8 Direct Mail List Tips and Best Practices

Buying or renting a direct mail list is often the fastest way to start generating leads or sales for your business. Unlike email, where list purchasing is a no-no, direct mail lists are solid tools that are used by marketers in organizations of all sizes. Full service list brokers can make the process incredibly fast and easy.

direct mail list - the key to mailing success

There are many types of lists and list sources. They are put together and priced in many different ways. Savvy direct marketers use list segments to test offers against on a continuous basis. Learn more about mailing list selection and testing in the Postalytics comprehensive overview of direct mailing lists.

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The most common direct mail list types are Residential, Occupant, New Mover and Business lists. These lists are often compiled, meaning they’ve been collected from various sources and entered into a database. Compiled lists are sourced from many places, including public records, government databases and telephone directories.

Response lists are collected from people who have responded to an ad or who have purchased items from businesses that then sell the lists.

The quality of your list may be the single most important factor in the success of your direct mail campaign. 

In fact, Will Spero, CEO of Mailers Haven, maintains that 60% of your direct mail campaign is based on the quality of your list. If the quality of your list isn’t up to scratch, then you are wasting your time.
To help you with the list building process, we have put together 8 direct mail list tips and best practices.

#1 Your Direct Mail List Must Be Specific

A good rule of thumb for list building is the more targeted, the better. The first step is focus on the geography that you want to send to. A good mailing list company will let you choose very targeted geographies, with options to send to a radius around an address, send to specific zip codes, cities, states, etc. Next it is important to choose the demographics of your target audience like age, gender, income, home ownership etc. Once you narrowed your list down to the most likely purchasers of your product/service, you’ve set yourself up for success.

#2 Don’t Agree To A High Minimum

Often mailing list brokers don’t want to let you micro-target with very small list sizes. They know that direct mailers traditionally haven’t been able to make small batch or triggered mail work economically, so they give artificially high minimum list size purchases. The reality is that it is all data, and they can make a smaller direct mail list for you. Push for it.

#3 Start Small

You should start small as you make your first foray into direct mail marketing. You can test out your messaging on a smaller scale and double down on the most successful campaigns. Starting small can also help you pinpoint the list types that are the most suitable targets for your business.

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#4 Update the 40-40-20 Rule

The traditional guidance for direct mailers has always been to follow the 40-40-20 rule which stated that 40% of direct mail success is based on the quality of the direct mail list, 40% based on the offer, and 20% based on the creative. While each element in the traditional 40-40-20 rule is still relevant, direct mailers should also add one more critical step to meet the needs of the modern consumer.

direct mail list - 40 40 20 rule

Consumers today are increasingly self-directed and are highly likely to research their options online before making a purchase. As a result, direct mailers should look to drive their prospects back to a relevant landing page where they can complete a form if they wish to purchase or receive more information. A best practice to bear in mind here is to send prospects to a personalized URL or pURL so you can track the people on your list who visited your site.

#5 Test. And then test again. And again

Seasoned direct mail marketers are always testing. They plan multiple touches to their lists, where they test how different audiences respond to different formats, such as small, medium and large postcards, and/or letter formats. They also see which audiences respond best to different offers and creative approaches.

New direct mail automation tools make it easy to test, because you can upload lists, schedule multiple touches, and insert response tools like pURLs and QR codes in minutes, rather than in weeks.

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#6 Combining direct mail with email

Consider delivering critical information via both email and direct mail channels to reinforce the message and increase the likelihood it’ll make an impact. When using multiple channels have each communications build on the last. Use direct mail to emphasize a key message or break up the expected routine. Ensure both email and direct mail adhere to the same graphic standards and reflect the same voice so each piece reinforces and extends your brand promise. Use your direct mail list to initiate a conversation with people whose email addresses you do not yet have, or who have repeatedly not responded to your emails.

#7 Talk To List Providers

direct mail list - magnet words

The best way to learn about the list options available is to speak directly with good list compilers and brokers. They work with many experienced direct mailers, and can steer you in the right direction to help you get the right list or lists to get started.

Here’s a list of some of the top mailing list companies. Reach out and talk with them!

#8 Direct Mail Should Behave More Like Email

Contrast direct mail with email and other digital channels, which let a marketer or salesperson login to a web based solution, make a few selections, drag & drop some creative and press send. You shouldn’t have to become a project manager, coordinating, calling, emailing, FTP’ing, and conference calling humans.

direct mail list - automation

Direct mail tracking should be available 24/7 so you can see deliver-ability and interactivity rates down to a specific piece of mail. Look for solutions with new direct mail tracking and use them in your campaigns. Your direct mail list can be the starting point of a fully automated campaign with the right set of tools.

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