The Keys to Building a Mailing List

How Much Should I Put into Building a List?

Questions like this always boil down to one factor: How much is your mailing list worth to your business. Each industry has its own use for a mailing list, and not all of them will gain subscribers the same way. Lets go through a few different industries, how they use a mailing list, and the best way for them to gain subscribers. Let’s start with a group that relies very little on online marketing. High priced products…let’s say some sort of manufacturing equipment. We’ll even boil that down to conveyers and conveyor systems.

Mailing Lists and High Priced Items (Business to Business)

A factory manager might consider buying a new conveyor system for years before actually making a decision. During that time, companies rely heavily on the continued efforts of their salespeople. So they put very little consideration into online marketing and mailing lists Some would say that this industry is very under-developed in the way of e-commerce. And a mailing list could have a lot of potential…mainly because so few companies use them. I t’s true that the salesperson will still have to sell themselves before finalizing anything. But the client also needs to perceive the company on a whole as trustworthy. No matter how great a job the salesperson does, if the client doesn’t see the company as a professional and competent backdrop, the sale will not go through. A newsletter creates and strengthens this image…as long as the newsletter delivers information that’s important to the subscribers.

If the newsletter is full of junk (or ads) that’s how the prospect will see the company. So each subscriber could turn into a very profitable sale, and the newsletter could (if properly executed) substantially increase the salesperson’s chances for the sale. I would say that such subscribers are pretty valuable. Be ready to pay for them. Offer a physical gift to subscribers…how expensive the gift will depend on how much your product costs…but offer something. This way you’ll get an actual address (so you know you’re mailings or emails go to an actual person), and the subscribers will remember who you are when they see your newsletter.

Mailing Lists and Low Priced Items (Business to Consumer)

The business to consumer industries, however, use a very different approach. Especially when the product line is less expensive. They make more direct sales from their mailing lists than high priced products. But then again, they make less money on each sale. Statistics show that web surfers are NOT loyal customers. In fact, more of them fall under the ‘impulsive buyers’ label. They need a constant reminder that you’re there and that you have new products that they can’t live without. If you send it too frequently, it’s quickly recognized as spam. If you don’t send it often enough, they have no idea who you are. Two or three times a month is usually sufficient. But how do you get subscribers to your mailing list? The first place to start is with your customers. Have you been offering them a subscription to your mailing list when they buy products? Have you offered a subscription or gift certificate for their subscription? If not, then you should send an email to every customer within the past two years inviting them to your mailing list. After that, try advertising in someone else’s newsletter. A small gift for subscription is sometimes appropriate…depending on your profit margins. A street address to go along with the email is something you can use if you decide to go with direct mail.

Mailing Lists and Affiliates

Affiliate marketing is much different, and can make much more money from a mailing list…provided there are enough subscribers. Unlike product sales, affiliate markets don’t always rely on conversions. For this reason, you want your mailing list subscribers to receive your newsletter in HTML format. That way, your click through rate will come directly from the newsletter. Otherwise, they would have to take two steps (first going to your site and then clicking on your links) before you begin to earn anything. Again, affiliate marketing relies heavily on numbers. Big mailings mean big profits in small increments. And the key to this is networking. Swap advertisements with other affiliate marketers. Both on their websites and in their mailings. Most affiliate sites offer a free informational gift or some other kind of download in exchange for mailing list subscribers. The profit you make from each subscriber is small and doesn’t warrant a physical gift. It’s much easier to automate a download. On a side note, affiliate sites have a big reputation for spam. So it’s best to break away from the ‘affiliate look’. Stay away from Google ads when sending something to your mailing list.

Mailing Lists and Service Providers

A service provider has a much harder time measuring the effectiveness of their mailing lists. You wouldn’t use it to make a direct sale, but to strengthen your image as an expert in your field. For example, an e-commerce consultant might give weekly tips for website administration. A plumber might give DIY tips for taking care of common drainage problems. The focus is on reinforcing the subscriber’s idea of them as the go-to man in that particular industry. Obviously, the first place to find subscribers is through clients. Referrals can go a long way. You might offer a percentage off your services to anyone who refers ten or more subscribers. You aren’t as reliant on mass mailings, so there’s nothing wrong with refining your list and weeding out some of the email addresses. Actually, many service providers build mailing lists by limiting the number of subscribers. If people think that only a selected few will be allowed to receive your newsletter, they’d be more inclined to subscribe. It’s even more inviting when they realize that you only accept referrals (the same way gmail is beginning to take over yahoo’s email monopoly).

Mailing Lists and Information Sellers

If you sell information, you have a unique advantage when trying to gain subscribers to your mailing list. The very thing you’re selling is easy to give in portions. If you’re selling an ebook, you attract subscribers with a ‘free report’…just a condensed version of the book. Like affiliate marketers, you’ll benefit most from networking. You’ll need to find people in related (but not competing) industries. Offer to swap articles and ads with them.

In Closing

As you work through different mailing list strategies, take note of what works and what doesn’t. No need to beat a dead horse. Concentrate on whatever brings the highest return. And remember not to abuse your mailing list. Allow people to easily unsubscribe, and never sell (or lend) their addresses to anyone.

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All About Mailing Lists

OK. The title of this article may be a bit misleading. I probably should have titled it “some things about mailing lists.” I’m not actually going to cover everything about mailing lists.

There’s just too much to cover. Today I’ll will be covering the basics.

So, if you’re somewhat new to direct mail,you’ll appreciate the simplicity of this article.

So, are you ready?

What is a mailing list?

Fair enough. In simplest terms, these are names that should represent your target market. In other words, it’s who you are sending your sales pitch or offer to.

Types: Believe it or not, there’s different types of mailing lists that you could choose. And you should be very choosy. In fact, one of the most reliable places to start looking for your list is the SRDS Direct Mail List Source Book.

Pros in this biz hate to admit it, but it’s better to have a good list with “OK” writing skills and a poor product than it is to be top-shelf copywriter with a hot product, sent to the wrong list.

So, as you can see, this is very important.

Let’s look at the most common types.

Compiled. These lists of names are typically collected from various resources such as the phone books, public records, directories, court records, surveys, etc. These lists are usually the least productive.

Subscriber. As the name suggests, these lists are exactly what they say they are… subscribers to something like a magazine or newsletter. These lists can be great to send your offer to but not as powerful as actual “buyer” lists.

Buyer. These are made up of actual people who bought from the company. For example, Gurney’s Seed & Nursey Catalog buyers is a list of all the people who bought from their catalog. As you can see, these are some of the very best names you could mail to. But there’s another type which if handled correctly are the absolute most profitable list could mail to and this list is called…

House. This is your buyers list. And it is without a doubt the most profitable asset you could have. If you don’t have a house list, then you need to begin building one today!


Let me explain some mailing list lingo. This will help you when searching for a mailing list to rent.

For starters, when you get a mailing list you’re renting the list, not buying it. Typically, it’s rented for a one-time usage. Sometimes you work out other terms like unlimited usage.

A list broker can be compared to a real estate agent. He represents the buyer. On the other hand, a list manager (again think realtor), except he represents the seller.

Most good mail order companies make their names available for rent. It’s a great source of extra income and they do nothing more that turn the fresh names over each month to their list manager.

So, now you come along and want to rent the mailing lists and try and sell your stuff to their customers, or subscribers.

Data Cards are the listing for a list. In other words, it summarizes the details about the mailing list. There’s lots of details on a data card but I’ll highlight some things here. By the way, your list broker should be able to give you all the information you need. Just ask.

Last Updated. This is the date when the list added new names to the file. You’ll want to be sure that the list is updated often and that you have the most recent names available.

List Cost. This is rental charge for the list. The cost is per-thousand and can range from $100 per thousand to more than $200 per thousand. Keep in mind, the more targeted the list is, the higher the cost.

Unit of Sale is the average amount the individuals spent on the mailing lists. It’s best to get a list with a comparable unit of sale for your own stuff.

List Source. This tells you where the names came from. For example, names could be generated from the:


Direct mail or Direct mail sold



Print (space ads, magazines, newspapers, classified ads, etc.)

Compiled (from pubic records, warranty cards, etc.)

Attendees (from a conference or meeting)

Segments/Selections. This gives you options to select names based on a region, gender, or other demographics.

List Description is a summary of the individuals on the list.

Continuation/Usage List. This provides very valuable details to help you decide if you should rent the list or not. This shows you which other mailers have used the list. Oftentimes it’s broken into those who have tested the list and those who have continued the list.

So, if you see a mailer who has tested and continued a list that you’re considering, and their offer is like yours, then you have a good chance the list will work for you.

I covered a few aspects of mailing lists but just scratching the surface here. Call your list broker and ask questions. Ask for data cards and study them. I’m also available to help.

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