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Why you should never buy a mailing list

As list brokers, we here at frequently hear prospective mailers speak of their need to buy a mailing list.

But buying a mailing list is often a bad idea, regardless of the source.

And here’s why: it’s impossible to determine the accuracy and responsiveness of any mailing list by merely examining the data.

Test, test, test

The only effective way to measure these key metrics is to mail it and track the response it produces, as well as the undeliverable mail it generates.

Thus, the safest course of action is to first test the list by renting a quantity of records and sending your offer to them.

Track the results of this test carefully, like any good direct marketer, and take careful measure of the response metrics. If carefully planned and executed, this kind of test will give you a sound basis for deciding whether or not the list you want to buy is worth the price.

The downside of buying

But keep in mind that without regular maintenance – updating postal addresses from returned mail, researching not-in-service phone numbers and bounced email addresses, adding new records – this list will depreciate just like any other asset.

The purchase price is only a portion of what must be spent to maximize your ROI from this resource.

There is also the issue of list fatigue. Unless you purchase a large quantity of prospect records, you will likely find response from the purchased list declines rapidly.

Consider renting instead

That’s why most direct marketers rent lists instead of purchasing them.

In this scenario, mailers prospect for customers by test mailing, then continue on a variety of lists from different sources.

Each list is rented for one-time use. Typically all new lists are tested once or twice (maybe more) to ascertain their response to the offer.

Those that meet the financial goals set by the mailer are candidates for continuation mailings for the same (or similar) offers.

How continuation mailings work

If the list produces adequate response, the marketer returns to the list supplier and requests an additional quantity of records after omitting all those supplied on previous list orders. Almost every list supplier has the capability to exclude prior orders and supply fresh records that the direct marketer has not yet mailed.

The mailer continues to rent and mail the list until the supply of available records is exhausted, at which point the list is likely to be refreshed by an update of newly added records (if it is a response-generated list) which enables the process to be repeated.

In some cases where the response to the test mailing is strong (i.e. response substantially above breakeven), the mailer may experiment by re-mailing all of the records in the original or subsequent orders, not including those who responded, of course.

The theory behind this tactic is that a strong response indicates that demand for the offer is probably deeper than the marketer typically experiences, and so a re-mail, while perhaps not as successful as the initial test mailing, may still generate profitable response.

List rental produces a far more valuable list of customers

In effect the marketer is “harvesting” customers from these rental lists and building an in-house customer list, a much more valuable resource than any outside list acquired by purchase. Meanwhile the owners of the lists rented by the marketer bear all responsibility for list maintenance, enhancement and data quality.

Renting lists also widens considerably the supply of good prospects. That’s because almost all response-generated lists – generally regarded as more responsive than compiled lists – are limited by their owners to one-time rental. Most lists available for outright purchase are compiled.

And since many B2B audiences can be reached by more than one list, renting instead of buying lists preserves the opportunity to test and use them all without fear of acquiring duplicate, and thus superfluous, addressing data.

Click here to see more information about ordering and deploying mailing lists.

Or phone at 1-800-296-0888 now.


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