There are some people in my business who will never use the “j” word. And they won’t tolerate others using it either. For them, it’s the ultimate insult for the work we do.

I think we all understand that for most of the population, junk mail is just another way of saying advertising mail or promotional mail.

But I see it differently. In my view, junk mail is simply unwanted mail (which, come to think of it, would mean bills, dental appointment reminders and anything from the IRS).

We all get unwanted mail every day. Like you, I throw it away – much of it unopened.

But none of us throw away ALL of my advertising mail or promotional mail. Not if it interests us.

Ask the sports fan if he wants to receive Sporting News promotions.
Ask the horse lover if she wants to receive Horse Illustrated promotions.
Ask the banker if he wants to know about upcoming financial conferences and seminars.

My message is this: just because you’re selling something doesn’t make it junk mail.

As a direct marketer, my goal is to send less junk mail – to keep unwanted mail to a minimum. This is important to me – not because I am a good guy, but because it costs me (and my clients) at least 50 cents a pop for each one these unwanted pieces of mail to get delivered.

Admittedly, this is a numbers game. For every 1,000 people we reach using outside lists, there are maybe 20-30 people who actually want to hear from us at that time. And that may be a reasonable return on your investment – even in the short run.

But the best part of that investment is long term. If you take those 20-30 people and put their names into your House List each time you do a mailing, pretty soon you’ll have your own list of people who actually want to hear from you.

So let’s not be afraid to send junk mail. Let’s just find ways to send less of it. It’s in your interest as much as anyone’s.


Written by Bob McCarthy

This article may be reprinted without permission as long as the article includes the following credit: Bob McCarthy is a freelance copywriter and consultant specializing in direct marketing and lead generation. His website is He can be reached at 508-473-8643 or by email at

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."