In last week’s post: “Direct Mail Beginning to End – How to Get Started” I gave you an overview of the benefits of direct mail as a advertising medium. This week it time to talk about the foundation of every good direct mail program.  Let’s talk data. The data list is more than just a list of addresses. It’s the insight into the lives and habits of your potential consumers. It’s the foundation of your direct mail campaign so if it’s a bad list then you have a bad direct mail campaign.

There are three types of data lists. The first type of list is your client list. This data consists of people you already do business with. This list is arguably your most valuable list because you know the people on this have already worked with you and, as long as you did a good job, are likely to work with you again.  If you are marketing a new product or service this data list should be included in the direct mail campaign unless there is a good reason to skip a person on this list. For example I can’t think of a good reason to send a postcard offering free fingernail painting to a man who lives 3 hours away from the manicurist.  A local salon is more likely to get the opportunity to pain that man’s nails a lovely shade of honeysuckle. One note about a client list, DO NOT mail them anything that mentions first time buyers or new clients. People know what businesses they have used before and they want you to know they have purchased from you. Sending a repeat customer an offer to experience your product for the first time makes you look like a fool and makes them feel unimportant. Both of those qualities are bad for business so keep this list up to date and cross check this list with every direct mail campaign that you produce!

The second type of list is a responder list.  This list is generated by people who may not have purchased anything but have given you their contact information directly. Usually this list is generated from web site surveys, and mail responder cards.  With this group you know the contact is interested in something you are already offering and it’s a good idea to include them on mailers offering specials for new customers. They will not get offended if you offer them a first timer’s discount since they probably don’t consider themselves a customer.

The third kind of list is a purchased list.  With this category of list you’ve probably never had any contact with anyone listed here, and you probably won’t unless you turn them into a customer.  Fortunately for the direct mail data list purchaser a.k.a. you, nearly every aspect of who we are has been cataloged, analyzed, listed and put up for sale online. When you are looking to create new leads you can purchase a data list that is specially crafted to fit your needs. If you need to know how many women who live within a radius of a specific address, are between the ages of 25-45, own their own home, have pets, are unmarried and have a bankruptcy on their credit record you can do that. Or, you can get a list of everyone between the ages of 25-40.  When purchasing a data list the more specific you can be without excluding a potentially profitable demographic the better because the more people listed the more expensive the list.  List are usually sold per thousand records but the cost varies depending on what company you are working with and how detailed the information you need is. I have said this before but it bears repeating, direct mail works when you know your market. If you want best return from your direct mail campaign focus your data list to the most likely group to buy your product.  Don’t narrow it so much you lose out on potential clients, but trying to send a mailer to every address in a tri-state area will not get you a good return on your advertising investment. To get an idea of the kinds of data that can be purchased take a look the list below.

• Geography
• Age
• Income
• Gender
• Marital Status
• Interests/Hobbies
• Purchasing Behavior
• Home Value
• Length of Residence
• Homeowners
• New Homeowners
• New Movers
• Occupations
• Ailments
• Pilots
• Boat Owners
• Dwelling Unit Size
• Donors
• Potential Investors
• Stocks and Bonds Owner
• Real Estate Agents & Brokers
• Nurses
• Auto Owner
• Bankruptcies
• Students
• Veterans
• Presence of Children
• Entrepreneurs
• Ethnic
• Neighborhood Consumers
• Newborns and Prenatal
• Lifestyle
• Mail Order Responder
• Home-based Business
• Motorcycle Owner
• Education Level
• Pet Owner
• Net Worth Model
• Purchase Amount Ranges
• Telephone Area Code
• Insurance Agents
• And there are more…

So at this point you have a product to sell, you know who you want to sell it to, you have the list of names that you want to mail to, but now you need a mailer. People are harsh when looking at mail.  Your direct mail piece will get about 3 seconds of their time before they decide if they want read it or throw it away.  How do you get people to read your mailer instead of piling it on top of yesterday’s newspaper? It’s all in the design. Next week I will talk about how to design mailer that will get your audience to pay attention to what you have to say.

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