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Find the Perfect List

Aug 27, 2008
Most of my professional experience has been in conducting direct mail campaigns, many of which were of the multi-million-piece variety. Here is my take on how the file has evolved and how new, more useful and effective methods have evolved, paralleling the development of surprising new resources.

In contrast with previous huge-quantity mailing, today's marketing strategy calls for smaller "micro-mailings" as the most effective approach. Presented here are details about steps you might want to take following the current methods for creating, segmenting, profiling and producing test lists. This approach is vastly different from the procedures that training used to prescribe - but field experience always differs from static classroom rules to some degree, doesn't it?

Methods are constantly changing and a classroom presentation is always at least a little behind the latest developments based on real-world conditions.

For example, in the past, professionals who ran large direct marketing campaigns for Fortune 100 companies added millions of names every quarter to an in-house database. They applied the newest profiling methods. They sliced and diced their already "high-responder" segments to achieve THE PERFECT LIST!

Targeted Networking Comes of Age

What smart marketers do now - and what you probably should do, dealing with the same kind of campaign - has little similarity to this older, more systematic, routine approach. Often the challenge is to run a boutique-type consulting firm, using telemarketing methods to generate B2B meetings for very small clients. If your business presents this kind of marketing challenge, you can use a similar approach effectively. A good name for this approach might be "Targeted Networking".

In this kind of business, the goal is to link professional service clients in cooperative groups with others who serve the same market. Campaign respondents meet with clients in related businesses, and together they create relationships. These associations then blossom into lifelong referral partnerships, thereby creating new revenue streams for clients.

Using this method of list creation results in lists comprising as few as 25 to 100 records, unlike the huge lists created in the older marketing milieu. However, when you create these "small" lists, you will be mail-targeting industries carefully for their relatedness, giving THE PERFECT LIST a new meaning. Compact dynamic enterprises can not afford to waste money on non-responsive mailings.

Using this approach, you still must produce great copy and produce extremely professional packages. But, don't test creative presentations or special offers - rely on THE PERFECT LIST. Use the Internet to research each mailing file to make sure each list entry passes the criteria making it a legitimate choice. Manually research each mailing file before proceeding, assuring that all relevant, special criteria is kept in mind. Analyze candidate entries by mining data from on-line directories, Web sites, physical or online phone books, local library resources (right on company computers,) or hardbound lawyers' guides, to name a few. When no public data is available, do a little creative detective wok to find ways to obtain industry-specific data from friends who are willing to lend lists that are allowed to be mailed. Compare and combine your research across multiple sources, and then contact organizations directly by phoning to learn an individual's name for addressing purposes. No two lists will look the same.

It is necessary for you to go through all this trouble because no ready-made resources are as suitable or useful as the specifically targeted and accurate ones you will create. When you stumble across a great list online, it's usually outdated -- which, of course, can happen the day after the list is posted. So, in using available material like this, confirming mailing names by phone is a necessity.

Micromarketing List Generation Micromarketing list generation is data mining at its purest. Although it may seem an unusual method to build micro-lists, the largest list vendors and direct mail ships build their own lists this way. They purchase parts of lists from various sources and combine them - not manually, of course - to result in a composite record that contains all the relevant data ready for profiling and segmentation.

Your profiling must be a bit more hands-on. Base it on your client's historical success. Consider relevant questions. What size firm, industry and geographic area typically wants to meet with him or her? What is the title of the individual who is generally the best referral partner? With these questions answered, replicate this profile, and use it to create a list of other professionals.

Technology: Helping the Little Guy, Too

This type of small-scale targeting is the example of how technology - especially in-house computing, the Internet and telephone communications - has made it possible to alter the way businesses can mine data and compile lists. It has made data mining more effective for specialized applications. Since creating even small lists manually is time-consuming and expensive, we could not economically perform these kinds of services twenty years ago. Using this approach you, and even the smallest of clients, can use direct marketing successfully.

The list in this new, carefully crafted form - formerly just one element in the entire direct marketing mix - is now the core of modern success.
About the Author
Visit Terry's site for information on outbound telemarketing and telemarketing programs.
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