Other than the product itself, no single component in your direct response mail or email mix comes close to rivaling the importance of the mailing list.
If you go to poorly selected names consisting of individuals who do not need your product, can't afford it or care little about it, then the best offer or creative execution in the world will not make the program successful.
1. Select a good list broker
For customer acquisition mail in both B2B and B2C, find and use a knowledgeable list broker. The broker will assist you in selecting compiled or response lists that are likely to work for your product. You cannot get too much help in this area. And the payoff is large regardless of the size of your promotions.
2. Understand the scope of compiled versus response lists
Just for the record, when we refer to compiled lists, we are referring to names that are collected from phone records, yellow pages, association databases or any publicly available source. The term "response lists," on the other hand, refers to the other major category of lists where the individuals have demonstrated their interest and buying style.
One of the most potent predictors of direct response campaigns is to go after individuals who have a buying history of responding to similar direct response offers. For example, if you are offering a collectable item by mail, then try to rent response lists that have made offers by mail and also sell collectables.
3. Be aware of list selection criteria
Selecting the most recent respondents to a response list costs more. That is because they respond at a higher rate than those names with older purchases.
There are many variables to selecting lists for any campaign. This requires skill, experience and a lot of work. That is why picking a good list broker who creates list plans every day increases the odds for a successful test and roll out campaign.
Response lists exist with catalogers, retailers, mail order companies or any company that sells products off-the-page in any channel to either consumers or business based buyers. These companies retain complete records on their customers. These files usually contain marketing information such as products purchased, dates purchased, how they were purchased and what offers their customers responded to.
4. Be Alert to the Complexities of Business-to-Business lists
For B2B compiled files, be very careful.These list compilations and response lists are much more involved than consumer lists requiring many hours to select by response factors, SIC codes, levels within the organization, response characteristics and so forth.
Business lists grow quickly out of date because people in organizations move constantly as their roles change. For this reason, many B2B marketers address their mailings and emails to functional titles rather than actual names for better response rates.
With business customers, it is best to address communications to them by name to let them know that the sender knows who they are and recognizes them as a customer.
5. Do not burn out your customer lists
When going from acquisition to retention (or customer) mailings, be sure not to burn out your best performing customer segments. This happens more frequently with email. Use every available segmentation tool such as Recency/Frequency/Monetary (RFM) selections, regression analysis, modeling as well as response list compilers like Abacus to improve targeting and ultimately, response rates.
Be alert to how much mail and email your customers receive from your organization. Insist that communications lead to sales and contain information that is relevant to each recipient. Don't waste the customer's time with items that do not affect them directly.
When you select names --- especially from your house file --- look at how often you plan to mail to them over a one-year period. Otherwise, you will over mail and under mail to large sections of your available names.
6. Treat your house list inquiry names like gold
Your company probably keeps tabs on the customers. But the internal list may also include inquiry names that came from past promotions. These respondents have not yet spent money yet but have inquired about your company's products somewhere down the line. Such inquiry names typically out pull the best rental lists available on the market.
You would be amazed at how many of my clients did not even bother to save their inquiry names thinking that just because they turned them down before that they would turn them down forever. Nothing could be further from the truth. Recent inquiry names respond better than any other list you have except for your customer names.
7. Invest in list testing to grow your business
In terms of prioritizing your list selections to fit your available budget and immediate return on investment, mail first to your customers, secondly to your inquirers, thirdly to rented response lists, and finally to externally compiled lists.
After all, if you cannot sell new or existing products from the same product categories you sold to them before, then it is doubtful that any inquiry names or rented lists will do any better. So use the funds earned from your best names (such as past customers) to fund your new customer acquisition efforts.
You will want to focus continually on expanding your circulation database with successful list testing. That is why compiled lists, though usually the least responsive of the family of available lists, are so critical in your testing. Once you find a way to select successful compiled lists, your roll out universe expands to the maximum and your costs for rented names drop dramatically.
The need to expand your roll out universe combined with the shrinking size of large response lists in the US makes ongoing list testing essential. And maintaining your existing customer file size requires ongoing expansion to replace the customers you will loose through attrition. So invest in list testing just as you do with the offer, the product and pricing.