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Glossary of Direct Marketing Terms and Jargon

It is said that direct marketing has more jargon than just about any other industry. Here are some examples, and explanations, of the more common terms.

Actives: Current subscribers or recent purchasers.

A-I-D-A: Shorthand for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (the four key components of direct marketing copy).

BRC: Business Reply Card. A postage-paid costcard used to place an order, ask about a product, or request additional information.

Buyer or Subscriber: A list of people who have purchased a product, service, or magazine subscription.

Call to Action: Asking someone to do something (call now, click here).

Compiled List: A list of names created from directories, newspapers, or telephone books, rather than a list of people who bought something.

Controlled Circulation Magazine: Free trade magazines that require subscribers to qualify for a subscription. Generally, you must be in certain businesses related to the magazine's content and have the authority to make or influence buying decisions.

Expire: Someone whose subscription to a magazine has recently lapsed.

House List: Your own internal names of customers, inquiries, and prospects.

Indicia: A box on the upper right hand corner of an envelope or postcard that indicates the mailer has paid the appropriate postage; essentially a "stamp" printed directly on the mailing.

Involvement Device: A sticker or label which people place on an order form. The idea is to get recipients to interact with your piece, increasing the chance they will order something. Think of those old Publishers Clearing House sticker sheets.

Key Code: A combination of letters and numbers that identifies the list you used for your mailing. This lets you track how well each one did.

Lettershop: A company that prepares large mailings. They'll stuff the envelopes, seal them, address them, add postage, and take them to the post office.

Merge Purge (or De-duping): The process of eliminating duplicate names from a list or multiple lists from several sources.

Nixie:a mailing piece that is returned because of a bad address.

Nth name: Sampling a list by selecting every third name (or other number) up to a fixed amount. Helpful when you need to fill in names to get up to a minimum number.

Offer: The terms of the product or service that the mailer is selling. This can be a special deal, or just the regular price.

Response Rate: The number of orders or replies received as a percentage of total pieces mailed (or emailed).

Seed: A decoy name inserted into a mailing list by the list owner. This allows them to track when the list is used, and by whom. It is used to catch any unauthorized (and unpaid for) uses of the list. Seeds can also be added to the list by the mailer, to track the actual mailing date and delivery times.

Split-Test Dividing a list into two pieces (not in half, but every other name), in order to test which offer or format (or other variable) gets a higher response.

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