for a small quantity of names to see how the list performs. If it performs well, a continuation order for more names is usually placed.

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

Thermal Dye Sublimation:
Proof-making process where pigments are vaporized and float to desired proofing stock.

A finishing applied after printing that creates the raised effect of engraved printing.

An action device; the purpose of which is to involve the prospect in the offer. It can be anything from a coin, peel-off stamp or a punch-out paper piece that is inserted into the order form.

Traffic Generating Offer:
Motivates the consumer to go to the business.

Trim Size:
The final size of a printed piece once it’s been cut to specification.

Universe Count:
The total count (number of names) on a list.

UV coating:
A very slick, glossy coating applied to the printed paper surface and dried on press with ultraviolet (UV) light.

Value of a Customer:
Average ticket or typical amount spent by a customer per visit to a business.

Variable Data Printing:
Digital printing in which information, in the form of text or graphics, is merged from one or more information sources with one or more background pages. One example of variable data printing is a form letter where the name and address of the recipient changes on each letter but the letter body remains the same.

A coating printed on top of a printed sheet to protect it, add a finish, and/or add a tinge of color. Varnish applied to specific areas of a sheet is called spot varnish.

Vegetable-based Ink:
Ink using vegetable oil, rather than petroleum solvents, as the vehicle for carrying pigment.

Web Browser:
The software used for searching the World Wide Web.

Web Press:
A high speed printing press that prints on both sides of a continuous roll of paper rather than individual sheets.

The process of persuading a lapsed customer to buy again.

World Wide Web:
A system of Internet servers comprised of HTML documents and graphics that can link to one another. Not all Internet servers are part of the World Wide Web.



Valpak, one of the leading direct marketing companies in North America, is owned and operated by Cox Target Media, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Media Group. With nearly 170 franchises throughout the United States and Canada, The Blue Envelope® delivers savings and value to nearly 40 million households each month.