Your Mailing List is Only as Good as its Source


Whether you run several direct mail campaigns or just one or two mailers a year, the most important thing to consider is the quality of your list. The list, itself, can be 80% of the success of your direct marketing and can amount to 100% of its failure. The best kinds of list are the ones you grow organically, but even those won’t yield desired results if you don’t take care of that list.  

When using a house list, it’s essential that your data is sorted and entered correctly. Having bad data can give you the wrong contact person, incorrect salutation data or even an undeliverable address. There are actions your mail partner can take to help clean or scrub the list, but even some of those techniques are not full proof. Here are a few things to consider when curating a mail list from your database.

  • Provide a separate field for each data point. When starting a database, it’s good for it to have structure. Having separate fields for a first name and a last name, address, city, state and zip are pretty much a requirement. Adding fields like salutation and title enhances the ability to personalize the mail piece.
  • Collect additional demographic and behavioral data. Add personal information like gender, ethnicity and age, which increases the range of variability for imagery and copy used on the direct mailers. Be sure to include other relevant data to your products or services such as what kind of car a customer drives, what their favorite color is, how many kids they have or what their hobbies and interests are.
  • Learn your customers’ buying patterns. Add customer-specific purchase information to a contact’s record based on their past purchase history, amount spent, and form of payment. This type of data can really help connect with the perspective buyer or customer with the offer of the direct mail campaign.

Another way to enhance your list is by appending purchased list data to what you already have. Many of the list compilers today build modeling data to find a whole gamut of things that could be useful. For example, if you are looking for people in your list that like to travel or that have an interest in racing triathlons, there are models built to identify people within your list that have these interests. You could also find people that will spend $50, $100 or $200 on an evening out for dinner and if they are likely wine drinkers or not. The data is not always 100% accurate, but the idea with this approach is to find people that will connect or be attracted to the offer you are putting in front of them with the hopes of them taking action.

Another option in purchasing a list is profiling your own list to find out who your customers are. You can take that data and look for new prospects with similar profiles as your customers and quickly turn those new prospects into leads.

To see how this applies in a real life scenario, consider the following example. If you are selling new BMWs, you wouldn’t want to market to someone who has never purchased a new car or a car under $50,000. With the data modeling or a propensity list (lists used to identify the prospects who are most likely to become your customer) you will be able to weed those records out of your list. The same can be said for a used car dealer that sells only cars $25,000 or less. Marketing to individuals that only buy new luxury cars wouldn’t make much sense. In either of these car-buying scenarios, sending a solicitation would be a waste of resources if sent to the wrong prospect.

The practice 10 years ago was to just buy lists of all people living in an area and pray that your mailer connected with them. It wasn’t a very effective way to reach people and often had a very low response (less than 2%). With all the data captured today you need to be smarter about who you mail to, what you show them and what you say. Even millennials have a higher need for connectivity in today fast-paced world. Studies are showing that direct mail is the best way to reach them.

Your list, and the quality of it, has never been more important than right now. Consumer and Business lists are constantly changing. People move much more frequently than they did in years past, so staying on top of changes can mean the difference between a positive return or a negative outcome. Updating your list should be a constant practice. Every quarter used to be the norm. However, every month or even more often is now good practice to get into. Your list is as valuable as you make it, and the people that spend the effort in keeping their lists current and up to date are the ones that really benefit and get the best return on their investment.

About the author

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Keith Schwarting

Keith Schwarting

With 20 years of experience in the print and mailing industry, Keith shared his knowledge and expertise through his role as a sales representative at Suttle-Straus. He also worked at Accurate Response, a mailing house that was eventually acquired by Suttle-Straus.
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Topics: Direct Mail