When you are planning a direct mail campaign by far the most important aspect is the list of people you will mail. This was well understood at one time by the great direct response giants. As a basic rule the mailing list is far more important than the offer and is often referred to as the List-Offer rule (actually the list, offer, package rule but we are only focusing on the first two in this article). A great mailing list will dramatically improve your mailing ROI. An average or poor mailing list will end up costing you money.
What makes a great mailing list is that it focuses on the right group of people. Having the right people is far more important than the offer you are sending. Let’s say you’re selling the popular Silver Eagle coin produced by the US Mint. A good list would be one of people that recently bought coins. A better list would be one where the people recently bought silver coins via the web or direct mail. If you had a highly targeted list like that you could just about sent those same people a hand written note and earn a 6% conversion rate.
Now imagine you built out a slick direct mail offer having a strong letter written by a talented direct mail copywriter – someone who knows how to make a tight connection with the reader. You design it with high end pictures and split test the heck out of it. Let’s imagine you made this killer offering and then mailed it to a non-targeted list, say, males aged 19 – 24. You would be fortunate to have a 0.2% conversion rate.
Even a plain note to a highly targeted list will convert better than the perfect offer to an untargeted list by a large margin. This is the chief idea behind the List-Offer rule.