If you are going to be successful in direct mail, you MUST learn how to select mailing lists. Even if you have a great list broker, the broker will often give you a selection of lists from which you must choose the best for your business. How will you know which to pick?
The “Datacard” is the information sheet that summarizes the significant details about a specific mailing list. It holds lots of information – too much to go into here – but here are some of the highlights (your list broker should be able to explain the entire card if you need help):
Last Updated is the date when the list last added new names to the file. “Recency” is one of the critical factors in determining the success potential in a list. You want to make sure you have a list that’s updated frequently, and that you have been provided with the most recent names available.
Counts gives the number of names available in each category, such as the month when the names were collected or how many of the names are Actives (current buyers or subscribers) vs. Expires (people with no recent activity).
List Cost is the-cost-per-thousand rental charge for the list. It will generally range between $100 per thousand to more than $200 per thousand depending on the type of list. A list that is very targeted to a specific category will generally cost more than a list that is more generalized and could be used for many different categories. But the additional cost may be well worth it if it means getting a higher response rate that returns your investment many times over.
Unit of Sale is the average amount spent by the individuals on the mailing list (if this list is a “Buyers” list). You want lists with a comparable unit of sale to your own offer.
List Source or Media indicates how the names on the list were generated. There are many ways Buyers and Inquires can be generated. Here’s a list of the main list sources:
• Direct Mail Generated or Direct Mail Sold
• Internet Generated
• Radio Generated
• TV Generated
• Print: Classified Ad, Magazines, Newspapers, Space Ads
• Controlled Circulation
• Attendee (at a meeting or conference)
• Compiled (from warranty cards, group memberships, etc.)
If you are choosing between a list that has been generated through direct mail and a list that was generated through the Internet, the direct mail generated list will most likely bring a better response to your direct mail campaign.
List Description gives a brief summary of the individuals on the list. A datacard for a financial list may say something like:
“Buyers who have spent $77 to learn how to make money from their home and secure financial independence. These buyers signed up for an online service that sends out an e-mail two times per week updating them on the recent trade recommendations. This list will work for all financial and opportunity offers. It will also work for health, catalogs, and senior offers.”
Segments/Selections gives you options for narrowing down a list to the group of people most likely to respond. For example, you might select names based on gender, region, or other demographics.
Minimum Order is the smallest group of names you can order. Some lists require you to order at least 3,000 names and others require you to order at least 5,000.
Continuation/Usage List is one of the most valuable resources for determining whether or not you should rent a list. Most of the time you have to ask for continuation/usage list information – it’s not always on the datacard, but it should be. Continuation/Usage will show you which other mailers have used the list. Some list owners will break it up into two groups: those who have tested the list and those who have continued on the list.
If you see a mailer who has a similar offer to yours and they are on the tested list AND the continuation list, chances are that this list is working for them and you should test it yourself.