What to Know Before You Buy a List

December 2003
by Jeffrey Dobkin

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You can make lots of mistakes in direct mail. You can create a terrible mailing package that no one will open. You can set your price too high–or too low–and people won’t buy. You can offer your products at the wrong time (heck, yes, we always celebrate Christmas this late in January). But nothing is as bad as mailing to the wrong list.

In direct mail, the more closely you identify your perfect prospect, the more tightly you specify your list, the better your response. The better your response, the more money you make. Simple as that.

With any mailing you are considering, first figure out exactly what groups or what characteristics make up the perfect target audience for your offer. Then try to find a list that closely matches them.

An example: Suppose you’re selling a pilot’s bag for airplane pilots. You mail to a list of owners of small airplanes that was compiled from airplane registrations. Your response is 1 percent, and you break even. But ugh, all that work and you didn’t make any profit.

Take the same product, but this time you mail to a list of airplane pilots that was compiled from a list of flying instructors. These pilots are airplane enthusiasts. Since your bag has a cool picture of a plane on it, they love it. Your mailing draws 2 percent, and you make a little money.

But you can do better. You mail to a list of mail order buyers who have recently made a purchase from an airplane specialty catalog. This time y…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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