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Mailing List Survival Guide

How to avoid expensive mistakes, mass confusion and massive mailing flops

July 23, 2014 By Joy Gendusa
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Everyone who uses direct mail needs to know this. If shouting it from the top of a mountain would help, I'd do it. But writing this article seems more effective.

Here's the deal: Your mailing list is the most important part of your direct mail campaign.  

"Really?" You say. "Surely it's the design ... or the copywriting?"

No. It's the mailing list. And here's why.

You are a small business that sells high-end landscaping services to commercial properties (for the sake of this example). You spend months tweaking the perfect postcard design, complete with motivating copy and the ultimate "Act Now" offer. This thing is prime. No one could resist its marketing power.

Once it's ready for action, you buy a targeted mailing list of 5,000 commercial properties in your area and start mailing. You are consistent, sending out a card every month, but still the results are ... well ... dissatisfying. What's the problem?

You probably guessed it. Just because you "targeted" prospects doesn't mean you targeted the right prospects. You sell high-end services. Maybe 25 percent of the list you bought can afford you. So that's 75 percent of your postcards down the drain right out of the gate. Not good.

I see this a lot. But when you try to skimp on the mailing list, you always get burned. The success of your campaign rests on your ability to put your ad in the right hands. Everything else is gravy.

OK, so that's great, but how do you make sure you get the right list?

For the large majority of business owners and marketers, the best way to deal with mailing list companies is through an intermediary. It may add a slight bump to the bottom line, but the world of mailing lists is thoroughly confusing, and it's easy to get the wrong kind of list, overpay for a list, or miss a detail that comes back to haunt you. Most direct mail companies offer this service and have enough experience with mailing list compilers to know which ones are reputable and which to avoid.

With that said, there are still basics you need to know, and here they are:

The Types of Mailing Lists

  • Consumer List
    A mailing list compiled from consumer data collected from other businesses. You can get very specific with what you need with these lists. Target by age, gender, location, income, housing, etc. If a plumber wants to target homeowners within its home county with household income over $100,000 and homes built before 2005, it would want a consumer list. (Note: You can have a consumer list created based on the profile of your current best customers. It's often called an "ideal customer list.")
  • Subscriber List

Companies Mentioned:


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