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Direct Mail 101
Prospect or Customer?
To start managing your mail, one of the first things you'll need to figure out is whether companies consider you a prospect or a customer. What's the difference? Glad you asked.

If you receive mail from companies you've never bought from, you're a prospect—and your name is on a list they're using to try to find new customers.

However, if you have purchased from a company in the past, you are considered a customer.

Why is this important? Well, if you request to stop receiving mail for an entire category (for example, you don't want to receive catalogs anymore), companies are required to remove you from their prospect list. But if you are a customer of a particular catalog, that company needs to keep you on their list for invoicing—and in case you ever return an item. So, you will keep receiving mail from them and will need to contact them directly to be removed. On DMAchoice, we'll connect you to these companies' websites or customer service departments—making the process of managing your mail as quick and hassle-free as possible.
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  • Where did they get your name?
    If you just bought a new home, you're probably in the market for furniture. But if you live in an apartment building, chances are you won't be shopping for a lawn mower. Companies want to reach people who are most likely to be interested in what they have to offer. That's why they rent or buy relevant mailing lists to help them find prospective customers—instead of just sending mail at random.

    These prospect lists are created from information about your past purchases and interests. And this information can come from public records, phone directories, club memberships, and other sources.
  • What's the benefit of being on these lists?
    Direct mail keeps you in-the-know. It helps you find out about new products, services and money-saving deals. It connects you to local merchants. It informs you of important local and national charities. It even helps you compare prices and shop anytime you like—day or night.

    Last year, more than 70% of Americans shopped direct. More than 80% of U.S. households read some or all of their advertising mail. And non-profit organizations raised nearly $200 billion from generous donors through direct mail.

    But direct mail is only successful if you're interested in the types of mail you're receiving. That's why we created DMAchoice—to help you get more of the mail you want, and less of what you don't.
  • What can the mail preference service do for me?
    There are plenty of reasons to keep receiving direct mail. But maybe you just want to cut back on certain types that you're not interested in. We can help you do just that. We've divided direct mail into four categories:

    1. Credit Offers
    2. Catalogs
    3. Magazine Offers (this includes subscription offers, newsletters, periodicals and other promotional mailings)
    4. Other Mail Offers (this includes donation requests, bank offers, retail promotions and more)
    For each of these categories, you can choose whether or not you want to receive mail from companies one at a time. Or, if you prefer, you can choose to stop receiving mail for all companies you haven't purchased from or donated to within an entire category. Any choices you make will be effective for five years from the date you make them.
  • Facts About Direct Mail
    Some people come to the DMAchoice mail preference service planning on completely stopping all the direct mail they receive, because they think that doing so will help save paper and the environment. But before you do this, here are some numbers you may find interesting.

    1. Direct mail is a green way to shop. If Americans replaced two trips to the mall each year with shopping by catalog, we'd reduce our number of miles driven by 3.3 billion—a 3 billion pound reduction in carbon dioxide and a savings of $650 million on gas alone.
    2. Mail represents only 2.4% of America's municipal waste stream.
    3. The production of household advertising mail consumes only 0.19% of the energy used in the United States.
    4. Mail is made from a renewable resource. The vast majority of paper produced in America today comes from trees grown for that specific purpose. The forest industry ensures that the number of trees each year is increasing, so trees are not a depleting resource. In fact, forest land in the United States has increased by 5.3 million acres in the past three decades.
    5. Direct mail is critical to the economic well-being of communities, businesses and charities throughout the United States. Last year it represented more than $686 billion in sales, supporting jobs at more than 300,000 small businesses across the country.
  • Commitment to Consumer Choice and Other DMA Requirements
    If you've ever shopped direct—by mail, online, by phone or by home shopping TV shows—chances are, you're buying from members of the Direct Marketing Association. As DMA members, these companies must agree to follow our Commitment to Consumer Choice guidelines, ethics guidelines and specific complaint resolution processes.

    Learn more about the standards for DMA members and the role DMA plays in protecting consumers' rights (PDF - 76KB)

    To view or download PDFs, you will need Adobe Reader.
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