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Successful Targeting: Choosing a List

Of the three key elements of a direct mail campaign— the list, the offer, and the design— the list is the most important. A great offer with an attractive design means nothing if it goes to someone who has no use for the offer. So, the question becomes: How do you choose the right list?

A good mailing list has a few important characteristics:

  • The list is kept fresh and updated on a regular basis.
  • The list focuses on the market segments that you need it to focus on.
  • The list has the quantity of names and geographical coverage that you need.
  • The list is formatted to comply with the latest postal regulations, and comes in a form you can use.

One way of getting the best list possible is to work with a good list broker, such as Market Mapping plus Inc.. A good broker will work with you to identify your target market, strategically select lists and demographic distinctions, and can suggest lists that will perform well for your purposes.

For some mailings, a simple selection by age, income, or home-ownership are all that’s required. If your product is more specialized, or you wish to precisely target the perfect customer, you may wish to narrow your selection by more specific terms: Waterfront Homeowners, subscribers to a specific magazine, donors to charities— both generally, or a specific charity. A good list broker can help you identify target-market possibilities, and select the proper lists to realize the best return.

What are the steps in ordering a mailing list?

First, we need to identify the area you are trying to reach. Is it a single ZIP code? A group of ZIP codes? A radius around a central location? County? State? Region? Nationwide?

Second: How many names do you need? If you need 1,000 names, selecting on a national scale is meaningless. The nature of your business, the quantity of names, and the level of targeting you are all factors in selecting the geographic area.

Third, and most importantly: Who are your customers? Who are you trying to reach? You can narrow down your mailing by selecting demographics, or by using a specialized list, such as Market Mapping plus Inc.’s Lakeshore Homeowners or Higher Education lists. If you do need a more targeted list, you may have to expand your market area. Targeted lists tend to have fewer, more precisely targeted names, so you may need to expand your geographical focus to achieve your desired name count.

For Example...

If we are trying to reach financially-savvy prospects in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, we can make our selection a number of ways:

Total Available Names:
Postal Sectional Center 495 (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Untargeted Lists
List typeTotal countCostCost/nameEst. ResponseTotal CustomersCost/customer
Low-Quality Untargeted ¹160,803$3,905.54$.0257.08%128$30.51
Untargeted ²134,622$3,282.30$.0258.1%134$24.49
Targeted Selections
List typeTotal countCostCost/nameEst. ResponseTotal CustomersCost/customer
“Investment” interest19,394$1,121.41$.0613.6%116$9.66
Income $100,000+12,401$745.05$.0637.5%62$12.04
Money Magazine

1.) “Low-Quality Untargeted” indicates lists with addresses that may not be deliverable, and lists with duplicate names at the same address. Some list vendors will sell this lower quality of list, which has a higher count, but fewer addresses that are actually unique and deliverable.

2.) “Untargeted” Indicates a higher-quality list, only containing addresses that are ZIP+4 qualified and only contain one listing per single address.

7,500 names is the minimum order for Money Magazine’s subscription list. Here is the comparison for a 7,500-name selection from the Grand Rapids, Michigan area:

7,500 Names:
Postal Sectional Center 495 (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Untargeted Lists
List typeTotal countCostCost/nameEst. ResponseTotal CustomersCost/customer
Low-Quality Untargeted ¹7,500$426.94$.0603.08%5$85.38
Untargeted ²7,500$426.94.0603.1%7$56.93
Targeted Selections
List typeTotal countCostCost/nameEst. ResponseTotal CustomersCost/customer
“Investment” interest7,500$520.09$.0735.6%45$11.56
Income $100,000+7,500$481.28$.068.5%38$12.66
Money Magazine

Targeting allows you many ways to select a specific customer, both from demographic statistics, and from the things they already do, buy, or subscribe to.

Fourth, once you’ve decided on the list, quantity, and pricing, you will need to select the output format that works best for you. Do you want the list delivered as an Excel spreadsheet? Delimited text file? Pressure sensitive mailing labels? Each method has it’s own advantages and disadvantages, primarily determined by how you are going to be sending out your mailing. Check with your mailing house, printer, or whoever is in charge of production to see what format they prefer.

Now, you’re ready to order. We will send a list rental agreement to sign and return, and the list will arrive— depending on the source and format of the data— from the same day, to within three days.

Remember: One key way of getting the best list possible is to work with a good list broker. Market Mapping plus Inc. will work with you to identify your target market, give experienced assistance throughout the process, and suggest which lists will work well for your needs. Our customers are our partners, and your success is our success.

Back to Marketing with Lists

Prices, estimates, and returns are typical, but not necessarily current or exact. Your actual costs and response rate may vary based upon your list selection, offer, and the mailpiece itself. Please contact Market Mapping plus Inc. for current pricing and count information.