Mailing List Comparisons

Except for your offer (the product and its price), list selection is the most important factor in determining direct marketing response. There are more than 50,000 mailing lists available on the market today, created from a variety of sources. It is important that you identify and rent appropriate lists to achieve marketing success.

The basic categories of available lists include:

House list – an in-house list usually contains customers, people who have bought from you; and prospects, people who have inquired but not bought. House lists are best because they frequently pull double or more the response of even the best-performing rented lists.

Compiled lists – these lists are of people or businesses compiled from published sources, such as industry directories and the Yellow Pages. Compiled lists frequently provide the best means of reaching large groups of specific audiences. For example, you can rent compiled lists of all attorneys in New York City or all radiologists in the United States. For mail order offers, however, compiled lists generally do not pull as well as response lists.

Response lists – these are lists of proven direct mail buyers. Mail order offers usually get the best return through mailings to response lists of buyers who have purchased a product similar to yours and in the same price range. For example, a $10 book on small business success is likely to sell best to test lists of people who have bought similar books in the $8 to $15 price range.

Attendee/membership/seminar lists – these lists contain individuals who have attended a specific trade show or industry event, belonged to an industry association or paid for seminar participation. Since relatively costly trade show attendance, memberships, and seminars are usually sold through direct mail, excellent results are possible from such lists.

Subscription lists – these are some of the best and largest lists on the market. Two types of subscription lists exist: controlled circulation and paid circulation. With controlled circulation, the readers receive the magazine free, provided they can prove to the publisher that they fall into a certain professional category (for example, to receive a free computer magazine, the reader must work in the data processing department at a firm of a certain minimum size). Proof is accomplished by completing a subscription request form or “qualification card.” With paid circulation, the reader pays for a subscription and is not required to provide additional data other than name and address. Each type has its pros and cons. For mail order promotions, paid subscriber lists may be the better choice, because those on the list have purchased a product (the magazine) through the mail. However, controlled circulation lists offer the advantage of greater selectability. Because the subscribers have given a lot of information about themselves, you can select portions of the list according to certain characteristics, which might include job title, job function, size of company, or even the types of products purchased.

Donor lists – used primarily by fund raisers, these lists contain the names of people who have contributed money to charities and non-profit organizations.

Credit card holder lists – these names are useful because the prospects can respond to your offer using a credit card. Also, credit card holders are somewhat “upscale” (demonstrated by the fact that they earn enough money to qualify for a credit card).

Merged database lists – this type of list simplifies selection because merging lists eliminates duplicate names and offers the remaining names as a single master unduplicated list. Such databases allow list users to reach a large portion of a specific market without having to track down obscure, hard-to-find, or poorly managed lists.

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