Build Better Mailing Lists

You have a great offer. Gotta fill those seats, sell those subscriptions, move that merchandise, whatever. How do you build better mailing lists? As with Occam’s Razor, the best solution may be the simplest.

Your Customer List

The first way to build better mailing lists is to start with contacts who already are your customers. You know who they are and what they have bought. Hopefully they are repeat customers. You have a front row seat for recording their preferences and spending habits. This introduces the idea of propensity. In direct mail marketing propensity refers to targeting an audience whose past behaviors are predictive of future interest.

Expand Your List

Add records to your list by creating a profile of prospects who possess most or all of the attributes and preferences as your own customers. This is called “look-alike” targeting. If you sell upscale jewelry, you might begin by purchasing buyer data from a purveyor of similar items. Perhaps you select data appends that include certain affluent zip codes, or higher income households from a comprehensive business or consumer database.

An outgrowth of the look-alike technique that goes beyond numbers could be called “as with, so too.” Explore databases that include people whose lifestyle behavior is consistent with what you have to offer. (If you develop audience personas you may recognize the people you find. More on audience definition issues and techniques.) Perhaps you are a direct seller of upscale jewelry. Your customers probably favor better fashion and fine cuisine. They may very well be frequent travelers for both business and pleasure. This includes flying, cruises, and accommodations. They are likely to be enrolled in airline and hospitality loyalty programs. They will flex their financial muscles when they travel, entertain, dine, sightsee, and shop. Perhaps for that upscale jewelry. Adding “as with, so too” prospects to your list has the potential to expand appeal.

Segment Your List

Now the list has grown to include known customers, demographic look-alikes, and “as with, so too” analogs. Marketers can run a reality check with the Motivation, Opportunity, Ability Model. Is a potential buyer motivated by need or desire? Is there ample opportunity to perform the desired behavior? Does this person have the ability via means and/or mobility to go, do, buy, whatever is being offered? The list can be segmented by the degree to which each of these factors is evident.

Freshness Counts

Life brings change. Stay in touch with your customers and update profiles constantly. Constant monitoring of the accuracy of customer data is a must. If you are considering purchasing data it is critical to be sure that proper hygiene has been done, meaning the data is current and accurate. Is that magazine or website subscriber database regularly refreshed? Are aging records verified? Are new records being added monthly? Bad data can lose good customers.

The goal of this discussion is to encourage direct marketers to build better mailing lists by using some common sense and the right resources. Begin with the richest possible profile of your own good customers. Select key relevant demographics from a trustworthy source database. Discover databases documenting details of your target’s actual workstyle and lifestyle. Use the MOA model for segmentation. Taken together you are able to walk (fly, cruise, drive, see, learn, shop, etc.) in the shoes of your target audience, with an understanding of how, why and when.

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