Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Five Immutable Laws of Building a Quality Mail List

Paint a Picture - If you had to paint a picture of your existing customers, what would they look like?  What environment would you draw around them in your picture?  Mail to that picture. Are your customers young, in hip clothing and hanging out in coffee shops or would they perhaps be sitting by a lake in plain clothing, feeding the ducks?  Understanding who your customers are demographically and the environment they choose to place themselves in is critical to building any targeted mail campaign.  Direct mail should aim to evoke and connect to the emotional experience of the recipients everyday life.

Stop Reinventing the Wheel - While there are many data companies out there that will simply enable you to purchase consumer or business lists based on parameters and demographics that you set, the real value that these companies provide are their pre-defined specialty lists. Simply put, they have already done the work for you. Chances are if you have an idea of your customer there is already a niche mailing list built for them. Companies like USA Data, Experian & Accudata will sell you a specialty list that could be anything from brides-to-be to home-school households. In addition, many magazines publishers and direct mail catalogs will sell you their list. Stop in your local bookstore and checkout all the specialty niche magazines available and remember there is a targeted mailing list behind everyone of them. For a more extensive listing of magazines check out Bacon's Directory of Magazines, Oxbridge Communications Standard Periodical Directory or Writersmarket.com. Catalog listings can be found in The Directory of Mail Order Catalogs from Grey House Publishing.

Go Fish - Have you ever dropped your business card in a fish bowl at a restaurant with the hopes of receiving some future gift card? If you have then chances are those establishments are taking your information and plugging it into a customer database to be used for future advertising campaigns. Whether you're using a fishbowl or a sign-up form it is imperative that you constantly be recording new contact information. Everyone you meet is a potential lead. How are you gathering this information? Are you asking your customers and fellow employees for referrals? If people run across your website or advertisement are you enticing them give you their information? Fishing for new leads is an easy way to build a strong mailing list and a commitment to doing this on a daily basis is critical.

Knowledge is More Powerful Than Imagination - When communicating an offer with a mailing list, why throw darts at a board with potentially irrelevant advertisements? The design might look great but if the content doesn't fit the person then the message is lost.  Information about customers is one of the key components to a highly targeted direct mail campaign. Keeping good notes about a contact's interests and recording purchase history can help you target communications about your products and services to the specific customers who will find your offer relevant. The right offer to the right customer at the right time can be achieved with information.

The House Always Wins - While there is an endless supply of lists available for purchase targeting every demographic and customer group imaginable, the list that you keep of all your own customers and prospects, also known as the house list, will consistently give you your best response rate. Your house list already knows who you are, connects to your brand and understands your product. Direct mail advertising must always be mindful of the needs for their existing customer database when implementing campaigns.