Don’t Worry About Theft
At least once a week somebody says to me, “I’d be afraid to rent my mailing list-somebody might steal it.”
There are two fallacies to that statement. First, not many people will think your list is as valuable as you do. Secondly, there are very easy ways to prevent your list from being misused. In over 4000 mailing list rentals, I never once saw the misuse of a mailing list. It just doesn’t happen. The few cases I’ve heard of were the results of naivete or ignorance of people new to the business.
Renting Your List
When you rent your mailing list to others, it can be a large source of income. We know of mail order companies who make their entire profit from the rental of their mailing list, not from the merchandise they sell. It’s not uncommon to make over $100,000 a year from a mailing list. There are some 30,000 mailing lists on the market, and the right list, working for the right person, can be a well-worth-it expense. So, seriously consider renting your mailing list.
If it’s a small list, under 25,000 or 50,000 names, there are probably not very many people who will be interested in it. When you get over 100,000 names, your list becomes meaningful and can be marketed successfully.
If you want to make sure your list isn’t misused, you should do what most mailers do. They put special names and addresses in their file, maybe their own name slightly misspelled, with a different first name. These are called “dummy” names. Doing this is called “salting the list.” When the firm renting your list receives it, they have no way to know which names are dummy names. They usually mail the whole list, so your dummy gets mailed. When you receive your dummy names back, you compare it against your order and see if anybody has used your list without authorization. It’s kind of like balancing your checkbook every month. It’s rare that the hank makes a mistake, but it’s something you do anyway.
Trading names is becoming more popular with people who mail. It works like this. You give me 20,000 of your names and I’ll give you 20,000 of mine. This eliminates the cost of renting a mailing list-a cost that usually runs between $30 and $50 per thousand names rented.
When not to rent your list: There are certain times when it’s probably not to your advantage to rent your mailing list. One is a situation where you’re not comfortable with the ethics of the offer going out using your list. If you have the slightest doubt in this area, do not rent your names. Remember, you have the right to review all mailing packages before you authorize your list to be used. Be sure the mailing package you review is the one that is going to be used with your names.
It’s probably wise not to trade names or to rent your names to direct competitors-people who are in the same exact business you are. Notice I said same exact business. It’s quite acceptable, if you’re in a category selling high end merchandise, to rent your names to somebody who’s selling low end merchandise of the same kind. If you do decide to rent to your competitors, be sure that they don’t mail ahead of or at the same time you do. Get your mailing out before you permit them to mail your names- so their prospect and your customer has your mailing first.
What about invasion of privacy? You’ve heard a lot of talk about people being upset about their name being on a mailing list. It’s a small but vocal minority. The Direct Mail Marketing Association continues to offer, through ads in various magazines, the opportunity for the public to have their names either taken off of mailing lists or added on. The readership of these ads exceeds many millions. The result: The number of people who want their names added to mailing lists is over twice as large as those who want their names taken off! Less than 1/10 of 1% want their names taken off of mailing lists.
If you are a mailer and you do rent your list, be sure to put a disclaimer in your mailing catalog or mailing package stating that names are rented to a select number of firms. If you write the Direct Mail Marketing Association, 6 East 43rd Street, New York, New York, 10017, they will send you samples of ways to state this disclaimer unobtrusively. It can be a sentence as simple as: “From time to time, we offer merchandise and services from others. If you do not wish to receive such mailings from others, please send us your name and address.”
The Presidential Commission on Privacy has reviewed the direct mail list industry very carefully. They came to the conclusion that there was no harm done by the rental of mailing lists to others. They did suggest, however, that people should have the right to have their name removed, if they so desire.
Income from mailing list rentals is bottom line money. Are you getting yours?