Response Rates, House File VS Prospect File

I have been asked many times about what is the response rate for direct mail.  The response rate depends on many factors, the copy, the ask, the size etc. According to the Direct Marketing Association, the following is the response rate using a house file vs a prospect file.

Letter Size envelope – House – 3.5%,  Prospect – 1.0%

Post Card – House – 4.3%,  Prospect – 1.0%

Oversized Envelope – House – 5.0%,  Prospect 2.0%

Catalog – House 3.9%,  Prospect 0.8%

This is a good argument for capturing data on your customers or donors. Your list is the best list.


What Is The Most Important Thing On A Direct Mail Piece?

Some might think that it is the message, the colors, the paper and a variety of other things but the most important thing is the addressing area.  The mail piece can be brilliantly designed, have a great message and have excellent printing but it will never reach the intended recipient if it is not addressed correctly.  There is a lot of space on the mailing panel that can be used for copy, but a certain area must be left for the address and applying the intelligent bar-code. Not leaving enough room for addressing is one of the most common mistakes that I see.  On a 4×6 card, there is not much room for copy because of the small size. I recommend the 5.5×8.5 size post card because it gets more attention when received and it gives room for addressing and more copy.  This is true for a fold over mailer or newsletter.

If Burns is designing the mail piece you don’t have to worry about USPS regulations, we have that covered.  If we are not designing the mail piece, we provide templates, to our customers, so that they know how much room is needed on the mailing panel.


I love politicians at this time of year

Why I love politicians at this time of the year is obvious.  They do lots of printing and mailing and I can do all of that for them plus several other things.  Some other things we do are;

  • Post cards (4×6, 5.5×8.5 and 6×11) the postage is the same for all sizes
  • Push Cards
  • Brochures
  • Door Hangers
  • Lapel Stickers
  • Business Cards
  • Laser personalized letter
  • Donation envelopes
  • Posters
  • Yard sign

We can usually get them out faster because we do it all in house.

Digital Printing And Mail Go Hand In Hand

I love that we can offer our customers digital printing.  It is fast and the printing is beautiful.  One of the benefits is that we can print  1 brochure, 200 or 5000.  If the quantity is over 5000, it is more economical to run on a conventional offset press.  Maybe the information for a company or organizations changes often, with digital printing the change can be made and new print collateral can be run on the digital press.  I have had so many customers, in the past, who printed large numbers of brochures and then changes need to be made and they were stuck with outdated materials.  Customers can print what they need and if changes are necessary,  they can be easily made.

Digital printing and mailing go hand in hand.  Our digital press can print both sides and address for mailing..all on one pass of the press.  First we sort the list for postal discounts and then we run the post cards in mail stream order.  If the digital press is not booked heavily they can sometimes be printed and mailed in one day. Did I mention that we clean up our customers list FREE by doing a NCOAlink update.

Give us a call at 865 584-2265 or visit our website for an online quote.


Coating The Addressing Area On Post Cards – Don’t Do It!

I rarely write two blogs in one day but this one warrants it.  We want to print all of the things we mail, but that is not always the case.  When the printing is done outside our shop and comes in for mailing we frequently have a problem with UV coating, varnish and other coatings in the addressing area.  The problem is that the ink that we use for  the bar-codes on the direct mail piece will not dry on surfaces with these coatings.  The ink smears, it will not dry and if we sent it to the Post Office like that it would be turned down.  If the direct mail piece comes in with the coating in the addressing area we have to print and them apply a label, which adds extra cost for the customer.  You can apply coating to the piece, but the addressing area must be left un-coated.

My Story And How I Came To Own A Printing/Mailing Company


I was born in Lynch, KY, a coal mining town in Eastern KY.  The entire town was owned by US Steel, including the hospital where I was born and even the schools.  My Mom was from Knoxville and had met my Dad when her Father was there working for US. Steel.  When Oak Ridge was started, my Dad got a job, working on the Manhatten Project, with Union Carbide and we moved to Oak Ridge, behind the fence in the secret city.  When I was six we moved to Ball Camp where I lived until I graduated from Karns High School.  While at Karns I met the love of my life, Ken Burns, at age 17.  We got married at age 19 and we were married for 52 years until he passed away from leukemia in 2014.  Ken and I moved to FL in the space era and I worked for Pan American Airlines at Cape Canaveral. Ken got into the printing industry at Cocoa FL.  We eventually moved back to Knoxville and Ken worked at several printing companies in town.  He decided to start his own printing company in the garage in 1981.  I was Vice President of Toyota of Knoxville, so I supported the family until he got the business started.  After a few years he moved to a commercial location and in 1990, I left my job at Toyota to sell and help manage the printing company.  In 1994 we purchased and moved the printing business to 6131 Industrial Heights Dr.  Along the way we started not only doing printing, but graphic design and direct mail as well.  In 2010 Ken had a stroke and was no longer able to work so I took care of him and ran the business.  I am the sole owner now and we are certified by the State of TN as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE). We work on large projects and smaller projects, large companies and small companies.  Our website is and you can follow me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter.  I have a blog; burnsonmailing that gives tips on mailing and printing and sometimes just about everyday observations.


Word of Mouth Referrals Are The Best

I have always heard that if someone is happy with your service they will tell a few, but if they are unhappy with your service, they will tell a lot.  Fortunately, for me today, one of my new customers told a room of people how happy he was with my service and that I have saved him around a $1000.00 over what he had been paying.  Wow, what that was worth to my company is priceless.  It did not cost me a penny of advertising, it was all because I had taken care of my customer.

At Burns, we take pride in taking care of our customers needs and yes, saving them money when possible.  Because we offer graphic design, printing and mailing, we plan the best way to save money and time and get the lowest postage possible.  A lot of our customers send us copy, pictures and their mailing list and we do the rest.  They never leave their office.  We are indeed a one-stop convenience for graphic design, printing and mailing.  Give us a try!

Mailing Lists

When entering data in to your customer or donor base, it must be consistent.  For mailing, we need each field to be separated into first name, middle name, last name,  city, state and zip.  If a mailing company receives your list and it has not been entered consistently,  the list may not be usable, or you may have to pay them to fix the list, if possible.  If  variable data is used, each variable must be in a separate field as well.

If you don’t have a list then we can help you with that.  Customers can give us the area and demographics that they are interested in purchasing and we can get a FREE list count to determine how many addresses meet that criteria. After the quantity is determined, we will provide a FREE estimate on mailing list costs, printing costs, mailing labor and postage. Call me today at 865 584-2265 to get your mailing project started.

Life Lessons And Customer Service

Life lessons are learned in many ways.  My granddaughter went off to camp yesterday and I am sure that she will learn a lot about how to get along with others, a little independence, to eat what everyone else is eating and hopefully to have fun.  In business sometimes we forget to have fun at what we are doing.  Yes, we need to earn a living but shouldn’t we enjoy the people that we meet, enjoy serving our customers and enjoy being with our co-workers.

I had an experience with great customer service today and it was done with a smile.  My steering wheel was locked when I got back in the car after a meeting with a customer.  The key would not turn and it was in the broiling sun.  I called Rice Buick and they came over and got me going again and had me get in an air conditioned car while I waited.  Now that is customer service.  If we are in business shouldn’t we go that extra mile for our customers?  I know that Rice Buick just did.

Check for Mailing Specifications BEFORE Printing

One of the most common mailing mistakes that I see, is not checking the USPS specification before printing.  There are certain areas on a post card that you can put copy and certain areas that must be left for addressing.  The area that must be left for addressing changed when the USPS implemented the intelligent bar-code.  The intelligent bar-code is much larger because it contains more information that the USPS uses to process the mail.  One benefit is that it speeds delivery and if the list is sorted correctly and the bar-code applied it can save money on postage. There are other common mistakes such as the orientation of the mailing panel, the weight of the paper and even the color of the paper.

That is why I recommend consulting with the experts at the inception of your direct mail project.  At Burns consulting is FREE to our customers.  We also provide templates for post cards and mailers so that our customers know what area they can use, on the mailing panel,  to get their message across to their target market.