?2004 Jeffrey Dobkin
There are two types of lists, determined by their origin: compiled lists
and response lists.
Compiled lists are a common source of names and records that have
been gathered, collected, and entered into a database. The names may
have been acquired through public records such as vehicle owner
registrations or high school teachers. Directories, such as a directory of
plant maintenance engineers, are usually compiled lists. Many lists are
compiled from categories in phone books across the U.S. Examples
would be all the photography shops or all the luggage dealers in the
United States. Or all the plumbing supply dealers.
Keep in mind that compiled information - like fish - gets old rather
quickly and doesn't age particularly well.
Response lists are data from people who have responded to an ad or
who have purchased from a catalog, direct mail package, TV ad,or other
With any mailing you are considering, first ask precisely what groups or
what characteristics make up the perfect audience. Then try to find a list
that matches these definable characteristics closely.
Good delivery percentages of your mailing piece to a specific audience
can usually be found in lists of magazine subscribers. These lists are
usually very targeted to their audience, and good because most
publishers are extremely prompt with their name and address
corrections. Call a magazine publisher and ask if their subscriber list is
for sale, then ask for the name of their list broker.
There are over 10,000 magazines published so you can probably get a
magazine subscription list that goes straight to your perfectly targeted
buyers. If you're not sure what magazines would be best, there are
some easy-to-use periodical directories found in most reference
libraries. The best directories of magazines are Burrelle's Directory of
Magazines (800-USMEDIA), Bacons (800-621-0561), SRDS (800-851-
SRDS), and Oxbridge Communications Standard Periodical Directory
(800-955-0231). If you can't find the exact targeted magazine filled with
the eager-to-buy-your-product subscribers you are looking for in any of
these directories, the publication doesn't exist. You can find any
industry - and all the magazines that are sent to that industry - in under
10 minutes in these useful directories.
Catalog houses earn a good portion of their revenue from the sale of
their lists. Call the catalog and ask for their business office, then ask
who handles their list sales. Almost all catalog houses sell their lists.
Catalog houses can be found in the Catalog of Catalogs from Woodbine
House Publications (www.woodbinehouse.com; 800-843-7323; $28.95
PPD), and The Directory of Mail Order Catalogs from Grey House
Publishing (www.greyhouse.com; 800-562-2139; $250).
Trade associations are usually an excellent source of mailing lists.
Better associations always list the industry's major players. Local
associations like the Chamber of Commerce in your area are usually
good for local business names. You can select by business size,
number of employees, SIC code (the government's industry
classification of each business), or any of a multitude of other selection
parameters. Two great sources for finding associations are reference
books from Columbia Books, Inc. (888-265-0600;
www.columbiabooks.com) publishers of the State and Regional
Associations Directory ($79) and The National Trade and Professional
Associations of the United States ($99). Mailing lists of the associations
are $100/M and are available on labels or disk.
Association lists and data are also available in the Encyclopedia of
Associations by The Gale Group (800-877-GALE) on disk, CD, and on-
line through Lexis-Nexis. This hardbound, three-volume set ($505) is
the motherload of associations - showing detailed information on more
than 23,000 local, state, national, and international associations.
Trade show lists are also great marketing tools - lists of both attendees
and of exhibitors. Check out two great websites: www.tscentral.com and
www.tradeshowweek.com for trade show information. The Tradeshow
Week Data Book (213-965-5300; $355) is a great tool published by the
editors of Tradeshow Week Magazine. Another great trade show
directory is the TradeShows and Exhibits Schedule from Bill
Communications (800-266-4712, 856-619-5800) - organized by
industry, by location, by date, and in alphabetical order for fast look-ups.
Two excellent resources for investigating lists at the library are the
SRDS Direct Marketing List Source? (800-851-SRDS) and the
Oxbridge Communications National Directory of Mailing Lists (800-955-
0231). We use both in our own office - they're thorough and
exceptionally easy to use. These reference tools are each about the
size of the Manhattan phone book and contain nothing but list data: who
owns what list, number of records in each, source of names and, list
pricing. Both tools are available in major libraries.
List brokers are found in the phone book in every major city. They can
be heaven, supplying incredible information, or hell, looking for that fast
buck. Make sure you ask tons of questions before handing over any
money. While you pay the broker, he actually works for the list owner -
so take that into consideration when you ask questions and negotiate
A plethora of list managers of mailing lists can be found in the direct
mail trade magazines such as Catalog Age & Direct Magazines: 203/
358-9900, Target Marketing: 215/238-5300, Direct Marketing: 516/746-
6700, and DM News: 212/741-2095.
Some list brokers sell through their own catalog of mailing lists. These
handy reference tools will give you an idea of just what's out there -
what kind of lists are available and counts of how many records exist in
the thousands of different list categories. Want to know how many
dentists there are? It's a piece of cake: 190,168 are members of the
ADA. Want to know if there is a list of picky ale drinkers? Find the list of
"Ale in the Mail-Continuity Members:" 70,973 of them. Selling an
accounting product? Try the list of Accounting Institute Seminar
Attendees - all 78,634 of them. Looking for college professors? Did you
want the 43,347 who teach English, or the 18,184 who teach history, or
the 8,477 in marketing, or the 9,194 philosophy teachers, or the?
If you need additional information - like how many doctors who
specialize in allergies and are the head of their practice with four or
more employees can be found in Pennsylvania - call any of these
catalog houses and ask them to run a count. You'll be able to get that
information in about ten minutes. Hugo Dunhill: 800/223-6454,
American Business Lists: 800/555-5335, Best Mailing Lists: 800/692-
2378, CompilersPlus: 800/431-2914, and Edith Roman: 800/223-2194
to name just a few. More phone numbers can be found in my books
Uncommon Marketing Techniques and How To Market A Product For
Several companies now offer lists of every business or every person in
the U.S. on CD-ROM. These products allow you to create your own list
criteria and generate your own precisely targeted mailing lists. Some of
the better programs make it easy and fast to use their CD-ROM
products. Mailing list CDs are available from InfoUSA: 800/321-0869,
and Global Business International: 407/568-5037 to name but two.
One of the best resources for lists is the Internet. There's no getting
around it now, the Internet is here to stay - you might as well get on
and get used to it. It's a great - probably the best - research tool
available for almost anything, if you can filter out the crap from the good
stuff. But? isn't that the way with all research tools: you gotta figure out
which is the good stuff that you can use, and which is the bad stuff that
you've just spent the last two hours looking over and have now figured
out is pretty worthless.
You'd be surprised how many of your competitors will sell your their
customers' names. If not competitors, how about asking other
businesses who serve your market if you can purchase their mailing
Of course, the best list of all - bar none - is your own house list of current
and past customers. These are the folks that know you and trust you;
they've experienced that great customer service you offer and are now
willing to buy something else from you if you would only let them know
Spend some extra time in this most important area - list research:
tighten your list criteria, do your homework, spend time in research, and
find the best lists you can possibly find. Then test several. It's worth the
extra time and money to target your audience with precision and
increase the chance you'll come up a winner at the post office. There is
no single more important factor in creating a greater response to a
mailing than mailing to the best possible list. Whatever you do, don't
settle for a mediocre list unless you want mediocre results.
Jeffrey Dobkin, author of the incredible 400-page marketing manual
How To Market a Product for Under $500. To place an order, or to speak
with Mr. Dobkin call 610/642-1000. Fax 610/642-6832. From The
Danielle Adams Publishing Company, Box 100, Merion Station, PA
19066. Or visit him at www.dobkin.com. Satisfaction Guaranteed.