Perhaps the most critical, and most commonly overlooked, aspect of any direct mail project is the selection of people who will receive the mailing. Far too often, newcomers to the direct mail business will expend all their effort in writing the sales letter, then ignore the importance of choosing the right people to send it to.
successful mailers know that sending a great letter to the wrong mailing list dooms a project to failure. They also know that of all aspects of the project, choosing the right list is usually the most important. That’s why the most successful of direct mail marketers take great pains to find quality lists, before they start any project.
Here are some tips, techniques and secrets to use to help you find the right customers to send your direct mail offers to.
- Before you start, decide who you want as customers. In most cases, you’ll want only people who have the following characteristics...
1. Have money to purchase your product
2. Are comfortable buying through the mail
3. Open their own mail (no secretaries or assistants to screen it)
4. Have known interests
5. Are available through mailing lists
If your list fails any of these tests, it is a poor candidate for your project!
- There are two kinds of people out there: those who do buy by mail and those who don’t. Mailing an offer to people who have never purchased through the mail is a waste of time and money.
- The best customer is one who is ‘in heat’ for the type of product you have. Typically this is someone who has researched the market and is ready to buy immediately. Seek out these people, and you’ll do well.
- In order of importance, the success of a direct mail offering depends on:
1. The list the offer is mailed to
2. The sales letter
3. The product
4. The price
- For best results, send mail offers only to people who have a proven history of direct mail purchasing. (Verify this history through lists of direct mail buyers.)
- The best source for information on currently available mailing lists? The SRDS Direct Marketing List Source, a huge reference list. Expensive, but worth it. Call 1-800-851-7737 for more information.
- Typical mailing list costs are $85 to $110 per thousand names. Usually you have to purchase a minimum of 5,000 names.
- ‘Bargain’ mailing lists are usually not bargains. In most cases these ‘bargains’ are compiled from lists of old and stale names.
- The three main expenses in mail order: the cost of the mailing list, the printing of the sales letter, and the postage to mail it.
- In terms of expense, typical mailing costs break down as follows.
- The worst place to cut costs? On the mailing list. Choosing the wrong list usually means the total cost of the mailing (including printing and postage) is money wasted.
- Mailing lists can be rented from list owners or list brokers. In most cases it is easier to go through list brokers. (You can find list owners and list brokers in the SRDS directory.)
- When researching a mailing list, look for those containing people who have bought a specific product, in a specific price range, in the last 90 days. Then offer that group a similar or companion product.
- When considering a mailing list, always find out the amount the people on the list paid for the product being offered. Use this amount as a guide to what these customers are comfortable spending on direct mail products.
- When considering a mailing list, look for buyers, not inquiries. Some lists are heavy on the inquirers, but don’t have many buyers.
- In most cases, the premium you pay for buyers is worth the extra cost.
- Before you rent a list, ask to see the mail piece that generated the list. This way you can see what kind of sales letter generated the names on the list.
- When you rent a mailing list, you can only use it for one mailing. You may not reuse the list for other purposes.
- Most mailing lists are ‘seeded’ with names of the list owner and/or broker. This allows them to determine whether you used the list more than once.
- Most list owners require you to submit a sample of your mail piece before they will rent you a list so they can be sure you aren’t mailing any objectional or illegal material.
- The most responsive mailing lists are usually the ‘hot buyers’ lists. These are people who have purchased a specific product within the last 30 to 90 days.
- The worst mailing lists are ‘compiled’ lists. These are not much better than a listing of names from a phone book. Most are compiled from several sources, which means very little specific information is known about the buying habits of people on the list.
- The quickest way to lose a lot of money? Mail to the wrong list. Mailing to an unresponsive list can mean the entire amount invested in the mailing was a waste.
- The minimum size for a test mailing is usually 1,000 pieces. This can give you an idea of potential response. But you will probably still have to buy a minimum of 5,000 names even if you only use 1,000.
- When getting a partial list for a test mailing, ask that the names supplied be randomly selected from the list. This will prevent you from getting all the names from one zip code or a problem area. And request that the list owner keep track of the names you get so you don’t get duplicate names later on.
- On a test mailing, mail First Class. With First Class mail, the post office returns undeliverable addresses. If you have a large number of undeliverables, the entire list is probably very old, and may not be worth mailing to.
- The older the mailing list, the higher the number of undeliverable addresses. paying postage on undeliverables can be quite expensive. Avoid mailing lists older than 90 days.
- Mailing lists are generally offered one of three ways:
1. Magnetic tape
2. printed labels
3. pc format computer disks
Try to get your mailing list in the format you require to print addresses on envelopes.
- The absolute best list to mail to is one of customers who have already purchased from you. If you delivered a good product, they are most likely to buy again.
- For a higher response, tailor your sales letter to the specific list you are mailing to. Incorporate the information you have about the list in your mail piece. Make mention of things like hobbies, special interests, etc.
Source: 301 Direct Mail Tips, Techniques & Secrets