Postal Optimization – The Secret to Savings

October 7th, 2022

As of June 2022, the U.S. Postal Service delivers over 425 million pieces of mail each day. If you were in charge of the USPS, making processes move quickly would be at the top of your priority list.

That’s why the USPS uses the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service book of regulations. It defines how a piece of mail is priced for postage, how mail is required to be addressed and all other aspects that help postal processes run more efficiently.

When it comes to direct mail, we’re concerned with two questions the Mailing Standards book answers:

What decreases the cost to mail something?

What increases the chance of the mailer getting to the right place?

USPS pricing is tied to minimizing the effort needed to process mail. If you follow the rules, choose mailer sizes optimized for easy handling, and assure your addresses are correct and complete, you’re going to get a discount on mailing anything over 500 pieces. Getting to that optimal pricing is called pre-sorting. If you or your list builder (NFocus) takes care of it (rather than the post office), you’re going to pay less in postage. The savings can be significant.

Our NFocus postal optimization process and pre-sort gets you the best rates with the post office. Your campaigns are literally ready to roll onto the conveyor belts for processing and have best opportunity to land in the right mailbox.

Pre-sorting is a separate service, executed after your initial list is built. Postal optimization and pre-sorting is optional but we think it’s essential for best return on your direct mailing investment.


Check out our Supercharge Your Direct Mail Postcard Campaigns post to learn about optimizing your savings when doing postcard campaigns.

If you have your own mailing list, we’re happy to optimize it and do pre-sorting for your next campaign. It’s a great way to clean-up your existing list and get it ready for your next campaign. Note: You need to own, not rent, the list we optimize for you.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can read the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service – it’s the book we use to understand how to make mailings the best they can be. It’s 1,332 pages long as of this edition from April 2022.

Have questions? We’re happy to help!

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How Much Do Mailing Lists Cost?

September 23rd, 2022

Mailing list costs remain very reasonable with pricing for ‘saturation’ lists ranging from $4 – $12 per 1,000 addresses. The cost per 1,000 addresses can increase depending on targeting that increases the quality of the address for your purpose. Targeted Consumer list pricing is approximately $25 per 1,000 addresses and can go higher if additional attributes are selected.

Our minimum order varies based on the list type, ranging from $90 up to $1000 for a one-time use list rental. If you are regularly renting our lists and have an annual agreement with us, you’ll likely receive a volume discount.

A list of addresses, defined by a geographic area but with no qualifying characteristics such as age, gender or income, would be considered a ‘saturation’ list. All addresses within that area would receive your mailing.

The price per address increases as you add qualifying characteristics. The final list can be filtered to include, for example, only higher-income addresses with children under 10 in the home and an older vehicle in the driveway. A list such as this might be perfect for a car dealership looking to sell a new luxury SUV or mini-van to area families.

When adding qualifying characteristics, cost increases but you’re building a list that more closely targets your best customers – the likelihood that you will reach better customers increases and is likely to provide better sales.

Your success with a saturation list campaign will depend on how universal your offer is. If your target is ‘anyone who likes pizza,’ that’s a wide audience and a saturation list may work very well. If your target is a ‘fine dining consumer’ because you just opened a new high-end steakhouse, the more targeted list with income and lifestyle qualifiers may be the better option.

There are many qualifiers that can be used to fine-tune your list beyond the basic demographics such as age, income, gender. Hobbies, home ownership, employment, children present by age, auto history are all examples of the types of qualifiers a reputable list builder can apply to create the most tailored, cost-effective, and successful list for your campaigns.

It’s helpful to talk with a professional list builder (broker) who has experience with building lists similar to the one you need. List builders are happy to work with you to generate the optimal list and quote pricing. They also have access to additional qualifying data that may be available to increase the value of your list.


Mailing lists are not purchased – they are rented.  You can request to rent lists for multiple uses.

Business lists are generally more expensive than those targeting consumers.

You can request a list by qualifier – such as ‘New Homeowner,’ ‘New Mover,’ ‘Automotive.’ Additional qualifiers may help refine these broad qualifier lists. You can focus on higher- or lower-income recipients and age if those qualifiers better target your list.

Your campaign cost can be optimized through both careful list building AND having your list builder pre-sort your campaign to optimize for best postal rates. Learn more about Postal Rate Optimization and how you can bundle it with your list build.

Have questions? We’re happy to help!

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Email Marketing Lists 101

September 2nd, 2022

Email communications serve a variety of personal and business needs. When we use email to market our products and services, we need to understand and abide by a number of best practices and laws to optimize our results. Email marketing lists come in a few different flavors:

Proprietary Email Lists

If you’ve generated a list of customer emails by retrieving addresses and permission to use them from your customers you have a proprietary email list. You ‘own’ this list of emails and have permission from people on the list to send them email until they unsubscribe or communicate they would like you to remove them from your list.

If you use a service such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, Emma or others, they will likely require that you own your list and are not uploading a purchased list in order to send email through their system.

Anytime you upload a new set of ‘contacts’ (email addresses), these third-party email marketing platforms may ask you how you obtained the list and you’ll possibly need to confirm you have obtained permission to send email to these new contacts.

You must ask permission and can’t simply add someone’s email address to your list if they provided their email address as part of a business transaction. They must have checked an explicit box stating they want to receive marketing messages from you via email, or, must have written and provided you their email address with permission on a form somewhere.

Rented Email Lists

It is possible to rent an email list through a resource that maintains ownership of the list and assures compliance with all regulations. This is how we provide email lists to our NFocus clients. We have permission to send email to recipients based on their stated interests.

In general, you rent the list for single use campaigns but can request use of the list as often as you’d like. The owner of the list maintains control and uses their systems to send your campaign for a fee.

You may have the option to provide your own artwork for your email campaigns but will need to adhere to their design specifications. Some email list owners will offer to create your email artwork for you. In either case, you never have direct access to the list and cannot see individual email addresses. The owner manages all aspects of list hygiene and campaign execution.

The most important part of using rented lists is to assure the company’s list hygiene is excellent – no duplicates, inaccurate or dead addresses. Ask how they maintain their lists and how contacts are collected. Be aware that any list that is not your own may not perform as well as your proprietary list but may boost your ability to reach new customers and secure some of them for your list.

When sending a campaign to a rented list, your goal (other than sales) is to get the recipient to opt-in to YOUR proprietary list.  This is how you convert a rented list recipient to become a member of your proprietary list. Always be sure to include an offer to join your list for future offers. Once the recipient from the rented list has opted-in to your list, you now own that contact.

Have questions? We’re happy to help!

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Who Likes Getting Mail? You’d Be Surprised!

August 19th, 2022

The United States Postal Service recently partnered with Summit Research to understand how U.S. consumers of all ages interact with direct mail marketing and online purchasing. There are some surprises in their findings – particularly in the youngest (Gen Z) group.

The report is filled with great tips and insights about how to improve campaign performance by generation. If you’re willing to segment your mailings by age, you can boost your campaign effectiveness with each of these segments.

You can download the full USPS 2020-2021 Generational Report PDF. Here are the highlights we found most interesting by age group*:

Gen Z | Born after 1997 | 67 million in the U.S.

  • Gen Z is excited to discover what the mail brings and feels it is more personal than digital communication with 72% saying they’d be disappointed to no longer receive mail.
  • 33% are inclined to make a purchase if they see it in the mail.
  • Unique formats of direct mail appeal to Gen Z’s robust creative side.
  • Gen Z is shopping online more than ever and often finds it more enjoyable than shopping in person – making a physical prompt via direct mail with QR code or link to purchase is very powerful.
  • Gen Z is most likely to appreciate and share their experience with premium package design.
  • Gen Z prioritizes diversity and social and environmental responsibility and expects brands to do the same.

Millennials | 22 – 40 years old in 2021 | 72 million in the U.S. – the largest population contingent by age

  • Millennials have the strongest positive feelings about direct mail, saying it provides useful information and keeps them in the know.
  • 41% of Millennials say they would be very disappointed if they stopped getting mail.
  • More than any other generation, millennials are likely to take action after receiving mail—whether by making a purchase or visiting a website – most likely using their phone rather than a computer.
  • Millennials have the highest interest in digital innovations, including QR Codes, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

Generation X | 41 – 56 years old in 2021 | 65 million in the U.S.

  • Direct mail is an effective way to get Gen X’s attention and increase purchase interest.
  • Gen X is family-focused and has a huge amount of purchasing power.
  • Many of the behaviors that increased during COVID-19 are predicted to stick around, especially online ordering, the need for convenience, and a focus on deals and value.
  • Gen X is just as interested in new technologies and mail innovations as younger generations, 45% would be very disappointed if they stopped receiving mail.

Boomers | 56 – 75 years old in 2021 | 69 million in the U.S.

  • Boomers feel that mail brings a sense of daily discovery, and 57% say they’d be very disappointed if they stopped receiving it.
  • Boomers are the least familiar with and least interested in digital direct mail innovations.
  • Easy-to-open, reusable packaging is very important to boomers.

*Report findings reprinted with permission of USPSDelivers.com, an expert resource for future-thinking shippers and marketers.

Have questions? We’re happy to help!

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Supercharge Your Direct Mail Postcard Campaigns

August 5th, 2022

Giving your postcard campaigns the best chance for success starts before you develop your list. The size and quality of card you send, the design and timing are all factors that can work for and against your campaign.

Let’s start with size – it matters! The Mailing Standards for the United States Postal Service regulations define allowable sizes and mailing costs. There are incentives for staying inside the size guidelines. Yes – they’ll discount your cost! Even better, campaign performance improves if you use the USPS guidelines.

Direct Mail Postcard Sizes
To get the best rates and results, your postcards should be sized:

– Between 5″and 6″ long
– Between 3.5″ and 4.25″ wide
– Between .007″ and .16″ thick


Be careful when ordering specialty cardstocks as their thickness may exceed these specs. A great way to see if you’re in the zone is to compare the thickness of your postcard to an index card. Index cards are .007″ thick (the lower end of the thickness allowance).  You can do a larger-sized postcard but it may not perform as well and will cost more than smaller postcards using the specs above.

Now let’s talk design.
Designing and printing postcards today is easier than ever with many choices for paper type, size and shape.

Postcards convey your message quickly, can act as a coupon for redemption, and are the least expensive option with lower printing costs and no envelope included.

Your bulk mail cost per postcard will be lower (about 32-cents per card) than sending a single postcard first class (44-cents effective July 10, 2022). You’ll get the same return and forwarding service as first-class letters.

Direct Mail Postcard Campaign ROI

Any good marketer looks at the returns they’ll receive from their campaigns. Some campaigns are intended to build awareness so ROI is not as readily measurable – it’s hard to tell how many people became aware of your business if there is no ‘call to action’ response.  This doesn’t mean awareness campaigns aren’t valuable – they are – they’re just harder to quantify for success.

The easier ROI to calculate is how many redemptions/sales you retrieved from the campaign.  If the offer is 20% off a product or service when the postcard is presented for redemption, it’s easy to track whether you spent more than you earned from the campaign. If someone stops in without the card but says they heard about the deal, it’s best to give them the deal – the postcard worked! It created word-of-mouth advertising for your business.


Do some lower-volume tests of different variations on your offer to see which one is most powerful.

Ask your NFocus list builder for advice on narrowing your target to reach only the most likely candidates for your offer. Finding households with older vehicles might work best for a new tire offer; finding higher-income women might work best for a spa or salon offer; and targeting homes older than a certain date could narrow the list and increase your returns for a home improvement offer.

Match your postcard quality with your audience. If you’re targeting higher-end income homes, think about printing on cardstock that has a luxury feel.

If it matches your brand, choose bright, popping color whenever possible – it increases visibility in the mail stack and definitely raises response rates.

Have questions? We’re happy to help!

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How We Lower Your Campaign Costs

July 15th, 2022

The temptation to buy a quick, easy mailing list that will hit every address in town is high. You’re excited about the prospect of everyone seeing your offer and learning about your business.

Who cares if most people pitch your campaign postcard in the trash – it’s a game of numbers, right? The more addresses you hit, the greater the chance that some percentage of interested people will respond.

This may not be the best plan.

When you hit every doorstep you’re saturating the market and possibly spending unnecessarily on printing and postage. On the upside, saturation campaigns can build awareness and word-of-mouth. A grandmother who receives your offer about day care services may pass it along to her daughter who’s in the market for a new provider.

Saturation campaigns are also great when your offer is fairly universal and useful: you’re an auto repair shop with a great seasonal deal, a new hair salon, a new pet store. Even in those instances, there are ways to reduce your spend, assure you’re getting to the right customers, and increase your sales opportunities.

Know that not all ‘saturation’ lists are built the same, though.

The ‘Everyone In This Zip Code’ list you can purchase with a few clicks online may be filled with duplicate addresses and outdated information. You’re paying for all the addresses, including the bad ones – vacant homes, ‘do not deliver’ addresses. Having an expert build you the cleanest, most recent list, whether it’s a saturation or targeted list, can save you a lot of money.

So you have the list and it’s spiffy and ready to go. There’s another step that helps reduce cost and it’s reducing your postal spend. There are methods to reduce postal expense you may not be aware of.  Your printer may not even know of them.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has a book of regulations and rates they use to assign cost to bulk mailings. It’s called Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service and it’s 1,332 pages long.

If you arrive at the post office with your mailing boxes on a cart, they’re going to assign whatever costs they deem fit the job. While it may be the right price, it may not be the best price.

You have control over all these factors. Choose to work with a reputable list builder that can clean and fine-tune a list specific to your needs AND provide ‘pre-sort’ services to maximize your savings on postal cost.

The list builder’s goal is to find the best list of contacts with no duplicate entries, no dead or inaccurate addresses that delivers the best targeted customers in your trade area. Why send renters your springtime home improvement offer when you can get a targeted list of homeowners who live in homes older than 10 years with higher than average household income?

If we take a well-targeted list and optimize it for best postal rates, we’ve just made three positive changes with big impact:

1)     Increased your chances for customer responses
2)     Decreased list cost by lowering the list count
3)     Decreased postal cost by optimizing through pre-sorting.

Before just hitting the button to order the ‘Every Address In These Zip Codes’ button, get a relationship with a qualified, expert list builder that offers pre-sorting services. It’ll save you money and increase your campaign return on investment.

Have questions? We’re happy to help!

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