Mailing List Secrets to Boost Your Direct Mail Success

by Karen J. Marchetti

A restaurant in San Diego offers a heart-healthy menu. In addition, they sell heart-healthy supplements on a monthly shipment plan. For their first direct mail effort, they relied on a LIST recommendation supplied by their printing broker.

Unfortunately, it was the poorest list they could have selected for their particular promotion.

How did their first direct mail effort do? They got ZERO response.

Where did Daily’s go wrong?

  • They didn’t know enough about mailing lists to know if the list recommendation they received made sense for them.  
  • And so, they essentially wasted their entire direct mail budget.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. I recently met with another mailer, all set to accept the very incomplete list recommendations of another vendor — again involving lists that weren’t likely to be the highest responding lists for them.

What’s the secret to better mailing list selection?

Know a couple of important questions to ask:

1. Who else has tested this mailing list — and continued to use the list?

This information is surprisingly easy to obtain — yet often overlooked. Unless you’re selecting a list based only on demographics, you should be able to see what types of businesses have had continued success with the lists being recommended to you. Ask for this information!

Look for businesses selling similar products to yours who continue to use the list — that usually means the list continues to be profitable for them.

2. What is the average size of the order or donation?

For mailing lists containing names that have made either purchases or donations, ask for the average size of the order or donation.

If your product sells for $199, and the average order size on a list you’re considering is $59, the list may not reach the right audience for your product.

3. If your market is nationwide, be sure to ask if there are “Response” mailing lists available to consider.

“Response” lists are lists made up of names that have responded to another offer (as compared to “Compiled” lists gathered from public information like census data).

Names that have responded to an offer similar to yours will be more likely to respond again.

  • Selecting a list using demographics (like census data) is best when you have no other option (if you’re mailing within one county, for example, you will likely have to use a Compiled list to get enough names).

For our restaurant client, we located Response lists of names that had purchased other heart-healthy products, and got rid of the prior list idea of mailing to upscale consumers age 60+.

The Response mailing lists did eight times better! 

If you need help with selecting better mailing lists for your next direct mail marketing project, contact us.