Develop the Prime Asset of Direct Mail Success

Red envelope with a white arrow labeled "Direct Mail"

There are all kinds of mistakes you can make when creating a direct market campaign. Wrong price, wrong timing, unattractive mailer. But experts say those boo-boos don't compare to having the wrong list.

The most vital aspect of a direct mail marketing campaign isn't clever wording or a dazzling offer ... it's a good mailing list of prospects. In fact, advertising professionals say that as much as 60% of your success in direct mail depends on getting the right names. But before you can find the perfect list, you need to define your ideal customer based on factors such as:

If you're trying to sell luxury cars to affluent people, it's obviously a waste of money to mail an offer to folks earning $30,000 a year. But that's just what some companies do. This is truly one area where you can be "penny wise and pound foolish."

You can try to search for mailing lists yourself but there are literally thousands to choose from. Some are compiled from the names of people who have responded to an advertisement or purchased a product. Others are simply lists of people in a certain profession, such as doctors or landscapers.

It's generally best to find a broker who can identify the right lists for your company. Then, make sure the names are current. Even a list that's 12 months old already has many names and addresses on it that are no longer accurate because people move, close post office boxes, retire and make other changes.

Weigh the cost of renting versus buying a list. If you need to mail right away or only for a short time, it may be a smart idea to rent your list, at least at first. If the list brings the results you want, you can consider buying unlimited rights later.

Test the Waters: Once you find some lists that you believe will work, try a small mailing before you leap into a huge campaign.

"From the time I began my business until today, I have expended energy and money on my mailing list. Bankers believe that our physical plant and our computer systems are our main assets but they are mistaken. It's our list."

-- Lillian Vernon, CEO of Lillian Vernon Corp., in her book, An Eye for Winners

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