Making a List, Checking it Twice: How Direct Mail List Development Can Yield Results

Thinking about a marketing effort to increase awareness of your services? Do you have a new product in development meant for a new customer segment that’s largely untapped? Expanding your business to new cities and states this year?

And now for the big question: Do you have the right list for your print campaign to launch any of these efforts?

When putting together a print campaign, access to quality data ranks as the number one factor when determining whether or not your direct mail piece will yield success.    Before we had access to large data warehouses, the most you could hope for when sending a print piece in the mail was knowing the names of businesses in a particular zip code. And for residences, you hoped that someone would open up your envelope as you often sent out your piece addressed to that mythical “occupant.” Now we have access to more data than most can handle or even need. People used to hire staff to conduct their own market research to build their lists; now there are large companies with access to so much data that if you’re not careful, you can find yourself drowning in it.

How do you deal with all this data to get the right list for distributing your direct mail piece?

First, be clear about your potential customers. Know who your product is meant for, understand what makes a great donor or be clear about who it is that you want to attend your university or workshop. When clients call for support in launching a new product, I often spend a great deal of time discussing with them their concept of the ideal client. This way, when my team goes to work on a new project, we create a carefully segmented list ensuring that the direct mail piece ends up in the right mailboxes!

For example, a client we worked with who sells condominiums wanted to send out a mailer to attract new buyers. Rather than just send a mailer to everyone in a zip code, the client’s target audience was anyone paying exorbitant amounts of rent. Rather than try to appeal to folks living in suburbia outside a city, the client also wanted to market to people who currently lived and worked within an actual metropolitan area where his properties stood. He also wanted actual names on the mailer and so one of the key factors in developing the list was to remove any address where we could not validate the addressee.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

However, unless you’re willing to drill down and be clear about what data you want versus what you don’t want, you could be paying for lists that lack proper segmentation, meaning your mail campaign suffers from too much breadth and not enough depth. Bottom line: you’re wasting your precious marketing budget on people who may have no interest in your offer.

Thanks to data mining efforts, we now have access to quality data. It’s fascinating to me how we can process large amounts of data to find you the right customers. Not only can you leverage data to find the right customers, you can also use it to predict future outcomes—as in how often your clients may engage with you or what percentage of customer loyalty you can expect from certain professions. Best Buy uses this technique to optimize the layout of their stores to shape your buying experience and increase profits. Likewise, they know what products to feature in their newspaper inserts and who to send that mailer advertising large HD screens to in time for Super Bowl Sunday.

The good news is that you don’t have to develop this list on your own. We typically partner with our customers on developing the best list possible and craft the best direct mail piece. When you start with the right criteria for a campaign—including factors such as age, income, gender, location, income and many other demographics, you can create a highly-refined list that allows you to design a marketing piece that speaks directly to your potential clients and donors.

One thing I encourage you to do is work with a one-stop shop when launching a direct mail campaign. There are a lot of vendors out there who advertise they have the best data available—my question is how do you know? I’ve had a lot of clients over the years come to me with a data set that doesn’t serve them well as it’s dated because it was purchased several years ago or it’s too broad or way too deep. Yes, it’s possible to get a list with TOO much data and that means you can get so overwhelmed that it can be difficult to make sense of what the data says.

My team and I deal with data every day; we help clients make sense of the options available to them. Depending on how often you plan to make use of the list, we recommend not buying your list, but rather leasing it so you can access a data segment more than once over a given period. In some instances, this means you don’t own the records until someone becomes a client and they move into your own select customer database. This makes it easier for businesses who don’t want to forever scrub their own lists and manage it all on their own.

Got more questions about list management and how best to create a list of targeted clients or donors to increase your organization’s reach? Give us a call as Multi Print Media can steer you in the right direction when it comes to launching a direct mail campaign that yields a profitable result!

Check out our next blog entry where I’ll share how you can use your existing clients for greater impact!

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