How to buy a mailing list

How to buy a mailing list

Mailing List

The best mailing list is always the one that contains the most potential purchasers. Now, you can of course build your own lists – and in fact you should be doing that as a matter of course. But many smaller organisations simply won’t have collected enough inhouse names for most direct mail exercises. You’ll have to use someone else’s lists – which in practice means locating an appropriate list and then paying to use it.

How much is a mailing list?

Prices are generally quoted per thousand names, though a small list will have a

price for the whole thing. You don’t normally buy the list, you rent it; and the rental charges vary widely according to the list’s quality – how frequently it is updated, whether the names on it are proven purchasers, and so on. There’s often scope for negotiation, particularly when the list is very specific or very small (low hundreds or less) but typical rentals range between £80 and £300 per thousand names.

The other factor affecting price is just how you’re allowed to use the list. In some cases you’ll be restricted to a single use only; this might be enforced by denying you sight of the full information (you might just get name and company name, say) while the mailing is actually done on your behalf by the list broker or a third party like a specialist mailing house. In this case, if you intend to mail the names more than once there will usually be a discount for quantity.

On top of that you may find yourself paying for extras. So the typical bill could include four types of charge:

  • The basic list rental price.
  • An optional charge for selections from the list on the basis of geographic, demographic or other information, with a separate addon charge for each selection you request. (Sometimes selection on the basis of nth name – every nth name is selected, with no criteria used – is free.)
  • Your choice of output format – self-adhesive labels, say, or CD-ROM. Not all options will always be available; some lists consist of email addresses only, for instance, and with others you’ll pay extra to rent a list that has emails as well as landmail addresses (because effectively that means you can use the list more than once, in a paper mailshot as well as emailing).
  • Some kind of delivery charge, including Mailsort (where names for landmail are sorted into postcode sequence to qualify for the Royal Mail’s Mailsort discount).

Where do you find a list?

It’s easy enough to find generic list brokers on the web. In fact, you can do all the list identification and ordering online. The Direct Marketing Association at www. has a members’ directory, or just try your preferred search engine on ‘direct mail’ and ‘mailing lists’.

For the mobile business in particular, try Or check out “the UK’s premium list broking and list management website” at www.listbroker. com; this claims to offers instant access to 1.6bn consumer, business and email addresses with associated data for profiling.

For a more targeted approach, with qualified individual sales leads, go to www.

  1. Who is on the list? You obviously need the right target audience.
  2. Where did the list come from? Subscribers to a magazine count for more than casual respondents to a promotion, for instance. They’re putting their money where their interests lie rather than chancing their luck.
  3. How old is the list? Find out how often the list is updated and when that last happened. Be prepared to pay a premium for a bang up-to-date list.
  4. What information do you get? For a B2B mailing, for instance, you obviously need name and contact information; but you also require the name of the current network provider, the renewal date on the current contract, and ideally the number of handsets involved.
  5. Can you see a sample? This may be the most valuable way to see the relevance of the list for your purposes.
  6. Is the list clean of duplications and dead addresses? How frequently is it cleaned?
  7. Does it mix prospects and purchasers? If it’s a purchaseoriented list, does it contain actual purchasers or just everyone who responded? If it is a list of actual purchasers, how recently were the purchases made? Can you select by recency – for instance to get a hotname list of those who have made purchases within the last 60 days?
  8. How often has the list been rented? And as a supplementary, who has been using it? An active list might indicate one a good response, and big-name users will give it some credibility. But don’t go overboard: a heavily-used list could mean that the recipients are started to get fed up with similar DM offers.
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