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Which Type of Mailing List is Right for Your Business?

Kent Moon
Kent Moon

The foundation of every successful mailing campaign is dependent on getting your message in the hands of prospects who are very likely to respond.

In the current digital marketing world, consumers are often overflooded with emails, promotion links on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms as competitors attempt to outspend one another. Even with this recent trend, direct mail continues to deliver tremendous results by introducing new developments and innovative solutions.

In fact, a study demonstrated 65% of millennials still pay attention to direct mail advertising, and another study found 54% of consumers are interested in receiving mail about brands and promotions that interest them. As a direct mail service provider, I have witnessed the tremendous results direct mail can produce. Utilizing direct mail to market your business is a perfect example of the effectiveness of diversifying your advertising strategies and exploring other marketing channels to reach potential customers. 

Direct mail marketing continues to be relevant because it is an evolving marketing strategy. The evolution in direct mail can be linked to two aspects of direct mail: the power of personalizing a direct mail piece and the improved accuracy of reaching highly-responsive prospects.

It's simple, the more personalized you get, the more likely a recipient will open your mailing piece. Direct mail companies have discovered and implemented these personal solutions from variable data printing (address recipients by name i.e. "Hi John" and variable images), hand addressing, pen addressing machine, post-it note mailing, Google street view mailing, and more. 

In addition, new businesses and organizations trying direct mail for the first time must consider one of the most important and improved components of direct mail campaigns: mailing lists. In fact, the foundation of every successful direct mail campaign is heavily dependent on getting your message to the right audience.

Without a mailing list, a direct mail campaign will be blindly sending out mailers, ultimately wasting your valuable resources and time. Imagine you are an after-school K-8 program looking to advertise to nearby neighborhoods. Would you rather send out mailings to households with or without children, or would you rather send personalized mailings to families with children of ages within K-8? Why waste your resources when a better solution is in front of you. It's evident the second scenario is preferable because mailing lists hands your direct mailer directly in the hands of a highly-responsive prospect. 

The two main types of mailing lists utilized in direct mail are targeted mailing lists and propensity mailing lists. Each mailing list has the same objective of getting your message to a highly responsive audience, but the lists differ on how they are formed and who they target. The rest of this article will breakdown both of these mailing lists to help you decide which one is best for you and your business.

Targeted mailing lists

Targeted mailing lists can help you specifically reach consumer and business prospects that are highly responsive to you and your business. The most common mailing lists used with direct mail are business, consumer, mortgage, automotive, ethnicity, new mover, pre-mover, and registered voter mailing lists.

Targeted mailing lists are highly customizable allowing you to reach a qualified audience that best mirrors your current customers. Segmentations for these lists include general demographics (i.e. age, annual income, marital status, etc) and geographical categories (i.e. city, area code, county, zip code, etc). Your list can be narrowed down to as specific of an audience you would like to reach. However, it is important to note that the more segmentations you add, the smaller amount of prospects you will potentially reach. 

How are targeted mailing lists compiled?

These lists are generally composed from national list compilers such as Excelsior, Acxiom, Dun & Bradstreet, Info USA, and Core Logic who collect concrete data from public and private databases. Generally, mailing lists will cover consumers and businesses all across the United States. The data is constantly updated and compiled weekly in order to eliminate duplicates and ineffective data and achieve a high deliverability rate. 

Who can take advantage of targeted mailing lists?

Targeted mailing list works for all businesses and organizations looking to reach consumers and businesses via direct mail. For instance, a non-profit organization would like to send mailers to households with children and a higher bracket of income, a foreign auto shop would like to reach owners of specific European vehicle models with constant issues, or a face mask manufacturing company would like to send out mailers to salons and barbershops where masks are in high demand. These are a few examples of how targeted mailing lists have helped our customers boost their response rates and return on investment by reaching an audience most likely to be interested in their products and services. 

Propensity mailing lists

The second most common form of mailing lists are called propensity mailing lists. Propensity is a newly developed, data-driven marketing solution that utilizes predictive analytics to forecast consumer behavior, brand affinity, and product affinity. Propensity mailing lists can target consumers who are generally unreachable under ordinary mailing lists because of its predictive nature. These consumer lists provide immense value because you and your business will be able to forecast an audience likely to act in favor of your products and services before your competitors can reach them. 

How are propensity mailing lists compiled?

Propensity mailing lists are formed from the same public and private databases of targeted mailing lists, but they are developed using a sophisticated algorithm to process multi-dimensional levels of data including attitudinal behavior, actional information, shopping intent, media behavior, brand and product affinities, demographics, and more.

There are over 3,500 unique consumer micro-selecting segments available from modeled credit score, fitness warriors, early technology adopters, casino gamblers, social influencers, heavy Facebook users, has a home equity loan, watches ESPN and sports channels, and more. In addition, selections of consumer-targeted mailing lists can be combined with the micro-selections from propensities lists because they are sourced from the same compilers.

Who can take advantage of propensity mailing lists? 

A propensity mailing list is fantastic for businesses that promote niche services or are geared to a very specific user base. A supplement company, for example, could either target households with an annual income over $100,000 with a targeted mailing list or reach fitness warriors who have demonstrated interest in fitness through signing up for a gym membership, watching workout videos online, and purchasing your competitors' supplements with a fitness warrior propensity mailing lists. It is evident the propensity list would be heavily preferred for this supplement company. This marketing strategy offers a more unique audience that can be difficult to target with ordinary mailing lists. 

As you can see, a mailing list is a vital component of a direct mail campaign as it's value of getting your message in the hands of the right audience can not be understated. However, it is important to correctly choose whether targeted mailing lists or propensity mailing lists will bring you the best return on investment and make the most out of your marketing budget.

Thankfully, there are direct mail companies like the Addressers that will handle your entire mailing operation and recommend the best mailing list option for you and your business. A successful direct mail campaign does not come easy as there are many moving components that can deter new direct mail marketers. Hopefully, this brief guide on mailing lists has helped you determine which method best suits your business. 


Image Credit: Erica Finstad/Getty Images
Kent Moon
Kent Moon Member
I have 30+ years of experience in direct mail industry. For first 10 years, I worked for several national direct mail companies. Since 2002, I owned and operated, Addressers, a direct mail and fulfillment company located in Southern California. Even in declining direct industry, Addressers had been growing steadily since the beginning. Currently, Addressers have 50+ employee and mail about 50 millions pieces per year.