List Handling |
List Types | List Selection |
Format Types | List Maintenance
The mailing list plays a very important part in
the success of your direct mail campaign. Choosing a list that will get to the
right market is extremely important. You must carefully analyze the list before
selecting it. There are thousands of lists available today. The lists are broken
down into different types. Choosing the right one is not an easy task. To be
effective, the lists must be properly maintained. List owners, compliers, managers,
and brokers all have their own roles to play in the selection process and in
the maintenance of the lists.
Mailing lists are handled by different types of
services, each having different responsibilities. Some providers may offer a
combination of services. The different types of services offered are listed
List owners are companies that have compiled
a mailing list from responses that they have received from previous
offers, such as magazine subscriptions, book or CD club memberships,
donations, or product/service offers.
Compilers are also list owners but their
lists have not been built through responses. Their lists are compiled
from records of information, taken from such items as product warranties
or registrations, birth records, property transfers, surveys and membership
The manager works for the list owner
to market their lists to mailers and list brokers. List managers will
also coordinate the rental and accounting activities of the list. They
are responsible for preparing the lists according to customer specifications
and making sure the list is delivered on time. List managers may be
employed by the list owner or may be part of a list management company.
Specialized in handling the selection
of an appropriate mailing list for the mailer. They may be selecting
a list for the mailer to buy or rent. The broker uses past experience
and will do the necessary research to enable them to recommend to the
mailer, a list that will provide the profitability the mailer is hoping
The list processor is the one who is
doing any type of maintenance or preparation of the list to get it ready
for the final "output" to be sent to the printer or lettershop.
For more information on maintaining a mailing list, see List
Processing. The list processor may be an independent data processing
facility or it may be associated with the mailer, list owner, list manager,
list broker, the printer or the lettershop.
There are several different types of lists available.
Some will have better response rates than others. Understanding the benefits
of each will help in determining when to use a particular type.
Next to your own house list, which is made up of
your own company's customers and inquirers, a response list will generally
give you your best response rate. This list consist of names of consumers
who have responded to a previous offer, whether they made a purchase
or an inquiry. Generally, a response list is someone else's house
list that has been made available to rent to non-competitors.
Because the people on the response list have responded
to a previous offer, you know that they are the type of people who
will respond if properly motivated. Also, because of previous responses,
you can collect other useful information about the people. Information,
such as how recent the response, how frequent, type of offers and
special interest, can all be compiled as the result of a previous
response. All this information is valuable when evaluating which mailing
list will provide you with the best response for your mailing.
Compiled lists are built with names and information
take from sources such as phone books, club or association memberships,
vehicle registrations, warranty cards and voter registrations. The
compiled list differs from the response list in that there is no indication
that the people on the compiled list are willing to respond to an
offer. The compiled lists offer an opportunity to cover a large market
area. They can include both psychographics and demographic characteristics.
Characteristics that reflect lifestyle,
attitudes, personal values and purchasing habits.
Economic and social information about
a group of people which includes sex, age, education, income, residence
type, family size, car ownership, etc.
Compiled lists can be segmented also by demographic
and/or psychographics characteristics that allow you to select a group
of people that have similar interests and likes that more clearly
identify with the product/service that you are offering.
Survey lists are complied from information obtained
through surveys that ask questions about personal interests, lifestyles,
product preferences, purchasing intentions, hobbies, occupations,
and illness. Survey lists are used in the same way as the compiled
lists but have been built off direct-response from the customer. But,
just because the customer responded to the survey does not mean he
will respond to the offer you present. Survey lists can contain very
specific information which allows you to segment a list to relate
to a specific offer, hopefully, to result in a profitable response.
There are compiled business lists available to use
for selling to business prospects. The business lists are classified
by the government's Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) numbering
systems. The companies are classified according to the main activity
that they provide. Each company is assigned a two digit code
and can have up to four more codes added which divides them into subcategories.
The SIC numbering system is a big advantage in trying to locate your
In 2000, the North American Industry Classification
(NAICS) systems will be used to organize the Census Data for businesses.
This new system will be a major improvement in the business classifications
and will most likely be adopted by list compliers as soon as the files
can be obtained. The new system will add about 350 new industries
for classification. The NAICS system divides the economy into 20 sectors
instead of 10 as it was before. The NAICS is a six digit system which
allows for a much more precise definition of the different industries
Business response lists are also available and as
with consumer lists, are bound to result in a better response rate
than the business compiled list. The problem is that there are not
many business response lists available for the different business
A house list is a company's own list of customers
or inquirers. Any business asking for a direct response should be
concerned with building their own mailing lists form the responses
they receive. The house list will be a company's best source for future
business. Once a house list is built, it can bring in additional income
by being rented out to non-competitors.
There are many points to consider when choosing
a mailing list. You can choose a list on your own but using the services of
a list broker, who is experienced in selecting lists, can be beneficial to the
outcome of your direct mail campaign. The list brokers are knowledgeable about
what lists have worked for other clients and which ones haven't. They are staffed
to keep the information on the lists up to date and the cost is usually no more
than if you ordered the list directly.
The most important reason for selecting a list
is affinity. Affinity is the logical connection between your direct mail offer
and the prospects on the mailing list. For example, if you were promoting the
sale of subscriptions to a new computer technology magazine, you may be interested
in a list of companies that have their own IT departments, or companies that
have purchased networking equipment in the past year. Once the potential lists
have been selected, they should be grouped into categories that make them of
interest to you. Then evaluate the lists in the different categories and decide
which lists in each category has the most potential to succeed.
The lists can be segmented into subcategories
for testing. Segmenting into subcategories will generally increase
the cost of the lists. Some common ways in which lists are segmented
are shown below.
- Segmented by gender, by state and Zip code to be used for geographic
and demographic characteristics.
- Recency - The amount of time it took the prospects to respond
to the offer. The less the better.
- Frequency - How often the prospect has made a purchase. The more
times the better.
- Purchase Amount - The amount of the highest purchase the prospect
- Segmented by prospect's professions or personal interests.
- Characteristics such as credit card, cash or credit buyers, and
single or multiple purchase buyers.
The options shown above are only a few of the ways in which a list
can be segmented. Select the segmented lists that relate best to
your offer. Then you will need to decide on test quantities. Be
sure your test quantities are a good representation of your list,
but the bulk of the list should be reserved for the rollout quantity.
Rollout quantities should be approximately five to ten times higher
than test quantities. You may have to use several lists to build
your test quantities and then combine them so that you can build
a large enough rollout quantity. This may be necessary for your
campaign to have the potential to meet your expectations.
Buy or Rent Lists?
Once you have selected the lists for
your mailing, you will need to decide if it is best to buy or rent
the lists. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
- Builds a database immediately
- Can use repeatedly
- Can rent your lists out for additional income
- Can refuse to rent list to competition
- List may not be successful
- Insufficient hardware or software for maintaining the list
- May not have time or staff to maintain the list properly
- Can build database of responders only
- Lists are maintained and up to date when rented
- Eliminates the cost of having to maintain the lists in house
- Can only use list one time per rental
- No list rental income available
When ordering your mailing lists to buy or rent, from a list broker
or directly from the list owner, there are many details that need
to be provided. The details for each list may vary. Shown below are
details that you will need to provide. If you are using a list that
you own, these details need to be provided to your list manager.
Mailing List Order Details
Provide the name of the list and details on how
you want the list segmented, such as "Buyers from the last 6
months," "Females 40 years old or older," and "Buyers
of products $75 and over.
Request the quantity of records you want from the
quantity available. Sometimes you will not know the exact quantity,
for example, you may want all the available names in a segmented list.
In this case, request an exact list count from the list owner.
Be sure you request a guarantee of deliverability
from the list owner. 95 percent should be acceptable by the list buyer
and list owner. List owner should agree to pay the minimum postage
rate on all mail returned in excess of the 5 percent figure. The delivery
guarantee is an incentive to list owner s to keep their lists up to
Give the expected mailing date. Your list will generally
be protected from use by competition one week before and one week
after the scheduled mailing date. If longer protection period is needed,
you will have to make special arrangements.
Indicate how you want the names to be selected for
the test quantity. The standard practice is to request an "Nth-name
sample". The "Nth-name" is where the total list
quantity is divided by the test quantity to find the "Nth"
value. Example: A 300,000 name list used for a 15,000 test
quantity would result in a "20th-name" sampling. The test
list would consist of every 20th name from the mailing list.
Assign key codes to be given to your list so that
key numbers can be included in the list when you receive it. Key codes
will allow you to track information on your mailing.
Seed names, which include name and addresses that
you supply, should be sent with the list order. Seed names are used
to check the accuracy of the mailing house and the delivery time of
the postal service.
Multiple Mailing Use
If you will be using the same list for multiple
mailings, order it for all of them at one time. Generally, list owners
will rent the lists for repeated use, for a series mailing, at a substantially
The list order should include a clear description
for the product being offered. A sample mailing piece should be included
with the order for approval of the list owner. The list owner will
check for integrity of the product and to see if the list is being
requested by a competitor.
What format should the list be in, mag tape, labels,
or hard copy? For different format types, see
Include any other special instructions not covered
by the specifications listed above.
Mailing lists are available in several formats.
The format used for your mailing will depend on the output capabilities of the
list owner and the capabilities of the lettershop that will be addressing the
mailing piece. You should check the capabilities of each before deciding on
the format you would like to use. The available formats are listed below.
Magnetic tapes are used by many large mailers. The
tapes are sent to a list processor for maintenance or to the lettershop
for personalization on high speed printers, laser printers or ink-jet
printer. Magnetic tape is the format preferred by most list processors
CD Rom or Diskettes
The list can be supplied on different types of diskettes
available today. You must be sure that the format is compatible with
both the list owner and the lettershop.
List can be e-mailed but capabilities and limitations
should be discussed before choosing this format to deliver mailing
Cheshire labels are made of white computer paper,
which is cut into label sized pieces (approximately 3 5/16" x
1"). They are glued onto the mailing package by a special piece
of equipment called the Cheshire machine. The Cheshire label format
is one of the original formats used for mailing lists.
Pressure Sensitive Labels
Pressure sensitive labels are self adhesive labels
supplied on a continuous carrier. The label is peeled off and affixed
to the mailing piece by machine.
Hard Copy Listing
Generally a hard copy of the mailing list is provided
to the mailer to use for reference and checking accuracy of the list.
Card files are individual records printed on 3 x
5 cards or on a form that is one or more parts. They are given to
the salespeople or used for other prospecting purposes. They may include
information about the company's sales volume, number of employees,
telephone numbers, types of products or services, and the names of
some of the company executives.
If the mailing list is not furnished in label format, the format selected will
be used to produce labels or to direct image the address onto the mail piece.
Whatever format is selected, be sure that it is acceptable to the list owner,
list processors and the lettershop. Be sure the list is clearly marked with
your company name, key numbers, purchase order numbers and drop dates.
All mailing lists need periodic maintenance performed
on them. The lists need to be kept up to date by adding, deleting and correcting
addresses. The updating can be accomplished manually but can be very time consuming.
There is software that will do many different functions related to up-dating
your mailing lists to make it as efficient as possible. Trying to do your own
list maintenance in house can be very time consuming and costly. It requires
sophisticated computer equipment and software, and someone who understands all
List maintenance services are available through
list processors who are professionals in the maintenance area. They can guarantee
that your lists can be processed by the necessary certified software and that
it will meet all the USPS address requirements. For more details on the services
provided by list processors, see List
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