The Mail Order Characteristic
Some people absolutely refuse to read junk mail. Others read it for fun but never respond. Others will respond to some types of offers, but not other types. There is an increasing number that will respond if the offer is interesting. With them, the fact that it came by mail is no hurdle.
People who respond to something by mail are more apt to respond to something else by mail. These people are called mail order responders. They are the customers of someone who sells by mail. There is a better chance they will respond to you than non-mail order respondents. In fact, it often happens that the fact they respond to mail is a more important selection criteria than any other factor.
The problem is that there are not enough of them when you overlay other requirements, such as: age, have children, are in a certain business classification, or give to charity. So you have to look carefully at other criteria.
A big source for names is the subscriber lists of most magazines. Large quantities of such lists are often found. They relate to what you are selling because they read Money, House & Garden, Popular Mechanics, Architectural Digest, Iron Age, or Advertising Age. The list is endless because most magazines rent out their subscriber lists.
By and large, they don’t work as well as mail responders because a magazine subscription does not reveal mail buying habits.
Some magazines segment their list so you can rent only the subscribers who responded to a mail subscription offer from that publication. That means you don’t have to rent and mail those people who received the magazine as a gift, or who subscribed from a reply card within the magazine.
Following the pattern we have discussed, the mail subscribers seem to always pull better than the non-mail subscribers.
But even the mail subscribers don’t respond as well as most response lists (mail order buyers of products and services, not magazine subscribers) because about the only way to subscribe to a magazine is from a mail offer.
The big size lists are the directory lists or demographic lists. The largest lists are all the households in the nation and most of the car owners (some states do not make car owner lists available). There are also lists by telephone number.
There are all kinds of specialty lists too. These would include lists of college students, high school students, teachers, names from social registers, alumni, political party members, airline passengers, warranty card replies, and many more.
These lists do not work as well as subscriber-by-mail lists, and definitely not as well as response lists. Again, the reason is that nothing is known about the mail order buying habits.
Unfortunately, there are few large response lists available for business that can be categorized to a business group. The reason for this is the fact that most of these lists are small and much of the business-to-business list business is offering information, rather than selling something.
It is just as true that these directory based lists don’t respond as well as response lists.
Notice that in this business list discussion I have left out subscription lists. The reason is that business lists are tricky in that many of them, especially those who offer lists, are controlled circulation publications. That means they are given away free to business people. Thus they cannot qualify as mail respondents because the response did not require payment.
Another reason magazines have been omitted is that the name of the person subscribing is often suspect because the renewal comes to the same name, even though the person who subscribed may be in another department of the organization.
The big business lists are based on a compilation of telephone Yellow Page listings or credit reports. They are successfully used because so much of the business mail is lead generating, rather than mail order.
Fund-raising list principles follow the same pattern. Donors to one cause are more likely to give to another cause. More specifically, contributors who responded to a mail solicitation will respond to someone else’s mail solicitation.
In fact, there is a good correlation of people who respond to a mail product offer, such as a catalog, also responding very well to fund-raising solicitations. Again, it comes down to the point that increasing response to mail means a better prospect.
How to Determine Better Mail Responders
Just how do you find those who respond to mail more often? These people appear on more mailing lists you can rent. By merging lists together, you find “hits,” which is when the same name is found on another list. These multiple responders are better prospects.
Another way to find better prospects is by mailing newer names. These newer names are called “hotline” names. Newer names respond better because they are less apt to have moved. A less tangible reason, and one that requires much further study, is that at certain times people are more apt to buy by mail than at other times. Such times are when they move, get married, have children, or go away to school.
Changing job’s is probably another factor, but this is hard to get data on. Changing jobs naturally relates to the moving factor too.
Another signal for better responders is how much they buy by mail. This monetary category applies to goods and services and fund-raising. The larger the purchase or donation, the better the prospect-not only that they may spend or donate more, but also that they tend to do it more often.
Frequency of purchase or donation is a similar positive factor. The more often you respond to a mail offer or solicitation, the better prospect you are.
I’ve said little about the obvious reason-buying something by mail that is similar to what you are offering is a big factor. It needs no explanation.
Remembering these principles will help you decide if your idea is good enough to be successful in mail order, because enough lists are available and give you a basis for better selection in the future.