Use this guide for ways of building and maintaining a mailing list and to find out how to encourage people to read what you send them rather than throwing it in the recycling.
1. Build up your mailing list from all past, present and potential customers. You can get names from personal contacts, through existing customers, following up requests for information, from exhibitions and so on.
2. Add to your mailing list by checking trade directories, members of trade associations, in fact, any likely place for finding potential members of your target market.
3. Consider renting or exchanging mailing lists with other organizations. If you can buy a list it means you can use it as often as you like, but few organizations sell them. If you are going to rent or exchange, the other organization may insist on using a specialist mailing service, so you cannot copy the list. The organization may also want to see what you are going to send out, so that they can approve what is going to their customers. If necessary ask a list broker to help find suitable lists for a fee. Always test a list first. If the test works, on the second occasion you use the list, don’t use more than three times the size of the initial test.
4. Weed out all ‘gone aways’, ‘cannot be founds’ and ‘died’ from your mailing list. To achieve this you need to keep working on your mailing list on a regular basis and feeding in any information which comes in. But keep a separate note of old sales leads in case they resurface.
5. Find out the name of the most suitable individual to receive your message. If you are sending to businesses, do not simply send to a company or to a position, for example, the chief accountant. Finding out names may mean telephoning the company first.
6. Always include a letter addressed to the individual and, if possible, signed personally by yourself or someone in your business, not pp’d (that is, signed by someone else on your behalf).
7. Remember what image you are trying to build. Choose good quality literature, paper and envelopes.
8. Look carefully at what you are sending. If it is a letter, do not make it too long; probably one or two pages is the maximum. Nor should it be too cluttered with jargon. Try to grab your reader’s attention in the opening sentence or headline. Make sure that the letter ties up with any other material, such as leaflets, catalogues.
9. Consider how you can increase the response. Would reply cards or coupons be a good idea? Could you use Royal Mail* Freepost for replies? The charge for the standard handwritten Freepost service is 1⁄2p on top of normal postage for the replies you receive (unless barcoded), plus a yearly licence fee of £64.80 and deposit of £41.20. There are other Freepost options.
10. Test your mailer first, if you think it necessary. Learn from your mistakes and improve your full mail shot.
11. Work out the cost. Try to assess your likely response rate. Only one or two per cent is considered to be a good response. A poor mailing list could mean even fewer inquiries. Calculate the cost for each response by dividing total expenses by number of likely inquiries or follow-ups. Is this a cost-effective way of reaching potential customers?
12. Do not forget to find out about any cheap rates on offer to new businesses and for large postings from Royal Mail or other business delivery services.