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,


The biggest mistake financial advisors make with drip marketing…

I suppose my title is a little misleading since the biggest mistake financial advisors can make with their drip marketing is to not do it at all. Assuming that’s not a mistake you are making, here’s the answer you are looking for…

D'oh mistake - Homer Simpson

Image copyright Fox News Entertainment

You are overthinking it.

I’m in the fortunate position to meet and talk with financial advisors every day. When I ask them what their drip marketing efforts consist of, the top 3 things I hear from them are:

  1. Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly stock market or economic updates. Don’t get me wrong, you are in the financial advice business and stock market/economic updates may be what you think your clients and prospects expect from you. In fact, there are some great turnkey options for you out there. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few that I think do a solid job:
    • Emerald Publications
    • Peter Montoya’s Marketing Library/Marketing Pro
    • Ron Carson’s Peak Advisor Alliance
    • FMG Suite (pretty sure they offer one)

I know I’m leaving plenty of quality newsletters off the list. Here’s the biggest challenge with using market updates as your drip campaign. You’re training them to watch the market, or at least you’re suggesting that it is something you want them to see. This holds true for clients and prospective clients.

2. Cutesy, fluff newsletters. (Maybe you’re even including a recipe.) While this is less egregious than putting the market updates in a prospective client’s face all the time, it’s not likely to trigger them to make a call to come in and see you. It’s still pretty impersonal.

3. The third most common item I hear about when it comes to a prospective client drip campaign is a stuffy financial letter or update on current events. If this is written by you, maybe you could get away with it because it will have a little personality to it. The biggest challenge with most of the services out there is that they have to appeal to the masses when they write content.

I should point out that doing any of the above three items is better than doing nothing. However, you’ll have to concede that most of the emails won’t be read and that hopefully you get a few “branding” points from time to time.

So … what’s the best approach? Something simple and not packed with too much information. If you can personalize it in any way, that’s great, but this can be trickier to accomplish when you are seeking to automate your efforts.

A handful of years ago I created a 3-year drip marketing program for advisors. Literally, every single month I have multiple notes to me about how it triggered appointments. There are a few emails in those campaigns that are the most effective. I’ll share one:

Subject line: Checking in


I was thinking about you and wanted to shoot a quick note to see how things were going and if there was anything I could help out with.

As you know, we help answer questions about ________, and basically anything related to your financial well-being.

I hope this note finds you well. If we can be of assistance, please shoot me an e-mail back and we can try to set up a time to connect.

All the best,



I told you that you were overthinking it.

All the best,