While there are many choices to be made when you put together a direct mail campaign, choosing the mailing list or lists is the most critical. Choose incorrectly and it won’t matter what’s in the envelope you send. Nobody will respond because you sent to the wrong people.
If you’re buying mailing lists for your direct mail campaign, it’s not a good idea to buy directly from the list owners. A list owner will try to sell you only his list, and there may be other lists that will do a better job for you. A list broker, on the other hand, can help you make the right choices from among all the thousands of lists available for purchase. The broker has no reason, other than serving you best, to recommend one list over another.
The broker receives his compensation from list owners, not from you. He earns a percentage of what you pay. The price you pay for a list is the same whether you buy it from the list owner or a broker. A good broker will help you choose wisely, and make your campaign a success.
In advertising, promotion, and business strategy in general, you can try several different approaches to see which works best. This takes time and money, because you’re likely to fail in some of your efforts. And you run a serious risk of not succeeding at all. One way to reduce your risk and point your business toward success is to copy what your successful competitors are doing.
Consider: A big, successful competitor that has been in business for many years has very likely made a number of mistakes before identifying what works and what doesn’t. So watch carefully what your competitors are doing. If you see or hear advertising that continues for a long period of time, you can conclude that it’s generating business for the advertiser. It’s highly unlikely that unsuccessful ads are run over and over again.
By paying attention to what your competitors are doing – especially the bigger ones – you can take advantage of their experience. After all, why start building your marketing from zero when much of the structure is available to anyone who’s paying attention. It’s wise to keep a file of competitor’s ads, mailings and other printed pieces. See what they’re selling, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Copy what works. Avoid what doesn’t.
Many newspapers and magazines have remnant space for sale. This is leftover unsold space that must either be sold or filled with public service announcements, or “house” ads, which produce no income at all. To avoid a total loss on the space, the publication will sell it at a deep discount.
The availability of remnant space is not widely known. If you want remnant space, you must be ready to buy it on very short notice. And you must have an ad ready to go into the space. You generally have no say about where in the publication the ad will appear. If these ground rules are acceptable to you, ask the publication’s sales rep about remnant space. The price is generally a very good deal – less than half the regular price, and often as little at 20 percent.
Not every publication offers remnant space, and many only sell full pages as remnants. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.