A Refresher Course on Lists

Nov 21, 2007 8:37 PM  By

Here’s a question that almost any direct marketer can answer: What’s the single biggest factor in the success of a direct mail campaign?

It’s time to go back to school if you think that it’s anything but the list.

The list is especially important for small businesses worried about return on investment.

A good deal of it is common sense. The list must contain the names of people who are likely to be interested in your products or services. Don’t try to sell beer to Temperance Society members, or real estate to people who can’t afford it.

Here are the basic kinds of lists that you can use:

1. The house file. This is a file that you collected through your own marketing efforts. It is known as a house list. These people are most likely to respond to your offers because they have done so in the past.

2. The response list. This lists people who have actually done something–they have purchased a product, inquired in response to an offer or asked to be put on the list. Maybe they haven’t purchased from you, but they respond to someone in a related area, so you know they are at least warm. Normally, you rent this type of list from the owner through a list broker and manager.

3. The compiled list. Built from public records and other data sources, this is a list of people who possess fixed characteristics, including age, sex, geographic location and income level.

4. The opt-in list. This is a file that people sign up to be on—they want mail and e-mail. These lists are pricey but can produce incredible return on investment. These, too, can be rented through a list broker.

5. The highly segmented house file.High-tech systems analysis can give you the ability to micro-target your market for extreme results. You can access information about your client base that goes way beyond the standard criteria of age, income, and gender used in list rentals. Moreover, you can learn the spending and saving habits of your customers, what they enjoy reading and where they like to travel.

After analyzing this information and the geo-demographics of your client base, you can find your exact market and promote only to them. It is a rare service offered by a few direct mail houses where the price ranges from the very high to the more reasonable.

Mailing lists can make the difference in a mediocre promotional campaign to a wildly successful promotional campaign. It really just depends on what you are willing to have – success or mediocrity. So which is it?

Joy Gendusa is the founder of PostcardMania. The firm prints 4 million and mails 2 million postcards per week. Visit her web site at www.postcardmania.com.