Having the right mailing list is the key to success of a direct marketing campaign. But how do you create an effective mailing list? How do you find highly targeted contacts that should go into this list? That's a challenge that a number of marketers face today. But if you are successful in this challenge, you can be sure of getting the message across to the right people and get the desired results from the campaign.

Finding the right sources

A direct mailing list can be created with the help of internal and external sources.

  • Internal sources include records of existing and past customers, correspondence (queries, complaints) from customers, market survey and research data, sales and warranty records.
  • The external sources include websites of the prospective customers (B2B), the paid information database on the internet, yellow pages or local telephone directories, published consumer surveys, trade or industry related directories, and more.

Irrespective of the source you choose, you need to make sure that the list you create is not outdated. Also, it is a good idea to exhaust your internal sources first, before you invest in the external sources. The perfect mailing list should contain the name, title, the existing email address, website, the telephone number and the complete mailing address of the targeted prospects.

Tips for creating an effective mailing list

Once you obtain the required list of prospective contacts, here is how you can make it more effective.

Segmenting the mailing list

The first step to creating an effective mailing list is to segregate the contacts based on certain parameters.

Internal and external lists: The list of contacts you obtain from internal sources would usually be existing customers, or those who you have contacted at least once in the past. This list can be divided into three categories

  • Customers who spend at least a certain amount on your products every year
  • Customers who have made a purchase from your in the last six months
  • Ex-customers, who have purchased your products in the past

The external lists that you buy or rent are usually segregated by the name, title, or telephone numbers. You can further segregate and structure these lists in different ways, to create a highly precise direct marketing mailing list.

Geographic: One of the most common ways to segment a mailing list is to define the area that you intend to target. This is especially when the product or service you are offering is available only for customers in a particular region. Geographical segmentation can be done according to state, city, zip code or specific areas within a certain radius.

Demographic: In case of B2C marketing, where you target individual consumers, you can segment your mailing list according to their demographics. The parameters you can consider for demographic segmentation include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Ownership of home, vehicle and other consumer durables
  • Profession or job
  • Spending habits
  • Status of insurance
  • Interests and preferences in brands
  • Leisure and vacation activities

While age, gender and income may be commonly used parameters, you can add customized parameters to filter out the best prospects, depending on the kind of product or service you are promoting.

B2B segmentation

In case of B2B mailing list segmentation, you can consider parameters such as the type of business, size of the company and the workforce, yearly expenditure, frequency of purchase, average order size, purchasing location etc of the businesses you want to target.

By segmenting the mailing list, you make it easier to filter out the most profitable prospects and can also create customized content to make the campaign target-based and more effective.

Validating the list

The next step is to validate the segmented lists for accuracy. This includes:

  • Removal of duplicate or multiple entries of contacts, usually mentioned in different ways
  • Updating the incomplete addresses, or removing incomplete contact details if needed
  • Verifying the validity of the available information (checking if the prospect actually resides in the same house, and has the same mobile or phone number etc)

The final mailing list should be further refined with updated information about the prospective customers, and the replies you receive from them. The existing mailing list should also be updated regularly, with a new list of prospective contacts you receive from the sales team and from other sources.

Follow rules and regulations

The basic rule for creating and managing direct mailing lists is to ensure adherence to the law and regulations that govern usage of personal data. So, once you have the data of the prospects you wish to target, ensure that it is used properly. This includes being transparent about how and why the data is being used, and allowing individuals and firms access any data about them that you hold. Also, the legislations and the regulations must be kept in mind if you wish to commission your direct mailing list to other organizations.