Finding a Direct-Mail House to Send Out Your Collateral Ads - dummies

Finding a Direct-Mail House to Send Out Your Collateral Ads

By Gary Dahl

A direct-mail house, which specializes in sending out collateral ads, can get your business’s collateral ads to your customers. A direct-mail house’s services usually include envelope stuffing, folding, sorting, postage, and so on.

The only difference from one mailing house to the next is the quality of their mailing lists. Ask the mailing house the following questions:

  • When was the list last updated? Look for a house that updates its lists monthly; quarterly at the very outside.

  • Is the data on the mailing list presorted by carrier routes or zip codes, and certified for accuracy of address information? You want your lists to be at least presorted by zip codes so that you receive postage discounts. And certification of accuracy lets you know that you’re getting what you paid for.

  • Can you receive a summary report that breaks out the counts by zip code and other information? The summary report gives a snapshot of the list capabilities and detail (income level, gender, education, and so on) before you make a list purchase decision.

  • Does the house have a minimum charge? List companies set a minimum charge on all lists. What you want to look for when buying a list are minimum charges buried in the small print.

    Postage is the one item for which the direct-mail house requires you to pay in advance before it will send your business’s ads. The direct-mail house must pay for the postage when it delivers the material to the post office, or it will have had to pay upfront to load postage into its postage meter.

  • Is the list charge for one-time or multiple usage? Typically, a multiple-use list costs you about three times as much as a one-time-only use.

  • What’s the charge for output? Your mailing house shows you a price list for the various forms of mailing labels.

  • What are my label printing options (laser, inkjet, dot matrix, and so on)? You can use traditional sticky labels, or you may decide to have the addresses printed directly on the mail piece.

  • Can I include a secondary message on my labels (for example, “preferred customer”)? These secondary messages, generally with a double- or triple-spaced separation, go above the recipient’s name and address.

  • Will I receive a verification of mailing? This verification is either created by the United States Postal Service or the mailing house.

You can easily purchase mailing lists online through various Web sites such as or (both of which claim to own proprietary databases of 210 million U.S. consumers and 14 million U.S. businesses). These kinds of companies provide excellent, in-depth research capabilities — before you even purchase a list.

In addition to a traditional mailing house, Staples, Office Depot, FedEx Office, and most local copy shops now offer this service (onsite and online). They furnish you with a mailing list, print the labels, affix the labels to your mailing pieces, add the postage, sort the pieces by zip code, box them up, and deliver them to the post office.