Many businesses use purchased mailing lists like a blunt instrument. They simply buy a list of names that appear to meet their criteria and then send direct mail campaigns to them, hoping to generate new leads and sales. Not surprisingly, these campaigns often deliver disappointing results.
Why? The low quality of these lists is usually a big factor. But an even bigger problem with this approach is that it lacks a well thought out strategy. To break through the clutter and influence your target audience, you need to use purchased mailing lists like a scalpel to target the right people with the right offers that are focused on their needs.
Many services will sell you customer data, each with its own set of trade-offs. In an earlier Forward Thinking blog, we described the three types of list services and outlined their pros and cons. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to use purchased lists in a more strategic way to deliver more leads and sales.
Consumer products and services
If you’re selling to consumers, your objective is usually to reach as many people as possible. For many local businesses, the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) service is a cost-effective way to saturate a geographical area with your mailings.
As the name implies, mailers sent with EDDM are delivered to every door within a given carrier route that matches your selected criteria. This approach is simple and affordable because it doesn’t require a mailing list. But it doesn’t allow for any targeting by demographic criteria or personalization of your message.
If you need to target consumers by location, income or buying preferences, list aggregators like D&B and Reference USA can help. If you’re not sure who you should target, take time to analyze your existing customer list. Who is buying from you? What demographic and other characteristics do they share? This exercise will help you refine your criteria so you can purchase a list that’s targeted on your ideal prospects.
What if you have multiple types of individuals and companies who buy your products or services? In that case, you should create unique, targeted campaigns that are focused on each group you’ve defined.
One caution when working with list aggregators: Their lists tend to be inexpensive, but that’s because the quality of their data is also relatively low. Up to 40% of the records you buy may contain outdated or inaccurate data. But because you’re trying to reach a large target audience, this is usually an acceptable trade-off.
Marketing products and services to other businesses
If you’re trying to sell your products and services to other businesses, you need to reach and influence a smaller, more targeted universe of prospects. List quality becomes more challenging because contacts change jobs. The records you buy from list brokers often don’t reflect those changes.
In addition, companies don’t always identify themselves properly. SIC and NAICS codes don’t always reflect what a company does. As a result, you may be missing a sizeable number of prospects because of inaccurate coding. That’s why list brokers aren’t usually a good choice for B2B marketing campaigns.
B2B marketing requires a more strategic approach to data because of longer sales cycles. One source of truth is critical to keep track of details that will support building relationships and nurturing prospects. Online list-building tools like Zoominfo, UpLead and Crunchbase have emerged to fill this need. They comb the Internet and compile a wealth of data and insights you can use to target and enhance your sales and marketing efforts. Here are some of the things they make possible:
- They can append and fill in the blanks of your existing database records.
- They can recommend “lookalike” contacts and accounts that share demographic or behavioral traits with your list.
- They enable you to set up “watch lists” that provide up-to-date insights and personnel changes within your target accounts.
- They integrate with popular CRM systems. That means they can push prospect information into your sales and marketing database for immediate action.
- They capture buyer intent data, which enables you to laser target your offers to prospects who are ready to buy. They do this by measuring topics that are being researched by specific organizations at an above-average rate.
Tips for a successful mailing list acquisition strategy
For the best results, you need to be clear on your objective before purchasing a mailing list. If your product or service appeals to a large potential audience, then you need a list source that has a huge database like Zoominfo or D&B/Hoovers. If your product or service is more specialized, then a smaller, more targeted database source like Uplead or Leads 411 may be a better fit for your needs.
Remember that all lists are not created equal. A cheap list from a dodgy source is a big waste of money because a significant number of your direct mail pieces will never reach your target recipients. Ask prospective list brokers about deliverability. They should be able to guarantee at least a 90 percent deliverability rate.
Also, ask the list brokers you’re considering how often they update their lists to remove addresses where mail was undeliverable or the recipient moved. If the list is suspiciously inexpensive or if the provider can’t answer your questions about list quality, move on.
When in doubt, be more focused in your list selection criteria than you think you need to be. Always target your lists and your direct mail campaigns to specific groups of prospects and their needs. In today’s over-messaged environment, increased relevance drives greater engagement, higher quality leads and sales.
Finally, remember that purchased mailing lists are just one element in a larger overall marketing database strategy. Watch for more advice and insights in upcoming Forward Thinking articles.