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Why use Demographic Mailing Lists over Saturation Mailing Lists?

Clients and prospects will tell me they use a saturation list for their direct marketing programs. Great! Now at least we they are doing some type of marketing.

Before I go too far, let’s get a couple of definitions out of the way so we are speaking the same language. And for discussion purposes, I will limit to consumer mailing lists.

Saturation list, aka an occupant mailing, is list used to mail to every address in your target area and to receive the lowest postage rates possible. This type of list is designed to simply get you to the address. It will contain minimal, if any, information on the occupants including no name. The term “saturation” is actually a term by the USPS (United States Postal Service) to reference mailing to at least 90% of the addresses in a given carrier route for which you receive greater postage discount.

Demographic list is a file built to know more about the households so we can segment and tailor targeted messaging and offers. A demographic file will pull in multiple sources including census data, magazine subscribers, mortgage and tax roll files, purchasing behavior, warranty card information, etc. to give us as complete of a picture as possible about a household.

Back to my headline: “Why use demographic mailing lists over saturation mailing lists?” Let me answer that with a real life scenario.

An agency client was handling marketing for dental offices and using saturation lists to send postcards to everyone in selected zip codes around various dental offices. They were sending over 1 million pieces every month. They wanted to decrease their production costs, increase their ROI and segment their marketing messages to a diverse audience.

First we added demographic information to their customer file so they could study and understand who was buying from them. Once they had their various audiences defined and identified, they then pulled new marketing lists using those demographics even in areas with less than 90% coverage. Remember, a Saturation list goes to areas with 90% coverage or more. If an area is closer, but less than 90% it will not be included.

The results were quite dramatic. They decreased their total mailings by 40% to 600K pieces per month and better targeted their demographics (think households with children, empty nesters, singles, elderly, etc.) with the appropriate messaging. Their postage costs dropped, their materials and production costs dropped and their ROI improved because of relevant messaging.

There are scenarios when you want to get a message out to as many people in an area as possible in which case a saturation mailing is ideal. When you want to “target” your audience and customize your creative to that audience, a demographic file is the way to go.

Happy Hunting!

Greg Good


Demographics vs. Saturation lists


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