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3 Steps to Finding the Right Mailing List

…and 3 Questions to Ask the Provider

The most crucial element in a direct mailcampaign is the mailing list. Obviously, all the different components of a campaign carry their own particular importance, but the list ultimately makes the biggest impact on its ultimate performance. The right custom mailing list will yield exponentially better results than a standard list or a poorly targeted list.

Here are three steps to follow that will lead you to the right list, followed by three questions to ask when purchasing your list.

1) Choose to buy a list or DIY?

There are essentially two options when compiling a list for your mailing campaigns:

1) Compile your own list based on your customers and prospects.

2) Purchase a list from a provider.

Option one is obviously the cheaper route. However, if you haven't already been

compiling a list of all contacts you make, it will take time and significant effort to compile a large enough list. Option two doesn't require much effort on your part, but it does require a monetary investment. Which option is right for you depends on the particular needs of your business and your marketing. You will know quickly if Option one is reasonable for you and whether you're willing to put in the effort to compile the list.

2) Identify your ideal prospects

It's normal to think about marketing as “convincing,” but this is not a useful way to define the goal of marketing. Rather, think about marketing as “identifying,” because an effective marketing campaign simply identifies the people who already desire your product and presents them with an attractive offer to take advantage of. In practice, there is actually very little “convincing” involved. Prospects should see fairly quickly why they should choose your business over the competition. Targeting prospects that already have a vested interest in what you sell puts you at an advantage before you even begin.

For example, a local jewelry store shouldn't simply send postcards to everyone in its zip code. The fact is, not everyone in the area wears or wants jewelry. Instead the store should identify the ideal type of person who is most likely to buy. Maybe it's women between the ages of 35 and 70 who reside in a household with a $75,000+ annual income, or perhaps the shop should focus on married men with an income of $50,000 or above. A list like this could be full of quality prospects for a jewelry store and it would stand a good chance of generating great results.

3) Identify the right list type

There are essentially five types of mailing lists:

The house list: You create this list yourself (see option one above). It's made up of current customers, past customers, and anyone who has contacted your business. House lists are effective—since these are warm prospects with some definite interest and trust in you—and should be used regularly.

The response list: This list includes people who have responded to businesses that offer similar products to yours. You can get these kinds of lists from providers such as magazines, private list companies, or direct mail companies. Although these prospects have not responded to you specifically, they have shown interest in your type of products, which means they should be warm to your offer already.

The targeted demographic list: This type of list is made up of anyone you want to target. Demo lists target prospects by demographics like age, gender, geographic location, income level, and number of children in the home, which means you can get very specific about who you want to target.

The opt-in list: Opt-ins are ideal because individuals have actually asked to be on them. They can, however, be on the more expensive end of the spectrum. In spite of this they can yield incredible ROI, so they should not be neglected entirely.

The segmented list: A segmented list is like a demo list, but even more targeted. Segmented lists target prospects by very specific data like spending and saving habits, reading preferences, vacation/travel patterns, etc. You can also use segmentation technology to analyze your current customer base. This allows you to identify similarities and build a list based on those common traits.

3 questions to ask to help you find a reputable list company

1. Do you guarantee deliverability? The company should offer at least 90% deliverability.

2. Do you update your lists monthly? An up-to-date mailing list is critical because people move and this greatly affects mailing list quality. If you're trying to target an elderly man and the current resident of the home turns out to be a young family, the messaging on that postcard will not relate to them.

3. Can I use this list more than once? Some list companies will sell you a list for one-time use only. This doesn't do you much good since the key to success with direct mail is repeat mailings. Before you purchase, find out if the company you're dealing with has an unlimited usage option and what the cost is. Usually the list broker will give you a price of two to three times the single use cost which will allow you to mail to the list as many times as you want for one year.

Hopefully this helps clear the air regarding mailing lists. I know the process can get confusing, but procuring a well-targeted mailing list is key to your success, so don't give up.

Joy Gendusa is the owner and CEO of direct mail marketing firm PostcardMania. Joy began PostcardMania in 1998, with nothing but a phone and a computer. Find Joy on Google+.

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