Many self publishers, book publishers, entrepreneurs, and home-based and small business owners are in the dark about mailing list rentals — how to order targeted, direct mailing lists – say for a direct marketing campaign, what to look for, and what to beware of. And they often make a few expensive mistakes. The following tips and trade secrets will help you avoid some of these mistakes and help you make better decisions when you seek out quality mailing list services.
First of all, generally, you rent, not buy mailing lists. They remain in the ownership of the mailing list company and are usually not for sale.
Many business owners rent lists but don’t use them right away, which is a mistake. Most lists change considerably in 30 days or less. Some lists, like mailing lists of public libraries, prisons, hospitals, hospital gift shops, elementary schools, high schools, colleges, universities, daily newspapers, TV stations and radio stations will have very few changes. They are fairly stationary so not as likely to move. Bookstore lists, new age bookstores lists, organization lists, specialty lists, school mailing lists and business mailing lists may have a high rate of return. To avoid a lot of returns, rent the selected lists just prior to making your mailing.
Be careful about renting any mailing list that goes to individuals: consumer mailing lists, seniors mailing lists, residential mailing lists, homeowners mailing lists and opportunity seekers mailing lists, for example. With 20% of the population moving every year you may get significant returns.
But do expect some returns. As often as we mail using lists, we always get returns (called ‘nixies’ in the trade) from the post office. People move, forwarding orders expire, people expire, post office boxes close, and businesses close their doors.
Mailing list management and upkeep is expensive. It takes a lot of time and labor for companies to compile, add to, clean and mail to their lists and other necessary maintenance. They also use expensive mailing list software programs which can have costly bugs of their own.
To help you plan ahead, before you order your mailing lists, ask when you can expect the order to arrive. This can vary considerably from company to company. Some companies can take up to two weeks or more.
Mailing lists can usually be ordered in at least three formats – peel and stick (pressure-sensitive) labels or Cheshire (18 pound, spreadsheet-size computer paper–less common these days) or on a floppy disk (used less often these days) or CD. You order peel and stick labels if they’re going to be affixed to your mailing piece by hand. Or if you know how to import the lists you can order them on CD. If your mailing house is going to do your mailing they’ll probably prefer the floppy disk or CD – check with them on this before you order.
Mailing houses used to require the Cheshire format instead of peel and stick labels before the advent of computer technology and CD ROM. They have machines that cut the printed Cheshire sheets into labels and glue them to the envelopes. When ordering lists on CD, specify the format you want to use for conversion, usually ASCII comma-delimited. You must know how to import it when you get the disk though. The mailing lists