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How do you rate your mailing list provider?

Posted by Brian Berg Google+


Mailing lists come in all shapes and sizes and even more so, mailing lists can vary greatly with respect to price.  When it comes to your acquisition mailing, there are a number of pitfalls to avoid, thus increasing our chance for maximum response.  A good list broker can navigate your way through pitfalls, or plop you plum in the middle of one. Repackaged Compiled Data A common practice for some mailing list brokers is to filter a subset of a larger database of compiled consumers, and repackage that subset as its own response database.  As an example, a mailing list broker could simply draw a count of golfers from a compiled source which includes an interest or behavior select of golfers.  If the universe count for this subset is large enough, the list broker may call this “Swing Pro Golf Masterfile” and charge $110/M for the direct mail data. 


The actual cost for such a mailing list should run more in the neighborhood of maybe $50/M.  Though these records may truly be golfers and worthy of a test, it’s not a true representation of the mailing list.  The compiled file may have multiple contributors to this interest select.  Some “golfers may have purchased a subscription to a monthly newsletter while the other records may be from a golfer who stated on an online survey that they have an interest in golfing. Another significant problem with this “repackaging” is that the mailer may have already exhausted the use of the compiled source and is looking for additional records to test.  Unless the mailer suppresses all previous mail files, they will unknowingly mail to the same records of a previous campaign.


Therefore, it’s important to ask the right questions of any new mailing list broker.  If the mailing list being presented is considered “managed”, ask for a usage report that will tell you of other direct mailers who also have used this list and if they’ve not only tested the file but had continuation on this file.  Ask how the file was compiled and when the records were captured.  If the “managed” list is of its own entity at all, there should be a website for the Newsletter or Publication subscription.  There should be a location on the web for the online survey or a sample of the survey questions that have been asked.  The name of the file should include a brand that’s at least recognizable by Google.  Golf Digest subscribers will be found by Google over Swing Pro Golf.  If not, there’s a good chance the file is a repackaged, over priced compiled subset being labeled as a specialized response file. Broker Experience There currently isn’t a license or certificate or any required training to become a list broker.  Most anyone can become a broker of data by taking a few hard knocks and learning your way through.  Most brokers work as an account manager to become acquainted with the types of files available and how to best use them.  They then graduate as quickly as they can sell it.  Many brokers get their start by “faking it until they make it”.  It’s important to listen to your gut feeling on the conversations you have with your prospective mailing list broker.  Ask others within the business of who they recommend, take references, and conference more experienced mailers in on a conference call to have them listen in and ask questions of your prospective mailing list broker.


Test first then test again Whether you have multiple files you’re testing or just one, it’s important to test the response of a file before you exhaust your entire budget on one list.  Your mailing list broker should work with you to make complimentary recommendations on multiple lists for consideration.  Test each list and measure the response with 5,000 to 10,000 records each.  Then mail a second test of new records from the same file to a larger sample of say 40,000 to 50,000 records.  If this campaign performs the same as the first smaller test, then you’ve got an accurate read on how the rest of the campaign will perform when using that file.  If your mailing list broker pushes to purchase in a manner that’s anything to the contrary, you’re probably dealing with an inexperienced mailing list broker.