In your business, successful, efficient communications depend on two things: saying the right things and saying them to the right people. You may have come up with exactly the right way to pitch your message, but that message needs to get in the hands of people who would be interested in it and are in a position to act on your information. That’s why a good mailing list is one of the three keys to a successful direct-mail strategy. Whether you’re looking for consumer lists or business lists, your communications strategy will be effective if you can obtain a list customized to your target audience.
In order to develop a list that will work for you, you need to know what lists are available and how they can be customized to suit your needs. You also need to decide what kind of list you want based on the nature of your business and the type of communication you are planning—will you best serve your business needs by sending a mailing to other businesses, or do you want to contact consumers directly? Here are some of the questions you need to consider as you make the decision to buy a mailing list.
How comprehensive and accurate are the sources for the lists?
A mailing list that is regularly maintained and updated and that includes a wide range of sources will be more likely to connect you to the people you want to hear your message. Some of the questions you should ask about any mailing list you are considering buying include:
How large is the overall database?
How many sources are used to compile your database?
How regularly is the database maintained?
- By comparing the answers you get to these questions from different mailing list providers, you can decide who would be most likely to provide you a list that has as many quality contacts as possible. For example, KD Mailing’s answers to those questions are:
Size of database: The database used by KD Mailing has information on more than 250 million consumers and 120 million households; we also have information on millions of businesses.
Database sources: Our database for customer lists combines over 750 external sources; our business lists combine information from 5,200 phone books; federal, state, and local government data, including SEC filings and new business registrations; annual reports; postal service information; and regular phone calls—each business is called one to four times per year.
Database maintenance: Our consumer lists are updated monthly with geographic and area code changes, information from post office change of address cards, non-solicitation file eliminations, and deceased individuals; thanks to regular phone calls and constant maintenance work, the business lists are updated daily.
Inaccurate information in your mailings lists can waste your time and money, and lists that are too small mean you may be missing vital contacts. Make sure you are getting the best, most accurate lists you can!
How can I customize my business lists?
To make sure your information gets into the right hands, you can customize your business lists to target those who are most likely to respond to your efforts. You can make your list as broad or as narrowly targeted as you see fit based on your strategy and the nature of the communication you designed.
Before buying a mailing list, make sure you have reviewed all these options so you know what you are looking for and have a plan for getting the most effective mailing list for your money. You can use the following data categories to select and organize your business lists:
Location: You can select businesses by state, area code, county, metropolitan area, city, neighborhood, or zip code. You always have the option of selecting multiple areas within each type.
Type of business: You may select specific yellow pages headings, major industry groups, or professional categories (e.g., doctor, lawyer). You may also select businesses using Standard Industrial Classification (S.I.C.) codes, selecting codes as specific as six digits.
Business size: You may select businesses based on number of employees and sales figures.
Location type: You can select businesses that are corporate headquarters, subsidiary headquarters, or branches.
Phone and fax numbers.
Names of key executives/decision makers, sorted by title.
- You may combine these criteria to make your mailing list as specifically targeted as you wish. You could look for all small businesses with good credit in a specific metropolitan area, or you could find all corporate headquarters of specific major industry groups in the states you select. Careful use of the selection criteria will help you develop a list of establishments, and the appropriate people at those establishments, ready to receive and respond to your materials.
How can I customize my consumer lists?
As with business lists, you have a number of criteria that can help you develop exactly the consumer list you want. Reviewing this criteria and determining the target audience for your communications will help you purchase a list that will make your communications strategy as effective as possible. The categories you can use to customize your consumer lists are:
Location: You can select people by state, metropolitan area, city, county, zip codes, area codes, or you can just pick the entire United States. You may also select people who live in a certain geographic area by essentially drawing a circle around a zip code and getting the names of everyone within that circle. You select what zip code to use, and you also choose how big you want the circle to be.
Homeowners or renters.
Address only, phone number only, or both.
One contact per address, or all contacts at a particular address.
- These variables allow you to customize your mailing list to your target demographic. By designing a mailing list of the people most likely to respond to your communications, you greatly increase the efficiency of your mailing strategy.
These criteria, however, are only the basics for consumer lists. Even more customization is possible if you are willing to spend a little more to get a specifically tailored list.
What additional options are available for customizing consumer lists?
Consumer databases offer a host of options for helping you target as narrow a group as possible. Though using these options may increase the cost of your list, they also ensure that you will be directly communicating with the select audience you want. By helping you reach specific targets, these more specialized lists will help improve your response per contact ratio.
The more specialized criteria for consumer lists include:
What is the individual’s gender?
Mail order history: How often has the consumer purchased items via mail order recently?
Mail order categories: In what categories has the consumer purchased items through mail order?
Are there children in the household? In what age ranges?
Is it a household with a mortgage?
Is the address a single-family or multiple-family dwelling?
How many apartments are there at the address?
What is the household’s net worth ranking (i.e., is it in the top fifteenth of all households, or the second fifteenth, etc.).
How likely is the individual to be an investor and how aggressively have they invested in the past?
How many credit cards does the individual have?
How many vehicles does the household own?
What is the year, type, value and model of the vehicle(s)? Were the vehicle(s) purchased in their model year?
What is the individual’s ethnicity (as determined by their last name)?
What is the individual’s religion?
Do you want to include all addresses in your mailing list, or only those with zip+4 addresses (which can help you save money on mailing costs)?
Do you want to exclude P.O. boxes from your mailing list?
- Thinking through all these options will help you get the exact mailing list you want. A representative of a mailing list provider can help you work with all these options.
What options are available for buying lists of people in the medical industry?
There are several lists available that can help you target your mailing to specific parts of the medical industry. You may be targeting dentists, nurses, or osteopaths, or you may be targeting hospital managers or office management professionals in the medical industry. There are mailings lists that cover all of these options and more.
You may wish to contact a mailing list provider and discuss your specific needs with them, or you may already have a general idea of what type of list you want. Either way, contacting a list provider can be the next step to obtaining the information you need.
What other mailing list options are available?
Along with the customizable lists discussed above, there are other existing lists that may already contain the people you want to contact. Using these lists can be a relatively simple way of building a solid database of contacts. These other lists include:
Resident database: Also known as a “saturation list,” this database includes all addresses in a given zip code without addressee names. This database can be a simple, lower-cost way to spread your message throughout all of a designated geographic area.
Ailment survey: Ten times per year, ten million homes receive a survey about ailments suffered by anyone in the household. The results of the survey, which are complied into a database, can be useful if your business targets people with particular ailments.
New move-ins: People who have just moved into a neighborhood are often on the lookout for a wide variety of goods and services, from furniture for their new home to stores and restaurants in their new neighborhood to a new family doctor. This list gives you the address of new move-ins so you can target them with your information.
New parents: Like new move-ins, new parents have just experienced a dramatic change in their lives that often brings about a demand for new products and services; new parents need baby products, they may be looking to adjust their existing insurance policies, or they may even be looking for a new home with more space. This database can be used to target families with newborns, toddlers, or older children, and the list can also be sorted by gender.
Newlyweds: Newly married people are often starting a new life in a new home, and they are often looking for a large number of products and surfaces as they begin the next chapter of their life. The newlywed database receives 50,000 new records each month.
Smokers: This database is compiled from surveys where respondents have stated that they are smokers, providing easy access to this demographic.
BehaviorBank: Featuring detailed results compiled from surveys of direct-mail respondents, BehaviorBank contains information on more than 30 million households. This database includes 500 categories of information that detail participants’ spending habits, interests, and general lifestyle, with topics as varied as credit card use, mail-order shopping habits, diet, lifestyle changes, and other shopping habits. This information lets you build a mailing list that is much more specifically targeted than lists constructed with only demographic data. BehaviorBank is regularly cleaned and updated, with as many as one million updates each month.
- Mailing list providers can review all of these options with you and help you decide the best method to develop a useful list of contacts for your business.
Can I add contacts from my own mailing list to my customized list?
Yes! For your convenience, many mailing list providers will do the work of storing and updating your mailing list for you. All you have to do is send them the names to add to your list, and they’ll take care of the rest.
What assistance can I obtain in designing my list?
Whatever you need! Mailing list providers know the ins and outs of all of the available lists, and they can help you find which databases are right for your business, as well as assisting you in customizing the list so you receive exactly what you need. Start improving your contact list today!