Managing Your Mailing Lists

Caring for Your Contacts
Knowing who you are communicating with is an essential component of any marketing/advertising activity. So your mailing lists (both postal and electronic) play a critical role in your marketing plan and should be well managed and regularly updated. Your customer, prospect, and vendor contact data is a valuable asset of your business.

Your House Lists
Let’s start with your house lists. Most businesses have a record of their clients in some type of digital format. It may be in the accounting department, a CRM software system, or simple Excel spreadsheet. There are several common scenarios that affect the quality of a company’s mailing list. If your customer management is done through your accounting department, you will often have the name of the accounting contact on file, and not the correct contact for marketing correspondence. If your customer lists are spread out between different departments or sales people and there is no central file, it makes it difficult and time consuming to put together a mailing list that is both complete and not full of duplicates. Many company contact lists do not include email addresses, which makes it impossible to use email marketing, which is a very effective marketing channel. The older the list, the less likely that it has complete and accurate email data. I would recommend taking the time to add email addresses to your house lists, so you have a full set of data.

Your lists need regular maintenance to add new people, edit people that have changed job titles or locations, and people that are no longer at the same company. Your list also needs to be updated with any new customers or prospects that should be added. Your house list is your most important mailing list because selling to your current customers is always easier than acquiring new ones. You should be regularly communicating with your customers to maintain a strong relationship.

Prospecting Lists for Postal Mailing
There are a number of ways to obtain names if you want to use postal mail to prospect for new customers.

Mail houses and list brokers sell lists of names and contact information that is managed by data companies aggregating public information into lists that can be sliced and diced based on demographics and other data. You can review the characteristics of your most valuable customers and then use the mail house’s  data profiling software to create a model for your best prospects. You can also target the geographic area that you want to reach using zip codes. You can rent a list for a one-time or multi-time use. The names are only rented for use, but if a prospect from the list responds to your mailing, that name is now yours to keep. Be sure to move that onto your house lists.

If you have a good relationship with a business that shares a similar audience, then sharing your house lists can be a good way to gather prospects. You might start by doing a joint campaign that promotes both companies and is mailed to both lists.

Many business journals publish lists of companies, often based on a specific industry, that you can use for your mailing. You may need to enter the data into your list software, but if the list is a good match for your company, it be well worth the time.

Trade Associations and Chambers of Commerce keep lists of their members and those lists are usually up to date. If there are certain industry associations that are a fit for your business, their list may be a good choice for a mailing campaign. Trade association lists are often available only to members, so the list may cost you the membership fee.

Similar to trade associations, specialty magazines will have a list of people that share a certain interest, and if that interest is related to your business offerings, purchasing the magazine list could be another good way to find quality prospects. Not all magazines sell their lists, but you can easily find out by calling the publication.

Your mailing list will most likely be comprised of your house list and some variation of purchased lists. Once you have determined the lists you want to use, you can send them to a mail house to be run through the USPS database of all deliverable addresses in the United States. This will identify any addresses that are incorrect and undeliverable. Your mail house can also de-dupe your list, meaning they will bump out repeats if different lists have the same name and address. De-duping will not bump a name and address if there is any variation in the information. For example, Tina Stevens and T. M. Stevens at the same address will both remain in the list.

You want to keep your lists as accurate as possible. First, to maximize the quality of your recipients in order to increase response and ROI, and second, to keep your mailing costs as low as possible. Every business from small to large, should be managing their lists, given how valuable that data is to their business. So take a little time and clean up your lists, the better the data, the better your customer and prospect opportunities.

The amount of data that is available for building postal mailing lists is extensive and reasonably accurate, making direct mail a useful prospecting tool. While email lists are available for purchase, their quality is questionable and using them can be dangerous. Next month I will tell you why.

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