Finding new business 5: mailing lists

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Many businesses, especially if they are breaking into a new market, purchase mailing lists to reach new prospects.

Over the next few posts I’m going to explore finding the right mailing list and we’ll take a look at the information supplied on a mail list data card.

Types of Mailing Lists:

When you buy a mailing list you do not necessarily ‘own’ the list, you cannot always use it ad infinitum. Mail list brokers frequently offer different arrangements:

1. Rent the list for one time use only
2. Rent for multiple use within a specific time-frame
3. Rent/buy for multiple use without limitations

The price they charge per record will depend upon which of these options you choose and the information they supply. And they seed their list with dummy contact details so they can check a list is not being used more times than has been paid for.

For example a generic list (Managing Director/Marketing Director/Buyer) which does not contain named job holders usually costs less than a list giving you the name of the specific person to contact.

A list including telephone numbers and email addresses could cost more.

If the list has been created from people who’ve responded to a particular offer that aligns well with your business you may have to pay a premium rate.

Selecting Your List

These will be cold prospects but you should still try to select a list that matches your target audience as closely as possible.

This is easier with some list suppliers than others.

For example HiLite supply a data record describing the list content, how it was generated, when it was last updated and what the prospects are likely to respond to – I’ll be going through one of their data cards in the next post.

Experian provide a ‘Prospect Locator’ in which you make selections to match the contacts you are looking for. They also offer a free handy Direct Marketing Guide you can download.

Selecting Your Mailing List Supplier

There are huge numbers of mailing list suppliers. Some generate the list themselves, others broker lists from other companies – effectively acting as a ‘go-between’.

Where the list is brokered the list owner may have a condition that your mailing must be approved before the list is released. Personally I think this is a good requirement because it demonstrates the owner’s integrity in making sure their customers are not inundated with irrelevant, junk mail. And that, in turn, means they are more likely to be responsive to what you are offering.

Here’s a few things to check when sourcing your mailing list – any professional list supplier will meet this criteria:

  • Accuracy of the list. How well prepared is the list; correct spellings, correct titles (Mr, Mrs etc), correctly typed town names and postcodes… are the postcodes in capital letters? Inaccurately typed addresses gives the wrong impression to the recipient as well as risking your mail going astray.
  • When was it last updated? If it is more than a month or so I would be a bit sceptical about its usefulness. Some mailing list suppliers state they will run an update process on the list before it is supplied, if they do check exactly what that update covers.
  • Is the list examined against the preference services:
    Mailing Preference Service MPS*/Corporate Mailing Preference Service CTPS
    Telephone Preference Service* TPS
    Fax Preference Service FPS

    [*Crucial if you are targeting consumers].

  • Is it checked for duplicates, gone aways, deceased?
  • Do they offer a deliverability guarantee? Always include a return address on your outgoing envelope. I use purely the address – not the company name – on the back of the envelope. This is so any letters that can’t be delivered are returned. It allows us to keep our database up-to-date and will let you check how many addresses in a purchased list are inaccurate.
  • Got the list – Now what?

    It’s tempting to believe a newly purchased list is going to deliver a landslide of new customers. The reality is you may not get more than 1% or 2% response – sometimes even less! Obviously how targeted your list is has an impact on this result.

    So – it’s down to testing to make sure you don’t waste your money or effort. Select a portion of the list you have purchased (especially if you had to take a minimum number of records, some list suppliers will not supply less than 5,000 records at a time), send your offer and measure the results before committing to a full roll-out, which could be quite expensive.

    Once someone has responded to your offer they become your customer/prospect and you can continue to communicate with them even if the original list contract was for a one time only use.

    A Final Thought

    Because email marketing is such a low-cost way of reaching out to your prospects you may consider purchasing an emailing list.

    Be careful. In the UK you cannot send unsolicited emails to individually identifiable people.

    So ask yourself… is it worth sending an email to a generic company email address? Is it likely to reach the person it is aimed at? And if it does, are they likely to respond, especially if they do not know you or your company?

    Personally I do not (and never recommend) buying emailing lists. I prefer to communicate with people who have opted-in, have said they would like me to keep in touch.

    You can get these warmer prospects when you send out your mailing simply by giving them the option to visit a web landing page (or squeeze page) to subscribe for your informative emails or including an opt-in checkbox on your response (order) form.

    ~ Carol Bentley

Written by Carol Bentley

4 Responses to “Finding new business 5: mailing lists”

  • Whats nice is that you can rent a list to see if your happy with the results and who your working for, because that can make things work a whole lot better when your personalities and style work together.

    email marketing

  • Hi noni juice,

    I’ve used AWeber for many years and love the simplicity of using it. More important, for me, is the high level of support the Aweber guys deliver.

    Also they have a very good reputation with search engines and many experienced online marketers also recommend them.

    You certainly won’t go far wrong if you take their risk-free trial.


  • This is a great post, very helpful to beginner like me. I’m still trying decide if I’m going to buy Aweber to aid me for my marketing. By reading this post of your clear some undecided thoughts.

  • Hi Carol

    I agree with you on buying email lists, specially when the expected return is only 1-2%.

    If there’s no other choice to buy a ‘dedicated’ list I would still recommend to start generating opted-in lists at the same time. Using AWeber for this is very cost-effective.
    It is proven to be much more profitable in the long run, plus you are pretty sure the receiver of your email marketing messages is already a qualified lead and not a ‘cold-call’ victim 😉

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)