Need Prospects? 5 Direct Mailing List Types to Help You Find Them

Direct mail is a great way to reach targeted prospects to turn them into customers, but how do you select the right prospects? There are so many mailing list options, it can feel overwhelming. Let’s look at the various list options.

Direct mail is a great way to reach targeted prospects to turn them into customers, but how do you select the right prospects? There are so many mailing list options, it can feel overwhelming.

Let’s look at the various list options.

Prospect data is marketing data that has been collected and compiled for the purpose of new customer acquisition. This data is compiled from a variety of public record sources, including deed recordings, surveys, telephone directories, self-reported and more.

5 Prospect List Types

  1. Residential/Occupant: This list is compiled from USPS intelligence carrier route-level demographics, and you can segment businesses. The purpose of this type of list is to saturate an area and have names associated with it, along with census demographics, unlike EDDM. The advantage of this list is deep postal discounts. The disadvantages are the ability to only target to the ZIP-carrier route level, there are fewer options for personalization, and it uses only postal data.
  2. Consumer: This list can be selected by demographics, psychographics, life stage, lifestyles, behavioral, new mover, new homeowner, new borrower, new connect, pre-mover, mortgage/loan, and property data. The purpose of this type of list is to target consumers at their home addresses. The advantages of this list are: controlling who receives your offer; rich demographics selects for enhanced targeting, so you can use variable data for creative optimization; you can use look-alike targeting through the use of demographic profiles; and there are multi-channel opportunities.
  3. Business: This list can be selected by contact names, job titles, company size, ownership status, square footage, own vs. rent, years in business, business expenses, credit rating, SIC, and NAICS. The purpose of this list is finding businesses and/or business professionals. The advantage of this list is you can target specific types of businesses and key contacts within them.
  4. Specialty: This list can be selected by many things. Here are some of them: automotive, hospitals, doctors and nurses, education, government, voters, clubs/nonprofits, insurance agents, pilots, realtors, churches, or pool owners. The purpose of this list is to be able to target consumers or businesses based on specific niche attributes most commonly related to occupation/profession. The advantage of this list is a highly targeted audience.
  5. Managed: This list can be selected by niche marketing, RFM, subscriber files, specific purchases, past purchases, hotline buyers, multi-buyers, responders, or donors. The purpose of this type of list is the ability to identify consumers and businesses by their actions and affinities; to benefit from RFM (recency, frequency, and monetary value). The advantage of this type of list is significant targeting.

Keep in mind that the cost of prospecting lists goes up, the more targeted you get. However, by targeting correctly, you can send fewer mail pieces to more people who are most likely to buy from you. You can save money, send to the right segment of people, and increase your ROI when you mail to the right people.

There is also the option of profiling your current customers and then finding like people in your marketplace, which we will discuss in the next article. Are you ready to select your prospect list?

The Power of Purchase List Targeting

It’s important to have a trusted purchase list source. You should be informed of where the company gets its data, how often the data is updated and its policies on bad data. Once you have a good source, you need to take on the challenge of choosing your list options.

targetaudSince your response rate is directly related to who you are sending mail to, purchasing a mailing list can be a real challenge. There are so many options to choose from that it can be overwhelming. But first, it’s important to have a trusted purchase list source. You should be informed of where it gets the data, how often the data is updated and its policies on bad data. A couple of big purchase list players are Experian and Acxiom — you can check them out, as well as many other reputable list brokers. Once you have a good source, you need to take on the challenge of choosing your list options.

Top industry list option examples include:

  • Nonprofit: Income, net worth, age, children, causes donated to in the past, organization membership, fundraising engagement, location
  • Retail: Number of children, income, age, gender, apparel purchase habits, brands, online shopping habits, location
  • Political: Children, homeownership, voting propensity, location, age, political party affiliation
  • Entertainment: Age, income, children, hobbies, purchase history, location, marital status
  • Healthcare: Age, income, number of children, location, gender, homeownership
  • Education: Age, income, gender, highest level of education, location, interests

You may pick from demographics as well as psychographics. There are so many options, make sure to give yourself time to look over what will target your best potential customers. You want to get the right offer to the right people — the more targeted your list, the better response you are going to get. Marketing personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, so if you have mapped personas beforehand, it will be easier to make your selections.

You can pre-map customer personas by taking a look at your best customers: Who are they? The more details you have, the more accurate the persona will be. Look for trends in how your customers find you and what they buy. Make sure you are capturing important information about customers in your data so that you can use it to build your personas. You should also interview customers to obtain key answers directly from the source. Too many assumptions can cause you to create an inaccurate persona.

Once you know the personas you are looking for, choosing the right selections for your list becomes easier. Select the options that best represent your customers. The more characteristics you pick, the better targeted your list will be. But keep in mind that more selections often result in a higher-priced purchase list. So make sure you only use the options that really reach your target.

Your list is now ready! Your final ingredients for successful direct mail are your creativity and your offer. Don’t spend all your time on the list and forget these other two components — without all three working together, your direct mail will not generate the response you are looking for. Make your offer clear and concise. Make your creative design catching, but not overwhelming. Give people a reason to read your direct mail.

5 Reasons to Add Bing Ads to Your Search Campaign

Put simply, you shouldn’t ignore Bing Ads just because it’s dwarfed by Google AdWords. Microsoft has invested heavily in Bing’s success and those efforts are paying off. Bing Ads offers a viable alternative option for connecting your business with new, potential customers. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t hesitate to make Bing Ads part of your long-term marketing plan.

bing logoIt’s easy to overlook Bing Ads when planning your online marketing efforts.

Google is the undisputed king of search with more than $67 billion in ad revenue in 2015 — by comparison, Bing finally achieved profitability in the first quarter of this year with just $1 billion in revenue. To describe Bing Ads as Google’s little brother might be too much of a compliment. Search is Google’s world, and Bing is just living in it.

Still, Bing has proven itself as a viable upstart in the search business. In April 2015, Microsoft renegotiated its contract with Yahoo to allow Bing’s ads to appear on 51 percent of Yahoo desktop searches — a nice boon for Bing’s bottom line. Microsoft also sold Bing’s display network and map data assets, streamlining the platform’s approach toward search. And now Microsoft is broadening Bing’s potential by incorporating it in several emerging products and technologies. You’ve heard of Cortana in Windows 10? Yep, that’s powered by Bing.

What does this mean for you, a small business owner?

Put simply, you shouldn’t ignore Bing Ads just because it’s dwarfed by Google AdWords. Microsoft has invested heavily in Bing’s success and those efforts are paying off. Bing Ads offers a viable alternative option for connecting your business with new, potential customers. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t hesitate to make Bing Ads part of your long-term marketing plan.

1. Bing Ads Are Often Cheaper and More Effective

As you could probably guess, most advertisers turn to Google. AdWords is really your only option for reaching the largest number of consumers with the least amount of effort.

Bing is much smaller than Google in terms of reach and revenue — which also means there are far fewer advertisers on Bing’s search network. And that means less competition for marketers who want a piece of Bing’s action. And less competition means cheaper costs per click — up to 33 percent less, according to some studies.

Not only is Bing usually cheaper, but advertisers also get higher ad positions than they would on Google’s more crowded search network. And higher ad placements usually result in higher click-through rates and conversions! Even though Bing doesn’t reach nearly as many people, these benefits are enough to make Microsoft’s ad platform attractive.

2. Bing Ads Let You Effectively Cut Off Tablets

Google caused a collective groan from PPC marketers by taking away the ability to block traffic from tablets. In Google’s eyes, tablets are the future of home computing and should be treated the same as desktops. For everyone else, tablets are giant smartphones both in how they function and how people use them — and that means lower CTRs and conversions than desktop searches.

Similar to Google, Bing has altered its device targeting options so tablets and smartphones can’t be completely turned off. However, Bing allows for incremental bids to be set on both types of mobile devices. Want to turn off tablets? Simply set your incremental bids on tablet traffic to decrease by a substantial percentage. It’s not a bulletproof way to ensure you’ll block all tablet traffic, but at least you won’t spend much money on the few clicks that slip through.

3. Bing Ads Let You Choose Your Partners

Want to choose between advertising on Google or its search partners? Well, you can’t. Google doesn’t let you choose one or the other. Either way, you’re stuck with Google’s primary network. You also don’t get to see which search partners might be running your ads. This is a problem because, while search partners often provide cheaper clicks, sometimes that traffic drastically underperforms.

Bing, on the other hand, gives you complete control. You can advertise only on Bing and Yahoo, or only with search partners — or you can run your ads on all platforms. Also, if you choose to target search partners, you can run reports to see exactly who those partners are. You can then take the additional step of blocking underperforming partners from running your ads. It’s a fantastic benefit that can make search partner targeting so much more worthwhile. And you can’t get that with AdWords.

4. Bing Ads Give You More Control Over Demographics

AdWords allows plenty of demographic targeting options for the Google Display Network, but demographic targeting isn’t an option for search network advertisers by default. Note that it’s possible to get demographic targeting for Search, but you need to go through a Google rep to get it turned on in your account.

Bing Ads, on the other hand, offers both gender and age targeting options by default. This is handled similarly to device targeting — rather than completely block certain demographics, you can decrease bids to specific demographics to effectively exclude them from your campaigns. These adjustments are made at either the campaign or ad group levels, giving you the ability to split test different ad groups with unique demographic targeting settings.

5. Bing Ads Are More In Tune With Social Extensions

A strong social media following is a strong indication of being an online authority — and that’s why Bing started testing social extensions back in 2014. If your business has a large Twitter following, then Bing’s automated social extensions will display your number of Twitter followers alongside your ad. It’s a meaningful extension that can boost your ad’s credibility and help drive conversions.

AdWords also has social extensions, but only for Google Plus. And who uses Google Plus? It’s no secret that Google has bent over backward pushing its social media platform, but Bing’s social extension provides a much more meaningful and socially relevant benefit.

Want more Google AdWords Tips?  Click here to get the Ultimate AdWords checklist.   

Laser-Focused Direct Mail With Personas

The best way to increase your chances of great response is to mail to people who are interested in your product or service. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to create personas.

The best way to increase your chances of great response is to mail to people who are interested in your product or service. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to create personas.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Many marketers are familiar with personas in their inbound or digital marketing, but for some reason have not applied them to their direct mail campaigns.

Benefits of Buyer Personas:

  1. Ability to target the right people for each message — send them only offers that they are interested in.
  2. Increase response — better offers equal a better response rate.
  3. Ability to find more prospects like your current customers — when you profile other people you can match them accurately to your current customers.

By creating buyer personas, you can identify who your ideal customers are, where they are and what they want. When you combine this with variable data direct mail you can laser focus your message to each individual based on that person’s persona while getting the benefits of postal discounts for mailing a larger quantity rather than doing a separate mailing for each persona.

We get asked many times, how can we create personas? Here are a few ways you can start researching:

  • Interview or survey current customers — create questions that answer what you need to know in order to build your personas.
  • Review LinkedIn profiles — try to find the common themes between each of your customers.
  • Ask questions on social media — this can give you a larger pool than just your customers, but be careful to fully vet each person responding before you add their input to your research.

After your research there are some best practices for building your personas:

  1. Focus on motives not behavior. Why are they doing what they are doing?
  2. Keep them fictional, but be as realistic as possible. Do not base them off of your most important customer, this can give you a skewed result.
  3. Choose one primary persona, this should be the group of people that will make you the most money.
  4. Create a story for each persona that is explained in five segments:
    • What is their job and demographics?
    • What does a day in their life look like?
    • What are their challenges or pain points?
    • How do they search for information?
    • What are their common objections to your product or service?

There are two big benefits to adding personas to your direct mail. The first is that you can save money on services and postage — and since direct mail’s biggest expense is postage, you can save a lot by not mailing to people who are not interested in what you are offering. The second is by getting more people to respond because they are interested in your offer. So, while you are saving money you are also making more money. It is a win-win situation!

Have you tried using personas in your direct mail? How has it worked for you?

Creating a One-Word Brand Statement

What do your customers think of when they see your organization name and logo? Your public image is important and should be up-to-date and fresh, especially during times of swift technology, cultural changes, and new generations. Every organization should go through a periodic review of how it is viewed and how it wants to be viewed by customers, donors and prospects.

What do your customers think of when they see your organization’s name and logo? Your public image is important and should be up-to-date and fresh, especially during times of swift technology, cultural changes, and new generations. Every organization should go through a periodic review of how it is viewed and how it wants to be viewed by customers, donors and prospects.

While sitting in an organization’s Board of Directors meeting last month, the topic came up of the desire to create a new logo. It had been the 1990s when it was last updated, and at that, it still had visual remnants of a decidedly 1970s feel. It was agreed a new logo should be developed, but it was also agreed that before going too far, a branding statement should be created to guide along the process more efficiently and result in a better outcome.

If you’re like many organizations, you might not have a branding statement. This isn’t to be confused with a mission statement (which can too often be filled with empty language that rings hollow to customers and staff).

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. A branding statement is often written by individuals to define and enhance their own careers. If that’s of interest to you, adapt these steps and you can be on your way to creating your personal branding statement.

Today we launch into steps you can take to freshen your organization’s brand and image. This first installment will lay out five research and brainstorming steps to distill your image down to a single word. My next blog post, published in a couple of weeks, will focus on how to succinctly state your logical and emotional promise, both of which must be formulated in order to create a hard-working branding statement for your organization.

  1. Audience Research:
    Are you confident you accurately know the demographics, psychographics, and purchase behavior of your audience? If you’ve recently profiled or modeled your customers, then you probably have a good grasp of who they are. But if it’s been a year or longer, a profile is affordable and will yield a tremendous wealth of information about your customers. Demographics (age, income, education, etc.) are a good foundation. Knowing psychographics (personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles) takes you further. And knowing categories of purchase behavior enables you to drill down even further.
  2. Competitive Analysis:
    You can’t completely construct your own brand identity without understanding how your competitors position themselves. A competitive analysis can be conducted along two lines of inquiry: offline, such as direct mail and other print materials, along with what you can learn online. If you have print samples, you can discern much about a competitor’s marketing message. But you may not be able to pin down demographics, psychographics, and purchase behavior by looking at a direct mail package. There are a number of tools you can use online to deliver insights about your competition. Here are a few:
    • Compete.com offers detailed traffic data so you can compare your site to other sites. You can also get keyword data, demographics, and more.
    • Alexa.com provides SEO audits, engagement, reputation metrics, demographics, and more.
    • Quantcast.com enables you to compare the demographics of who comes to your site versus your competitors. You’ll be shown an index of how a website performs compared to the internet average. You’ll get statistics on attributes such as age, presence of children, income, education, and ethnicity.
  3. Interpretation and Insight:
    Now that you’ve conducted research, you’re positioned to interpret the data to create your own insights. This is where creativity needs to kick in and where you need to consider the type of individual who will embrace and advocate for your organization. You may want to involve a few people from your team in brainstorming, or perhaps you’ll want to bring in someone from outside your organization who can objectively look at your data. What’s key is that you peer below the surface of the numbers and reports. Transform facts into insights through interpretation. Use comparison charts and create personas. Then create statements describing who your best customers are.
  4. One-Word Description:
    Now the challenging work begins. Distill your interpretation and insight into one word that personifies your organization. Then think deeply about that word. Does it capture the essence of who you are (or want to become) and what your customer desires? For example, a technology company might use a word like “innovative,” “cutting-edge,” or “intuitive.” Car manufacturers might use a one-word description like “sleek,” “utilitarian,” or “safe” to describe their brand and what they want their customers to feel when they hear a brand’s name. You might think that by only allowing one word, you are short-changing everything about your organization’s image. It won’t. Finding the one word that describes your organization’s image will force you to focus.
  5. Reality Check:
    So now you’ve identified a word to describe your organization’s brand and image that resonates with both your team and your customers. It’s time for a reality check. Can your organization or product actually support that word? Or if it’s aspirational—that is, a word that you’d like your image to reflect in the future—is it achievable? And if it’s aspirational, what plans are in place to take it to reality?

My next blog will extend the important foundational work you’ve done working through these five steps. It will discuss how to look at your brand as it appeals to both logic and emotion, as well as credibility, uniqueness, and ultimately an example branding statement that you can use with your team. Watch for it in two weeks.

As always, your comments, questions, and challenges are welcome.

Email Segementation: Make Your List More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Segmentation is also one of the most powerful and often under-utilized features of email automation applications. Though automation makes the process simpler, many marketers are put off by overhead in the form of upfront work required to develop and deploy rules and testing scenarios that result in more effective targeting and conversion. Should they bother?

Segmentation is the process of grouping names within your list into like interests, position in the buying cycle, demographics or other criteria relevant to your business.

Segmentation is also one of the most powerful and often under-utilized features of email automation applications. Though automation makes the process simpler, many marketers are put off by overhead in the form of upfront work required to develop and deploy rules and testing scenarios that result in more effective targeting and conversion. Should they bother?

Simply put: The answer is a resounding yes.

Using forms and engagement tracking, marketers can collect more information than ever before, and advanced data collection—progressive profiling—lowers form abandonment while acquiring new data through the querying of only data that has not yet been collected. When forms alone are not enough, email messages can be designed to A/B or multivariate test whole groups in order to garner specificity that leads to segmentation.

Segmenting lists using all of this type of data means you can selectively choose your most active (or profitable) groups, deselect the inactive, and develop campaigns designed to specifically reengage those who still hold promise. Data combined with automation means we benefit from better conversions and our prospects and leads benefit from messages in which they are truly interested. Targeted emails translate to better ROI in virtually every study.

Not only does segmentation make money through higher conversions, it saves money, too. When audiences are not separated into segments and are sent generic messages, open rates are lower. According to a study from MarketingSherpa, segmented emails get 50 percent more clicks than their untargeted counterparts.

Despite all the benefits of segmentation, not all marketers are onboard. For instance, Experian found that even though targeted email campaigns have a 40 percent higher open rate, 80 percent of marketers email the same content to an entire group.

Are businesses and marketers overcomplicating the process? Segmentation can be as simple or as complex as fits your needs, but customizing the process and making it unique to your business can give you the edge over competitors.

6 Steps to Segmentation

  1. Set a quantifiable and measurable goal for your campaign.
  2. Ensure your list contains enough names that it will still result in meaningful data, even after segmentation.
  3. Create segments using any data important to your business, such as: behavior, demographics, position in the sales funnel, and so on.
  4. Identify the most valuable segments—those that present the greatest opportunities.
  5. Create targeted messaging specifically designed to engage each segment.
  6. Track and measure results.
  7. When you treat new and current subscribers in the same manner and send them the same messages, you are missing one of the most important ways to nurture your lead to purchase. Segmentation can be as simple as dividing your list into new and current leads, but other ideas include:
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Presence of children
  • Owner vs. renter
  • Length of residence
  • Lifestyle segmentation
  • Past purchase
  • Last visit to website
  • Pages visited at website
  • Resources downloaded

Explicit data are demographics such as company size, industry segment, job title and geographic location.

Implicit data are the recipient’s actions or interactions, such as those who open, click, download a resource, watch a video, visit your website, share your content, and so on.

For some businesses, even though they have a large list, the list does not contain enough data to enable meaningful segments—but all is not lost. Many companies provide list-append services that allow you to add data to your current list by matching on a unique bit of data you do have, such as the email address.

Another segmentation idea is to identify those within your list who are returning customers and those with the highest value order. These two groups are generally the most valuable to your company and therefore warrant especially targeted messaging and hand-holding.

Segments can even be divided further into sub-segments, and those sub-segments divided again, and so on. However, creating relevant content for each segment is not without effort, so it’s best to not subdivide your list to the point where there are not enough names in the sub-segment to justify the work required.

With segmentation; you can greatly improve message relevance; set up better A/B and multivariate testing; target your audience with subject lines, designs, and images that resonate with the individual; and acquire higher click-thru and sales rates.

YouTube Analytics for Direct Marketers

For direct marketers, YouTube analytics is a treasure-trove of data about video marketing measurement and performance. By interpreting “Views Reports,” you can produce stronger direct response-oriented videos using demographics, playback locations, traffic sources and audience retention. Translate the description of the metrics into direct marketing language, and you’ll gain a new perspective of the power of online video marketing.

For direct marketers, YouTube analytics is a treasure-trove of data about video marketing measurement and performance. By interpreting “Views Reports,” you can produce stronger direct response-oriented videos using demographics, playback locations, traffic sources and audience retention. Translate the description of the metrics into direct marketing language, and you’ll gain a new perspective of the power of online video marketing.

For example, views can be thought of as impressions or leads. Look at views by day of the week like you might think of seasonality in direct mail terms. The demographics from YouTube reporting reveals gender and ages of your viewers—something you would want to understand before choosing a direct mail list.

Playback locations, including where a video is embedded (your own website or other locations), tells you where your direct marketing campaign could yield the best result. Knowing if mobile viewing is high or growing is vital. And knowing audience retention is akin to knowing if your outer envelope was opened, and how much of the letter, brochure, lift note and order form were read.

In this video, we take you on the tour of View Reports on YouTube analytics, and show you examples from our own videos so you can see these reports firsthand.


(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

Finally, a request: in our next series of videos we will be dissecting the “YouTube Creator Playbook” and interpreting it for direct marketers. There is a tremendous amount of information to cover. Please tell us in your comments below, or send an email to me, with your preference of video delivery. Tell us if you prefer….

1. Longer “deep dive” videos that are several minutes long and cover the material in a three-part series?

Or…

2. Shorter videos that are only a few minutes long, but cover the material in smaller parts over several weeks?

We’ve also considered producing a set of videos that would take you deeper within the “YouTube Creator Playbook” and YouTube analytics to show you how those numbers can be used by direct marketers. If you would be interested in subscribing to an educational program like this, please use the email link on this page, or comment below, to let us know your thoughts.