6 Ways to Tighten up your Use of Mailing Lists

Marketing consultant Ron Ferguson advises that you’ll boost your return on investment from mailing lists if you:

Always mail to an individual

By all means, stay away from lists that include “proprietor,” “homeowner,” and other entries instead of personal names. Such generic lists are often inexpensive to rent—for the very good reason that they usually generate lower response than full-name lists.

Aim your message at “you”—the singular “you”

Direct mail, especially, is a person-to-person advertising medium. When your copy addresses a group, your advertising loses the one-to-one communication that prompts a reply. A nationally syndicated financial TV program signs off with “wishing all of you the best of good buys.” Big mistake.

Avoid CD-ROM lists

They may be months or even years old and static in nature. They are dirt cheap, but—in Ferguson’s experience, almost never work.

Rent updated lists

About 20% of Americans pull up stakes and move to a new address—or take a new job—every year. So it just makes sense to rent only lists that are updated twice a year, quarterly or even more often. If you mail to a house file of your customers and identified prospects (and you should, because such self-generated lists usually pull better than any outside list), you should keep it clean it by periodically making a first-class mailing with address correction requested. It is worth the cost!

Use a list broker’s expertise

Ask all prospective brokers for reference, and check them out. Then, after you select a trustworthy broker, supply him or her with a wish list detailing all the characteristics of the people you want your mailings to reach. A professional list broker will research hundreds or thousands of lists and report to you on which are likeliest to work profitably for you. Generally, such services cost you nothing— but make sure your broker agrees before he goes ahead with his or her research.

Test lists

A 10% response lift from an identified superior list can bring in big bucks—yet many advertisers persist in testing package variables that are likely to produce fewer significant response changes than informed list selects.

See also:

Mailing Lists

Direct Mail


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