May 04, 2021
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? That age-old question is talking more about the lack of an audience than anything else. The same is true about your direct mail. Even worse, the wrong audience is the same as no audience.
Cultivating a mailing list that gets results is daunting to most business owners. Where do you start? How do you know you’re marketing effectively? Who is your audience? These are all questions I have answers for. After all, it’s our business here at Bluegrass.
Choosing Who to Mail to
There are many ways to develop a mailing list that targets the right people, drives engagement, and ultimately increases revenue. Using all of them to your advantage is the best way to ensure that, when you send a communication, the right people are getting it. Let’s break them down.
Consumer, or Demographic Data
Demographic data is cultivated from surveys, current public records, tax records, and county deeds. It takes into account things like age, gender, home values, household incomes, and marital status to build an accurate portrait of your average customer.
Residential, or Geographic Data
With the right data collection (and our help) you can find where your audience lives all the way down to the postal route. Once you have that information it’s much easier to send targeted direct mail to a large area while being confident that it’s being read.
Understanding your customer’s emotions, buying habits and lifestyles will help you communicate with them. Psychographic data can be captured through the use of historical use-case data (like shopping cart history) as well as surveys. Your customer data can be used in this case. Are there past customers or prospects you are not currently marketing to?
Business mailing lists can be targeted by SIC Code, sales volumes, employee size, or even where a business is headquartered. This is particularly useful in cases where you intend to target a specific industry, or company size.
Planning a Mailing Strategy
It's important to know your mailing strategy ahead of time. You might be asking; isn't all mail the same? Not at all—the United States Post Office has many different types of mail, which target your audience in different ways. The most effective mailing strategy is one that is tailored to both your audience and the message.
I go in-depth in our article about determining a mailing strategy. I discuss important questions, targeted mailing, what kind of mail fits under “bulk mail”, how to use “Every Door Direct Mail” and what that actually is, and when to use saturation mailing. Are you scratching your head at these terms? Then give it a read!
Rent or buy?
This is a question we are often asked. It is a common misconception that mailing lists can be purchased. You will always be renting a mailing list. You can, however, rent a list for either per use or pay for annual usage.
Rented Mailing Lists: One-time Use
Typically, you don't even see the actual contact names or any of the mailing addresses on the list. You simply rent it, send your direct mail out with it, and wait for responses to come in. Think of it as a disposable list—it's quick, easy, but may lack intricacy. This is a great option to test new mailing lists before committing to the annual fee.
Rented Mailing Lists: Annual Use
If you are aware of a list that has proven high ROI for your business, you may be interested in mailing to that audience multiple times in a campaign or series of campaigns. In this case, an annual rental is ideal.
Using an In-House Mailing List
At the end of the day, you’re working toward creating a highly organized and accurate in-house mailing list. This list should be the de facto list of everyone that engages with your brand. This list is your “holy grail” and one you should use sparingly for important communications.
Since the people on this list are customers, it’s important to use this list for customer retention. Reminders like donation requests, regular retail catalogs, and anything else that reminds this list that they are loyal customers is a great way to retain them.
As your business evolves it’s important to keep your customers aware of any new developments. Your in-house mailing list is a great resource when sending out a regularly scheduled newsletter or press release.
Sending out announcements about big sales is a great way to bolster interest. Just make sure you’re not doing it too often! An interactive, earnest sale announcement mailer can get your customers excited and anticipating your big sale.
I can't reiterate enough that you need to keep this list clean and organized. Your in-house list should be an integral component of your account management. At Bluegrass, we feel so strongly about this that we have a comprehensive article about in-house mailing list management that you can read here.
Mailing Lists Are Tools—They Need to be Sharpened
Think of your mailing list as a tool in your arsenal. It might be shiny and new the day you bought it but the longer it’s neglected, the duller it gets until it stops functioning completely. Renting and buying pre-fabricated mailing lists is a great strategy, just make sure you’re cultivating your own list at the same time.
Eventually, through trial and error, you’ll have an in-house list you can call your own. Even still, third-party lists are important to developing new business, so make sure you keep exploring that angle as well.