What is CPM?

One of the most frequent questions we receive from people new to direct marketing (and advertising in general) is what is CPM and what does it have to do with buying mailing lists? CPM is one of those things that at first glance can seem confusing, but actually makes sense when you thing about it.

CPM Defined

CPM stands for Cost Per Mille, mille being the Latin word for thousand. Why not just say thousand? Some people do. But mille is a hold over from the publishing world where Latin terms are liberally sprinkled into the lexicon, and old habits die hard! When you’re buying mailing lists, it’s enough to remember that CPM means your cost per thousand addresses (whether postal or email).

How CPM Works for Mailing Lists

When you buy or rent a list, the cost is based on how many impressions you want to make—in the case of direct mail or email marketing, how many addresses you wish to reach. CPM is a consistent and universally practiced way to price lists. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy 500 or 11,625 names; CPM is merely a way for you to get an apples to apples comparison of the cost of different mailing lists.

Different types of lists will have different CPM rates. For example, if you wish to send your list to every household in a zip code and a resident mailing list will work for you, your CPM will be lower than if you want to send a mailing to consumers in that same zip code based on specific interests and demographic information. If you are unsure what kind of list you want, doing a CPM comparison can help you make the decision. The difference in price for the more targeted list may be minor, or it may be big enough to nudge your decision toward a broader list. You won’t often know until you find the CPM for each.

If you are unsure what type of mailing list is right for your campaign, our list brokers will be more than happy to tell you more about CPM and the other things you need to consider when buying mailing lists.


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