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Issue 16

How to Maximise Responses for your DM Campaign

Targeted mailing lists are the key to a successful mailing project but it is important to be aware of what’s in the market before choosing any list.

Many marketers spend a lot of time and money in producing a mail piece but while you can have a great product and an attractive mail piece, if you do not have the proper target market all of your efforts have gone to waste. The mailing list is a key component in any direct marketing campaign. You should not compromise your marketing efforts by cutting corners on the purchase of your mailing lists. There are millions of mailing lists available and a little research can go a long way. Poor list choice often occurs because the decision seems so obvious, it is done quickly and with little serious thought. A few simple questions can help you make the right choice. What is the best geographical market? Can I market my product nationwide? Internationally? Do I need to narrow my geography to a more local region? What job title or level of responsibility do I want to target? Would I get a better response by defining the industry sectors I want to mail?

It could be a good idea to look at your best customers and write down the characteristics that they share. Studying your competitors and how they market their product could also be beneficial to the start of any new campaign.

Treat the purchase of the mailing list as a step as important as any other aspect of your campaign. Analyse your target audience and pick the list that best suits your needs. A list broker can give you valuable tips and advice and the service will cost you nothing.

How to choose a mailing list provider?

Know the difference between a response and a compiled mailing list.

  • Response mailing lists are comprised of individuals who have responded to an offer either by mail, phone or any other means of mass communication. They include magazine controlled circulation or subscription lists, exhibition attendees, buyers of business equipment or services…
  • Compiled mailing lists are a compilation of information from public records and include sources such as the phone book, courthouse records, mortgage deed records etc. This type of list would include business information available from Companies House or researched by telephoning companies in a specific sector.

Unless you already work with a trusted list broker who has proven his/her list selection skill to you in the past, call several list brokers with your requirements and have each of them give you their recommendations. Be careful not to make your final decision based solely on the cost of a list. A cheap list can turn out very expensive if the results it gives you are poor.

Information about mailing lists for rental is available from the lists owners themselves, from list managers or from list brokers. There are a number of directories of lists, published as a general guide with descriptions of lists, costs, etc.

List owners generate mailing lists, either specifically for rental or as a by-product of their main business. Their aim will be to sell you their list if it fits the profile you are seeking.

List managers sell mailing lists on behalf of a list owner. They are remunerated by the list owner on a commission basis according to the number of names they sell.

List brokers buy lists on behalf of clients much like other media buyers. They are a source of impartial advice on mailing lists as they receive commissions from all list owners. Most list brokers have a minimum number of names per order and generally deal in higher volume mailings.

Most lists are priced per thousand names although there is no justification for the minimum order charge. Technology is such nowadays that processing an order has become very cheap and the time spent on small orders has been dramatically reduced. The database industry is a fixed cost business and a compromise can easily be adopted by asking the customer to pay by credit card to reduce invoicing or administration costs.

Be clear of what you are allowed to do with the list you purchase. Most lists are made available for single use only. Additional uses, including follow-up telephone calls, have to be agreed with the list owner. Some lists are made available for more than a single use and they are sold outright or on licence. In all cases the list owner retains the copyright of the list and is the legal owner of the data. Even if data is supplied in magnetic formats, you will require permission to load it onto your own database.

All lists include “seed names” which are dummy records addressed to the list owner or his agent. Unauthorised usage of lists will, therefore, be detected by the list owner and may lead to legal action.

Telephone and Fax preference services

In the cases of lists with telephone numbers for telesales and telemarketing and lists with fax numbers for fax marketing, it is the responsibility of the company carrying out the marketing activity to ensure that the recipients of the campaign are willing to being contacted. This is achieved by checking the lists with the telephone preference service and the fax preference service. Corporate subscribers cannot opt out of telephone sales but they can object to being sent unsolicited faxes so it is always a good idea to ask your list provider if their list has been checked against the TPS and the FPS.

Response rates & Accuracy

It is impossible to predict response rates accurately on any list as it is very much dependent on the offer, the creative treatment and the timing of the mailing. You will not receive guarantees of response from list suppliers although they should be able to tell you in broad terms if the list has worked for similar offers in the past. Always favour list owners who offer guarantees of deliverability and quality of addressing. The list should also state that it has been obtained under the data protection regulations and clarify when it was updated.

Methods of updating vary from list to list. Some are refreshed constantly as a result of telephone or postal contact with the individuals concerned. All lists will be cleaned of “gone-aways” regularly. You should ask the list owner or his agent what the update method is and what the periods of update are to avoid any problems with poor maintenance of files.

Not many lists can claim a 100% accuracy rate and in most instances some returns or gone-aways should be expected. List owners operate different schemes to incentivise the return of gone-aways. Some offer a credit for returns over a certain percentage.


The most common formats are self-adhesive labels, cheshire labels, magnetic tape, diskette or email (csv or txt). You should make sure that the mailing house can deal with whichever format you order. The last thing you want is to have to spend time and money to transfer your data from one system to another. Your list suppliers will be able to advise you of the formats available. They should be flexible and be able to adapt to your needs rather than the other way round.

Although the choice of the right list should not be left to the last minute, it is important that companies provide a rapid service. In recent years, new media has revolutionised the way mailing lists can be delivered. Compacted onto CD at first, lists can now be obtained within minutes through the list owner’s website. Customers are able to run their own counts and get them printed out locally at their end. This method should give you an accurate and individually tailored result. Make sure that all information is clear before you make any purchase as you will be asked to pay by credit card. This method avoids the frustration of having a member of staff telling you that he/she will get back to you by five, only to get a voice mail message after the agreed time.

One very good example of mailing lists online is datanow which was relaunched in a new streamlined version at the recent International Direct Marketing Fair. Owned by AP Information Services Ltd., it is offering a quick and easy way to plan and execute your direct marketing campaign. The new online mailing list service www.datanow.co.uk is an innovative new website that provides highly accurate business mailing lists, of over 150,000 names, in key professional sectors including; marketing, business development, sales, IT, personnel, training, finance and boards members. Datanow is unique because marketing professionals can choose from a variety of different job titles, so they can target specific contacts rather than settling for general names. Users are able to customise searches, perform multiple searches, select a preferred format and with no minimum order simply pay for what they order and nothing else, not even a selection fee! The site is highly accurate, as it is continually updated from the AP Information Services Directory Database throughout the year. For this reason datanow offers a 100% guarantee of accuracy for any mailing list you purchase and any returns will be refunded treble the cost. It can also save a lot of your time and money as you don’t need to speak to a sales person and request a quote. This way, your mailing list can be ready within minutes rather than hours.

A MediaCo (uk) Production