Four simple rules for better mailing lists

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Joseph Pych
Joseph Pych

Your direct marketing success depends on your mailing lists. According to the late great Ed Mayer, the success of every direct marketing campaign depends on 40% mailing lists, 40% offer, and 20% everything else. In other words, pick bad mailing lists and you will certainly fail.

Did you know more than 70,000 mailing lists are available to you? To help you choose the best lists to reach your market, here are four simple rules:

Use a list broker. List brokers spend all day thinking about mail­ing lists. Many have decades of experience in your industry and can tell you from memory which are the best lists to try and which are the ones to avoid. Plus, list brokers have access to powerful research tools to help them formulate targeted recommendations. And best of all, their services won't cost you a penny! That's because they are paid a com­mission from the list owner.

Educate yourself. You know your business better than your list broker ever will. To get the best results, you must work in partnership with your list broker. To be a good partner, you need to educate yourself on the spectrum of relevant mailing lists and important details such as audience makeup, counts, pric­ing, selectivity, usage, and ordering restrictions. Some leading list brokers have developed systems that enable their clients to participate in the research process by providing online access to mailing list information and list recommendations through their Web site. Ask your list broker if it offers this service.

Learn from your results. Before you mail, be sure to have the controls in place to measure the results of your campaign. This is often accomplished by assigning a unique key code for each mail­ing list. Responses are attributed to the appropriate key code as they arrive. When your campaign is complete, be sure to spend time analyzing the results. Determine which mailing lists worked. Determine which mailing lists failed. Why did some fail while others succeeded? This new knowledge will help you improve the results of your next campaign.

Share your results. Some marketers are hesitant to share their re­sults with their list broker. But how can a list broker be expected to make good recommendations without understanding how well their past recommendations worked for you? You will get the best service from your broker when you treat them as a trusted advisor and a partner in your success.

Finding good mailing lists is not easy — it will take time to partner with a list broker and to educate yourself. But it's well worth it.

Joseph Pych is founder and president of NextMark Inc. He can be reached at


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