List Purchasing and Management Basics


Prospect list rental is one of the many tools in the distributed marketing tool shed.  Helping network partners communicate their offer or message to the right audience is the most important part of Direct Marketing and why the list is a vital component to a successful campaign.

There are two major types of Direct Marketing lists: 

Compiled List – With a compiled list information is taken from directories, magazine subscriptions, phone books, and motor vehicle records, etc. The most common of these is a geographic list; all the residents within a 5 mile radius of your office for example. Compiled lists also offer demographic variables such as age, income, and sex, which allow marketers to better segment and reach those that are inline with their existing customer base.  Although compiled lists are very general, they are very inexpensive.

Direct Response List – These are lists of people who have bought or responded to direct marketing. In some cases it will make more sense for you to buy a direct response list as the people on this list have bought something from direct response methods (mail, print ads, and infomercials). This list type generally yields higher response rates, but of course the cost to rent this list type is significantly higher than renting a compiled list.

List Hygiene

Direct Marketing best practices dictate that you find out how current the list is and when it was last scrubbed. Reputable list sources keep their list rental databases clean and check them against the National Change of Address service. This basic list scrub checks the Postal Service’s list of forwarding orders to ensure that the most current information is available. Despite all of the best data hygiene practices, no one is legally obligated to report a change of address to the United States Postal Service, despite that, industry standard for list deliverability ranges from 90 – 95 percent.

List Testing

You ought to test the list while maintaining a statistically valid test, of course.  In general, a 5,000 name test is usually adequate. Because a list is not a true random sampling, attempt a systematic sample to see how well the list performs. Track frequency of purchase, collections, conversions, and renewals and track the performance by each list. It should go without saying, but just in case remember to match your list to your offer – sell to the people who want to buy. Identify the problem you can solve, and mail only to those who need that benefit.


About the Author

Request a Demo ›

Or call a SproutLoud Expert for more information at