What Most Businesses Don’t Know About Direct Mail Lists


Your mailing list is the single most important success factor for your direct mail budget.  And it should always be chosen FIRST – before you start the copy or design.  Choosing the Best Direct Mail List

  • Mailing List should GUIDE direct mail copy, design, and offer.
  • Mailing List should NEVER be an afterthought!

Don’t believe me about the importance of the list?  Think about this:

  • Would it really matter how BEAUTIFUL your direct mail package was . . . or how FABULOUS your copy . . . or how AMAZING your Offer – if you mailed to the wrong audience? 

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE:  A print broker produced a direct mail package for a client.  The client allowed the print broker to get the mailing list.  The broker selected the worst possible list he could have selected for the client – and the mailing of more than 60,000 pieces generated exactly 0 sales.

The client was selling nutritional supplements, designed to help prevent heart disease.   The client knew the majority of their audience would be over the age of 60.  So the print broker purchased a mailing list of consumers over the age of 60.  Let’s see, isn’t that pretty much like finding a needle in a haystack – just blindly mailing to consumers by age, and HOPING you find someone who happens to be interested in preventing heart disease?

Two Main Types of Direct Mail Lists

Direct Mail Pros know there are two main types of mailing lists — one tends to produce SIGNIFICANTLY better results.  But unfortunately, the other tends to be the one most often recommended to unsuspecting clients.

Direct Mail List Types

RESPONSE Lists are mailing lists of people who have RESPONDED to something:

  • They may be BUYERS of a product or service, or of a product line (from a catalog, website, etc.).
  • They may have requested more information from a company (“INQUIRERS”).
  • They may have attended a trade show or other event.
  • Or they may be SUBSCRIBERS to a print publication.

These mailing lists tend to be more specific – we know more about the buyers, what they bought, how much they spent, what type of information they requested, what event they attended, or what type of magazine they subscribe to.

  • That means we can TARGET much more effectively by behavior.
  • These lists tend to be more accurate, because they’re more up-to-date.  A subscriber list for a monthly magazine is being mailed monthly – so that list is identifying and removing bad addresses monthly.
  • List brokers maintain USAGE information on these lists.  That means they know who has TESTED each list – and who CONTINUES TO USE each list.  If you see lots of companies like yours continuing to use a particular list, that usually means that list is working effectively for them.

COMPILED lists are created from Census data, public records, directories, yellow pages, etc.  These lists are much more generic.  They allow you to select names based on demographics and geographics – rather than on past buyer or inquirer or attendee or subscriber behavior.

  • You may need to use a Compiled list if you are looking for a certain number of names in a tight geographic area.
  • Or, if you are looking to mail a smaller quantity of names than 5,000, which tends to be the minimum order for many Response lists.

But if you have a nationwide audience, and you are mailing at least 5,000 names, you should almost always seek RESPONSE Lists first.

Mailing List Evaluation

  1. Do you need names within a specific city or state?  (If so, may need to use a Compiled list to get enough names.)
  2. Do you plan to mail less than 5,000 names?  (If so, may need to use a Compiled list.)
  3. If it’s a BUYER list, what was the average sale?  If your product sells for $100 or more, be sure to look for lists with average purchases of $100 or higher.
  4. Who has TESTED the list and CONTINUES to USE it?   Do those companies have a similar audience to yours?
  5. How TARGETED can you get with a list?  Can you find buyers of similar products, or inquirers of similar products?  Can you find subscribers to publications that may indicate the audience’s interest in your product?

There are tens of thousands of mailing lists available.  The services of list brokers are free – they are paid by the list owner.  So don’t hesitate to find a good list broker who will work tirelessly until they find you the most targeted list you can possibly use.  Yes, the mailing list is that important . . .

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