W-a-y West of Jewfish Creek

Dear Friend and Subscriber

 If you learn how to use direct mail properly, the results can be so amazing, it may take your breath away!

 I'm not kidding. Here's an example: Once upon a time, I wrote a simple, one-page letter that sold "family name research reports" which told you about the history of your surname and some facts (including a drawing) of the earliest known coat-of-arms recorded with your surname. Now, would you care to guess how many cash-with-order customers I got from that one-page letter? It's really quite astonishing... because... I sold those little reports to...

7,300,000 Different People!

      All from a simple, one-page letter. Isn't that something? By the way, it took more than 40 people just to make the bank deposits because, often, we'd receive more than 20,000 checks in a single day.

      So, as you can see, if you use direct mail... and... do it right, it can really pay off!

      Now, as far as doing it right is concerned, the most important element of all is the mailing list. It doesn't matter how attractive your offer or how brilliant your sales letter if you mail to the wrong list, you're going to flop.

      What mailing lists should you use? Well, that depends on what kind of business you're in. If you've got a business like a restaurant, a hardware store or some other kind of retail establishment, your choices are pretty much obvious... because... what you need is simply the names and addresses of everyone who lives in your trading area. In other words, what you need is a "resident" list.

      A list like this is every easy to obtain. Actually, if you live in a fair-sized city, it may very well be as easy as looking under "Mailing Lists" in the yellow pages of your telephone book. Here in Los Angeles, for example, there are 31 entries under mailing lists in the Pacific Bell Business-to-Business yellow pages. One of these companies is called "Mailing Lists of Southern California" and their number is (800) 352-7450 and they have the name and address of almost everyone who lives in southern California and you can order them by Zip code.

      You can also specify if you want homeowners only or apartment dwellers only. You can get the names of all the chiropractors, all the nurses, the real estate brokers, tax preparers, optometrists and many other types of occupations. You can also order all the boat owners, business owners (by category) and almost any other selection your little heart desires.

      Here's an example of how you can use these mailing lists. Let's suppose you own a restaurant. Well, what you could do is order all the names and addresses of all the 6,486 dentists in southern California and send them a letter like this:

Dear Friend,

      I am writing this letter to you because you are dentist.

      My name is John Jones and I own "John's Restaurant" here in Anytown, and I have decided that every day next month, I am going to serve free wine with every meal to every dentist who comes in for dinner. Want to know why? It's a very unusual reason and, if you'll ask me about it, I'll tell you when you drop in.


      John Jones

      Now, why are you offering a "dentist's special" for your restaurant? I don't know. Maybe because your daughter married a dentist and she didn't end up marrying that Padagonian pygmy you were worried about. Maybe because a dentist did something to save you from periodontal disease. And, if this approach works, why not have a special for insurance agents, or accountants, or architects, and so on?

      This is an example of "customizing" your advertising to a specific group. You can also customize it by geographic area, by boat owners or what have you.

      Now, listen: If there aren't any companies under "Mailing Lists" in your phone book, all is not lost. You see, there are two big national companies who also have the name and address of nearly everyone in your geographic area. So, if you don't luck out with a local company, you should call either R. L. Polk & Company at (404) 447-1280 or Donnelly List Marketing at (203) 353-7385.

      By the way, these last two companies can also select by make, year and model of car. Do you know what that means? Just this: It means you can also have a "Ferrari Special", a "Chevy Special", a "Ford Special" and so on.

      O.K., what we've been talking about so far are compiled lists. Another type of list is known as a "buyers list." This type of list is usually much more responsive but, often, it is not regional in nature. A "buyer" list, for example, might contain all the names of the several million people who bought a certain diet product in the last few years. Or, it could be a list of people who have bought books by mail, tools by mail, etc.

      There are two primary sources that have info on these types of lists. The first is the Standard Rate & Data (SRDS) List Book. This is a huge book containing a description of literally thousands of different mailing lists. Your library should have it (ask for SRDS Direct Mail Lists Rates and Data) and, if they don't, you can call SRDS direct at (312) 256-6067.

      By the way, I strongly suggest you get a copy of this publication (it's being updated all the time) and spend about 20 hours just reading all the various listings.

      Believe me, it will really open your eyes!

      The other source for those names, is your handy, dandy list broker. A list broker works very much like a real estate broker except his product is names and addresses rather than homes. Once again, your phone book is the first place you should check to find a list broker in your city. If there aren't any in your local area, I suggest you go to your library and see if they have, as many libraries do, the phone books from major cities all over the country. If they do, then simply check under "Mailing List Brokers" in the yellow pages of the phone book of the largest city near you.

      And, just for instance, I'm going to give you here the names and phone numbers of five list brokers in different parts of the U.S. Here they are:

      1. Los Angeles - Thulin Communications, Inc.
         Jim Thulin at (213) 930-1919

      2. New York - The Specialist
         Shelly Newman at 212 677-6760

      3. Chicago - Aggressive List Management, Inc.
         (312) 577-4455

      4. Oklahoma - Direct Media, Inc.
         (405) 348-8650

      5. Ohio - Professional List Service
         (216) 333-6070

      Now, once you decide which lists you want to mail, you should also give some consideration as to how you are going to eliminate "deadwood" names which probably will never become one of your customers. Some of the ways you do this are very simple and only require a little common sense. If, for example, you are selling something that only appeals to women, you instruct the list broker or list owner to simply eliminate all men from the list.

      However, it's not always that simple. Suppose, for example, you are selling an upscale product with a big price tag... and... you know lower income people are not good prospects for you. Well, what you need to know here is some of the bigger list companies like Donnelly & Polk use what is known as a "demographic overlay." What this means is each name on their files is "coded" with info about the aggregate value of the vehicles they own, their education and income level, their marital status and a dozen or so more "life-style indicators" which enables you to select only those people who are most likely to purchase your goods or services.

      Another way you can choose people is by ethnic groups such as Italians, Germans, etc. And if, for example, you are publishing a magazine like Ebony that is written for a Black audience, you can ask for only those people who live in Zip codes with predominately Black households.

      On the other hand, you can also eliminate Black households from your mailings if you are selling something which only appeals to Caucasians.

      So, no matter what mailing list you decide to use, be sure and discuss the "selects" available with your list broker or whatever mailing house you are using.

      In conclusion, I'd like to say the main things you should do, as a result of reading this Section are:

      1. Browse through the SRDS List Book for several hours at least. It will really open your eyes... and... give you hundreds of ideas!

      2. Call at least one of the list brokers or mailing houses mentioned in this Section and ask for their advice!

      3. Put on your "thinking cap" and think of some fresh new ways to "customize" your mailings!

And finally... good luck!

   Gary C. Halbert

Copyright © 2002 Gary C. Halbert.  All Rights Reserved.