Are you mailing to the right people?


shutterstock_49366582When planning a direct mail campaign, most people arduously deliberate about copy, format, design, and mail schedule. While each of these points are very important to the overall success of the mailing, the most critical aspect of the mailing—your mailing list—is often given much less attention. Many people blindly use an in-house customer list that hasn’t been examined in years or purchase a generic list without ever considering testing and evaluating its effectiveness. How profitable can your carefully crafted mail promotion be if its recipient isn’t a qualified prospect? You must carefully plan your mailing list—it is the make-or-break factor of your mailing.
In fact, in today’s penny-pinching economy, paying closer attention to your mailing list is a great way to start saving money on your mailing. Mailing to the wrong people, duplicate addresses or invalid addresses can all add up to a sizable waste of print, production and postage costs.

In order to maximize your mailing and minimize your mail costs you are going to need to put some man-power into your list, but where do you start?

The best place to start refining your mail list is by using your existing customer database to build a “client profile” of your ideal customer. Your client profile should outline things like age, income, gender, location, profession, purchase history, etc. The more information you have about who your current clients really are, the better equipped you are to start narrowing down what kinds of people are supporters and purchasers of your product. You will be able to use the client profile to edit your house mail list and aid in selection of rented or purchased lists to supplement your house list.

When your client profile is complete, you can use the criteria to evaluate and edit your existing house mail list. Do you have prior customers who don’t fit your profile and haven’t responded to your advances in a while? Do you have prospects who refuse to convert to customers? After analyzing the list, don’t be afraid to trim the fat and clear your list of prospects who don’t show a real likelihood of purchasing your product. These contacts are simply robbing you of your postage dollars and pushing your response rates down. Its a waste of time and money marketing to people who clearly don’t fit into your client profile and show no signs of purchasing.

Ideally, you want to be mailing to people, not companies. Your mail list should contain an actual contact name, not just a company name. An actual contact name greatly improves that your mail piece will get into the right hands and be acted on. If you are unable to obtain contact names, you could address the piece to a specific position, such as ‘Supply Manager’ or ‘Household Shopper.’ Of course this is much less specific, but it should help in getting your mail piece into the hands of the right person.

Once your mail list is refined, it is important to make sure it stays in good shape. Your list will quickly begin to lose value if it is not maintained. You should have the list de-duped (checked for duplicate entries) and check for address validity often.

It is in your best interest to add to and validate the information in your database as often as possible through the use of mailed, emailed or phone surveys. Cross-reference this new database information against your mail list criteria and add or subtract from your mail list accordingly. The more information you have in your database, the better idea you have of your clients, which leads to higher-quality improvements in your mailing list.

After all this revision, your list will most likely end up shorter than it began. It is better to mail to a smaller, high-quality list than a large list full of prospects who will never purchase. If you are uncomfortable with the brevity of your list, you can always supplement your list with a rented or purchased list. Thanks to your new client profile, you will have a solid outline of criteria that can help you select a supplemental list. If you choose to purchase additional names to add to your house list, it is a great idea to test a small sampling of the list before purchasing and mailing to the entire list.

Your mail list is a constantly changing, growing, evolving thing. Its a tremendous company asset and the greatest factor in whether how mail promotion will perform. Be sure to give your list the attention it deserves—its got a big job to do.

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