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Glossary of Direct Marketing Terms


ACD Automatic Call Distributor - A complex machine used in modern call centers for incoming calls. It routes calls to available agents, holds overflow calls, gives and takes messages, provides reports. A must for modern database marketing.

AIS - Address Information System - Products offered by the USPS to assist mailers in finding correct zip codes and other current addressing information.

ANI - Automatic Number Identification. A system whereby you can learn the number of a person who is calling you on the telephone. Can be linked to a database to find the person's name and address.

APO - Army Post Office - The military post office address code for addresses located outside the continental United States for either Army or Air Force personnel.

ASCII - American Standard format for data storage on magnetic media (tape or disk).

ASS - Address Sequencing Service - Service offered by the USPS to sequence your mailing file when you provide a 3x5 index card for each address.

Abandonment - As in the phrase "call abandonment". This refers to people who, being placed on hold in an incoming call, elect to hang up ("abandon") the call. Call centers monitor closely the "abandonment rate" as a measure of their inefficiency.

Acquisition Cost - The cost of signing up a new customer. Lifetime Value is often used to compute the maximum allowable acquisition cost.

Actives - A mailing file of those names who have made a purchase recently.

Additions - In a mailing file, those names recently added in a data update.

Address - A computer term for the location on a disk or in memory of a piece of information. Addresses help the computer to find things rapidly, and to store them for later retrieval.

Address List - A digital file of addresses utilized for mailing. The data may be in a wide variety of formats such as those used in Spreadsheets, Databases, Word Processors, and Personal Information Managers.

Address Service Requested - One of several processes offered by the USPS to provide change-of-address information to mailers. With this endorsement, months 1 through 12 after the addressee has moved, the mail piece will be forwarded at no charge. Months 13 - 18, the mail piece will be returned with the new address attached. After 18 months, the mail piece will be returned. Past month 13 the 50¢ fee is charged per letter mail piece returned.

Affinity - People who are similar in lifestyle.

Affinity Analysis - A process of finding relationships between customer purchases. People who buy skis buy snow tires.

Affinity Group - A demographic or psychographic classification that identifies a record or data source.

Affluents - That segment of a market with disposable income, figured on a formula of the local cost of living and the cost of taxes, plus 30%.

Agent (1) - The word for a telephone operator in a modern inbound call center in a company that takes a lot of customer service and sales calls.

Agent (2) - In mailng data, the data broker is the agent of the data's renter, while the data manager is the agent of the data's owner. Often, one agent performs both functions for different data at different times.

Agreement letter - A letter of usage terms that the mailer signs to signal acceptance of guidelines established by the data owner.

Alternate Delivery - Methods of delivering direct mail or sample products to households without using the United States Postal Service.

Alternate Media - Any means of reaching consumers other than by using solo direct mail and telemarketing including: cooperative mailings, card decks, package inserts and free-standing inserts (FSIs), home-shopping programs, computer online services and broadcast.

Annual lease - An agreement that gives a mailer unlimited use of a set of records for one year, usually at a charge of twice the one-time-use fee per thousand.

Alumni - A university or college's graduates which, as a file, is useful for educational fundraising.

Appended Data - process whereby a customer file has data appended to it (such as age, income, home value) from some external data file. See overlay.

Assigned mailing date - A date set by the data owner to protect the data from simultaneous usages.

Attendees - A type of file, or segment, made up of individuals who represent an interest by having attended a gathering.

Attention line - In business addresses, a prefix to a three-line address which contains the receiver's name.

Attribute - Any distinguishing feature used to describe a file, such as demographic information, size or date of last update.

Attrition Model - A model that predicts which customers are most likely to leave. Usually expressed as a percentage of likelihood.

Attrition Rate - The opposite of retention rate. The percentage of customers this year who are no longer buying next year.

Availability report - A file of classifications for records in certain ZIP code areas, produced to target selected neighborhoods.

Autosexing - A computer process for finding the sex and appending titles (Mr. Ms.) to a file of names.


BMC - Bulk Mail Center -
A USPS regional center for processing Standard (A), Standard (B), and Periodical bulk mailings. BMC's are highly automated and are the key element in the distribution chain for bulk mail.

BRC or BRE - Business Reply Card or Business Reply Envelope

BRM - Business Reply Mail - Reply mail that uses a Business Reply Permit to return mail at no charge to the addressee. Widely used for surveys, product registration cards, and inquiry requests as examples. Reply mail has very specific layout requirements that normally require pre-approval by the USPS. FIM - Facing Identification Mark A series of five or six vertical bars used by automated postal equipment to identify, orient, and separate business reply mail. FIM's are required in a precise location the upper right corner of business reply mail. See the USPS "Notice 67" template for the exact layout requirements.

Baby boomers - Those born between 1946 and 1964, when birth rates rose sharply, and now a popular target group for marketers.

Back end - As in phrase "back end analysis" refers to the results of actions with people who have responded to your initial offer.

Bank cards - A consumer file attribute that selects users of credit cards.

Bar Code - 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.

Barcode Clear Zone - A rectangular area in the lower right part of a letter size mail piece that must be kept free of printing and symbols, except the barcode itself.

Base Cost - basic cost per name for address data excluding any demographic selections. Normally stated in dollars per thousand records (names/addresses). Multi-use data is charged at double the base cost. Charges for demographic selections do not double for multi-use data.

Base price - In data, the amount paid before segment selects, processing charges and shipping costs have been added on. This is usually expressed on a per thousand basis.

Batching - The gathering and organizing of incoming orders.

Batch mode - If you have received 10,000 replies to a mailing, you can update your master file with these replies in one batch. This is the fastest and cheapest way to update records. The opposite is On-Line updating.

Behavioral data - Consumer data which offer selection criteria on the basis of leisure activities, often compiled from questionnaires.

Bill-me order - A method of payment allowing a person to examine a product before making a commitment. This type of file is usually less responsive to outside mailers than one in which payment was made up front.

Bill-to address - The address that receives the bill, as opposed to the address that receives the shipment.

Birth dates - A selectable feature in consumer data, often shortened to edob for "exact date of birth."

Bits - If a byte is like an atom in computer language, a bit is like an electron. A bit is either on or off. It is either a 1 or a zero. Eight bits make up one byte.

Block - The smallest reported unit in the 1990 U.S. Census. About 14 households in a block.

Block group - The smallest reported unit in the 1980 U. S. Census. About 340 households on average.

Block group or subblock - A demographic area defined by the U.S. Census, consisting of a few hundred households.

Bounce back - The practice of sending another identical (or similar) catalog back to someone who has just ordered something from one of your catalogs.

Brand Managers - Most packaged goods companies organize themselves by brand. The brand manager is responsible for advertising, marketing and sales of the product. The brand manager is typically the main obstacle to database marketing which is customer focused rather than product focused.

Brokerage commission - A percentage of a file's rental cost that the data owner pays to the data manager broker for arranging the marketing. Commissions are frequently negotiable, but are often set at 20%.

Bugs - Errors that crop up in software. Caused by inability of programmers to predict all possible ways that the code in their programs will be used to process data.

Business file - A file of corporations or other professional entities, or employee data.

Business overlays - Demographic data that is added to an existing business customer file, such as job classification, number of employees or telephone number.

Business universe - The complete file of all businesses and professional entities in a given geographic area.

Buyer - A person or group that has purchased a product or service. In mailing data, a selection that indicates the segment of a file that has purchased products by mail.

Byte - A unit of computer memory. One letter or number is a byte. A byte is usually composed of eight bits.


(CASS) Coding Accuracy Support System -
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.

CFO - Chief financial officer. The man in charge of budgets.

CIF - Customer Information File usually in banks and financial institutions. A consolidation of many different accounts held by a household or individual, used for marketing purposes.

COD - Collect On Delivery - A service offered by the USPS , and other shippers, where an item may shipped and payment for the item is collected upon delivery and returned to the shipper.

CPI - Cost per inquiry

CPO - Cost per order

CPU - Central Processing Unit. The heart of a mainframe.

CRRT - Carrier Route - A mail delivery route defined for a USPS postal carrier. Reduced postage rates are offered for bulk mailers who sort their mail by carrier route and thereby save the pos office processing time. There are several "schemes" for carrier route sorts that offer different discounts on postage.

Call center - The word for an inbound telephone division in a company. The operators are called Agents. The call center uses an ACD (automatic call distributor) to manage the calls efficiently.

Call Center - A site that houses an outbound telemarketing operation.

Call Tracking Keeping - track of what happened to customer calls.

Caging - The opening and sorting of orders and the handling of checks and cash. So called, as people work in cages for security purposes.

Cancellation - In data ordering, a canceled order, usually with only a "run charge" assessed.

Cancellation charge - The amount of money a data owner requires a mailer to pay if an order is canceled.

Car owner - In consumer data, a way of targeting consumers via car registration data, including number of cars owned, brand, age and value.

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 the product or asks for more information, can be mailed back to the individual advertiser. A cooperative mailing consisting of a number of small business reply cards, each a different lead generator.

Cartridge - A data storage format with greater storage capacity than reel-to-reel magnetic tape and that comes in a smaller and more efficient size.

Cash buyer - A purchaser who sends payment with order. This represents a degree of commitment that makes such individuals ideal prospects for many types of mailers.

Catalog - The direct-mail component of a retail organization.

Catalog buyer - A purchaser who bought from a catalog.

CD-ROM - A small, thin disc identical to a music cd, containing data in a read-only format, meaning the user can not save changes to the disc.

Cell code - After completing RFM analysis, every customer is assigned a Cell Code which identifies her recency frequency and monetary level of buying. The cell code is often used in mailing. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term Source Code. RFM Stands for Recency, Frequency, Monetary. It is a method for segmenting or rating your customers. The best customers are those who have bought from you recently, buy many times, and in large amounts.

Census tract - A segment of a ZIP code consisting of about 1,000 households, designated by the U.S. Census.

Change of address - A recent mover, often used as a means of compiling names or as a selection within a file.

Change Service Requested - An ancillary service offered by the USPS. A separate notice of new address or reason for non-delivery is returned to the sender. The mail piece is disposed of by the USPS. A fee of 50¢ is charged per piece.

Checking copy - A copy of a mailing or phone file used to track response.

Cheshire or cheshire label - Mailing labels on a paper printout which are affixed by machine with adhesives, as opposed to pressure-sensitive or sticky labels that are affixed by hand. A type of plain paper label used in mailing. Requires a Cheshire machine to affix to mailing material. The most common computer label.

Chip - The thing in the center of a computer that makes it work. On a PC a 486 chip is a fast chip. A Pentium 4 is many times faster. Faster and faster chips keep coming out. Chips are the size of your fingernail, and hold millions of circuits shrunk by photographic methods to tiny size.

Churning - The practice of customers switching to another supplier based on special discount offers. Particularly used in the cellular telephone or credit card industries.

Cleaning Names - A process whereby names and addresses on a customer or prospect file are corrected (addresses standardized; zips corrected; spelling and punctuation corrected, duplicates consolidated, phone numbers are appended, and phone verify etc.)

Cluster - A way of dividing all households in the country into about sixty different types, such as "Blue Blood Estates" and "Shotguns and Pickups." Usually called lifestyle groups. Useful for file segmentation. Clustering systems are provided by Claritas, Equifax, Donnelley, CACI. In Canada by Compusearch.

Commercial Database Management - Professional management of large compiled databases for file segmentation and rental.

Commingle - A process where different kinds of mail are mixed together and sorted by destination address in order to generate savings in postage.

Computation Period - The number of years from now that you can safely project customer lifetime value. The period is short for products that soon become obsolete.

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

Confidentiality Agreement - An agreement which precedes any contract with an outsourcing agency. It says that your secrets will not be revealed to others.

Continuation - A mailing to the same file following a successful test of a portion of the file. A continuation becomes a "rollout" when the entire file is mailed.

Continuity Program - Products or services bought as a series of small purchases, rather than all at one time. Book of The Month Club, or other products shipped on a regular schedule.

Control Group Every - database promotion should include a control group of customers who are not exposed to the promotion. The success of the promotion is measured by the difference in response of the promoted group compared to the control group (after subtracting the cost of the promotion).

Controller - A device for managing the data input and output from several devices which are connected with a mainframe. These devices can include terminals or disks or tape drives. Controllers usually have a small computer inside them which permits them to manage the flow of instructions from the computer to the units in an organized way. They make the computer more powerful.

Conversion rate - The percentage of responders who become customers.

Coop mailing - A mailing in which two or more offers -- usually from different companies -- are included in the same envelope, and share the costs.

Cooperative Advertising (Co-Op) - Advertising (including direct mail, inserts, stuffers, card decks) where offers from several different mailers are included.

Cooperative Broker - A person/company who recommends and takes orders for marketers who want to be part of a cooperative effort.

Cooperative Manager - A person/company who sells space in the co-op for the cooperative owner.

Cooperative Owner - A company that brings different marketers together into a co-op effort. Services may include: printing the individual inserts, combining them and mailing them to preselected audience.

Copy - The text of your direct mail piece.

Coupons - A promotional device used by marketers to increase sales or store traffic by offering a discount when the coupon is redeemed.

Cross-Selling - Encouraging customers to buy products from other departments or categories.

Custom report - A database report designed by the marketing staff which exactly meets the marketing needs of the company. Once programmed, it can be run daily or weekly for very little cost.

Custom Publisher - Any publisher who will, for a fee, create a publication for a direct marketer that is most-often used for self-promotion or as a premium.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) - Providing better communication, offers and services to customers by evaluating your previous interactions with them.


Database Administrator. A person who controls a marketing database. The DBA should be someone from marketing or sales who has the budget for the database.

DM sold - Abbreviation for direct mail sold.

DMA Direct Marketing Association - The chief national trade association for direct marketers, with local affiliates in many cities.

DMA MPS - See Mail Preference Service Mail preference service - A program provided by the Direct Marketing Association that allows consumers to request that their address be removed from all DMA mailing data.

DMA TPS - See Telephone Preference Service Telephone Preference Service (DMA TPS) : A service of the Direct Marketing Association for consumers who want to have their names removed from telemarketing data.

DPBC - Delivery Point Barcode - A POSTNET barcode that consists of 62 bars with beginning and ending frame bars and 5 bars each for the nine digits of the ZIP +4 code, the last 2 digits of the primary street address number (or post office box, etc.), and a correction digit. The DPBC allows automated sortation of mail to the carrier level in walk sequence.

DSCF - Destination Sectional Center Facility - A rate available for Standard Mail (A) and Periodicals that is properly prepared and entered by the mailer at the sectional center facility (SCF) that serves the delivery address on the mail.

data <data, data processing, jargon> /day't*/ (Or "raw data") - Numbers, characters, images, or other method of recording, in a form which can be assessed by a human or (especially) input into a computer, stored and processed there, or transmitted on some digital channel. Computers nearly always represent data in binary. Data on its own has no meaning, only when interpreted by some kind of data processing system does it take on meaning and become information. People or computers can find patterns in data to perceive information, and information can be used to enhance knowledge. Since knowledge is prerequisite to wisdom, we always want more data and information. But, as modern societies verge on information overload, we especially need better ways to find patterns. Factual information, especially information organized for analysis or used to reason or make decisions. Computer Science. Numerical or other information represented in a form suitable for processing by computer. Values derived from scientific experiments. Plural of datum.
1234567.89 is data.
"Your bank balance has jumped 8087% to $1234567.89" is information.
"Nobody owes me that much money" is knowledge.
"I'd better talk to the bank before I spend it, because of what has happened to other people" is wisdom.

Data Enhancement - A process whereby a customer file has data appended to it (such as age, income, home value) from some external data file. See overlay.

Data entry - Also called Keypunching. Entering names and addresses and other data into magnetic media such as tape.

Data integrity - An estimation of undetected errors in a data file.

Data overlays - See Overlays. The matching of two or more data sources that contain the same names or addresses but where one source adds additional data such as demographics or geographics to the other.

Data Overlays - See List Services Overlays - Using a file that is rich in data to augment information in another file with the same names. Overlays can add phone numbers, job titles or demographic or psychographic information. File tagging - The sometimes unauthorized addition of data to house files from another source.

Database - A collection of data in an organized, searchable matrix that allows database users to reorganize and extract the data in multiple forms. A file that is maintained on a computer comprised of pertinent information such as a company's prospects or customers. The file can serve multiple applications and be manipulated for various purposes. The following definitions apply to databases used for direct marketing.

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

Database Management / Commercial - Professional management of large compiled databases for data segmentation and rental.

Database Marketing Collecting - data on customers and using it to provide recognition and services to customers, resulting in increased customer loyalty and repeat sales.

Database Modeling - Using statistical techniques in order to predict future customer behavior.

Data Entry - The entering of names, addresses and other information into a data storage and retrieval system. Data can be entered via manual keying, electronic data transfer or by scanning.

Date of birth - A demographic variable available on many mailing data files, created using overlays of driver's license information.

Date of compilation - An important date to ask for when ordering a compiled file, along with the source of the compilation. The older the data, the greater the probability of errors.

Date stamp - The date of a response or order, used in file response tracking and as source information in a customer database.

Decile - One tenth of a mailing, usually divided by percentage of response.

Decoy - A unique name added to a mailing file used to spot unauthorized use of the file. See Seed name. Seed name or Seeding False or "dummy" names are added to a mailing file as a way to check delivery and to uncover any unauthorized data usage.

De Dupe - Identifying and consolidating duplicate names usually done in a merge/purge operation.

Deletions - Obsolete or incorrect information that is expunged from a file.

Deliverability - The percentage of addresses in a file which will result in successfully delivered mail when sent standard or bulk class.

Deliverability guarantee - In compiled data files but usually not response files, a guarantee by the data owner to pay the postage of undeliverable or "nixie" mails.

Delivery date - The date that a data renter requires a file to arrive at a mail shop.

Delivery Sequence File (DSF) - See List Services Delivery Sequence File. A computerized file of more than 125 million records containing all the addresses the U.S. Postal Service serves throughout the U.S. Each address record features ZIP+4, carrier route, delivery sequence, delivery type and seasonal delivery information that can help mailers maintain accurate and complete addresses on the files they own and rent as well as code their mail for walk sequence discounts from the postal service.

Demographics - Demographic data usually refers to the data which the Census Bureau or Canada Stats collects on a neighborhood such as income, education level, etc. This data can be appended to a household record. It isn't necessarily accurate for any particular household since it is the average for households in that block. But it is usually the only data available. Social and economic information about human populations including age, sex, income, education, type of residence, ownership of cars, etc.

Demographic Selections - Descriptive information about a household that is used to target data for direct marketing. A range of selectors available to use when specifying an address file. Demographic selectors may include age, income, gender, and special interests such a mail order buyers, credit card holders, etc.

Density - The number of mail addresses in a given geographic area.

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

Digital line - A type of telephone transmission service that is much more reliable than the normal analog line. All data is converted into bits before it is transmitted. A regular telephone line is called an Analog Line.

Discount Rate - The amount by which any future dollar amount must divided to produce the net present value of the amount. The formula is DR = (1 + i)n where i = market rate of interest and n = number of years. The interest rate is usually doubled in the formula to account for risk.

Direct access - A disk is a direct access device. Tape drives are not direct access because to find data on them, you have to read all the way through thousands of records to find the one you want. With direct access, you have all data stored at particular addresses. You can access each piece of data directly.

Direct Cost Percent - The percentage of revenue that is applied to the cost of the product plus overhead, fixed costs, etc.

Direct Mail - Another name for advertising mail sent to targeted prospects or markets. Direct mail can be sent via any postage rate but is usually sent Standard (A).

Direct Marketing - a sub-discipline and type of marketing. There are two main definitional characteristics which distinguish it from other types of marketing. The first is that it attempts to send its messages directly to consumers, without the use of intervening media. This involves commercial communication (direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing) with consumers or businesses, usually unsolicited. The second characteristic is that it is focused on driving purchases that can be attributed to a specific "call-to-action." This aspect of direct marketing involves an emphasis on trackable, measurable positive (but not negative) responses from consumers (known simply as "response" in the industry) regardless of medium.

Direct Marketing Association - The chief national trade association for direct marketers, with local affiliates in many cities.

Direct Marketing Interactive - marketing that produces a measurable response or purchase. The data is stored on a database.

Direct Response Advertising - Any form of advertising that is capable of creating a measurable response to a promotion, or a promotion that seeks not just to provide information, but to generate an inquiry, order or visit.

Directories - Often alphabetical listings of residents or members, used for compiling data.

Disk Magnetic - disks are attached to computers. They hold information (records) which can be retrieved very rapidly if the computer knows the address of the information on the disk (Direct Access). In relational databases, the address of records and information within records are kept on indexes which make access to the records very rapid.

Discretionary income - The amount of earnings that is more than 30% above the local cost of living plus taxes - The money targeted by marketers. See Affluents. Affluents - That segment of a market with disposable income, figured on a formula of the local cost of living and the cost of taxes, plus 30%.

Disk - A term for any sort of data storage that is round. Hard disks are made of metal and are encased inside the computer's hardware. Floppy disks are flimsy magnetic material encased in plastic. Compact disks are read by laser, like music CDs.

Diskette - A form of magnetic data storage, once common in 5 1/4" size, now almost exclusively available in 3 1/2" size.

Dollars - One of the selection factors for a direct-response customer file. Can be measured as dollars per item, dollars per year, etc.

Donor data - People or companies who have made a donation to a nonprofit or fundraising promotion.

Download - Copying information to your computer's hard drive from a source on a network, bbs or the internet.

Downsizing - Moving a function from a mainframe computer to a smaller computer such as a Mini, a LAN or a PC.

Driver's license - A source used by compilers of consumer data to capture age data.

Dual address - Mailing to both the ship-to address and the bill-to address of a catalog response file.

Dummy name - See Seed name. Seed name or Seeding False or "dummy" names are added to a mailing file as a way to check delivery and to uncover any unauthorized data usage.

Dump - A printout that accompanies a data tape, showing the first hundred records. To show the format that the records are in. Printed display of the contents of a tape or data file. You should look at a dump of some records in our customer database to check accuracy.

Dupe - A record that has been identified as an exact copy of another record and has been deleted from a file.

Duplicate - The same name occurring twice or more on the same file. All very large databases contain duplicates because name or address spelling may vary slightly. Good service bureaus can reduce but never totally eliminate duplicates.

Duplication Factor - The % of names on one file that are also on another file. It is a measure of affinity in the data.

Dwelling type - Single family units and multi-family dwellings, the two types of housing on consumer data.


ECRLOT - Enhanced Carrier Route (Line of Travel) Mailings in which pieces must be part of a group of 10 or more to one carrier route, prepared in line of travel sequence. The mailing data must be CASS certified within the past 3 months and pre-sorted with PAVE certified software. LOT mail is sorted in the order in which the carrier actually delivers the mail.

EDT - Electronic Data Transfer: Transmitting information over a network.

Email - Messages sent from one person to another, or to a large group of people, through a computer network or the internet.

Edit check - A software process whereby data to be entered into a marketing database is checked for logic before it goes into the database.

Endorsement - An authorized marking on a mail piece that shows handling instructions, a service, or a request for an ancillary service.

Enhanced Carrier Route - A rate class for Standard (A) mail that requires the mail pieces to be pre-sorted by Line-of-Travel, High Density, or Walk Sequence. Usually provides the grea

Enhancement - Appending demographic or lifestyle data to a file. See List Services

Ethnic data - Data sorted by surname into supposed ethnic groups.

Event Driven Programs - Database programs which are triggered to produce output (usually communications) based on events: a birthday letter, anniversary letter, thank you letter, etc.

Exchange - A file swap between mail order companies, to cross-sell like products to each others' data.

Expires - People who have made a purchase in the past but not within the time period the data owners consider "active;" also, subscribers who have not renewed their subscription.

Extract - A system for creating a sequential file from a relational marketing database. The extract can be used for preparing reports, or for sending data to other companies for their use.


FCM - First-Class Mail A class of mail that includes all matter wholly or partly in writing or typewriting, all actual and personal correspondence, all bills and statements of account, and all matter sealed or otherwise closed against inspection.

FTP - File transfer protocol: a means of downloading and uploading files between two different computers on the internet.

Family - In a consumer file, those households that are composed of family groups, usually with children.

Field - In a database, the text entry area for any sort of information. Fields have fixed or variable lengths, and any record in a database will have consistent field structure.

Field length - The number of characters allowed for any field in a database.

File - A collection of information, text, image or both, saved with a name that will allow it to be reopened by a computer program.

File layout - In a database, the number, name and length of data fields used to store information for each record. Fixed-field layouts have consistent character lengths for each field, while varable-length layouts use the actual number of characters that are entered.

First-time buyer - A customer on a file who has made only one purchase. Marketing plans focus on generating first-time buyers, while customer retention programs focus on converting first-time buyers to regular customers.

Five-digit ZIP code - A numeric code that designates the specific post office that serves the mail recipient. Mail that is sorted by ZIP code in advance qualifies for postal discounts.

Fixed field - Organization of a tape or data file in which each group of data (such as name, address, city, zip) has a fixed location and length within the file.

Flag - In data processing, a computerized method that identifies data added to a file by a given mailer or data segment usage.

Flat - The general term for flat sized mail. In Standard (A) mail a flat is a mail piece that is larger than 11 1/2" length and 6 1/8" width. The rate schedule also varies based on the weight of the mail piece.

Flat file - Another name for a sequential name file. Contrasted with a database file (not flat because of the indexes).

Flat rate - In data, a price that is set for use of the total number of names available, often used for data with too small a quantity for per thousand file rentals.

Floppy disk - See Disk.

Focus group - A group of customers who are assembled together by an advertising agency in a conference room to discuss a particular product. Useful for learning what the public thinks of your product or message or company.

Format - The predetermined arrangement of data or elements, whether in a database or for a direct mail package. The way data (name and address) is organized on a disk or tape. There is no standard format. Every company has their own.

Former buyer - see Expires.

Four-line address - A business address that uses a separate line for the recipient's name and title.

Four-up cheshire label - The standard format for printing out mailing labels that takes its name from having four columns of names and addresses printed across a computer page. These labels are mechanically affixed to the mailing piece unlike the gummed or self-stick variety.

Frequency - A term for how many times a person buys from you. A way of measuring multiple purchases by a buyer, offered as a select for catalog file buyers

Fulfillment - The process of responding to a customer request with literature or product. Fulfillment usually outsourced to a fulfillment house. All activities involved in the processing and servicing of mail, FAX and telephone orders.

  • Literature Fulfillment refers to the sorting and qualifying of leads, sending the appropriate information, and, if outsourced, forwarding leads to the marketer for follow-up.
  • Subscription Fulfillment is a specialized service for periodical publishers. Services include: maintaining the subscriber data, generating invoices and renewals and recording payments.
  • Product Fulfillment is the storage and shipping of samples and merchandise.

Fund-raising data - Data of proven and prospective donors to fund-raising causes.


Galley file - A page print out for the purpose of prospecting. The format often contains other information, captured by the file owner, than would be put on mailing labels such as phone numbers and credit rating.

Gender select - The identifiable male or female portion of a file that can be separated out from the total. Selecting by gender enables a mailer whose promotion appeals to one sex to improve rates of response to a mailing.

Geographic selects - In data, choosing a group of names based on regions. This could be done by selecting State, SCF, ZIP code or other computer fields of information to narrow down to a specific area.

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

Geocoding - A system for assigning a census code to any name and address. Once a file is geocoded, you can append census data (income, race, etc.) to the records and assign cluster codes.

Geodemographics - Census data that can be appended to a household file once it has been geocoded. Includes such factors as income, education, home type, etc. Derived from the neighborhood of the household. Same as Demographics.

Gift buyer - A type of file, or segment, made up of people who bought gifts for others. Certain data consist of both those who have paid for and those who received a product.

Gigabyte A billion bytes (characters) - A measure of the size of mainframe disk storage. A typical mainframe shop will have 100 gigabytes or more. "Her database used over 35 gig!"

Guarantee of payment - An alternative to prepayment in which the data owner requires the data user to sign a letter stating payment will be made within a specified time after the mail date.


Hardware - Computer and disks, tape drives, printers, and other gear that are plugged into computers.

Handling charge - An additional charge tacked onto a sale or rental agreement, to cover shipping and data entry costs. Often added to special data requests.

Hard copy - A printout of data in paper form, or the original printed source data for data entry into electronic form.

Home buyer - Those who have recently purchased homes, usually separated on consumer data from long-term home owners.

Hot line - The "hottest" leads on a file, usually those who have recently made a purchase by mail.

House File - The organization's own file of active and former customers.

House data - Data that is created and maintained in-house, from white mail, subscribers or buyers, etc.

Households - Homes, as opposed to non-households (offices, schools and government addresses, for example).


ID Number - A number assigned to a record to help to relate it to other records in the computer which have the same ID.

IS Information Systems (Also MIS) - the part of the company responsible for the central data processing operations.

Identification - process whereby a customer identifies himself with the company which provides him with products or services

Inactive buyers - The portion of a file which has not shown any purchasing activity for a set period of time.

Income - A demographic selection factor on consumer data, selectable in $1,000 increments.

Indicia - Imprinted designation on mail that denotes postage payment. The indicia must contain the Class of postage (i.e. First Class, Presorted Std), the words US Postage, & Paid, the post office city where the permit is held, and the number of the permit. The indicia should be placed where a stamp would normally be placed. See Permit.

Individual - A mailing that goes to one specific recipient, as opposed to "occupant" mailing.

Ink Jet Printing - Superheated dots of ink are sprayed from an ink reservoir on the printhead to form full characters.

Inquiry - A request for a sample, catalog or more information.

Installment buyers - Purchasers who split the total price of a product up and divide it evenly over periodic payments, usually monthly.

Insurance data - Consumer data compiled by insurance companies based on the type and amount of insurance owned.

Interactive marketing - Sales that take place via computer, with the buyer learning about and making purchasing decisions about products online.

Interactive Voice Response - See Telemarketing Services

Interlist duplicate - An address record that appears on more than one file.

Intra-file duplicates - An address record that appears more than once on the same file.

Invalid records - Records with errors that make them unusable, and which often must be removed from a file and manually fixed.

Index - 1) used in relational databases to help to find common data in thousands of records. An index for income could help find all the customers whose income was between $25K and $35K. Using an index you can query a file of 10 million customers and find out how many women aged 60+ bought more than $200 in the last 6 months, and do it in 5 seconds. 2) A statistical term for relating the value of two sets of numbers. If one group had a response index of 100 and another had 120, the second group had 20% more replies than the first one. The average of any group always has an index of 100.

Influentials - In business-to-business, executives who have the authority to make or influence a purchase.

Infrastructure - The process of maintaining a database: nightly backup, cleaning, merge/purge, deduplication, update, etc.



Junk Mail
- Derogatory term for direct mail advertising. See Direct mail advertising.

Keyline - Or Match Key -- a combination of numbers and letters usually beginning with the zip code, which is used as a rough household duplicate eliminator.

Keyline - Optional mailer information printed in or above the address or in the lower left corner of the envelope. Under some postage payment systems, the keyline is a required line that contains specific information about the mail piece.

Key code - A code that appears on response cards to identify the mailing when responses are mailed back, in order to track and analyze the effectiveness of the mailing.

Key code, generic - Response codes that help track the effectiveness of different media in a multi-media campaign.

Kill - To delete an electronic record or file.

Kill file - A file of names, used by a mailer, to eliminate undesirable contacts from a mailing file. This could be a file of people who have a pattern of nonpayment.


LACs -
A service that converts "old style" addresses such as rural routes to the new federally mandated "city style" street address.

LAN - Local Area Network. A system for linking several PCs into a single system with a File Server PC that keeps a central database. Some databases are located on LANs.

LTRS - Letters A code used on mail container labels that identifies the contents as letter-size mail (mail, including cards, that do not exceed any parameter for letter mail).

Labels - Paper printed with a name and address that is affixed to a mailing piece and serves as the mailing address vehicle. Different types of labels include: peel-off or 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.

Late charge - A charge imposed by data owners for data rentals not paid by the agreed date.

Layout - A sketch of a proposed piece, the first step in the design process.

Lead - A prospect who has responded is called a Lead.

Lead Conversion Rate - The percentage of leads which become customers.

Lead generation - A method of getting responder names without getting a payment, such as by sending away for a free gift, or calling an 800 number. A mailer who uses a lead generation package will often be required to pay a surcharge.

Lead Tracking - The process of keeping up with what has happened to a lead (prospect who has expressed an interest in your product or service). Lead tracking is very difficult because salesmen hate to report on the status of leads.

Length of residence - A selection feature on some files compiled from vehicle registration or telephone directory data.

Lettershop - An independent company that handles all the details of printing and mailing letters. A company that will assemble and insert the various printed elements of a direct mail piece, label, sort, tag and deliver the mailings to the post office for mailing. The lettershop will provide the mailer with written proof of delivery to the U.S. Postal Service.

Letter Mail Piece - In Standard (A), a mail piece that is less than 6 1/8" x 11 1/2" in size, less than 1/4' thick, and weighs less than 3.2873oz. Letter piece must also have an aspect ration 0f 1.3 to 2.5 inclusive.

Lifestyle - data about a neighborhood comes from clustering. If a significant number of people in a given cluster have taken a foreign trip, it is assumed that all similar households have done this. It is a lifestyle attribute. Included are magazines read, TV programs watched, etc.

Lifestyle selectivity - Data based on surveys that offer information on consumer's interests and hobbies, to ensure well-targeted mailings.

Lifetime value - The contribution to overhead and profit made by a customer during her total relationship with your company. Abbreviation: LTV.

List affinity - Matching a promotion's offer to the available mailing data.

List Broker - A go-between who matches data owners and data renters for a commission paid by the data owner. A data specialist hired by a mailer to make the necessary arrangements to use other companies' data. Brokerage services usually include: research, data selections, recommendations and logistics so that the rented data arrive at the proper time. The standard commission to a data broker is 20 percent.

List maintenance - Keeping a mailing file current through correcting and updating the addresses and other data. The ongoing process of keeping a mailing file up-to-date by adding, editing and deleting data.

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

List monitoring - A data owner's means of ensuring that a mailing conforms to the agreed-upon mail date, package description and rental agreement, using decoys or seed names.

List payment - The amount paid for rental of a file, either directly to the data owner or through a broker.

List performance - The response rate for a given segment of a file.

List protection - Guarding the value of a file with seed names and single-use guarantees.

List rental - The process of renting (for one time use, or other periods) a file of names of customers owned by some other organization for an agreed upon cost per thousand.

List Services

  • Data Overlays - The matching of two or more files that contain the same names or addresses but where one file adds additional data such as demographics or geographics to the other.
  • Delivery Sequence File - A computerized file of more than 125 million records containing all the addresses the US Postal Service serves throughout the US Each address record features ZIP+4, carrier route, delivery sequence, delivery type and seasonal delivery information that can help mailers maintain accurate and complete addresses on the files they own and rent as well as code their mail for walk sequence discounts from the postal service.
  • Enhancement - Any additional information that can be appended to a file to increase its value to the mailer.
  • Merge-Purge - The process of combining two or more files into one while, at the same time, identifying and removing any duplicates.
  • Mail Preference Service (DMA MPS) - The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) offers a service for individuals who want their names removed from mailing files so they will stop receiving direct mail.
  • National Change of Address (NCOA) - A service provided by the US 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 national change of address 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.
  • Psychographics - The qualities or characteristics of individuals which indicate lifestyle, purchasing habits, attitudes and personal values.
  • Seeding - False or "dummy" names are added to a mailing file as a way to check delivery and to uncover any unauthorized data usage.

List segment - A group within a file that can be more responsive for a mailer than the entire file.

List select - See List segment.

List source - How names were generated that were put on a mailing file. This could be from direct mail, TV ads, space ads or any other media. When mailing to files of responders to the same product, the source of a file can influence returns.

Loyalty Customer - loyalty is measured as Retention. A loyal customer is one who keeps buying from you.

Loyalty Programs Rewards - that encourage customers to keep being customers longer, or to purchase more.


- An abbreviation for a thousand, as in sheets of paper or names on a mailing file.

MFDU (Multi Family Dwelling units) - The acronym used with address files for apartments type dwellings.

MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second) - A measurement of the relative speed of a Mainframe computer.

MIS (Management Information Systems) - This term is used in many companies to refer to the data processing staff that runs the central company mainframe computer.

M.O.B. - Abbreviation for mail order buyer

M/P - Abbreviation for merge-purge.

Mail - The primary vehicle of a direct response advertising campaign, often combined with space ads, telemarketing and online efforts.

Mailer - The organization who arranges and pays for a mailing.

Mail date - The target date for a mailing to deliver to the post office, from which mailers backtrack to determine other production dates, such as printing and copy and art approval.

Mailing file - The names and addresses of individuals, businesses or other institutions that have common characteristics making them suitable targets for specific promotions.

Mailing file - A file of customers or prospects used to mail catalogs or sale announcements. It is not a marketing database because it does not provide for a two-way communication with customers.

Mail monitoring - Seeding mailing data with addresses of the mailers, in order to judge how long pieces take to reach the recipients and to flag the mailer to unauthorized use of the data. Mailers track their mail in order to verify content within the direct mail package and to determine the length of delivery time.

Mail order - A mail-generated sale of a product or service.

Mail piece - All the components of a mailing. Also called mail package.

Mail preference service - A program provided by the Direct Marketing Association that allows consumers to request that their address be removed from all DMA mailing files.

Mail response - Any sort of reply to a mailing. Mail responses are not always accompanied by payment. They could be individuals who answer a questionnaire or send any other reply. A mailer is given ownership of all responses to a mailing. See Lead generation and No's.

Mail shop - An independent company which specializes in preparing materials for mailing. They affix labels, sort for bulk rates, prepare bagtags, insert in postal bags.

Magnetic storage - Any magnetic medium such as a disk or tape used to store digital information.

Magnetic tape - A plastic-based material with a coating of magnetic particles.

Mainframe - The largest computers used in business applications. They require raised floors, special air conditioning. Mainframes are recommended for marketing databases because of their power, input-output capability and speed measured in MIPS.

Market - A set of potential buyers for a product.

Market Penetration - The percentage of buyers you have as compared with the total households or businesses in the area you have selected as your market. The ratio of the potential buyers reached by a mailing to the total number of potential buyers in an area.

Market Research - Statistical analysis of customer data to draw overall conclusions as a basis for action.

Mass Marketing - Selling to everyone through mass media such as radio, TV, or a newspaper, as opposed to database marketing which is aimed at a small selected audience.

Masterfile - The total house file of an organization, which is split into numerous segments for in-house mailing or rental to outside mailers.

Match code - A keyline. An extract of the name and address used to identify a specific record. Used in de-duping.

Media - All the means available to market to people. This spans broadcast media such as online computer ads, radio or TV and includes printed forms of advertising such as direct mail or magazine ads. 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 Communications - channels that convey messages, such as radio, TV, magazines, direct mail.

Medium - Singular for media.

Megabyte - A million bytes. Disks are rated in megabytes.

Member - Those who belong to an organization or association, or who subscribe to a club-like service.

Memory - The amount of information that a computer can hold in its head while it is doing work. The more memory, the faster a computer can work, and the more complicated programs it can handle. New computers today have 32 megabytes of memory, which can be expanded.

Merge - To combine two or more files into a single file and sort them together, generally by ZIP code.

Merge/purge - A software system used to merge many different input tapes in differing formats and put them into a common format for a mailing. Merge/Purge detects duplicates. The process of combining separate address files and removing duplicate records, also known as de-duping.

Micro-computer - Another name for a PC.

Minimum - A price for low data quantities on files that are usually sold per thousand names.

Modeling - A statistical technique whereby you determine which pieces of data in your customer database explains the behavior of your customers. The output of a model is a series of weights which can be multiplied by customer data (income, age, length of residence) to create a score which predicts likelihood to respond to an offer.

Modem - A device permitting a PC or terminal to send information over a telephone line. You have to have a modem at both ends. Modems are rated in Baud rate.

Mouse - A small switch on a wheel used to control a PC

Multi-buyer - A person who crops up on two or more independent rented files. Multi-buyers usually respond better to a direct offer than other buyers.

Multiple Regression - A statistical technique used in modeling whereby you develop a formula which explains the relationship between several variables in explaining customer behavior.

Mobility rate - The rate of changes of address for any given geographic location, measured as a percentage of the population.

Move Update - Processing your data through an approved NCOA correction service to qualify for the July 1 USPS regulations. This process updates your address data with the NCOA addresses to ensure that your data is as current as possible.

Multibuyers - Identical records that appear on two or more customer files, identified through a merge-purge.

Multifamily - See Multiple dwelling.

Multiple buyers - Customers who have purchased from one company more than once, usually a select offered on a mailing file.

Multiple dwelling - A housing unit that requires an apartment number because of the number of families that live at one address.


- An individual entry on a mailing file.

Name removal - The suppression of names using the DMA's mail preference service file of consumers that prefer not to receive mail offers.

NCOA - National change of address- a file maintained by the U.S. Postal Service with new addresses of those who have recently moved and notified the post office of their new address. Commercial vendors who are licensed by the U.S. Postal Service can match a mailing file against this file to update old files.

Negative option - An agreement participants of continuity plans make that obligates payment unless they inform the company they do not want the product shipped. See Continuity buyer.

Net names - The quantity of names on a file that survive a merge-purge, or an agreement between a mailer and data owner to pay only for those names in a file rental.

New households - Files of people who have recently moved, using information from utility hook-ups, change of address forms and county records.

New movers - See Change of Address.

New to file - Recent additions to a file. These names are often the most responsive segment of a file.

Nine-digit ZIP code - See ZIP + 4 code

Nixie - A piece of undeliverable mail that's returned by the post office. Depending on the quality of the files, mailings can result in hundreds or thousands of nixies. Some data rental agreements include a refund for nixie quantities.

Non-paid order - A response to an offer that did not require payment. An example is someone who signs up for a free product or service. As a rule, for appeals seeking payment, these names are usually less responsive than cash buyers.

Non-returnable mag tape - A policy of not requiring the return of the magnetic tape a mailing file was sent on. This is usually combined with a fee for the cost of the tape.

Noncompetitive offer - When mailing content does not resemble that of the data owner's. Certain categories of user's will be given a discount from the normal data rental rate such as when a non-profit group mails a business file. See Competitive offer.

Nonprofit - Organizations that qualify to mail at the reduced nonprofit rate offered by the U.S. Postal Service.

No's - Names and addresses of those who responded to an offer without sending payment. An example are sweepstakes respondents who did not make a purchase.

Nth - A way of randomizing names in a large file to get the desired quantity. Rather than taking the first thousand names, a computer program takes every nth name until they achieve the desired quantity.


- A name designation used for saturation mailings, to ensure that a piece of mail gets to a certain address no matter who lives there.

Occupant data - Consumer data which contain addresses and no names, for use in occupant mailings.

One-time use - An agreement between a data owner and a mailer that a mailing file will be used only once, unless otherwise specified.

One-year contract - An unlimited use agreement on a certain files for one year. Files must be refreshed after this one year period to maintain accuracy and stay in compliance of the contract.

Opt-in - When a consumer chooses to receive messages on a certain topic.

Opt-out - When a consumer requests not to receive messages.

Opt-in register - When owners of an email site agree to receive messages covering certain topics.

Output - The form of data that is retrieved from a computer, whether tapes or disks, printed paper, labels, etc.

Overlays - Using a file that is rich in data to augment information in another file with the same names. Overlays can add phone numbers, job titles or demographic or psychographic information. See File tagging.

Owners - Any company that owns the data of its subscribers, customer base, or membership, and can define the terms of renting the data to other mailers.

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


Package Inserts - Any promotional offer included with the shipment of a customer's order. Offers may be from the same mailer shipping the product or other vendors who pay to be included.

Personalization - Using/printing personal information, such as a first or last name, in a direct mail campaign. See Variable Imaging

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.

Predictive Dialing - See Telemarketing Services

Premium - 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.

Pressure Sensitive (peel & stick) Labels - These adhesive-backed, press-on labels that are mounted four across on wax-type paper and generally affixed manually.

Psychographics - See List Services


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


Seeding - See List Services

Service Bureaus - See Computer Service Bureaus

The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code - Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes are four digit numerical codes assigned by the U.S. government to business establishments to identify the primary business of the establishment. The classification was developed to facilitate the collection, presentation, and analysis of data; and to promote uniformity and comparability in the presentation of statistical data collected by various agencies of the federal government, state agencies, and private organizations. The classification covers all economic activities: agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, and trapping; mining; construction; manufacturing; transportation; communications, electric, gas, and sanitary services; wholesale trade; retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; personal, business, professional, repair, recreation, and other services; and public administration.

Sorting - The computerized process of reorganizing a file 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.


Telemarketing Services -

Telephone Preference Service (DMA TPS) - A service of the Direct Marketing Association for consumers who want to have their names removed from telemarketing files.

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