It's Not Which Lists Are Better, But Which Are More Appropriate for the Application
But as someone who rents both compiled and response/circulation lists for my clients, I don't think it's an issue of which lists are better - but which lists are more appropriate for the application.
Response and circulation lists help you reach proven buyers and responders to offers that are similar to yours. They help you reach prospects who, through their own actions, have demonstrated an interest in a particular subject, product, discipline or industry.
Response and circulation lists are usually your best options, but only if your geographic market is broad enough to produce a sufficient quantity. I often have clients with a target market of a single town, county or state, or even a few states - and response and circulation lists (which usually have a national audience) just won't do. To get a decent saturation, you need compiled lists.
I also find compiled lists to be the best choice when my audience profile is comprised primarily of demographic data - on the business side, SICs, employee size, sales volume; on the consumer side, age, income, family size. Once psychographic data enter into the profile, however, I start to look elsewhere.
As for the cost differential, I never let price be a factor in choosing lists. The list is far too important to the program, and it still only represents about 20 percent of the overall cost.
Bob McCarthy, McCarthy & King Marketing Inc.,