Tips for direct mail advertising success

You've pulled your mailing list together from your organization's database, or by consolidating the individual databases from the members of your sales team. You are ready to email the list for processing. The following is a guide to follow before sending your list, to insure a timely and successful mailing.

Formatting your direct mail list

Make sure the list is in a database format, preferably an Excel worksheet. Address fields should be in columns, and should be consistently placed (ie. no company names in address columns, or names in company columns, etc. Additional charges to format the data may result.) In addition to Excel, any comma or tab delimited text file will work. Also, Dbase or Access files are fine.

Lists in Word will generally not work, although you can send it to us and we can take a look. Lists must be in a column and row format, not label format (see examples below). We can generally make a label format file work, but it takes time and results in extra charges.

First Last Address City State ZIP
The above is an example of a correct database format.

The following is an example of an INCORRECT label format file:


If you are using an Excel database, and you have data in more than one Worksheet or Tab, be sure to let your mailer know that you want the data in the multiple worksheets to be used. Also in Excel, PLEASE DO NOT "HIDE" COLUMNS OR ROWS. Some people believe they can remove names from a mailing without deleting the record from the database by hiding the row in which the record appears. However, this does not prevent the record from being importing. "Hiding" is only a visual effect, and does not remove anything from the database.

Often, the database where you obtained your mailing list contains many more data fields than are necessary for the mailing. For example, customer numbers, phone numbers, file notes, etc. could be included in the database. While we can generally strip away the unnecessary data to run the mailing, it helps if you send only the fields relevant to the mailing.

Also, removing extra data such as birth dates, SSN's, phone numbers and customer numbers can reduce the risk of the unauthorized release of your sensitive customer information in the event of email interception or other unauthorized capture of the data.

If there is more than one address included in the record, for example home vs. work, or billing vs. shipping, please remove the address fields that you do not want used.

If your database contains multiple name, title, prefix or suffix information, please specify how you want the data to be formatted on the address label. For example, your database may look like this:

Mr. Mark David Jones - - President XYC Company Executive
Ms. Mary Louise Davis - MD Chief of Staff Mercy Hospital Admin
Mr. Roger David Smith Jr. - - - -

You should specify how you want the data formatted on the envelope address. Do you want to include Mr. or Ms.? Do you want to include middle name? Do you want to include title or department? Keep in mind that if you want extra fields such as job title or department, it may increase the number of lines on your address label, which could be a problem if the space in your address block on the mail piece is small.

Also, if there is any non-mailing data fields in your list that you WANT used, please be sure and make that clear. For example, some customers like to have a unique number or other data field printed in the address block to help them more quickly locate returns, or for routing purposes.

Multiple List Files

The price for your mailing includes basic data set up. If you provide your mailing list in multiple files, there will be an additional charge.


The post office prefers the use of all capital letters for the address, city and state fields. To be consistent, we generally capitalize the letters in the name and company fields as well. Please clearly specify ahead of time if you want a different capitalization structure.

Foreign Addresses

Your mailing may include foreign addresses (note that addresses in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are NOT foreign addresses). You should indicate if you want the foreign addresses to be mailed. The postage on these is SUBSTANTIALLY higher than on US addresses, and there are additional processing costs as well. If you did not specify foreign addresses when we were giving you pricing, we assumed that you were doing an all US mailing.


Try to have a good estimate of the total count in your list in time to order the correct number of pieces from your printer. If you don't get a good count, or if additional records are added to the list after placing the print order, we may not have enough pieces to completely run your list. We have to assume that you have sent us at least enough pieces to complete the mailing.

If we run out of pieces before your list is completely run, we incur delays (we have to stop running the equipment, and attempt to contact you to find out if you have more pieces or if you want us to run it short) and additional time to re-run postal paperwork to adjust to the shortage, or have to set up the equipment again if you bring more pieces later. This will result in additional charges to you.


Your mailing list may contain duplicates. If you did not ask us to remove duplicates from your list ("dedupe") we mail to all addresses in your database. It is possible that while working with your mailing list we MAY notice duplicates, and ask you if you would like us to dedupe the list. However, there is no guarantee that we will notice. Mailing duplicates costs you extra in terms of postage and printing, and mail shop costs, and does not reflect well on your organization to the individual receiving duplicate mail pieces. While we do charge to remove duplicates, it is often more than offset by postage and other cost savings from a reduced mailing.

We can dedupe your list a number of ways. We can limit the mailing to only one recipient per address. This may be preferable if your database has one listing for a husband and one for a wife, but you only want one mailing per household. If you are mailing to individuals at companies, we can dedupe the list to one per name per address. Thus, multiple different people at the same company can receive the mailing, but the same person will not receive more than one.

Address Correction/CASS Processing

After we receive your mailing list, we import it into our postal software. We then perform CASS processing (Coding Accuracy Support System), which is required by the Post Office to obtain discounted postage rates. CASS processing matches the address with the USPS database, standardizes addresses (for example, converting "street" to ST), assigns or corrects the plus-4 part of the zip code, and assigns the 2 digit delivery point which is needed to produce the address barcode.

Often, the software is unable to match some of your addresses. This may be because of a bad street name, a typo in the street address, or many other reasons. Many unmatched addresses can still be mailed, and there is a reasonable chance they will be delivered. However, there is also a reasonable chance they will not be delivered, the postage will be higher, and if they are delivered, it will take longer.

It is important that you let us know if you want us to mail the error addresses or not. If you don't let us know, we will mail all addresses that the USPS permits, even if they have address problems. For a small additional charge, we can produce a list of your error addresses, and provide a code for why the address is an error.

CASS processing will only verify that the address is valid it will NOT tell if the person still lives at the address. See move update below.

NCOA (Move Update)

Americans move frequently, on average every 5 years. Even if your mailing list is only 6 months old, as many as 10% of your addresses could be out of date. This rate could be much higher if your list is weighted toward younger and/or lower income people. When someone moves, and files a change of address with the Post Office, that information is captured in a database.

We can run your database against the change file, and give you the new address. All moves going back 48 months will be captured, and the most recent address will be provided. For presorted first class mailings, the post office requires that you update your list periodically. This requirement will soon apply to standard mail and non-profit mail as well.

Please note that Move Update will only provide a change of address if someone has actually filed a change of address notification with the post office. If someone moves without filing, there will be no record of the change.

Also, Move Update is generally not effective when mailing to individuals at companies. For example, if you have a record for Steve Smith, VP of Marketing at XYZ Corp, and Steve Smith left XYZ and was replaced by John Jones, Move Update will not provide this information. The reason for this is that people do not file change of address with the post office when they change jobs. Move Update will give you a change if the company itself moves, but not when individuals at the company move.

The Post Office requires all mailings addressed to a specific person or company to have the mailing list processed through NCOA.

Name or Current Resident

Depending on the type of mailing you are doing, you may want the mail piece delivered to the address on file, even if the person's name on your mailing list is no longer at that address. For example, if you are a roofer doing a mailing in an area that recently had a hail storm, you will want the postcard to stay at the house on your list, even if the person has moved. One way to accomplish this is by listing the person's name, followed by "Or Current Resident".

If you are sending a FIRST-CLASS mailing (including a small postcard), and you do not use Or Current Resident, the mail piece will be forwarded if the person has moved. Unless you use ancillary service endorsements (call us for explanation and cost) the mail piece will be forwarded, and you will not be notified of the forward. You will still have the outdated information in your database.

If you are sending a Standard or Non-Profit mailing, the mail piece may be left at the address, or may be thrown away by the post man. It is his option. If you use "Or Current Resident" in your list, the mail piece will stay at the address, even if the person has moved.

Please specify whether or not you want us to use "Or Current Resident" in the address label.

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  • Addressing/Barcoding
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  • Mailing Lists
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your lists

Your Lists

You’ve pulled your mailing list together from your organization’s database, or by consolidating databases from the members of your sales team. You are ready to email the list for processing and need a guide to follow before sending your list, to insure a timely and successful mailing.

Your Lists

mail trackingTracking

Mail Tracking allows you to track your mail through the USPS mail stream.

mailing label example


I’ve been doing business with PT for 23 years. If they and I are still in business in another 23 years, I’ll still be doing business with them. They help us with printing, mailing, and database maintenance. Good people!

Jesse Swagerty

I have used their company for over 15 years and I have them take care of all our direct mail projects. They are VERY professional, and are quick to take care of any and all needs. I would recommend them to anyone!! In short...they do great work!

Regis Ferrie

Our company does a significant amount of marketing through the mail. We have relied on the expertise of The Personal Touch Mail services for over 9 years to handle all our mail-out needs; from sorting, ‘de-duping’, and stuffing envelopes…to running our lists against current databases, Angie and her staff have consistently provided superior and always friendly service. They have given us accurate, totally reliable results in a timely fashion. We will continue to use The Personal Touch and would highly recommend their service to other businesses.

Accounting Broker Acquisition Group, Inc.

I have trusted The Personal Touch with all of my direct mail processing needs for over 10 years, both as a reseller and as a direct customer. Not only do they do good work, they always set realistic expectations and often over deliver. Our pieces always look very professional, and they often offer suggestions on how to achieve lower postage rates. If there was a higher rating than 5 stars, I would give it to Angie and her team!

Jeff Moses - TPS