How to buy a mailing list.
Here are the insider secrets to get the best deal and get the right list for whatever you are selling.
The first recommendation I have for you in learning how to buy a mailing list is to work with a list broker who knows your market.
A good list broker will know which lists are working in your market and their advice can be invaluable. They get paid by the list owners, so brokers don’t cost you anything to use.
Keep in mind that even if you have the best headline, the best copy and an irresistible offer, a mailing selling steaks to vegetarians is just not going to work.
The first thing to keep in mind is not to believe the rate card that gives you information about the list. A rate card is a sales document, and many people who don’t know much about lists or about renting lists, look at that and that’s all they read. They make a decision about whether to rent the list, or not, based on the rate card.
That’s a big mistake.
You’re not finding out what you need to know to learn how to buy a mailing list. Furthermore, some of the things on the rate card may just be flat out lies. They might say they have 50,000 mail-order buyers, when in reality; they only have 10,000 mail-order buyers, and 40,000 who inquired, but never bought.
If you don’t know the right questions to ask about how to buy a mailing list, then you’ll get taken, so here are 15 questions to ask your broker before renting a response list:
1. What is the size of the list and the cost-per-thousand? The reason this matters is you want to know how many names are there to roll out to if you do a test and it works. Think about it. If you have a list of 10,000 names, and you’re going to test 5,000, the typical minimum order, your only roll out is the other 5,000. That list, all things being equal, is not as attractive as another list that has 100,000 names you can roll out to if your test works.
2. Is it related to your offer? Are the customers, on the list you’re renting, buying something similar to what you’re selling? Don’t try to sell steaks to vegetarians. Make sure it makes sense.
3. How recent are the names? This is called “recency,” meaning how recently have the people bought? This factor is so important that, normally, the lists are categorized by how old the names are. Names can get tremendously out-of-date, and the response can drop in half, after they become a year old. So that’s why they categorize the list by how old segments of it are. If you ever hear the term “RFM”, that means recency, frequency and monetary value. Many direct marketers consider those three the most important criteria.
4. What did they spend (monetary value)? One of the most important questions about how to buy a mailing list is that of monetary value. If you want to sell something with direct response, don’t buy a list of contest entrants who didn’t buy anything but are considered a response list because they responded to a direct response offer. If you are trying to sell something, a list of buyers of that thing is better than a list of people who entered a contest to get it for free… Don’t rent a list of buyers who spent $20 if your product sells for $300.
5. Are the names buyers or inquirers? If all the names are lumped together to make it appear that they’re all buyers, then you need to ask about this. Make sure they really are buyers, not inquirers. Odds are, there are some of each and that’s okay. You’re definitely going to want to test with the buyers though, not with the inquirers.
6. Where did the names come from? Are the names direct-mail generated, or did they come from another source? When you are learning how to buy a mailing list, make sure you are getting a response list, meaning it was direct-response generated. If the names are not all direct-response generated, then the list is not as good. In addition to wanting to know where the names came from, it’s best to know how the names were collected. This is important because, even if the names were direct response generated, you want to know if it was a free sweepstakes they responded to or a catalog where they bought something.
7. Are they multi-buyers? Multiple buyers are people who have bought more than once. The list owner may have multi-buyers, but can you select by multi-buyers? They may not have that many of them, so they may not be segmented out. If they can be segmented out, then you want to buy the most recent names that bought the amount you are selling, and also bought more than once. As you are learning how to buy a mailing list remember to test multi-buyers first, because, if the best people you can test don’t work, then the others aren’t going to work either.
8. What selections (or sorts) are available? Depending on the size of the list, the selections, or sorts, may vary. Find out what selections they allow, like the person’s job title, income or salary, other demographic or geographic criteria. The rate card may not even show all of the available selections or sorts, so ask. Do they have psychographic (lifestyle factors) sorts? If your target market can be better targeted using things like religion, politics, hobbies, things people like to do
9. Does the list have a high dupe rate with your house list? That means, if you already have a customer list (your “house” list) and you do a merge-purge, which is to combine two lists and see how many duplicates there are, is the amount of duplicates high? You might think that that might be a bad thing. But it isn’t, it’s a good thing.
If there’s a lot of duplication between your customer list and the list you’re renting, that’s a good indication that the list you’re renting is the same type of person as your customer list, and that’s great. In fact, if you have a choice of three or four lists, then I’d pick the one that had the highest duplication with my customer list, and test that one first.
10. Does the list have a history of repeat mailers? Who else has rented this list? Ask them. Who are the mailers who have rented this list? Did they test it? And then, did they roll out their tests? Did they then do it again? Did they repeat mail? Find out. Call other mailers and ask them how the list worked for them.
11. Do your competitors rent the list? There again, unlike what you might think, that’s a good thing. If your competitors have rented it, and especially if they have rented it more than once, then that’s a sign it works. If it works for them, then it can work for you.
12. If the list is a “buyers” list, how did the people pay? Did they pay up front with a credit card? Or was it one of those offers where you pay nothing until next year? Obviously, your better prospects are the people who just put it on a credit card, as opposed to people who aren’t going to pay for two years, and then maybe default then.
13. What is the rollout potential of the list? I mentioned this before, referring to a test of 5,000, on a list of 10,000 leaving only a 5,000 rollout. Meanwhile, a test of 5,000 on a list of 100,000 has a 95,000 name rollout if the test works. All things being equal, the one with the larger rollout potential is the better list.
14. When was the last time the list was cleaned? “Cleaned” means database updating. The statistics are that one-fifth of the population moves each year. Which means, if the list is a year old and hasn’t been cleaned, 20 percent of the addresses will be outdated and not deliverable. In the case of business addresses, especially with individuals at business addresses, 50 percent of that list can be obsolete after only a year. And that’s not so much the businesses moving, but the people moving.
15. What formats are available? There are many different formats for lists. You can get them on magnetic tape, disks, labels, labels with adhesive, or labels without adhesive, called “Cheshire labels.” One of the formats that you need to be careful with is when you’re going to do a mail merge. You don’t want the list to come in all caps, the post office preferred format for automation mailings. You’re going to want to have upper and lower case lettering.
Because if you’re doing mail merge and the person’s name is printed in all capital letters in the middle of the letter, then it will look really obvious that it’s not a personal letter. You’ll lose the whole effect. So, if you intend to do any personalization, make sure the list can be sent in upper and lower case.
To learn more about how to buy a mailing list, direct marketing, copywriting and the other skills need to really make this work for you, join our team here and get my personal help whenever you need it!