Tuesday, March 07, 2006

11 Top Questions to Ask Before Renting a B2B Mailing List

By Alan Sharpe

If the most important part of any business-to-business direct mail package is the list, how can you be sure that you have a good list before you drop your money (and your reputation) in the mailbox? Answer: Ask the right questions before you rent that list.

1. Who is on the list, exactly? Knowing makes all the difference. So make sure you can select names by job title or function.
2. What is the source of the list? Is the list a compiled list, where names and addresses are compiled into a list from directories, newspapers, trade show registrations and other public sources? Or is the list an opt-in list (such as subscribers to a particular trade publication, or buyers from an online store)? Lists of names that are compiled from phone books and directories usually age more quickly than names from opt-in lists and usually produce more undeliverable mail.
3. Are the names on the list known buyers? The best B2B lists contain names of business people who have bought your product or service or one like it, regardless of how they bought it (online, by mail, retail).
4. How recently did they buy? In the trade, we call this recency. Prospects who bought a product or service like yours recently are better prospects than ones who purchased years ago.
5. How often do they buy? We call this frequency—how often someone buys. Naturally, someone who buys your product or service often is a better prospect than someone who buys less frequently.
6. How much do they spend? We call this monetary value, and it's the third component in the standard test of mailing list quality—recency, frequency, monetary value. Buyers who spend the most are the best prospects for your mailing.
7. Are the people on the list "direct-mail responsive?" Sometimes a list owner or list broker will know if the names on her list respond to direct mail offers. A good example would be a catalog merchant who would know the percentage of names on his list who buy through the mail.
8. How fresh are the names?Some business-to-business lists decay at a rate of 25 percent a year. In other words, at any given time, 25 percent of the names on a given list will be incorrect. Ask your list owner or list broker how often they update their list.
9. When was the list last cleaned? List owners "clean" their lists by comparing them against the postal service’s National Change of Address file. Ask how often this is done.
10. How often is the list rented? If the list is rented often, it is likely a good list (but one that contains names of prospects who may have been inundated with offers like yours). If the list is rarely rented, it is either no good or it contains a highly specific group of prospects that no other business except yours wants to mail to (not likely).
11. Who else rents the list? Do your competitors rent the list? See if you can find out!

Article written by Alan Sharpe, president of Sharpe Copy, Inc., a B2B direct mail copywriting agency.

Article posted on the Melissa Data website.

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