How to Buy a Mailing List

August 13, 2008 at 9:57 pm Leave a comment

My Question: It seems like there are so many mailing lists available on the market.  I’m not sure what questions to ask when I’m searching for a list (either postal or email).

Our Answer: It can be tough to navigate the sometimes complicated world of marketing lists.  So many of the lists on the marketplace turn out to be identical duplicates of another list.  You definitely don’t want to buy the exact data from two different vendors… Many data firms simply repackage data differently so that it appears different from other vendors of the exact same list.

So, how do you get a solid understanding so that you can be sure (or as sure as you can be) that the list will reach your specific target?

Here’s the biggest tip I can share:  Ask a ton of questions… Some sample questions follow:

  • What is the source of your data?  Make them be specific. Keep asking for clarification until you have an absolute solid understanding of exactly where and how they are collecting data.
  • Are you reselling the list, or are you the original compiler?
  • If you compile the data, how, exactly do you collect it?  Describe exactly what you do to compile the information.
  • If you are reselling the list, are you the only reseller, or can I purchase the same data elsewhere?  Can I buy it from the list compiler directly?
  • What do you do in the way of updating? Ask for a detailed description of the processes they follow to keep the list current.
  • How is your coverage, both in terms of overall universe and in data available?  Many datacards list lots of selections that seem interesting.  Yet, when you actually try to use these attributes to hone in on your best target, you find that your universe diminishes, sometimes almost to where you end up with 0 count.  This situation could be due to limited coverage of some of the offered selections.  The way to get an understanding of coverage by data field, is to simply ask for a percentage of each (i.e.: how many records have phone numbers?).  You should definitely not be afraid to ask the list vendor to count their data in any way you think you’d be interested in ordering it.
  • Do you quote a deliverability guarantee?  If it’s email, make sure that you’re not charged for names not delivered (industry norm). If it’s postal, many firms offer 95%+ deliverability guarantees.
  • Do you offer net name arrangements?  In other words, if you will be suppressing customers, Do Not Mail or other files from the rented list, are you able to pay only for records that you end up using?
  • Do you have experience in my specific industry?  In other words, has this list worked for other firms who market similar offerings?

If a list vendor starts to balk at answering any of the above questions, that would throw up a red flag, immediately.  You are investing a lot in the printing, production and postage to send out your mailings.  Make sure that you have done your best to target the names you’re mailing.  The right list vendor will welcome your quest for knowledge and is used to answering these types of questions.

Good luck!


Entry filed under: Mailing Lists and Data.

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