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The content on this page was provided by direct mail expert Jerry Mamola of Amity Relationship Marketing, Inc. You can find his website in the link section of this site.

Mailing Lists 101: What Every Media Buyer Needs to Know

There are two ways to rent a mailing list.  One way is to look for the most up-to-date, comprehensive, accurate and deliverable data source.  One single mailing list that can be used for all of your prospecting needs—and one mailing list which can be rented at the lowest possible cost.

The second way is harder, but usually much more rewarding.  This second method picks out the strongest portions of many different resources to create superior responders.  This way allows mailers to test segments and then understand exactly how each group of orders is created.  Done right, in this second method, mailers build on past success as they track new orders into the future. 

Each way has merit.  One way is easy.  One method is harder.  It all depends on your business and your objectives.

It’s easy to use compiled data.  There are several very deliverable, very accurate and fairly up-to-date resources available today.  Mailing these files works best when you need to saturate a market.

Here you can select home addresses based on your prospect’s occupation, their age, their income, and/or various other demographics.  Mailers can use these files to reach an audience in a group of zip codes, counties or other narrow geographies.

Likewise, business and association mailers can rent prospect lists that reach a market based on the types and the sizes of businesses; executives’ titles and by geographic selections.  

Today, reaching almost everyone in a specific zip code or in a specific industry is indeed quite easy.  These “easy” compiled lists can be very effective for many mailers.

BASIC Tip: Retailers and local charities can do well working with prospects based solely on demographics and geography.  B2B catalogs and association membership marketers can find success mailing vertical lists that are compiled from Yellow Page advertising, D&B financial reporting, and from government records.     

Advanced Insight:  More often; mailers can find many segments of lists that pull MUCH better than these compiled sources alone.    Although it is easy to rent prospects; better options follow when mailers need to find buyers.

To be certain, it IS more difficult to buy the mailing lists of other businesses’ customers, but in almost every case, this effort is well spent.

Response mailing lists include people who are pre-disposed to buying direct response offers.  Today, mailers CAN reach proven readers, mail order shoppers, club joiners, and others who are not afraid to use the mail.  These buyers ARE comfortable processing on-line credit card purchases; and they trust the US Postal Service, UPS or Federal Express to deliver their orders on time.  

When used properly, Direct Responders are much more likely to respond again, and again; than are those prospects found in the cheaper data that some resellers try to sell today.  But, renting only these “easy” data oftentimes means losing half the sales that advertisers MIGHT have created with their investment.  

Read on, and see why it usually pays to use response buyers first for most any direct response offer.

BASIC Tip: When it comes to direct response marketing, comprehensiveness is not necessarily a good thing.  A full 50% of the US and Canadian populations are NOT direct mail responsive.  So, its odd that many “resellers” push big comprehensive numbers of people do not want ANY direct mail offer.    

Advanced Insight:  If 50% of the population will never buy, then why waste up to 50% of advertising dollars trying?  Working within this framework; mailers that reach true direct buyers, can get twice the response.    


Consider using some of following types of DM Buyer files to find better customers for your direct response business:

Buyers for Catalogs

There are PEOPLE more likely to want what you mail.  And, you can select direct response buyers who already buy products that are compatible with your offer.  In fact, mailers SHOULD look to get buyers who have actually made a purchase of a complimentary product in the last 3, 6 or even 12 months.

BASIC Tip: There are normally hundreds of great sources for most any catalog mailer.

For instance, the executives who work for the Bloomingdale’s catalog create good paying direct mail customers.  Each quarter, these smart direct marketers create over 100,000 buyers.  Often, you can rent these or similar names. 

Advanced Insight:  Bloomingdale’s is only ONE of the many hundreds of catalogs that create new buyers each quarter.  Prospects like these total in the millions.  Your catalog should use these OR similar lists first before any other data.

Subscribers for Publishers & Newsletters

If you’ve been looking to find someone to pay you a subscription fee; here’s a fact you already know.  By percentage, fewer people read today than ever before.  It’s a sad commentary on our society that today’s “readers” have become a very small subset of “comprehensive”. 

BASIC Tip: The fact is most lists just won’t work for paid publishers of newsletters and magazines.  Still, the circulation executives at Newsweek find 100,000’s of good paying subscribers each month.  Their buyers are willing to pay them $20, $40 and more each year to get their magazine in the mail.  

Getting an offer into the hands of these and other publishers’ PAID subscribers means millions of dollars in NEW sales for many Direct Response advertisers each month.  

Advanced Insight:  Newsweek is only one of over 700 good sources of paid responders.  And, these subscribers don’t just buy magazines.  These customers are great responders to retail offers, records and book clubs, really any offer where you’re trying to get a paid sale.   Smart media buyers know which magazines cater to differing demographic groups and they mail those that fit their audience. 

Remember, the most profitable responses are not created based on where prospects live (or any other demographics), but by WHAT buyers read, and HOW buyers have purchased.

Buyers of New Mover Offers

New mover lists abound.  Some sweepstakes generated files offer great ways to reach "impulse" buyers at their new homes.  These make effective choices for sellers of retail products, medical services, financial relationships, and for travel values. 

Other new mover resources use only telephone hook-ups that create problems when young children get new "princess" phones. Still, these phone hook-ups and related mortgage closings are effective means to create lists that include large numbers of new movers.

BASIC Tip: Although less in “comprehensive” quantity than many of the “compiled” new mover lists, responder lists are often better choices for most mailers.  

For instance, Time Inc. offers 300,000 new movers each month.  These are subscribers to Coastal Living, Cooking Light, Entertainment Weekly, Food & Wine, Fortune, Golf Magazine, Health, InStyle, Money, People Magazine (and many more).  These PAID buyers make certain to let this and other publishers know where to send their anticipated direct mail.  

Advanced Insight:  The best resources are created using “DTP” direct mail.  These “direct-to-publisher” subscribers are better responders, better spenders, and better new customers for many direct marketers.   

Why?  Because when people move, they buy.  To get a response, it’s best to use RESPONSIVE customers.  Time Magazine is one of MANY good sources we’ve found for finding large numbers of active DM new move responders.  After their move, these subscribers WAIT by their mail boxes for important mail to catch-up.  These are good prospects for many, many offers.

Buyers for B2B Offers

B2B publishers and catalogs selling directly to businesses have the opportunity to explore lists beyond the traditional compiled data that they use most frequently.  “Controlled Circulation” publications exist for most any B2B market.

Some are very niche markets.  For instance, Window Fashions Magazine reaches 29,000 manufacturers, designers, and retailers of window treatments.  And, yes, they CAN think of interesting content to keep attention even in this—a VERY specific market.

In fact, Controlled Circulation publications cover HUNDREDS of very niche B2B audiences and industries.  

BASIC Tip: Controlled Circulation publishers use compiled data to create subscription bases.  These publishers mail subscription offers to specific business executives by name, title, corporate size, and by industry.   As a result, these publishers take compiled lists and create direct mail responders for others to mail. 

Advanced Insight: Advertisers pay to reach good prospects.  An independent auditing association diligently verifies that these subscribers do indeed WANT the publishers’ issues and the content.  Controlled Circulation lists are some of the best names to use when working to reach very specific B2B audiences.

Joiners for Clubs & Groups

Membership lists of clubs and organizations offer added insights beyond mere direct mail responsiveness. These “Joiners” make for tremendous responders for many direct marketers; including books, music, DVD, political appeals, and for other lifestyle offers.

Combined Guthy-Renker, BMG, and the Book-of-the-Month Club alone account for MILLIONS of NEW direct responders each month.  

BASIC Tip: Some of these “Joiners” are predisposed to add their voice to many a cause.  Others respond very well to FREE “Bill Me” offers.    

Advanced Insight:  ONLY certain portions of these club lists work well for other magazine, newsletter, catalog, or retail offers.  Mailing these lists is NOT for the uneducated user.

Buying Lists, Buying Customers

Many companies can supply your company with a mailing list.   These include a few compilers, many resellers, most lettershops, advertising agencies, and about 50 “traditional” Mailing List Brokers.

Most resellers advertise data which includes 200+ Million Residential names that are selectable by income, age, home value, lifestyle characteristics, and by the products they have “purchased”.  These go on to sell lists of 10 to 15 Million businesses which are also selectable by industry, job title, credit rating, and by company size.

With So Many CHOICES….Which Lists Should You Use?

First, look at your mailing list company’s advertisements.  What are the selling?  Is it cheap, deliverable data?  Do they expect you to “Self-Service” your account?  Are they selling good customer lists that will work for your offer?  

Most importantly, are you getting access to a PERSON who knows how to create direct mail customers through direct response?  Choose a good List Broker over any “Original Compiler”.  There is a huge difference.

BASIC Tip: Avoid buying your lists based solely on advertisements that mimic all the other resellers of the same data:  

“Our list is comprehensive.  Our list is the most accurate.  Our list is the most deliverable.  You can do your own list work on-line.  Our list offers incredibly large numbers of direct mail product buyers.  And, for some… “Our company is the Original Compiler.”  

Advanced Insight: Don’t just buy “a” list.  Start a relationship with a good marketing person.  Someone who can show your company how to buy MANY lists that can create the good paying customers any direct response business needs.

For more list tips, and list usage suggestions, please click this sentence.


All about using complied lists from: Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet, Advo and Acxiom.

You can rent these lists through your personal list broker, or contact John Schulte at NMOA headquarters for a referral. schulte@nmoa.org  

Equifax Consumer Data: 

Equifax consumer lists are made up of more than 500 different selects, 120 million households, and close to 200 million individuals. Lists are compiled from a variety of sources including telephone directories, public records, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Postal Service information, surveys, birth records, door-to-door canvassing, warranty cards, mortgage data and more.

Major Selections include:

· Age, Income, Gender

· Presence of Children

· Ethnic Households

· Renters/Homeowners

· Telephone Numbers

· HomeValue


· Investors

· Mail order buyers

· Students

· Senior Citizens

· Many more selections 

When you work with your list broker you can get more than just "as is" data. You can get strategic solutions. Your personal list broker or the NMOA data experts know the kind of marketing information your business needs. 

* sources including telephone directories, public records, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Postal Service information, surveys, birth records, door-to-door 

DNB Business Data: 

These business lists are compiled and updated monthly from a number of sources including yellow page directories, business credit reports, annual reports, business and industry directories and telephone verification.

Major Selections include:

· SIC Code

· Employee Size

· Sales Volume

· Geographic Area

· Title of Executive

· Type of Business

· New Business

· Professional Specialty

· Franchise and Brand

· Headquarters & Branches

· Many more selections 

Advo Resident/Occupant Data: 

The Advo computerized database of residential addresses consists of more than 100,000,000 households, including every Post Office Box, every Rural Route address and every Star Route address.

An excellent choice for saturation mailings, the Resident/Occupant File allows you to select addresses in a zip code, addresses in specific mail delivery routes or addresses within a certain radius of your location. Labels are addressed to "Resident" instead of to the name of the individual at that address, ensuring the highest deliverability. Every list, presorted in "Walk Sequence"--which is the exact way the mail carrier walks the route--qualifies your mail piece for the best postage rate discounts.

You can select or eliminate post office boxes, multi-family or single-family homes with the resident/occupant file according to your marketing strategy. However, eliminating single-family or multi-family selections may affect your "walk sequence" postal discounts. Ask your list broker/consultant for details. 

Major Selections include:

° Radius Select

° Multi-Family

° Single-Family

° Walk Sequence

° Eliminate/Select P.O Boxes

° Carrier Route Sort

° County, State, Zip

Acxiom New Mover Data: 

Nearly 20% of Americans move every year and need new products and services for their homes. Because these individuals have just moved, they will purchase many goods and services that they may not shop for again for many years to come.


° Automotive

° Banking

° Catalog

° Consumer Products

° Continuity Clubs

° Credit Card

° E-Commerce

° Entertainment/Travel

° Fundraising

° Health

° Lawn and Garden

° Equipment

° Home Accessories

° Insurance

° Magazine

° Newspaper

° Restaurant

° Retail

° Telecom

° Tourism

° Utilities

° Welcome Packets


New Mover lists are compiled from a variety of sources including change of address records, deed registrations, new phone connections, magazines, credit card changes and other timely sources.  

Home Data New Homeowner Data:

Our New Homeowner file is the largest of it's kind. It covers more than 1,300 counties nationwide with a compilation of over 7 million New Homeowners. These new homeowners have just undergone exhaustive credit screening, so you have an excellent prospect! You can receive the most recent, accurate, homeowner names on the market. Reach prospects when they are ready and eager to buy by using the homeowner file and the selection options available.

Fast Facts:

° New Homeowners spend more money in the first 6 months than the average family spends in 5 years!

° New Homeowners establish buying patterns within the first 3 months of moving

° New Homeowners spend an average of $10,000 to $12,000 in their first year in a new home.

Major Selections include:

· New/Resale     

· Sale Date              

· Sales Price    

· Condo Select   

· Mortgage Amount 

· Monthly New Homeowners

· Dwelling Type

· Length of Residence

· Telephone Numbers

Acxiom New Borrowers Data: 

Target borrowers who have gained substantial additional buying power from their new loan. 


New Borrowers file provides the most current information about refinance/equity loan borrowers.  The file contains prospects that are ready and eager to create new relationships for services and goods.  

Owner Type             

Loan-to-Value Ratio    

Property Type  

Loan Type      

Purchase Loan Amount

Home Market Value

Lender Name (Output Only)


° Catalog

° Telecommunications

° Entertainment

° Insurance

° Financial

° Home Services

° Retail


New Borrower records are compiled from County Recorder’s offices across the U.S.  Hotlines are updated weekly. 

Acxiom Real Property Database:

Homeowners are excellent potential customers for home improvement products and services. Tap into this market now! 


Acxiom’s Property Database enables you to reach all known homeowners in a given area, including those who are well established in their neighborhoods and those with strong equity positions.


° Cable/Internet Services

° Financial Services

° Home Improvement Offers

° Investment

° Lawn Care

° Retail

° Travel


This file is compiled from county deeds and tax assessor records and is updated monthly.

Remember: You can rent these lists through your personal list broker consultant, or contact John Schulte at NMOA for a referral. schulte@nmoa.org


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