Direct Mail Marketing & Undeliverable Rates: What to Expect

There’s nothing more frustrating than wasted marketing dollars. It’s one thing if the message isn’t effective. It’s another thing if it reaches the wrong audience. It’s an entirely different issue if it never even makes it to anybody at all.

I’m referring to the dreaded undeliverable mail. Last year alone, our firm sent out more than 5 million pieces of direct mail to promote events. The post office likes us, what can I say. The lion’s share of that mail is assisting independent financial advisors promote educational events. However, WHAT is being promoted has no bearing on undeliverability rates.

We use a number of different types of mail to promote events, including postcards, tri-fold and bi-fold pieces, as well as envelope style mailings. What we mail usually determines whether we will send it first-class or standard-class with the USPS. When we use small postcards, we’ll typically mail them using first-class postage since the price difference is nominal for that size mailing.

We do this marketing as a service for the financial professionals with whom we work. It’s a means to an end for us. At least once a month, I’m sent a note expressing frustration with somebody receiving a bunch of pieces of returned mail. I get the frustration. The most recent note I received included a picture of the stack of returned mail with the note “that’s a lot of money being thrown in the toilet.”


Here were the stats centered around this mailing and then we’ll dive into what should be expected:

There were approximately 9,000 postcards mailed. There were 144 pieces of mail returned as undeliverable. That represents a 1.6% undeliverable rate. I don’t love it any more than the next guy, but here’s what the industry gurus will say (and then I’ll share our experience):

Data provider infoUSA says:


Online postcard print company PostcardMania says:


Mailing Systems Technology quoted some USPS stats and stated:

Mailing Systems technology.PNG

Our data historically has shown anywhere from a .5% – 2% undeliverable rate. We run every list through the NCOA (National Change of Address) directory with the USPS AND we purchase a new list for EVERY mailing we conduct. The other thing to point out is this: Many novice marketers will say something like, “I’ve never had this happen before.” There’s a good chance that your marketing efforts in the past didn’t mail using first-class postage. Keep in mind that the USPS isn’t obligated to return undeliverable mail to the sender.

While I understand the frustration, before you go on a rant at your marketing firm, lead list company, or mail house, make sure you know the facts about undeliverable rates. With that said, there are certainly plenty of list resellers that have “old” data. Do your homework in finding reputable data providers.


All the best,


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