How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Mailing & Telemarketing List Selection

The selection of proper mailing lists is one of the most critical elements of any direct marketing program. Unfortunately, too many people involved in promotional programs for their products and services do not give proper time and consideration to the selection of mailing lists. Here’s what you need to know to avoid making a mistake.

The quality of your product or service is immaterial if your message does not reach those people who are most interested in it. Likewise, your mailing package—no matter what its quality—will be ineffective if not placed in the hands of real prospects.

To plan a successful direct mail program, you—as marketing manager—must plan carefully the selection and use of mailing lists. To help you make such an important decision, I have prepared a list of common pitfalls for you to avoid.

Pitfall No. 1 – Failure to seek advice from a professional.
Too often marketers assume that they can select the best mailing lists simply by thumbing through the SRDS book, or mailing list catalog. Not necessarily so. And, since professional advice is available at no cost (list brokers earn their fees through the rental of lists), it just makes smart business sense to tap their expertise and experience before you make your list decision.

Pitfall No. 2 – Failure to check out the list broker or consultant. It is important that you select a professional list broker or consultant, not a list peddler. You want to make sure the recommendations you receive are based on knowledge and experience of similar promotions, not “guesstimations.” You should know who some of the consultant’s clients have been. Whether his list recommendations have been productive or whether he owns or manages the lists, etc.

Pitfall No. 3 – Failure to adequately test.
Too often, those going into direct marketing do not make provisions for adequate testing of lists. Testing is the key to successful direct marketing programs. Minimum tests of 5,000 to 10,000 names per list should be made in order to determine the extent of your market and feasibility of roll outs. Explore peripheral areas by testing list segments, and you will then have the highest potential of return. Rolling out to the most successful names will provide you with the highest returns.

Pitfall No. 4 – Failure to test segments within a list.
Testing a list and analyzing the results is important, but it shouldn’t stop there. Too often mail marketers fail to take a hard look at the list to find the different ways it can work for them. What are the different segments available on the list? Are most recent available? Is it possible to select those names representing multiple purchases, minimum dollar purchase amounts, full term subscribers, credit card orders, etc. These are a few of the questions you should ask, especially on those marginal lists where a rollout of the entire list would be risky.

Pitfall No. 5 – Failure to allow sufficient list delivery time.
Mailers are notorious for not allowing list companies sufficient time to process their orders. Most list brokers advice their clients to order 3-4 weeks in advance. Sometimes, turn-around is faster, but not often. By properly planning your mailing 5-6 weeks in advance, you can assure yourself of on-time delivery, with no last minute headaches.

S. Tyler Stapley

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