mailing lists

q. how important is the list in a direct mail effort?

a.important indeed. in fact, most direct mail professionals regard list choice as the single most critical element in determining the success of a mailing. and they can make a good case: when using an identical direct mail package, the best list can pull ten times as many responses as a poor list. no matter how well-crafted your mailing may be in other respects, if it isn't reaching the right people genuine prospects for your product or service results will suffer.

q. what are the sources for mailing lists?

a. basically, there are three kinds of sources for mailing lists:
internal sources. here you work with your own list of current or previous customers those who are using or have used your product or service. such lists, taken from your company's own files or database, are known as house lists. because these people already have experience with your company, they should represent your very best prospects. they're also the people you know most about for highly targeted selling efforts. when mailing to a house list, you can segment it according to past purchasing patterns, and so tailor your message to an individual's demonstrated needs and desires. a house list is the opposite of an outside list, where you rent names from list brokers or from other companies.
external sources. these are names that come from outside your company. there are two subcategories here. direct response lists consist of names of people who have previously responded to direct response offers. in other words, these consumers are comfortable with the idea of ordering or inquiring by mail. direct response lists can be tailored according to the types of things that have been sent for; they cover a broad range of subjects and interests, from magazine subscribers to catalog shoppers. a second type of external list is the compiled list. such a list represents a collection of names and addresses taken from a database that was originally established for a noncommercial purpose. sources include motor vehicle registrations, government records, telephone directories and sic compilations.

we might note that, after your own internal lists, direct response lists almost always perform the best. but they tend to be two to three times as expensive as compiled lists.