Marketing Center

How to grow your direct mail customer list

Key to a successful direct mail campaign? The list of people receiving it.

Published: July 19, 2017

Direct mail marketing isn’t a new approach, but it continues to be a marketer’s tried-and-true tactic for one big reason: It works.

According to a 2016 InfoTrends study, 66% of direct mail is opened. Beyond the initial open, recipients took action: 56% of consumers who responded to direct mail went online or visited the physical store, and 62% of consumers who responded to direct mail in the past three months made a purchase.

But direct mail is only as good as the group you’re sending it to. So how do you grow and improve your list of recipients?

You grow it organically, says Gary Hennerberg, a marketing consultant and author of Crack the Customer Mind Code.

“Encourage prospects and customers to opt-in. That can be done on a website, especially to acquire email lists,” he says.

You can encourage people to opt-in by offering them something valuable in return, adds Alan Rosenspan, owner of Alan Rosenspan & Associates, a direct marketing consulting company in Sharon, Mass.

“The offer is not the fact that you have low prices or good service – it's the extra something that you will give them, usually free,” he says.

For instance, Rosenspan offers his prospective customers a free booklet full of marketing tips and techniques.

“There's virtually no ‘sell’ in it, but over 10,000 people around the world have sent for it, and it provides me with tremendous credibility,” he says.

Another way to grow a list is to directly ask for referrals, Hennerberg says. Simply ask your satisfied existing customers to refer another like-minded individual to your business. This technique not only generates more names to add to your mailing list, but it can also increase loyalty and customer satisfaction, and create new business leads through word-of-mouth marketing.

You can also quickly add new names to your direct mail list by purchasing or renting customer lists from list brokerages, credit bureaus, nonprofits, and media companies.

If you’re using a mailing list broker, use one with experience in your industry and target audience. A broker works for you, not the company that owns the list, and the good ones are skilled at identifying the right lists from multiple vendors.

Often, buying a customer list gives you access to important information including customer demographics, purchasing history, sensitivity to promotion, how long they’ve been customers, and more.

But not all list sellers are legitimate, so it’s crucial to do your research on the organization.

Though cost varies widely depending on how qualified the list is, a consumer list typically ranges from $50 to $200 per 1,000 names.

If money for lists isn’t in your budget, some companies trade customer lists with other companies who market similar (although not conflicting) products.

Determining which lists work best for you comes down to one thing: testing.

“Investment companies always say ‘Past performance is no guarantee of future returns,’" Rosenspan says. “But in direct marketing, past performance is everything.”