Tips for Choosing a Direct Marketing Mailing List

What should you look for when choosing a list for your next direct marketing campaign? Follow the advice of direct marketing experts to ensure your list purchases end up being as effective and successful as possible.

Many say that choosing a list is the most important stage of running a direct marketing campaign. Decisions you make can have far reaching implications on conversion rates, wastage and profitability. Indeed experts advise that at least half of your direct marketing campaign planning time should be spent on sourcing a good quality and relevant list. But what questions should you ask in order to make sure you’ve chosen the right list for your mailing? Here’s some advice from direct marketing experts to help you choose your list:

List Targeting

How closely do the names on the list match your target market? If you haven’t already done so, you may need to do more research work to identify exactly who it is you should be targeting. Often you can gain a valuable insight by looking at the types of customers who already buy from you and who have responded to similar direct marketing promotions in the past.

List Source

Has it been compiled from other sources, or are the names on the list respondents from other direct mail campaigns? If the latter this may mean they are more disposed towards responding to your direct mail campaign as well.

List Age

When was the list built? If it is a new list has it been proven yet, or if it is an older list it will certainly require data cleansing before purchase.


There are now several suppression files against which mailing lists should be cleaned on a regular basis, and always before you purchase data from the list. These include the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), Mailing Preference Service (MPS) and bereavement and gone away registers.


What proportion of the known universe for your target market does the list cover? For example a b2b list may provide coverage of 75% of the UK’s accountants, whereas a b2c list may only reach 5% of a certain type of consumer. Does this rate of penetration match your own objectives for the mailing?

Selection Criteria

For most lists you can select data from the list based on a range of different selection criteria. For b2c lists selection criteria may include location, life stage, lifestyle, age or other demographics. For b2b lists selection criteria may include location, turnover, employees and industry type based on SIC. Specialist lists may offer specialist selection criteria. For example a list of mobile phone owners offers selection by phone network, and even the football team supported by the phone owner!

Single or Multiple Use

Most lists are available to purchase for a single one off mailing, in which case they are described as single use. The list will contain ‘sleepers’, or false names which lead back to the list owner, so that breaches in single use policy can be identified. In many cases the same list can be purchased for multiple usage for a higher price per thousand.

Usage Restrictions

Are there any usage restrictions relating to the list? Sometimes a list owner may request approval of your mailing before it is sent to ensure it does not compete with their business, and this is particularly common if you are purchasing a list for email marketing. In this case you may also be limited on the amount of times you can contact the list, even if you’ve purchased it for multiple use, to avoid saturation and spamming.


List prices are usually quoted as a price per thousand. Check exactly what this price includes as the price can sometimes go up if you require additional selections. The price per thousand names will also go up for multiple use. You should be highly suspicious of very low cost and high volume lists offered to you, sometimes on a single purchase CD. The data on such lists can be of varying quality and response rates very low.

List Output

Is the list data available in a format which you require? Most lists are available as a data file from which you can create your own mail merge, but for an extra cost you can also obtain lists on mailing labels.

Selectabase offers a range of marketing lists, from regular monthly supplies to custom targeted lists:

Prospect Download gives you easy access to both the UK business and consumer universe. Simply run your counts using our extensive targeting selections, buy online and download the data you need. Affordable prices with no minimum order quantity.

Or you might prefer to receive new data every month by subscribing to our update packages such as New B2B, Birthday Mailings or New Brides. Our unique packages are built specifically to help you create, fulfill and support a cohesive direct marketing campaign. They are fully customisable to help you find targeted customers.

For more information, visit our services section or call us on 01304 383838.