For many years, direct mail experts have touted having the right list as one of the absolute essentials for direct mail success. It’s part of what became known as the 40-40-20 Rule. If you’re not communicating with the right audience you’re wasting your time and money. If you’re talking about your products and services to someone who simply isn’t interested—you’re sending “junk mail.”
There are different kinds of lists available to rent, so how do you select the right one? Again, think about who you’re trying to reach—and why they might be interested. Here are a few examples.
Let’s say you have a simple restaurant and you want to generate lunch business from your neighborhood. You don’t need to have too much information about your potential clients. It doesn’t matter what someone’s income level is. It doesn’t matter what hobbies he or she has. You don’t care what a person’s political views are. You’re after people in a specific geographic area. You don’t need names. You just need addresses. You pretty much want to blanket everyone in a 1-mile radius of your restaurant. But here’s something to consider: You’ll want to include businesses as well as residential addresses. You’re after the lunch crowd. By the way, this kind of list (sometimes called a saturation list) is the least expensive kind of list to rent.
Radius with Names
Let’s say you have a home remodeling business. You want to let people in the neighborhood where you’re working know about a remodeling project you’re doing. You want to mail to homes (not businesses) in a radius around your project. But you probably want to address them by name, so you’ll include that. And you probably want to omit brand new homes, so you eliminate homes newer than 5 years old. Each modification you add will add a bit to the cost of the list. You’ll pay a bit more per name, but you’ll avoid mailing to people who have not chance of responding.
You can rent lists that are comprised of people with specific interests, such as pets, hobbies, collectibles, people who purchase online, or just about anything you can imagine. You can also modify those lists with qualifiers such as income level or age. Again, each qualifier you add increases the cost of the list. But if you’re selling high-end sports cars, you don’t want to mail to someone with a low level income.
Historically your own in-house list is the most effective list you can mail to. These are people who know you and have dealt with you in the past. The other good news is that you already own this list! It doesn’t cost you a thing. You will however, want to run it through the National Change of Address list (in case someone has moved), and you’ll want to make sure it’s set up properly. But you’ll almost always get the best response from people you’re already in touch with.
What’s the best list? It depends what your business is, and what you’re trying to accomplish. Determine who your audience really is and then find the list that will deliver the best results. And often, that list is sitting right on your computer.