Mailing lists for your direct-mail program come in many shapes and sizes, but the best lists you can use are ones you build yourself. Your number-one list consists of your customers. These people already purchase from you and are usually open to new promotions and products.
Your number-two list contains the prospects who have responded in some way but have not become customers yet. They should still be responsive to your future mailings and promotions.
Your number-three list consists of new prospects you have never heard from or have never contacted before. Look at your type of current customers and find a list that has other people or com – panies like them on it. You should always test at least 2,000 to 5,000 names first to evaluate the response before investing in the entire list. Some list companies have a minimum order, but you may be able to convince them to let you test a smaller number. Sometimes, the list or your offering will pull more at certain times of the year, so plan in advance and have enough staff available to handle the response.
Good sources for lists include list brokers and yellow-pages lists. If you can use yellow-pages lists, the best source is ReferenceUSA. You can buy these lists on disc or labels, with or without contact names and phone numbers. List brokers can supply lists of magazine subscribers and other private lists. Your cost per 1,000 will vary with the amount of detail or refinement you request and the quantity you order.
Another source for lists is a company that serves the same market as you do but is not a competitor. You may be able to swap lists and incur very little cost, but always get an agreement that the company to which you give your list will not resell it or merge into their other lists. You don’t want your customer list to indirectly get to your competition.
If you want to mail a large list, it’s best to test a few thousand names before you invest in the entire list. Purchase a test sample using the nth name, which is a random selection and gives the best overall test. The right list used at the right time can increase your business quickly. You wouldn’t see all the direct-mail offers in your mailbox if the system wasn’t working for the senders.
If a list works for you, and you get the response you expect, don’t hesitate to mail it again in three to six months. A good list doesn’t wear out; it keeps producing good results. Each time you use the list or purchase it, there should be some new listings and some bad addresses taken off. Even with higher postage rates these days, direct mail is still the most economical way to reach prospects and customers if you use the correct list with the right offer at the right time.