How to Use a Mailing List to Promote Your Business!

by Adrian Kennelly

"The best message to the wrong audience is worthless". Freeman F Gosden, Jr., President of a leading US direct response agency.

Promoting your business by direct mail means offering your goods and services by post. Properly executed, direct mail is arguably the most profitable marketing method of all. Conversely, get it wrong and you could lose a great deal of money.

So what does 'getting it right' involve? Most importantly, you'll need to find out if direct mail is right for your business. Ask yourself why you are considering this marketing method: to reach new markets, to test prices and profit margins, to reduce overheads, to research gaps in the market? To establish suitability, do pilot tests and evaluate these before you do a full-scale mailing. Make sure your marketing methods and techniques achieve your objectives. The importance of testing this and all other aspects of your direct mail campaign can not be over emphasized.

Benefits of Direct Mail

The many advantages include:

* Opens up new markets.

* Allows potential policy changes to be tested before being introduced.

* Highly targetable. Direct mail allows you to select your audience precisely, by name, profession, interests, postal district, income, work, or other relevant characteristics.

* Power of the personalized message. It's almost impossible to ignore personally addressed communications.

* Provides more information for prospects than traditional advertising.

* Response, and likely profits, can be tested and predicted with reasonable accuracy. Response to a sample testing should apply to the remainder of the list.

The Importance of Your Mailing List

The mailing list, not the package, is the single most important feature of a successful direct mail campaign. Ignore this and you could spend weeks, maybe months, producing a perfect mailshot for an inappropriate audience. In short, your campaign will almost certainly fail.

Essentially there are two types of list:

* Your Own, comprising names and addresses compiled by you. These can include customers and inquirers, people you do business with, others you've identified as likely customers.

* Other People's Lists, compiled from various sources, including subscribers, buyers, people sharing common interests, inquirers. These are available for hire or purchase.

The Beauty of Your Own List

Never underestimate the value of your own mailing list. It's as near to perfect as you can get. These are people who have already expressed an interest in your business, some will have purchased from you already. They trust you and can buy with confidence. With your own list, your offer can be carefully targeted to suit an already established customer profile and a good response might be expected. In compiling your list, record: names, addresses, purchases (past and future), dates, how your customers first contacted you, average order, and so on.

Choosing and Using Outside Lists

Lists can be obtained from owners and brokers, or compiled from professional and trade directories, directories of businesses and organizations, advertisers' profiles and subscribers' records.

When choosing an outside list it's essential that you select one with characteristics most closely resembling your customer profile (customers' features and characteristics, including buying patterns and purchasing power).

Careful targeting means less wastage and a higher response rate.

Golden Rules for Selecting a Mailing List

Rule number one is to spend at least as long deciding who to send your offer to as deciding what to sell them.

Rule number two is to test your mailing list. Monitor the effect of changes to your direct mail package against random samples of a mailing list. Work at it until you have the optimum combination of package and mailing list. Do this each time you use a new list.

Response can be tested by coding mailing pieces, usually the order form. The code might be a group of numbers or letters, it might be a color or other mark.

Things You Must Know About a List

Why was the list compiled? Ask about the source of the list, whether it includes buyers or inquirers, subscribers or advertisers; when entries were last mailed to and how recent the information is.

Has the list been cleaned recently and 'gone aways' removed? Make sure the list owner will compensate you for returns, usually by replacing each 'gone away' with an appropriate number of fresh names. Is the list heavily duplicated? Does the owner check regularly for multiple entries?

What are your rights in the list? Can it be used more than once? Can it be used repeatedly? Does it contain 'seeds' and 'sleepers' to help the owner detect misuse?

What minimum order can be used to test the list? Testing for suitability means mailing to a random sample and testing response before mailing to the entire list. It is industry practice to allow random sampling of an appropriate list. If you have to buy the whole list without testing it, go elsewhere.

Are business names entered by firm, job title or named individuals? Response is invariably higher for mailings to named individuals.

What quality printout is available? Some labels will be quality laser typeset, others might be printed through a badly faded ribbon on an inferior dot matrix system. Another thing to watch out for are all capital printouts known to be extremely off-putting to recipients.

Is the list available to you? Obviously, some owners are reluctant to hire out lists to competitors.

About the List Owner/List Broker: How helpful is that person or his representative? Has he asked why you want the mailing list, what you are selling? Has he asked to see the contents of your mailing? Is he interested in helping you achieve a positive response or is he more intent on taking your order? Has he taken time to answer your questions? Is there a telephone number you can dial for further information? If not, why not?

Miscellaneous. Is the list fully post-coded? Is the list correctly registered under the law? 

About the Author: You may redistribute this article freely as long as this resource box remains intact. Adrian Kennelly is the webmaster of "DirectoryGold Web Directory" which features an article directory, script directory and free online games


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