Written for the Publication for: The Printing & Graphics Association MidAtlantic

                            A Good List Broker is a Great Investment

                          By Adam Van Wye, Owner, Mailing Lists, Inc.

Early on in my career as a list professional, I thought I had presumably wrapped up a small order when my client asked me if I could not only provide the targeted addresses she needed but could also send out her mailing as well.  Knowing full well that this wasn’t our business but not wanting to disappoint the client, I proposed to subcontract these services but remain involved in overseeing the mailing.  How hard could that be?  Take good notes on what the client needed, convey this to the mail house who I would select to send out the mailing, and collect a few dollars to let the client know that we were doing our jobs efficiently and effectively.  Simple, right?

That buzzer sound you should now be hearing resembles the one you’d hear on a game show when the contestant gets a question wrong or has been eliminated.  Thanks for playing and enjoy the parting gifts.  The reality surrounding printing or mailing is that there are often a ton of details involved in properly executing a campaign.  Taking down or communicating a single point incorrectly, misinterpreting a single detail, assuming something which never should have been assumed…all are recipes for disaster.  And when disaster does strike?  Well, in my case, my wife and I spent an entire weekend making up for my mistake by manually preparing and implementing the mailing.  This became necessary upon realizing I could no longer afford to pay the mail house since the actual cost was much higher than first thought based on the faulty information I had previously provided the mail house.  (By the way, should a similar experience happen to you, don’t expect your wife to be very happy about this even after a few decades.) 

The moral of the story: List brokerage companies should not try to be something they’re not.  The same can likely be said of printers and mail houses as well.  Both may be asked by clients if they can provide a mailing list as part of their services.  Both may readily be able to access information on certain types of lists.  And, given the notion of creating a minor but additional profit center for that upcoming mailing, both may very well be tempted to do so.  However, is doing so in the best interest of your mailer?  The answer is probably not.

Simply put, experienced and knowledgeable list professionals know what to look for.  They know the right questions to ask.  They understand that when comparing choices, the source with the biggest count (number of names on the list) or the source who offers the lowest price, or even the source with the biggest count and the lowest price, isn’t necessarily the best list to recommend.  Effective list brokers don’t just want to know how often a list is updated but they want to know specifically how a list gets updated and cleaned.  They understand the importance of a name’s “recency”, how available segmentation within the same list can severely alter response rates, how the method in which an individual responds is vitally important as well.  They know how to analyze usage reports and how to factor unit of sale on a response list into an overall recommendation.  They can help track responses to campaigns and can sometimes produce past results data based on comparable offers.

No matter how you may personally divide the importance of lists vs. creative vs. offers when weighing the success or failure of a direct mail campaign, practically all experts will give the most weight or at least as much weight to the list as the other components.  A great offer contained within a spectacular looking direct mail package will not work if the offer is made to the wrong audience.   Realizing how important it is for your client to be successful in the mail, working with a skilled list professional makes great sense for printers and mailing service companies whose goal is to establish and maintain long-term relationships with their respective mailers.  As I learned the hard way, just because you can do something clearly doesn’t mean that you should.


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  What Our Clients Are Saying�

My experience working with Mailing Lists, Inc. has been excellent. Adam Van Wye understands my direct marketing needs and he is very helpful when it comes to making suggestions on the most appropriate lists to use. Additionally, I can always depend on a quick response and fast delivery.
Wanda L. Matthews,
Assistant Marketing Manager, Books, American Psychological Association

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