Mailing Lists – The Two Kinds of Lists and Two of the Best Places to Purchase Them

In this, the first of this two-part article set, you’ll learn from our discussion the types of mailing lists, and two of the best places to buy lists. In the second part you’ll learn the other 9 places to buy a mailing list.

There are two types of direct mail lists, determined by their origin: compiled direct mail lists and response mailing lists.

Compiled Direct Mail Lists

Compiled mailing lists are a common source of name and address records that have been gathered, collected, and entered into a database. The names may have been acquired through public records such as vehicle owner registrations, court transcripts, or private sources such as warranty cards or purchasers at a store.

The bulk of compiled mailing lists are generated from categories in phone books across the U.S. Examples of a few of the compiled lists available from phone books would be a list of all the photography studios, or a listing of all the luggage dealers in the United States. Or a mailing list of all the plumbing supply dealers, or Chevy or Ford agencies.

Most industries have trade directories that are usually compiled industry data from various sources; most are verified by phone and make pretty good direct mail lists. A directory of pet product manufacturers, or of heating and cooling contractors would be good examples of a compiled industry direct mail lists.

Keep in mind that compiled information – like fish – gets old rather quickly and doesn’t age particularly well. Mailings lists fall into the top of that category – the fresher the names, the better. The older the names, the less accurate – and the greater your returns.

Response Direct Mail lists

Response direct mail lists are usually databases of consumers who have inquired or purchased from a direct response ad, direct mail catalog, from a direct mail offer, direct-selling TV ad, direct response newspaper ad, or other direct response offer. The most common response direct mail lists are from catalog merchants.

Before you consider purchasing any direct mail list, analyze the database of your own customers. Ask yourself precisely what commonalities they have, then look for these characteristics in a new list mailing database.

Start searching for a new mailing list based on your perfect target audience. Find a list that closely matches the definable characteristics of your own customers. If this exact mailing list isn’t available, see how close you can come to buying the most perfect business mail list – and test mail to it in smaller numbers. Measure and track response.

Today’s direct mail can be very precisely targeted due to the precision of the mailing list data available. If you can tightly specify a mailing list, you can probably find a list perfectly matched to your specifications. The more you qualify the names on your mail list, the tighter you specify your perfect mailing list segments, the more response, and the less wasted advertising expense you’ll have in your direct mail campaign. The higher your response, the better your chances of success and profit.

Your selection of a direct mail list has more to do with your success or failure than any other single element in your mailing. Before any mailing, calculate what percent response you need to have to break even, and see if it’s realistic. If it’s over 2%, better rethink about mailing.

The precise targeting of mailing makes direct mail one of the most effective, cost efficient ways to market as long as you define your audience up front and match your direct mail list to your audience.

Delivery of your direct mail depends on the accuracy and recency of your list. Better quality, more recent mailing lists have much better delivery rates. A poor list can mean up to 20% or 30% of your standard mail (bulk-rate) won’t be delivered. 10% more will be delivered, but you won’t know to whom. Of that 20% to 30%, some of your direct mail pieces will be returned to you, beat up beyond recognition by the postal service and certainly of no further value.

Some pieces get delivered, but to the wrong address. Other pieces of your mail just get lost, and no one really knows where they went. In contrast, when you purchase a recent, accurate direct mail list, delivery can be as high as a whopping 95% – 97%!

Some of the best delivery percentages of direct mail mailing lists can be found in magazine publisher’s list of their magazine subscribers.

Magazine mailing lists have some of the highest delivery rates available. For good reason: Subscriber lists are naturally very targeted to their annually-qualified magazine readers. Publishers pay for returns: so their mailing lists have high deliverability rates as publishers are extremely prompt with their name and address corrections.

Most magazine publishers will rent their mailing list for non-competing offers (such as anything other than similar magazines). If you see a magazine that looks like it will be a good target for your direct mail campaign, call the magazine publisher and ask if their subscriber mailing list is for rent. Most larger publications will offer their list through a mailing list broker, so you’ll be referred to that firm.

1. Magazine Publishers Mailing Lists

There are over 10,000 magazines published in the U.S.. Chances are good that you can get a magazine subscription subscriber mail list that goes straight to your perfectly targeted buyers. If you’re not sure what magazines would have the best mail list to reach your target market, there are some easy-to-use magazine directories found in the reference section of most libraries. (They’re online, too – but they’re subscription-only and pretty expensive!) You can read the magazine’s profile and see if their audience would make a good mail list for you to mail offers for your products.

The best directories of magazines are Bacon’s Directory of Magazines, and Oxbridge Communications Standard Periodical Directory. If you can’t find the exact targeted magazine filled with the eager-to-buy-your-product subscribers you are looking for in either of these directories, the publication doesn’t exist. You can find any industry and every single magazine that is sent to that industry – in under 10 minutes in these powerful directories. As a practicing marketer, I pretty much live in these directories.

2. Catalog Merchants Direct Marketing Mailing Lists

Catalog houses earn a good portion of their revenue from the sale of their list. Call the catalog house phone number and ask for their corporate business office, then ask who handles their mailing list sales. Almost all catalog houses sell their mail lists – it’s a big profit center than can account for as much as 20% of their revenues.

Catalogs can be found in The Directory of Mail Order Catalogs from Grey House Publishing ( This directory is an awesome publication and the best resource in the catalog industry. In each catalog description and write up, it gives the number of catalogs mailed, and name of the broker who handles list sales.

This is the first of two articles on mailing lists. In the second part of this article, we’ll discuss the next 9 places to buy a direct mail list.

Bio, Jeffrey Dobkin
If you’re struggling with poor response from your direct marketing campaign, you can s

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