How to Build the Perfect Mailing List for Your Small Business

Small businesses are always looking for good ways to market their business. The most sophisticated marketing organizations will stress the importance of a good prospect list—it is the key to growing a business. However, what many business owners fail to understand is how to go about building a responsive prospecting list, leaving owners disappointed and confused with the results they are getting from their marketing. There are many ways to build a list—some that lead to a great prospects and some that lead to a list of non-targeted, unresponsive prospects.

First, you need to know what a good list should do for you. It should represent your target audience—prospects who fit your best customer demographics. So you need to be able to segment customers by interest, lifestyle, buying habits, product/service affinity and other metrics.

There are two primary steps to building this list: building your internal list and purchasing/renting lists.

The Internal Mailing List

When building your internal list, pull together all of the information you have about your customers. Why? Because they have already purchased from you, which means they are most likely to buy from you again. And, building this list will give you a valuable picture of who your best customers are so you can find prospects that match them.

You need to have systems in place to capture information—if they buy online, you likely have their address and email address. For in-store customers, find a way to collect that information during the sales process. You can do this by creating a loyalty program where they receive deals via email, contests and so on. This will help you build a strong list that can be used to profile new prospects.

You will likely find some of your information is incomplete—like you don’t have their full name or what city they live in. Your data broker can help fill in those blanks. They will take your list and append it against industry databases to gather the missing information you need.

Purchasing or Renting Mailing Lists

Once you have a good internal list, you can apply your findings towards building a list with similar criteria for renting or purchasing. These lists are a great way to reach new prospects. In addition to the house list you have just built, there are essentially four types of mailing lists:

Targeted demographic lists: These list let you find any type of person you want to target, searching for things such as age, gender, geographic location, income level, and number of children in the home. It lets you narrow your search to a very specific profile. These lists are the most common type for a small business to start with because they tend to be the most cost effective to acquire. Examples include:

  • Consumer Databases
    You can reach households and individuals based on demographics (age, gender, geographic location), lifestyle interests (shopping, dining, recreation) and purchase behavior (what they’ve purchased in the past).
  • Saturation Mailing Lists
    Residential mailing lists effectively reach every household in a specific neighborhood across the US. These list are cost-effective because they rely on the USPS for delivery and can be a good choice for small business offers with mass appeal.
  • New Homeowner Mailing Lists
    New homeowners are a great audience because they need everything when they move, from a new dry cleaner to new favorite pizza place.
  • Public Record Data
    This data is beneficial to companies whose services relate to a homeowner’s property.  Selects on the data include information on home value, year the home was built, roof type and number of rooms.

Whatever type of list you want to purchase or rent, it is important to use a reputable list company. There are three primary questions to ask that will help you assess whether they are a good company to use:

1. Do you guarantee deliverability? You will never get 100% deliverability, but the industry standard for direct mail is 80%. If they can’t guarantee that, look for a different company.

2. Do you update your lists monthly? The list data is only good if it is current, which means you want a company that updates it at least monthly.

3. Can I use this list more than once? It is common for companies to sell a list for one-time use, so that is not a red flag. But you do need to understand when and how you can use the data. And if, for example, you want to do a 6-piece campaign, you need to be able to send to the same list six times. Find out if the company you’re dealing with has an unlimited usage option and what the cost is.

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