Let’s face it, mailing list research is not a particularly exciting topic. But when it’s time to mail your direct mail piece, its an extremely important topic. In my post, The 5 Best Practices for Success with Direct Mail, I highlighted the 5 most important things to do when creating a direct mail campaign. One of the 5 points is to understand the “who and where to target” which, of course, is the mail list. In this post, I want to dig deeper in to the subject of mail list preparation and how to build the best mail list.
- Choose the Right List Vendor
As I mentioned prior, looking at the “who and the where” are important factors in building the best mail list, but we’re going to need to do a little digging to really get to the best prospects. At MAR, the lists that we resell all come from Experian, and are pulled at the time of the list request. Over the years, we have found that Experian has the most reliable and the “freshest” data. One issue that isn’t talked about much in the direct mail industry is that not all companies that are reselling data, are continuing to “refresh” the data. Imagine pulling a mail list once or twice a year, and continuing to resell it over and over. You can do this, you’re allowed to use the list for up to a year. However, the fact is, people move – a lot, more than you think. According to the US Census, about 12% of the population moves every year, and while an address doesn’t change, the demographics of the household can definitely change. We’ve all seen it, Mr. Smith, then below it – Or Current Resident – why use this? Because the person sending the direct mail paid less to use an old smelly list, that’s “good enough”. Well what happens if the household, isn’t who you hope it is? Sounds to me like you’ve sent a piece of junk mail. Follow me here, if you send out 10,000 mail pieces, and paid $.02 per name, instead of buying a current list at $.045 per name, you’ve saved $250 on the mail list, but you’ve wasted $500 on sending junk mail. (10% of 10,000, times $.50 – the average cost to print and mail a postcard, including postage).
- Profile Your Current Customers
Prior to pulling your mailing list, its best to have an idea of the profile of you’re the client you want to target. Last week, I received in the mail, a postcard from my local YMCA inviting our family to bring our children in for their summer camp programs. I thought wow, they did a nice job targeting us, until I turned the card over and saw the dreaded “Or Current Resident” and a “Red Plum” indicia in the postal mark. The next day, I asked the neighbors on either side of me if they received a postcard and they said that they did. The problem being, while we have kids aged 3-14, the neighbor on my right is an over 50 couple with grown children, and the neighbors to my left are even older and retired. While a company like Red Plum may be great way of “hitting the masses” at an affordable printing and mailing rate, they’re a horrible choice for an organization like the YMCA where they’re hitting a very specific cross-section of the markets they serve. I suppose one could make the case that my entire neighborhood is middle-income, so you could narrowly squeeze the neighborhood in to our local Y’s target, but this was not a membership offer, it was a “bring your kids to camp” offer. What a huge waste of money. Let a company like MAR create a profile for you. Yes we charge $500 to create the profile, but the YMCA wasted much more than that by being so careless with their targeting.
Part of the profiling step includes where your targeting, which neighborhoods. Don’t just pull a simple radius around your location. Use a company like MAR to create a solid plan of which neighborhoods have the highest potential of generating a decent return on your investment. See my blog post “Fish Where the Fish Are” to get a better idea of how this is done.
- Which Variables are You Using to Create the Mail List
Last week, I had a client who is an investment broker come in to my office, wanting to do a “seminar mailing”. They are pretty common in the industry, typically, they offer to buy you dinner at a higher end restaurant if you come and listen to their pitch. You can imagine that the target is higher income people with lots of money to move around. The idea being that one or two people will want to move some of their investments to be managed by the broker by the end of dinner. We discussed his strategies for a little while and very quickly we decided that we didn’t want to target just rich people, we needed to be more specific. Below are some of the things that we took in to consideration:
- Instead of looking at income, which is what most marketers think of, lets look at wealth or assets. Home value is usually a much better predictor or wealth than income. One thing we see a lot of in list management is the phenomena of income decreasing as age rises over 65. Why, because people are retiring and beginning to pull money from their IRA. This doesn’t always show up as income. That doesn’t mean their not wealthy. The other variable we look at is liquid assets
- Households with a decent amount of liquidity probably already have someone managing their money. So why not back the liquidity amount down a little. Unless you’re a high profile broker, which they’re probably not using a dinner seminar to begin with, consider instead of pulling households with liquidity assets of over $250,000 and up to $2,000,000, lets bring the range down to an area where someone with, $50,000 to $100,000 in liquid assets, may actually consider moving their money
These are just a couple examples of why its important to really have a conversation about which variables to use when pulling your mailing list. As I mentioned prior, knowing who you’re targeting is the very important in making sure you’re not sending junk mail
- Suppress the Names You Already Own
Lastly, a common issue that marketers purchasing mail lists don’t consider is suppressing the names that they already own from the list purchase. In fact, I rarely run across a client who ever mentions it to me. But again, lets consider. If I have a database of 1,000-2,000 households around my business, then why would I want to repurchase those names. Most good mail list providers will happily remove those households. Although, a list company will never ask you if you have a list of customer that’s you would like to remove from the list purchase – they want to sell you as many names as they can. Also, this is another opportunity to add to your prospect database, instead of rebuying an address you already own and possibly duplicating a client. There’s nothing more embarrassing than treating a current client like a prospect.
In the opinion of MAR, what we have reviewed here is the method for pulling the best mailing list. Its difficult to do on your own, so why not consider using a company like MAR to help you reign in all of the elements you need to pull a better mailing list? Don’t waste your money on sending junk mail. Let MAR build you the best mail list.