How to Ethically Create a Direct Mail Mailing List for Your Business


Ethically building a mail list takes a little time and effort. If you’re just starting in business, begin by capturing as much information about your customers as you can. The very best list is the one containing names and contact details of people who’ve already bought from you. From there, you can build outwards.

But what if you have no customers yet? Here’s how to get started with your list.

Starting From Scratch

Getting the ball rolling is the hardest part. You could create and distribute a flyer to advertise an event. It doesn’t need to be a physical event; it could be a giveaway if you’re selling physical products.

For instance, if you sell green widgets you could offer a free red one when they present your flyer on buying a green one. Or, to make it even more compelling, offer your free product with no qualifying purchase, just a tear off slip filled in with their name and address.

Another way is to run a classified ad in a publication you know your target market reads. Invite readers to your website where they’ll provide their address so you can send them your free offer.

Ways to distribute flyers when you have no mailing list include:

  • Posting on bulletin boards
  • Newspaper or magazine inserts
  • Display at retail locations
  • Handed out at trade events
  • Included with all outgoing mail from your business

Converting an Existing List

If you already run part of your business online, you probably have an email list of subscribers. Expanding this list to include street addresses is arguably one of the fastest and easiest ways to start your own direct mail list.

Here’s one way you could persuade people to convert:

– Create an online free offer and a landing page that describes it.

– Drive traffic to the landing page through PPC, affiliate referrals, banner ads etc.

– People sign up via email to download the free report (or whatever you’re offering).

– Within that free report is a pitch offering a related free physical product for which you need their mailing address.

As an example, a business that sells health and fitness equipment offers a free report on the health benefits of a sports drink. Within the report is the offer of a free sample of a sports drink. Readers would either print out a coupon to mail back to you, or visit a webpage to enter their contact details in order to receive the free sample.

Using a List Broker

A third alternative is to rent a list from a broker. This shortcut has a few pitfalls you need to be aware of:

  1. The list might not be up to date
  2. Those on the list may have no interest in your product
  3. Recipients don’t know who you are
  4. The list might not be as carefully qualified as you’d like
  5. You don’t own the list
  6. You pay to use the list each time you want to run a direct mail campaign

However, not all list brokers are unethical and some rented lists are up to date and targeted according to your criteria. It’s up to you to do your due diligence in researching whichever company you decide to use. Remember also, you can’t add rented names to your own list. You can, however, add anyone who responds to your direct mail from a rented list.

Another way is to use a mail service that delivers to every address in a given neighborhood. You choose the route, create the mail pieces, and then pay for the postage.

It may take a little work and upfront expense, but your own mailing list of qualified leads is pure gold well into the future.

Direct Mail Best Practices