Direct Mail and Suppression

20 January 2021 / By Jeff Tarran
Direct Mail and Suppression

Key takeways:

  • Why every mailer needs a suppression file.
  • Who should be in that suppression file (more than just customers).
  • Why privacy laws make it more important than ever.

Who you DON’T mail to saves you more than money.

One of the basics of any prospect direct marketing program is to suppress the effort against existing customers. This is especially true for direct mail given the relatively high cost per thousand.

Beyond the obvious economic rationale, there are a couple more reasons not to mail certain populations:


  • People want the power to opt out. Consumers are doubly wary of being marketed to against their will these days. So, if someone wants off your mail file, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make good on that request.
  • It skews results analysis. In researching the reason for a depressed response rate with one client, we learned that nearly a third of the recipients should have been cut from the mail file. That’s a 33% reduction in the response rate right off the bat!

So, who should you suppress from a prospecting mail file? When we talk to clients about suppression files, here are the ones we mention and why:


  • Customers — Unless you can think of a reason to reach out to an active customer, save your money and save them from wondering why a brand they already do business with is asking for their business again.
  • Deceased — There is a national deceased file that saves you from marketing to dead people. It’s updated monthly, but could take a number of months to capture a new deceased record. We run it through every mailing we do.
  • Do Not Solicit (the national file) — Consumers can go to DMA Choice and asked to be removed from any direct mail solicitation. Again, we run that through every mailing we do.
  • Do Not Solicit (internal file) — Keep a list of people who have notified your company to have their names removed from future mailings. Direct mail does not fall under many of the provisions of CCPA and other digitally-oriented privacy regulations, but it is a best practice to adhere to these requests. (Why waste money soliciting people who tell you in advance that they won’t do business with you?)
  • Declined Prospects — If you’ve recently declined a prospect, it’s often best you hold off remarketing to them until you either know their situation has changed or enough time has gone by that they are viable prospects again. This is particularly true for fintech and finserv marketers.
  • Ex-employees — Some companies in competitive industries will do their best to curtail mailings to ex-employees. Taking them off a seed list is always recommended.
  • Competitors — This is a B-to-B concern. Say you are mailing to marketing directors. That list could include competitor marketing staff and you may prefer that they don’t see what you are up to. A simple list of business names to exclude solves for that.

Don’t take a suppression file for granted. Think creatively about past, present and even future prospects who should be removed from any mailing to save money, improve response and save you from potential privacy headaches down the road.

Final thought — Don’t let your suppression be an afterthought. Get started on it early so you can provide it to your data processing partner when prospect data is delivered to keep mailings on schedule.

Please stop by our contact page for more information on our direct mail services!

Jeff Tarran
About The Author

Jeff Tarran

As VP of Account Services, Jeff works with our clients to analyze business problems and develop direct marketing strategies that achieve their goals. A 20-year veteran and strategic thought leader in direct marketing, Jeff has headed two independent direct response agencies in the Bay Area after starting his career at Foote Cone and Belding. He earned a Dual BS in management and communications at Syracuse University and his MBA in marketing at Columbia University in New York.