What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp.                                                                                           ~Anonymous

It might be a little poetic to think of a direct mail campaign as a warm human hand-clasp, but when it comes right down to it, isn’t that exactly what we want it to do? Making a human connection is essential when you’re trying to persuade a hot lead that your senior living community is right for them. We all know that stat about senior living requiring about 25 touches in order to close a sale. We also know how the right piece of personal mail makes us feel. This is why I believe direct mail, when done right, is a vital part of your marketing strategy.

But getting it right is the trick. Why? Well, I’m delighted you asked. Because if you aren’t careful, getting it wrong means you’re wasting precious budget dollars, human resources, and clogging up mailboxes. Getting it right is complicated. Let me explain.

1. You Need the Right Address.

Sounds simple, right? But it really isn’t that straightforward. Depending on the source1, between 27 and 40 million Americans moved each year for the past 5 years. And, according to the USPS®, they processed 36 million change-of-address requests (COAs) in 2021. That’s an average of 98,630 COAs every single day. That’s not all. They also add 5,825 new delivery addresses every day too. So while the post office might know where your prospect moved to, or where that new business is located, the more important question is whether or not you do!

Your direct mail partner should know their way around the various ways to verify that you can match the right name to the right address. That’s vital because undeliverable addressed mail can be costly when we’re talking print pieces. Is it really a big deal? Well, the USPS estimates an undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) mail rate at 5 to 30 percent depending on the industry. For marketing UAAs, that means your print pieces are recycled or discarded.

2. You Need the Right Mail Class.

True story: a new client explained that one of the reasons for changing vendors was because they were being charged the First-Class™ Mail postage rate for their direct mail campaigns. Why? Because the previous agency didn’t understand the different options offered by the Postal Service. Postage prices are complicated. If you don’t specialize in this type of work, you might cringe when you visit the USPS® pricing page for First-Class™ Mail. See what I mean?

You can send a thank you note to your BFF for the cost of a Forever stamp ($0.58). The cost of First-Class™ Mail for marketing purposes ranges from $0.197 to $0.426 and much less depending on the quantity and geography of the recipients. Multiply that out by 10,000, 20,000 or more pieces, and your budget could be taking a needless hit.

Understanding the intricacies of postage is a critical element in a direct mail marketing campaign. Paying attention to exactly how many pieces are being sent and getting the UAA percentage down is the difference between staying on budget or going over. And we all know what that means.

3. You Need to Use the Right Address Correction Method.

Back in 2008, the USPS instituted the Move Update standards, which marketers need to understand. These standards mandate that you need to use the right address correction method to even have your mailing accepted at the post office. There are 5 acceptable methods, including NCOALink® and ACS™ with an Intelligent Mail barcode and a mailer ID. There are 2 alternative methods, including the 99 Percent Accuracy method where you can match their database with less than a 1 percent failure rate. Remember how many people moved last year? Yeah. It’s complicated.

The right partner uses the right address correction method in a way that fits with your brand, the goals of your campaign, and the specific type of direct mail being sent. Sure, you could choose to use Every Door Direct Mail® but this blanket approach means you’re targeting every single household in my neighborhood. If you’re a new pizza parlor, it might be a smart move. If you’re marketing an upscale senior living community, you’ve just wasted a lot of manhours and budget.

4. You Need to Learn a New Language.

Direct mail is complicated. Did I say that already? It is when your partner begins talking about UAAs, appending, segmenting, NCOA, and pasDPVR codes. The mailing portion of a direct mail campaign is all about acronyms that most of us have never encountered before. Then there’s the print portion of direct mail. It has its own unique vocabulary with such terms as bleed, saturation, CYMK, DPI and source code.

Paper is paper until you’re the one choosing what to use for your expensive new brochure. Glossy or matte? Textured or not? How about weight? Should it be 130-170 g/m² or 200-250 g/m²? And then there’s the question of size. Your mail partner will understand how each decision impacts the final cost of your campaign.

5. You Need a Great Graphic Designer.

Surprised? Sabal Group focuses on the mailing process. So it might be a shock when I say the design of the piece is every bit as important as the mailing process. That’s because the USPS handled 66.2 billion pieces of marketing mail in 2021. If you have a postal mailbox, you’ve seen your fair share of those 66.2 billion pieces. And you know just how difficult it can be to grab the attention of your target audience. Investing in professional graphic design is worth every penny.

If all of this sounds hard to get right, you’re absolutely correct. It can be a challenge to get it right. But, according to a USPS spring 2020 survey, 54 percent of respondents tried a new product or a new business because they received a piece of direct mail.

If you’d like to learn more about how Sabal Group can help you get it right, I’d love to set up a call with you. No strings, no hard sell. Because I believe every brand deserves to have the right partner who can get down in the weeds with joy and make their clients’ campaigns more successful. That’s the Sabal way.


1. Move.Org reports that according to the US Census Bureau, 27.1 million Americans moved in 2021. JCHS of Harvard University reports that according to American Community Survey (ACS) data, about 40 million Americans have moved each year for the past 5 years.