Mailing List Best Practices: Should You Buy Lists?

download-64Mailing lists can be a powerful marketing tool for your business. If you decide to take advantage of this particular tactic, you must decide whether to purchase a mailing list or create one of your own. As there are several pros and cons to each strategy, deciding which mailing list best practices will work may vary depending on your company and industry.

Before making your decision, it’s important for you to understand that you don’t actually “buy” a mailing list permanently. The money you pay to the list broker actually grants you permission to use the list for a specific number of mailings. These companies “seed” their lists with monitoring addresses that report fraudulent use, so you should never try to send mail to individuals on a rented list more than the number of times specified in your contract.

Should You Buy or Rent a List?

There are several benefits of buying a mailing list:

A large number of potential new customers. You’re limited only by the cost of mailing, postage and the list itself.

The ability to select recipients by demographic. Most brokers offer lists sorted by a variety of different demographic criteria, including age, gender, ethnicity and location.

Acquisition data. You can track and monitor responses and use the data to make decisions about future direct marketing strategies.

Unfortunately, there are also some drawbacks to using externally formed lists:

Cost. It can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to rent a mailing list, depending on its quality. Although you may be able to get your money back for returned addresses, the same does not hold true for people who simply don’t respond.

Low response rates. As Target Marketing reports, the DMA 2015 Response Rate Report found that the average response rate for direct mail is only 3.7 percent.

“Junk” perception. Many consumers consider unsolicited direct mail to be junk mail. As such, this particular marketing tactic may impart a negative image on your business.

Mailing List Best Practices

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your mailing lists:

  • Look for “response” lists. Response lists are based on actual customer responses to other offers, which can be a good predictor of future responses. On the other hand, compiled lists are like telephone books: They are simply aggregated addresses with no data available on the customers’ likes, dislikes or purchasing habits.
  • Ask when the list was last updated. It’s important to make sure that the list you’re renting has been updated within the past six months. The list should reflect any changes, including new forwarding addresses and deceased recipients.
  • Save the nixies. Many companies offer you money back for nixies, or undelivered mail. As such, you should save envelopes that have been returned to sender, check your contract and see if you can get some compensation by mailing undeliverable mail to the list company.

By using these mailing list best practices, you can harness the incredible power of direct response mail, a tried and true marketing method.

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