6 Critical Questions for Your Direct Marketing List Provider

For B2C marketers, now is a great time to incorporate direct mail into your marketing strategy. The pandemic opened the door for more direct mail efforts, and more than one-third (37%) of consumers now say they are more excited to receive mail each day. Direct mail remains one of the most effective ways to communicate, get a response and fundraise.

One of the most important ingredients of a direct mail campaign is the mailing list. If you need new mailing list sources beyond your house list, it’s a good idea to do your research first. Here are six important questions to ask your list provider.

What are the list sources? Is it a response list or compiled?

There are three types of mailing lists: response, subscriber and compiled.

  • Response lists: Response lists contain groups of people who have responded to an offer in some way. Their past behavior indicates their interest in specific products, services or causes. This means you can easily target people who have responded to offers similar to yours. Response lists tend to out-perform compiled lists.

  • Subscriber lists: Many newsletters, magazines and trade publications (digital and print) will rent out their subscriber lists. Since they have actively subscribed to receive this content, these consumers are very interested and engaged in the subject. List owners are highly protective of this business asset. Therefore, their lists are usually only available for rent (instead of for purchase), and they may require that they deploy the mailing for you.

  • Compiled lists: Compiled lists are prepared by collecting information from various sources, such as directories, surveys, public records, etc. They usually have very large quantities available, so list counts can be strong even for small geographic areas. However, users beware—response rates tend to be lower on these lists. You’ll want to be sure to ask the other questions below.

How often is the data verified/updated?

On average, 8 million people in the U.S. move each year, so lists can become outdated. Be sure the list is run through the NCOA (National Change of Address) directory just prior to your mailing. In addition, check on how often the residents’ actual names are verified.

Do you guarantee delivery? To what percent?

Tied to the last question is the question of delivery rates. If a provider is doing a good job at keeping the list fresh, then they should guarantee that at least 90% of the mail is deliverable.

Who else has rented/used the list?

Watch for businesses similar to yours—even competitors—in this answer. This will help you determine if the list is composed of consumers likely to respond to your offer, as well. A mailing list provider may refuse to give you the specific names of other companies who have used the list. If they won’t share the client names, you should at least get the business types and categories they operate in.

What percentage of your past customers for this list have been repeat users?

Repetition is good! This means the list is working for them. If other companies were happy enough to increase their order or rent the list multiple times, it means that the mail deliverability was reliable and response rates were strong.

How often has the list been deployed over the past six months?

While repetitive use is good, too much list usage is not. As with any marketing channel, there is the wear-out factor to consider. For non-profits, this is a particular concern. You don’t want to be the twelfth group to ask for a donation that month!

Of course, there’s a lot more to choosing a mailing list than just these six questions. AlphaGraphics Pittsburgh has a team of direct marketing experts who have built strong relationships with our list providers. This means we can not only select the best target lists for you, but we can negotiate great deals, as well. Contact us today to discuss your next direct mail marketing campaign!

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