Understanding the Differences Between Compiled
and Response Mailing Lists
Successful mailings begin with a good list. Mail
campaigns may either succeed or fail for many different reasons,
but most often it is because of the list or the offer. Generally,
in terms of the success of a direct mail program the equation is
as follows:40% list, 40% offer, 20% mail piece. Without an accurate,
targeted list, the mailing will more often than not fail. So, where
do you begin in the quest for a good list?
Let's start with the basics; there are essentially two types of
Compiled Files: Compiled files are large databases that have been
gathered or "compiled" from phone books, credit files,
and various public record sources such as the county tax assessor
Response or Managed Files: Response lists are comprised of people
who have purchased or inquired about a particular product or service.
Typical response list sources are magazines, membership clubs,
catalogs, warranty cards, etc.
Compiled lists are excellent list to use for mass marketing, particularly
on a limited budget. Technology and the widespread availability
of additional data have allowed these files to be enhanced with
demographic information which allows accurate targeting of specific
individuals and households.
However, a compiled list will not work for every product or service
being marketed. In general, compiled lists work best when a marketer:
- Has a limited marketing geography (roughly, anything less than
a full county).
- Wants to reach all households or businesses in an area.
- Wants to reach all households or businesses that fit certain
demographic or firmographic criteria.
- Is on a limited budget.
- Wants to mail fewer than 5,000 pieces.
- Want to make telemarketing follow-up calls before or after
If you don't fall within one of the above examples, you may experience
better results from a response list.
The first thing you may notice about response lists is that you recognize the
Do you want to target music lovers? Rolling Stone makes its subscriber
list available, as does Colombia House and BMG. Or, perhaps you're
looking to reach Golfers. How about Golf Digest's list or people
who have purchased from Golfsmith?
When first dealing with response lists, many people are victims
of "sticker shock." Yes, response lists are more expensive,
but they are also more targeted. Particularly if your product has
a relatively high price point, using a targeted response list of
people who have purchased goods or requested information on a similar
or complimentary product will produce the best results. Although
the list expenditure is greater, the ultimate ROI will usually
also be greater.
Almost every single managed list will require a sample mail piece
for approval. Turnaround time is much longer with a managed list
(at least 3-5 business days versus 1 day for compiled). List hygiene
is not always a priority for the response list owner, so it is
best to ask when the list was last updated.
There are over 30,000 lists available in the United States alone.
The first step to identifying the list that is right for you is
to find a qualified mailing list supplier to help guide you through
the myriad choices that are available.