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How to Choose the Right Mailing List

Direct marketing guru Ed Mayer famously said that the mailing list you use accounts for 40% of the responses from your mailings.

With that much of your revenue riding on the result, it's important to use a targeted mailing list. The trouble is that there are a bewildering array of lists — thousands and thousands of them.

There are lists of businesses, lists of physicians, lists of gardeners, even lists of Jewish vitamin buyers (?!). And, prices range from $25 for a list of thousands of names to $1,000 for only a few hundred names.

How do you find the right one?

Types of Direct Mail and E-mail Marketing Lists

Compiled

These are lists of names from directories, new business registrations, and other public records. They are generally cheaper than other kinds of lists. They can be useful for lead generation, but are less useful for direct sales. The data is likely to be older than other kinds of lists, leading to more undeliverable mail, and lower response rates.

Mail Order/Online Buyers

Lists of people or businesses who have purchased something (a book, software, clothing, etc.). This list will cost more than a compiled one, but will also generate more revenue.

Subscribers

Lists of people who have subscribed to a magazine, newsletter, or other publication. The more closely the publication's target audience matches your customers and prospects, the better your response rate is likely to be.

E-mail Marketing Lists

E-mail lists tend to be the most expensive, costing up to $350/thousand. This is partly due to the scarcity of e-mail rental lists and partly due to concerns about spamming. If you can get a good one, e-mail is, of course, considerably cheaper to send. Plus, you can generate responses more quickly and track clicks, click-throughs, and pageviews at every stage of the buying process.

In-house lists

House lists are names owned by a particular company. This includes customers, conference attendees, subscribers to a specific publication or newsletter. It can also incorporate people who have been past customers or who have inquired about a product or service.

Should You Rent a Mailing List? Or Buy One?

There are many lists available both for rental and purchase. Purchased lists are generally compiled, and less responsive, plus you can't update the data.

  • Before you pay for a list, consider what you're going to use it for, and how long you want to use it.
  • Rental lists are generally for one-time use and the list owner will often want to see a copy of the material you are mailing (a draft is usually OK).
  • You will save money (even for a list that costs more) because you will have fewer undeliverable names and less wasted paper and postage.

How Much Should You Pay for a Mailing List?

Prices can range from free (and generally worthless) to thousands of dollars. Here are a few general rules to follow:

  • Business lists usually cost more than consumer lists
  • Subscriber, mail order, or house lists will cost more than compiled lists
  • Costs are generally quoted in $ per thousand names, such as $50 per thousand or $300 per thousand.
  • The list that's "best" is not the one that costs the least, but the one that will get the best response.

The best list for your product or service will get a response rate that is ten times higher than the worst list.

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