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10 Questions to Ask Before Renting Your Next Mailing List

direct_mailA lot of the questions in forums surround list building. Many people, myself included don’t always want to wait for names to dribble onto our lists. If you have a product and want to start selling it immediately renting the right mailing lists from a broker can help.

Like any media buy lists can either cost you a lot or make you  a lot. If you’re considering renting a list of names make sure to ask your list broker the following questions. Nothing will guarantee your success but these questions will improve your odds.

  1. Where did the names on the list come from? Was it from a transaction? A request for information? A fund raising drive? Were they scraped from the Web? Are they subscribers? Knowing the source of the data is crucial.
  2. If the data came from information seekers, buyers, subscribers, etc… we need to know what offers got them to buy, sign up, donate, or opt-in. The more information the better.  This information should be available. When I worked for a company which sold data through list brokers we always had to specify how we got the information otherwise they weren’t interested. There’s a good reason to know too. For instance, we sold our diet pill buyer names but… What wasn’t so readily known without asking was that the diet pill buyers were responding to free trial offers that switched to forced continuity. So…technically they were buyers but most of them thought they were simply getting a bottle of free pills. To assume this would be a good list for diet pill buyers is a bad assumption as the people on this list probably have negative feelings for pill offers having felt tricked into forced continuity in the past.
  3. When was the last time the list was mailed? A list of names that hasn’t been mailed for six months or a year probably is no good. Someone who recently purchased something is more likely to buy. Lists need to be maintained and fresh. In most cases you will have better response from lists that are regularly mailed. Depending on the market this is especially true with snail mail considering around 15% of the U.S. population moves each year.
  4. When did the transactions occur? Were they spread out over the year or are they seasonal. If the list expects to be mailed around the holidays, mailing them in July or August may not be a good bet. For instance, people are looking to get taxes done at the end of the year. Mailing them in June isn’t a good idea.
  5. What formats have the list responded to? Did they call in from a television or radio commercial? Did they enter their name in an opt-in form? Did they respond to a postcard or direct mail package? If possible you’ll want to look at the original offer the individual responded to. The company can often provide this info. Another great resource is the “Who’s Mailing What Archive,” which contains full scans of more than 200,000 direct mail pieces.
  6. How much did the person spend? Did they buy a $24 book, $1300 gold coin, or $200 worth of clothes from a catalog?  Comparing the offer with what was spent will help you gauge the individual’s level of commitment.
  7. How often do they buy? For instance if the individual collects Lladro porcelain figures or commemorative plates and there are a certain number in the series how many did the prospect purchase? Generally, the more times they’ve bought the more likely they are to be better buyers. But…there’s a caveat here too. If they are collecting Lladro Figures, or Harley Davidson items they may have strong brand loyalty. There’s no way you’re going to sell Honda toys to a Harley collector. Which leads us to the next point.
  8. Based on your understanding of all the above factors how likely are prospects on the list interested in your offer? Credit and Identity protection for instance are things people are universally interested in as are money and finance, health, personal development etc… But there are other things people are specifically interested in for instance, where computers are concerned we need to know are they Mac users, PC users, Linux users? If they’re video gamers are they more into Mario Brothers or World of Warcraft? Those are probably two very different markets.
  9. Who else is mailing to the list and what are they mailing? If it’s an email or mailing list you should sign up. Or try and track down what they’re mailing in the Who’s Mailing What Archive, or the Directory of Major Mailers. Compare their offers with yours.
  10. What is the breakeven? So, if you’re testing an email list of 5000 names you purchased for $1500 or $300/mil and you were selling a $24 product you would need to sell 62.5 units to break even at a 1.25% conversion ratio. 5000 x .0125=62.5 x $24=$1500. Without knowing the metrics it will always be hard to make media buying work.

Once you think you’ve got the right list make sure to test your offer and the creative.  If you’re using different lists and different creative it’s important to identify each you can do this by adding different 800 numbers, post office boxes, landing pages, etc… One other word of warning, if you send creative to a list or buy media always double check everything is working. I’ve done it before and I did it just the other day. I placed a banner ad in a newsletter that went out to several thousand people and wondered why there was no response. After thinking about it for a bit I discovered the address was wrong and the link was going to https:// instead of http:// ~ pays to check.

If you found this information useful or have something to add please be sure to comment below.

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  • John Chatman said:

    This list of questions you have compiled here is absolute pure gold. I am actually in the process of copying down to my own files so that should tell you what type of value I place on it.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • Jdavid said:

    John I found this very
    valuble. You aways
    bring it thanks

  • Doug Hughes (author) said:

    Hi John, that’s great, I’m glad you find them useful. Feel free to link back to this blog.


  • Marty P said:

    Hey Doug thanks for the great content. This is the first time I will rent a mailing list so all your info is Priceless. I want to make as few mistakes as possable. Be Well Always. Marty P

  • Doug Hughes (author) said:

    You’re welcome Marty, keep us posted of how things work out.


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