The Truth on Mailing Lists

By Travis Lee

I want to talk about mailing lists… It’s certainly not a sexy topic to most, but it’s been my experience that proper list makes up 50% of the direct mail battle.

Ask any copywriter who tells the truth (and only some will), and the truthful ones will tell you, in order of importance, the three biggest elements to successful direct mail:

  • The list you mail: 40-50% of your success
  • The offer(s) you make: 25-30% of your success
  • The copy/creative: 25-30% of your success

You can get the greatest copywriter, dead or alive, to write your copy, and if it goes to the wrong list, you’ll never have success.

However, with careful list selection even average copywriter’s can get anywhere from good to amazing results.

I get a ton of questions from members each month about mailing lists. Most marketers worth their salt will tell you that direct mail success starts and ends with the list, and I completely agree.

Hierarchy of List Value:

Segmented house list: The bigger your list, the more important it is to be able to carve chunks out of it, to match to different kinds of offers – so you can create appealing offers and efficiently market to different customers.

Just about every marketer can increase profitability by moving away from one offer to the entire list to different offers and making compelling offers to different segments of a list.

Un-Segmented House lists: With today’s sophisticated CRM systems, you’re foolish to not have a segmented house list. However, some business still don’t have a way to segment their list, but that’s better than no house list at all.

As a side note, if you have a buyer mailing list of at least several thousand names, you have an asset that can, itself, produce profits via rental, outright sale or exchange to obtain other names.

Purchased or Rented Response Based list: These are people who have purchased from a specific campaign in your category. For example, Harry and David, Omaha Steaks, Sharper image.

There’s also an inquire based response lists. These are people who didn’t purchase. You called about a sleep number bed, or sun setter awnings, but didn’t purchase, that’s an inquire based list.

What they have in common is that they’ve taken some sort of next step towards a buying decision in a specific category.

Purchased or Rented Complied list: We can often get more demographic information about the specific person on a complied list vs. a response list, but we don’t know if they are a responder.

Age, income, gender, marital status, homeowner/renter are just a few of the dozens of ways we can slice and dice a compiled list.

Demographic information is based on warranty cards, public/government records, credit bureaus, surveys and contests you fill out, etc. and they pool the information and make a profile on each person based on their responses.

Acxiom, Excelsior & Experian are three big players in the compiled list world on the consumer side, while Dunn & Bradstreet are the lynchpins in the B2B space.

If you get a compiled list, you should ask the source. They don’t have to be these four, but it’s a good bet that it’s a good list if it’s from one of these four providers.

While we normally associate compiled and response lists with direct to consumer products, both types of lists are readily available in the B2B space as well.

Also understand that with response or compiled lists you will be RENTING these lists for one-time, two-time or multiple use and the price will go up with each option.

The lists will be “seeded” with false names and addresses that deliver your mail to the list owners, so they can police the use of their lists.

No list will be 100 percent deliverable. You should ask how often the list is “cleaned” and updated. You may want names of certain recency — magazines often offer “hotline names” of very recent subscribers, for example. Sometimes you can get a deliverability guarantee, just ask.

Most lists have minimum orders. I’ve seen as few as 100, and as many as a few thousand. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to mail them all. In fact, for local, small business purposes, a test of 500 names usually tells a lot.

With purchased or rented lists, you get what you pay for. I suggest you work with a list provider or list broker, who does it for a living (like us here at 3D Mail. Sure, you can use one of those online tools from one of those list businesses you’ve probably seen advertising, for $50, but remember, you get what you pay for.

You need to do research. I’ve heard horror stories of people buying lists that are horribly outdated. For example, I have an associate who purchased a list of attorney’s (not from us). He received calls from people saying they haven’t been practicing law for 3 years. Or the spouse calls, angry, because you sent mail to her husband who died 18 months ago… Just be sure you do your research and keep in mind, “you get what you pay for.”

We can provide a wide variety of compiled and respondent lists for consumers and businesses at 3D Mail. We are a Dunn and Bradstreet Authorized List Broker and can do most of the things we discussed above. Our lists average a 94% deliverability rate (the highest in the industry) and GUARANTEE 88% for business lists and 91% for consumer lists. Call 888-250-1834 to discuss your options.

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Direct mail caThe direct mail sweet spotn provide a great return on your marketing dollar, if done correctly. But too many businesses go at it haphazardly, with no strategy or game plan in place before they start. They simply ‘wing it’ and hope for the best.

That’s a bad business strategy for anything, but it can be multiplied and worsened with direct mail.

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If you’re considering the use of direct mail, this 9-minute video will save you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in mistakes, errors and frustration.

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To Your Direct Mail Success,
Travis Lee

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