So, you’ve got a great direct mail campaign and you’re ready to send it out. You understand the discounts available to nonprofits and senders of bulk mail.

The next step is to pull together your mailing list. You have two options: your homegrown list or a purchased list. Here’s what you need to know about each one.


Homegrown List

If you have a solid customer base but are just getting started with direct mail, your in-house, homegrown list is the best place to start. It’s the list you probably have stored in an Excel file somewhere of your current and past customers, prospects, family, and friends.

The good: In some ways, this list is more valuable than any you could ever buy. It’s a group of people who know you and your work. With these people, you’ve already jumped the biggest hurdle: getting them to know who you are.

The bad: Homegrown lists are far from foolproof. When’s the last time you updated your list? Checked it for duplicate or out-of-date information? Made sure the people on it are the ones you want to reach? If you want to pull off a successful mail campaign, you can’t be without a clean list. And the only way to get one is the hard way: by hand, one record at a time.

The fix: We can help you get partway there. Our Satori postal software can help you automatically format, clean, and remove duplicates from your list. Once that’s done, deciding which names to keep and which to toss gets a whole lot easier.

Purchased List

The alternative to the in-house list is the purchased list of prospects. This can be a good option if you’re starting a brand-new business and need to raise awareness. List-building services can give you recipients to your exact specifications. You can usually buy them in increments of 1,000 names or more.

The good: These lists can be made amazingly precise. You can choose addressees by geographic area, down to zip code, township, and carrier route, and based on demographic factors like age, sex, income, education level, household size, and more.

The bad: Purchased lists can sometimes be a shot in the dark. Because many of the people receiving your mailer may never have heard of you, you’ll typically get a lower return on your investment than with your in-house list.

The fix: Be mindful when using these types of lists. Think carefully about the specific groups that might be interested in your business. For example, if you’re opening a donut shop that happens to be located along a specific mail carrier route, make sure that everyone along that route gets a coupon. These people likely pass your shop every day. Folks in the next town over, on the other hand, are less likely to drop in.

There’s no right way to approach your mailing list. Many businesses use a combination of homegrown and purchased lists, which often leads to both interest from repeat customers and some new leads.

Whatever you choose, make a commitment to carefully track what you find. That way, whether your list is homegrown, store-bought, or somewhere in between, you can make sure you’re getting the most out of it. (We’ll talk more about how to do that in an upcoming post.) In the meantime, if you’ve got questions about building a list that’s a good fit for your business, contact Oregon anytime.