3 Steps to Choosing a Great Direct Mailing List

Direct Mailing Lists

Up until this point, my Industry Insights articles have been focused on online marketing and online content generation, but for this column I wanted to get back to my roots: direct mail.

The mailing list you use for your direct mail marketing is a crucial factor in determining how successful your efforts will be. If you mail to a list of unqualified prospects, your results will quite simply be terrible. However, if you use a list of quality prospects you will generate leads and revenue consistently.

So, how do you tell the good ones from the bad ones?

There are basically three steps you go through in the mailing list selection process. I want to break them down for you, so you end up with mailing lists that help your business thrive. Follow these three steps to narrow down what your optimal mailing list is...

Decide Where to Get Your List

When it comes to acquiring a direct mail mailing list, you basically have two options:

  1. You make your own list from your current customers and prospects that have contacted you in the past.
  2. You get a list from a list provider. Most of the time you'll have to purchase this list, but sometimes you can get one for free through a promotion or a bonus.

The first one is obviously going to be the cheapest, unless you get a free one from a list provider. However, it will take some effort on your part to compile the list. The second one won't require much effort on your part, but it will usually require a monetary investment. Which one you choose will depend on your particular needs and the purpose of your direct mail campaign, but it will all come down to these two options.

Target Prospects Who Are Already Interested

It's important you don't look at marketing as persuading your prospective customers to buy from you. That really isn't the case. Effective marketing is targeting prospects that are already interested in what you offer. Then, you communicate to them why your company is the best option in your industry.

Effective targeting ensures your postcard recipients are already interested in your products or services. They just need to be shown why they should choose you instead of your competitors.

In other words, you aren't trying to sell beer to the Temperance Society. You are just mailing to a list of the Homer Simpsons of the world and selling them beer using effective postcards. See the difference? Targeting prospects that are already interested puts you at an advantage before you even start.

Let's look at an example:

An after-school tutoring center wouldn't send their cards to everyone in neighboring zip codes, because not everyone needs what they offer. Instead, they should find a mailing list comprised of households with one or more children and a household income above $70,000.

These homes have prospects who are likely to be interested in the services they offer, and who also have the means to spend money on extra academic help for their kids. That list is full of quality prospects and has a good chance of generating results for the tutoring center.

Choose the Right List Type

There are basically 5 types of mailing lists to choose from. Let's take a look at each one:

  • The House List
    This is a list you create yourself. It’s comprised of your current customers, past customers and prospects who have contacted your company in the past. The people on this list are high-quality prospects because they have already chosen your company or at least shown some interest. They are very effective and should be used often.

  • The Response List

    Direct Mailing Lists

    This list includes people who have responded to businesses similar to yours or to products and services similar to the ones you offer. They are also high-quality prospects, because they have expressed interest in a business like yours.

    You can get these lists from a list provider like a magazine, a private company, or a direct mail provider. These prospects may not have responded to you specifically, but they have shown interest in similar businesses. That means they are at least primed and warmed up to your marketing already.

  • The Targeted Demographic List
    This list is comprised of….whoever you want it to be comprised of. That’s the whole point! You can target prospects by demographics like age, gender, geographic location, income level and number of children present in the home. Look at your current customer list and find what they have in common. Then, create a list that targets those similarities. In this list, you are targeting more physical characteristics as opposed to behavioral characteristics like in a response list.

  • The Opt-In List
    This list is awesome, because the people on it have ASKED to be on it. They want to be wooed by companies. That makes them very fertile soil for marketing. As you may have guessed, these lists are more on the pricey side, but they can have incredible ROI (Return On Investment).

  • The Segmented List
    This is like a demographics list on STEROIDS. It targets prospects by certain criteria, but it goes WAY beyond the traditional characteristics. You can target prospects based on spending and saving habits, reading preferences, vacation/travel patterns and more. You can use the same technology to analyze your customer base, find the similarities, and then build a list based on those common characteristics.

    There aren’t a lot of companies who can offer this type of list. My company is one of them, and, unfortunately, I’m actually not allowed to disclose who else offers it. The price can go from being very expensive to a more reasonable investment. The company that created the technology doesn’t allow their clients to print their name, but we can tell you all about them if you call our office and ask us.

The mailing list you choose for your direct mail marketing is so crucial. I urge you to invest some time and research to make sure you get the right one. I hope I have helped clear up the selection process for you, so you can know what to expect as you shop around for the best list for your business.

Happy marketing!

Joy Gendusa is the Founder and CEO of PostcardMania, a fully-integrated marketing firm specializing in direct mail. She used postcards to grow PostcardMania from just a phone and computer to a $22million enterprise in less than a decade.