So, how does one go about finding the right mailing list? Once you know exactly who your market is, you can begin researching.
Your list is an extremely important part of your mailing. It helps you match your product with your customer, one of the most basic factors in successful marketing. Again, I know it still seems complicated, but it's actually fairly simple.
Look at it this way: If you're selling bait, you need to reach fishermen, right? If you're just hitting a zip code or town, only a small portion of the whole will be fishermen, so don't try to reach everyone at once. If you do, most of your mailing will get thrown out or never looked at.
In addition to the ways we discussed in the last chapter, there are some companies who specialize in doing most of the work for you.
There are many kinds of lists out there, here's a breakdown so you can decide what works best for you:
The cost for having your list checked is very economical ($50 for up to 10,000 addresses)
Google the keywords consumer lists and you'll get a ton of companies willing to sell you consumer mailing lists. What, exactly, IS a consumer mailing list? A consumer mailing list contains home addresses and/or email addresses of consumers; people who buy products either from brick and mortar retailers or online. These lists are in turn used to sell products and services directly to individuals and families.
Using such a list, you'll be able to break prospects down by age, income, gender, whether they rent or own their home, home value and other variables. Some will include these options (they call them "selects") in their price - others will add on a penny or two per record for this data.
BE CAREFUL. Research well. You want FRESH data. Your consumer list is the most decisive aspect of your direct marketing campaign. If you have outdated or inaccurate information, you are wasting time and money following dead-end leads.
Ask these questions to help you choose a list company:
How often is your data updated?
If it isn't monthly - move on.
Do you guarantee deliverability?
The answer should be "yes." (Deliverability is the ability of the mail piece to be successfully delivered to the prospect)
What amount of deliverability do you guarantee?
You should agree to no less than 90% deliverability.
Will you refund postage on bad addresses as well as the cost of each bad record?
This is a tough one… 10% is the max on bad addresses as an industry standard. Over the 10% I do refund postage on the bad addresses as well as the cost of the bad address records. I think you'll be hard pressed to find a list company that will do this, but you might as well ask.
Can I use the list over and over again?
Again, there will be an up-charge for this because quality companies will charge for unlimited use of a list. These compilers are constantly updating their data and there is a cost to that activity. When a random list broker says "Sure, use it as much as you want," I'm always suspicious. Who compiled that list? In my experience, all the major compilers charge more for unlimited usage.
If it's a "specialty list" - meaning everybody on the list has back pain or rides a unicycle or loves painting pottery in their spare time - it's important to ask how the list is compiled. Meaning, how do they know everyone on the list has back pain? Did they buy it from a chiropractor? Be suspicious with specialty lists, ask a lot of questions. Don't just believe it because they proclaim to be an expert.
There are list companies and then there are list compilers. Who compiles this data?
There aren't very many answers to this. InfoUSA is a great compiler. Their data is fresh. They have a great website to get your list counts from, which can be found at www.infousa.com. However, if you're planning on using us for your postcards, you may want us to quote the list for you. Because the quantity we purchase and because lists are not our main product, we don't need to mark them way up and our pricing usually comes in lower then InfoUSA's retail pricing. But whether you buy the data from them, us or any other list broker - insist the data is fresh and accurate.
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You will always get some undeliverables - this is normal! Businesses and people move all the time.
Don't just buy the cheapest out there, though. Make sure you get the right answers to the above questions. Remember, postage is the most expensive part of any mailing and if the list is old and you get more than 10% undeliverable returns, you are literally throwing money away.
One effective way to target an audience with a shared interest is a subscriber list. Are there magazines your market would be reading? For instance, in our fisherman example, I can think of a half-dozen fishing magazines off the top of my head. In our jewelry example, the choices might not be so obvious, but go to a bookstore and flip through some of the high-end fashion or local magazines. Chances are you'll see dozens of high-quality jewelry ads sprinkled inside.
Magazine publishers will normally rent out their subscriber list. Before you commit, question them on whether they'll allow you to use the list over and over. Often times they have a one-time usage clause in their contract. If so, look elsewhere. Using a list only one time is almost useless.
You need to mail to this list not just once, but over and over again. If they only allow you to mail to it one time and you have to repurchase for additional use, it may get VERY expensive. Then again, if the list is that good, it may be worth it. You'll be the judge of that. It really depends on your ROI (Return on Investment). One of the companies we profile in this book makes $50,000 to $60,000 for every 12,000 postcards they mail out. In that case, repurchasing the list each time is well worth the expense.
Affiliate Companies: Sharing
The key to working with a list-provider is not to reinvent the wheel. I spent years (and a small fortune) learning the ropes from scratch. You don't have to.
Today, more and more companies are willing to offer the lists they've worked so hard to build - for a price. But if you can let them do the hard work of trial and error, you can benefit, and the investment you make in that list is a small price to pay. Here are a few examples of this type of list, otherwise known as affiliate companies:
Say you're a mortgage broker: If you're selling mortgages and work with a particular title company, they will sometimes GIVE you their list of clients with address information, loan amount and length of loan. Sometimes even the lender is included. They, in turn, want all your loans closing with them so, in exchange for that, they may share the data they have.
Say you're a florist: You may want to use the recent mailing list of a bridal boutique. Maybe you can provide flowers at a trunk show in exchange for a monthly list of new gown customers. Maybe there is a caterer you sometimes work with that will trade customer lists with you. The point is that you need to get creative - who may want to use your customer list and also has a good product or service but doesn't compete with you? Trade with them.
When we talk about customers, it's important to define whether you are selling to individuals or businesses. The field of businesses selling to businesses, or B2B, is more popular than ever.
Let's say you are a software-design company specializing in custom databases for a variety of businesses. Well, you're not going to promote to EVERY business. You need to choose the types of businesses that benefit from the type of database you offer.
Maybe you've worked with dental offices or insurance agencies in the past. Well, there are so many different types of both that it can be difficult to prioritize.
Fortunately, there is a way to narrow it down and find the right types of companies to promote to. For example, look for specific business types at www.census.gov/epcd/www/sic.html and find out their SIC (Standard Industrial Classification System) codes for these businesses.
What is an SIC Code?
An SIC code is minimally a four-digit numerical code that stands for Standard Industrial Classification. It is issued to businesses by the U.S. government in order to organize and identify all the different industries in the nation. That way data can be compiled and analyzed about these industries and the government will have uniformity of statistical data collected by the various federal and state agencies and private organizations.
All economic activities are covered, and I quote: "agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and trapping; mining; construction; manufacturing; transportation; communications, electric, gas and sanitary services; wholesale trade; retail trade; finance; insurance and real estate; personal, business, professional, repair, recreation and other services; and public administration" www.osha.gov/pls/imis/sic_manual.html
Reading an SIC Code
The first two digits of the code identify the major industry group, the third digit identifies the sub-industry group and the fourth digit identifies the exact industry.
36 = ELECTRONIC & OTHER ELECTRIC EQUIPTMENT
367 = ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS & ACCESSORIES
3672 = PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARDS
If you see a number "9" in the third or fourth digit position of the SIC code, it means it is a miscellaneous industry "not elsewhere classified" (NEC). These miscellaneous groups are not made up of similar primary activity groups. They are grouped together and treated as a separate industry.
Why am I telling you all this? Mailing list compilers/companies gather data about a business and one of the ways to sort them is by SIC code. Sure, if you want ALL businesses in a certain gross volume range, then you won't need to know the SIC code.
But perhaps you run a dental lab and you're an expert at a certain kind of bridge. It's obvious you want to promote to dentists. But maybe this particular bridge you specialize in is only used by dental surgeons. There is one code for "dentists," in general, and another for "dental surgeons," in particular. This allows you to get very specific in your search.
Don't leave it to the list company to figure this out for you. They don't know your business the way you do. Compilers NEVER ask questions to determine if the list you're ordering is what you really need to have success with your campaign. You need to understand this material so your list is actually comprised of businesses likely to purchase your product or service, and not just some variance of that industry.
This is vital. Your list will make or break your campaign. The more understanding YOU have about how these lists are compiled and where the data comes from, the more power you will have over the results of your campaign.
This is something you hear people talking about all the time in marketing, but what does it really mean? An "opt-in list" is a list that someone puts themselves on voluntarily. They may sign up for a newsletter within a certain industry and answered "yes" to wanting to receive offers or information from affiliates of that company. An affiliate would be any company they sold their list to. It was the business transaction that affiliated them.
Like any list, an opt-in list can be a valuable source of information if used correctly.
The key to all of these lists is that they are just information; you have to make the best out of that information by sending to these lists repeatedly.
Think of how people get on an opt-in list; they checked a box allowing companies to send them information. They're not exactly requesting the information from you, just "allowing" it. That's a big difference.
These days, you typically have to un-check a box rather than check it to not be gathered on such a list. Few people take the time, and thus, end up opting-in. Either way, you have their information; now it's up to you to use it well - and often!
Cloning Your Ideal Customers
What if you could take your very best customers and clone them? You know the ones I'm talking about: they spend the most with you; they keep coming back for more and they tell their friends, family and colleagues about you. Cloning is not going to happen, but there is a next best thing.
It's a service that takes your customer list and analyzes it. It finds out all kinds of details about your customers that you cannot find out otherwise; for instance, what magazines they read, how much money they have saved or if they live paycheck to paycheck. Do they have kids? If so, how many? What do they drive? Where do they travel to on vacation? What credit cards do they use? It includes all the obvious things, too: do they own or rent? How old are they? Are they married or single? And many, many more details!
Once the analysis is complete, this service matches up similar people to those that already purchase your product or service and sell you the mailing list. I call this "micro-marketing," and now you know the secret to successfully cloning your best customers; over and over and over again.
The results are astounding.
Because of privacy issues I'm not at liberty to tell you in this book where to get this service (aside from PostcardMania) or what it's called - but this is not new.
However, until now it's been reserved for giant companies with giant marketing budgets. The company that sells this service barely advertises it and their minimum, bare-bones analysis costs $2,000 and can go up into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on how in-depth of an analysis is done.
It is not my intention to self-promote in this book. Suffice it to say, we have struck a deal with this company that makes it more affordable for small-to-medium size businesses to use this service.
If this is something you'd like to discuss, call one of our marketing consultants now at 1-800-628-1804.