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Chapter 2

Direct Mailing Lists: Acquisition, Hygiene, Profiling, and Data Appends

Mail carrier puts Direct Mail in a red mailbox in a tropical area.

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Mailing lists are the most important factor in determining a successful Direct Mail program. According to numerous studies and anecdotes, the classic rule of thumb is that 40% of the success of a Direct Mail Campaign relies on the mailing list. Clearly, when planning a campaign, getting the right audience – and the right mailing list – is a crucial first step. Of course, perfecting your direct mailing list is easier said than done. In this chapter, we’ll explore what it takes to obtain and optimize your direct mailing lists to ensure your campaign is set up for success.

Taking a Closer Look at Direct Mailing Lists

As we discussed in Chapter 1 , there are two major types of Direct Mail Campaigns: acquisition and retention. You will want to understand the type of campaign you wish to run, as this will dictate how you get your Direct Mail addresses. If you already have a contact database (sometimes from a CRM system), you can use it as a starting point for a retention campaign. Your contact data (sometimes called a house file) will have information from existing customers and leads from trade shows, events, your website, email subscriber lists, and other sources where a user has consensually given you their information through forms or purchases. Ensure that you have obtained consent to use their information for marketing purposes, in compliance with any applicable data protection laws. Your house file can be used for segmentation and more refined marketing to your existing base, and also to help build a more targeted acquisition list, too. By understanding your ideal customers, you can use that insight to tap into at least 60,000 different mailing lists for new marketing campaigns. It’s important to know what type of list you need, all the options available, and what you’d like it to do for your campaign. There are companies that specialize in renting Direct Mail Marketing lists. Look for reputable list brokers or providers that offer targeted lists aligned with your target audience criteria. Or, better yet, work with a Direct Mail Expert to determine your business goals and see if an occupant, consumer, or even specialty list would be best. They can also help you to understand how much Direct Mail lists cost, and how to get the best ROI. Most lists allow either a one-time purchase for single use or a 1-year license for a multi-use list, meaning you can mail to it as many times as you like in that period. Man using marker to draw on screen showing Direct Mail Lists: Acquisition, Hygiene, Profiling, and Data Appends for Direct Mail.

All About Acquisition Lists

There are several categories of Acquisition lists, and the best choice depends on your goals and the business.

Consumer & Specialty List

These lists pull names and postal addresses while overlaying demographics, psychographics, behavioral and purchase information. We use a variety of list sources to give you access to one of the largest, most comprehensive collections of consumer data in the industry. This means you can reach over 200 million individuals nationwide and tap into current demographic and lifestyle information for over 95% of U.S. households. Best of all, these lists are updated every 30-60 days and guaranteed to be at least 92% deliverable if you mail within 30 days of ordering. What does this mean? No matter the consumer audience type, we are likely to find a list that incorporates your potential buyers. You can target based on age, income, presence of children (including knowing their ages), lifestyle (wine enthusiasts, dog owners, skiers, etc.), purchases, and more. List prices vary in their ranges, with more standard consumer files (“Women, 55+, Household Income (HHI) of over $150k, Presence of Children) being less expensive, and the more specialized the list (“Known Purchasers of Yachts”) usually being more expensive. Since each list is unique in its aspects and pricing, it’s best to consult with a Direct Mail Expert to find the exact list that’s best for your marketing effort.

Business List

Business lists are fueled by a variety of data sources that connect you to SmBs, Mid-Market, and Enterprise companies and the contacts within. These lists help you target by executive title (CEO, CMO, CIO, VPs, etc.), company size, revenue, industry, and more. Beyond receiving the names, company information (called Firmographics), and addresses, you can also include data fields like phone numbers, B2B email, LinkedIn profiles, and more. With business lists, you’re looking to target decision-makers in the type of company that you want to acquire one that mirrors your current customer base. We usually recommend multi-use lists in these cases because, for B2B marketing and selling, you’ll need about 7-13 touches to drive a response.

Occupant List

The most complete mailing list on the market today, the Occupant List reaches everyone and anyone, just about every household and business address in the United States. Best of all, this powerful list is updated every 30 days and guaranteed to be 92% deliverable if you mail within 30 days of ordering. Occupant lists are excellent for businesses where the local and neighborhood patterns matter more than demographic or behavior profiles found in consumer or specialty lists. This kind of list is ideal for neighborhood businesses like restaurants, cleaners, dentists, and vets, or for promoting larger civic events. You can target the occupants by:

  • Residential and/or Business
  • Omit P.O. Boxes (if needed)
  • 5-Digit Zip Code
  • 3-Digit Zip Code (SCF)
  • Zip Code & Carrier Route (the actual route of homes the mail carrier uses to deliver mail)
  • Radius from Specified Zip
  • Radius from Specified Address
  • County
  • State

New Movers and New Homeowner

New Movers is a list of consumers that have recently moved into the neighborhood. These lists are updated weekly, and you can target by recency (hotline), home value, income, and more. These lists are ideal for furnishings, cleaning services, lawn care, franchises that have multiple locations, and other businesses that need to quickly get in front of these eager buyers. The New Homeowners list is similar in spirit but different in the data. This list is driven by public parcel records showing who isn’t just moving, but identifies the New Homeowner. It considers the date of escrow closing and the property formally being owned by someone. This data feed is updated weekly and is ideal for brands who are trying to market to these new owners in this significant life-stage change. Typing on keyboard with icons of people and email, learning about Direct Mailing Lists.

The Importance of Mailing List Hygiene

Mailing list hygiene is exactly what the word means: cleanliness and health. Any data set can have missing fields (Zip Codes, addresses, etc.), and inaccuracies (people move, change emails, etc.) that develop over time. List hygiene is the process of keeping the database clean and up-to-date, so that when you rely on the data to make decisions, you’re confident that the data itself is true. There are several ways to update your mailing lists, we recommend:

  • NCOA – this is the National Change of Address, reflected directly by the USPS® in their forms when people move to a different address.
  • Appends – see the next section on appending your existing data set to fill in the missing gaps.

Perfecting Your Mailing Lists with Profiling

Advanced analytics enables you to dig into the attributes and detailed aspects of a prospect list, based on your own best customers. It uses your own, trusted house file knowledge to develop a list of people who are more likely to respond to an offer from a new brand. We do this in two distinct ways.

Look-a-Like Audience/Profile Report

For this profile, we take the existing customer database and match or append demographic and geographic data to give a “Profile” of what they look like. Then we can show how those customers index versus the general population. Your customers might “over-index” in a certain income range, meaning more of your customers – as a percentage of the total – are in that income range than the general population. This means that those customers have a higher propensity to buy from you because your product and message resonate more with this group than the general population. Essentially, profiling helps you reach a better target based on what your best customers look like. For example, not long ago we worked with a customer who sells high-end Italian shoes. They already had a successful store in one city, but opened a new location in a different part of the country. They came to us wondering who they should market to, and they gave us a list of their existing customers. Our team analyzed that data and found the over-indexing personae that were already buying in one location, and we used our profiling tools to find potential customers with similar profiles in the new location. Then we targeted this look-alike audience in the new location, for a positive return on ad spend (ROAS) within 2-3 weeks of their first ads dropping.

Model Data

Think of a Model like a Customer Profile “Plus”. A model data profile uses that same Look-a-Like audience and matches an equal portion of Look-a-Like non-responders to show differences between the behavior, purchases, and actual actions those consumers take. This is what makes a model more powerful than a profile alone. The Model Report will show you 8-10 demographics along with top behavioral trends. The data itself is categorized into deciles and is fueled by as many as 50+ other behavioral and purchase trends. This means you can target your audience based on an ideal group of attributes that reflects your own best customers. Instead of targeting a “Persona” type, the Model is a list of prospects most likely to respond, because they most closely match the kinds of people who are your best customers. Typing on a keyboard with icons of a house, locations and graphs. Looking up Direct Mailing List Profiles and Data Appends

Enhance Your Existing Database with Appends

As we mentioned above, data appends can be one of the easiest ways to enhance the value and power of your existing database. Many businesses have house lists that are partially complete. Most customer files are 60%-70% complete with first and last name, current address, phone, and email…but what you need is a complete list. A more complete direct mailing list will give you a higher direct marketing response. Data Append Services help fill the gaps in your current house file of existing customers, and help you create omnichannel marketing that combines Direct Mail, digital marketing, email, and even geo-fenced “addressable” display advertising. There are several ways to approach data appends, including:

    • Simple Append: Fill the gaps with data such as adding phone and emails where you don’t have them. That’s not an expensive project, and it can pay huge dividends in marketing to your house list.
    • Advanced Append: Add data like income, marital status, or some other key demographics that can help make your marketing more segmented. Once you do this, you can send mailers or emails to different segments of your customer base and also target different groups. All the studies show that a more relevant, targeted, segmented marketing message increases response rates.
    • Reverse-Append: This process can take your emails from subscribers, and then match 60% – 80% to postal addresses. It’s an extremely powerful way to mail to the “does-not-open” subscribers in your email list. For example, if you have a 30% open rate for your emails, that means 70% don’t actually open them! Using the reverse-append program, you can send triggered Direct Mail to those prospects, who have already expressed an interest in your brand.

Together, all of these strategies can help you to optimize your direct mailing lists for marketing your specific products or services directly to your ideal target audience.

Explore List and Data Services

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By Keith Goodman, VP Corporate Marketing & Sales

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