Right-Sizing Direct Mail Suppression Pays Off in 2 Big Ways

What We Did

Analytics & Insights, Direct Mail

The Challenge

KCTS 9 is a public television station in Seattle, WA. Their acquisition mail had been seeing declining response rates in recent years and Allegiance Group + Pursuant set out to find out why and reverse the trend.

In working with KCTS to review all file pull instructions, one key finding was that they were inadvertently suppressing many potential donors from receiving their acquisition direct mail pieces. This was evidenced in the size of their suppression file and their extremely low net rate in the merge/purge. It was clear that solving the over-suppression issue would be critical in raising response rates.

Our investigation determined that legacy database queries, a profound lack of documentation about those queries and staff changes all combined to make them hesitant to make big changes to their suppression file pull queries. But they knew something had to change. Their program was suffering because of the over-suppression. Response rates were down and list costs were way up since they had to rent so many names to get to their target mail quantity.

The Solution

They made the decision to invest the time and effort to correct the problem. Through collaboration with Allegiance Group + Pursuant (and a lot of patience!), they investigated enough to get them comfortable with what the new, much smaller suppress file was made up of. They took the leap of faith to use it in their May 2020 acquisition campaign.

The Results

KCTS 9 had a strict list budget for the May campaign and because of that, they were concerned that they were not going to be able to afford their target mail quantity of 120,000 names. But, due to the much higher name retention that resulted from the right-sizing of their suppression file, KCTS retained 125,563 names in the merge at a net rate of 58% compared to 39% in all of their previous campaigns. In addition, their list rental cost came in well under their established list budget for the campaign.

KCTS Acquisition Mail


Increase in response rate


increase in revenue per 1,000

The May campaign yielded a response rate of 0.59% — an increase of 51% over the fiscal year’s average (.39%)!

The revenue per thousand pieces mailed for May ($357) was more than double that of the previous May campaign ($162)!

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