If you follow my advice and start mailing to the same list more than once, at some point you will find lists that produce returns (undeliverables) continually. You may notice you start receiving more returns than when you first started mailing to those lists.
You may begin to see things like "Undeliverable as Addressed" or "Forwarding Order Expired." Every time you mail to an address and that prospect has moved or cannot be found for any reason, you have just paid for the postage with no possibility of getting a response.
Obviously, it's a pretty big waste of money to continue to mail to these addresses, but what do you do about it? You could simply go into the list of names that you have purchased and delete the returns. No more bad addresses, no more wasted postage, right? That is one option, but there is a better way to handle the situation.
The US Postal Service has an NCOA (National Change of Address) System that a limited number of companies are licensed to access. These companies are able to take the list that you have purchased, or compiled yourself, and check it against the USPS system. You will receive a report that will let you know if anyone on your list has moved, gone out of business, or even if the zip code that contact was in was changed by the Post Office itself. Along with the report, you will receive a new copy of your list that has been cleaned and updated.
The cost for having your list checked is very economical ($50 for up to 10,000 addresses) and will allow you to keep getting your message out to as many people in your list as possible.
At times you can see up to a 10% undeliverable rate, and it can even be higher on older lists that you have been using for a while. The average is more like 5% undeliverable, so let's take a look at the numbers at that rate:
The cost for having your list checked is very economical ($50 for up to 10,000 addresses).
If you mail 10,000 and get 5% back for bad addresses: 10,000 x .05 = 500 pieces. You will have paid postage on 500 pieces that did not reach their destination. So if you mail to your list again without cleaning it you have just wasted: 500 x $0.35 = $175.00.
If you were to NCOA that list you would have spent $50.00.
So you have three choices when faced with a list that needs cleaning:
Spend hours deleting every return that you receive from your list, waste $175.00 or more in postage and printing every time you mail to that list or…
Have the list checked by an NCOA service and get back in touch with customers that may have moved, for around 3.5 times less than the cost of mailing again without checking it.
There will also be records that can't be found through NCOA and these you should delete. From our cost comparison, I hope you'll agree that the NCOA service is the easiest and most effective way to keep your postage costs down.
Creating a List with a Newsletter of Your Own
The most effective list you can mail to is one that prospects signed up for. A newsletter (email or print) is an excellent way to build such a list. You probably won't have enough records to make a mailing worthwhile for several months, but start building one now anyway. Before you know it, time flies by and you'll be glad you started, because you'll have a healthy list of prospects and clients who volunteered to hear more about your product or service!
As of this writing we have about 75,000 subscribers to our weekly Marketing Like a Maniac Newsletter. Back when I started collecting, I was inspired by a friend who already had 100,000 subscribers to his newsletter - the company was SunBelt Software. I thought to myself, "Shoot, it will take me forever to get a decent list!" But it didn't. Before I knew it, I had 11,000 records! I recall just checking in to see how many we had accumulated and I was shocked and pleased all at once!
In this day and age it is so much easier to do this with the advent of the internet. It's simple for people to find your site, discover your newsletter, type in their email address and forget about it. Every week (or month), you send them a quick, simple newsletter full of facts or tidbits or special offers or breaking news in your industry, and you both win. They get useful information they can choose to read or ignore, and you get one more opportunity to offer your product or service.
This is how we did it and how you can do it, too:
Create a monthly newsletter sign-up space on your website. Collect only the email address with the promise that the email address will not be sold and that they can cancel any time.
For the first few months only send the newsletter to the list - no advertisements at all. But you can definitely have ads in your newsletter and you should.
Ask for feedback in your newsletter. You can offer a submission area where they can vote on how well it looks, the articles it contains, etc. Tweak your newsletter to fit the responses.
When you are getting plenty of kudos for your efforts from your subscribers, then it's safe to send them text and HTML ads. HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. It's the markup language used for creating documents on the World Wide Web. Markup language is simply a computer coding system specifying the layout style of a document. (Definition taken from the Encarta® World Dictionary, North American Edition.) These are the ads you get from larger companies with graphics and photos in them.
These HTML ads MUST contain an area for people to fill in their other contact information, and they really shouldn't try to close the prospect on the product (unless you're in retail and the product can sell itself).
If people are filling in their contact information, you are doing GREAT.
This is a very big deal.
You just turned an anonymous email address into a lead - an actual person that you can now call and mail to. How often do YOU give strangers a way to reach you by phone or mail? This tells you that by now your subscribers are comfortable with you and they are beginning to trust you. You have gained credibility. Congratulations! This is the very best mailing list for you to mail to!