With any direct mail campaign, one of the most critical components is the list. If you're not mailing to your customer data base, then that means you need to purchase a mailing list. But how do you know which one is right for you? And what are the different types? In this blog, we're gonna look at two different ones. Before diving into the specifics of both a consumer and resident list, let’s first lay the groundwork by defining what the difference is between the two.
Consumer and Resident Lists
A resident list is a compilation of records based on housing addresses. So this list would give you the house address, city, state and zip code. And if you would like, you can also buy the name of the resident associated with the address. When selecting a resident list you can filter categories of the type of residency. These are: single family dwelling, city routes, multiple family dwelling, rural routes, trailers, businesses and PO boxes. Something important to remember is this: it does’t provide any further information about the residents living at these addresses. It only provides information about the type of residency.
If you want to choose a list about the specifics of the people living at the address, then you'd look into a consumer list. This type of list can select records based on the qualifications and requirements you set. You can filter these selections by hundreds of different demographics. Some of the more general categories are: age, gender, home value, household status, income, marital status and housing characteristics. But if diving into something more specific like “individual” for example, you could filter it by: date of birth, education level, number of children, occupation, and voter party preferences.
Pros of a Resident List
Moving on to the positives of each list, there are distinguishable benefits of both types. With a resident list, the most glaring benefit is the cost. Often times, this can be considerably cheaper. And in some cases, even 10x cheaper! With the low cost, it allows you to buy more records than you would be able to with a consumer list. Let’s say you buy 10,000 records at $12/m. That list would only cost you $120. If that was a consumer list with several specifications, it could cost $25/m, which comes out to $250. So in this scenario, you're getting the same amount of records for only half the cost.
Pros of a Consumer List
On the flip side, how can a consumer list prove to be more beneficial? The most beneficial aspect is the detailed targeting characteristics you can select. Say you’re opening up a new chiropractic clinic in the south side of town. You can select 3,000 people between the ages of 45-70, within a five mile radius of your clinic, who suffer from back pain, and have an income higher than $65k. That’s going to be a pretty effective list! And because it’s so targeted, you don’t have to purchase as many records to reach the goal amount of qualified prospects. In this scenario, you could only mail 3,000 people at $25/m instead of 10,000 people at $12, and still reach the same goal.
Cons of a Resident List
But, what are the downsides to each type of list? To start, the biggest disadvantage of the resident list is that you can’t select specific types of people. You have to just ”blanket” neighborhoods instead of selecting individuals. You can’t narrow it down to the characteristics you need. So if you own a pediatric dentistry and mail 5,000 houses, there’s a good chance that half of those people either don’t have kids living with them, or don’t have kids in the correct age range. You’re wasting a lot of money on people who will never buy your service because it’s not even practical for them. You could save that money and invest it elsewhere.
Cons of a Consumer List
With a consumer list, the biggest negative is the cost. As illustrated earlier, a very specific list with lots of requirements can be up to 10x more expensive! And in some cases, it can be hundreds of dollars for a couple thousand names. The more specific you go, the more expensive it becomes. This can be cost prohibitive if the type of list you need is very specific. The other downside is the selections you make are not always 100% accurate. For example, you could select someone who was in a car accident less than three months ago. Well by the time, their record is updated in a list company's database, it could be six months past and they’ve already received the help they were looking for. So there is a slight chance you’re paying more for information that isn’t completely up to date.
When Should You Use Each Type of List?
So if you’ve read this far in this blog, you’re probably thinking to yourself, Ryan, just tell me whether I should use a consumer or resident list for my ____________ (insert mailer description). Okay, okay, here are my recommendations for when each list is appropriate.
I would suggest to use a resident list when the product or service you’re selling or advertising, applies to everybody. For example, a postcard with $15 off your next oil change is great to send to 5,000 residents surrounding your shop. Because pretty much everybody needs to get an oil change for their cars at some point. But if you’re advertising your pool services in an neighborhood where 90% of people don’t have a pool, then that’s not going to be very effective.
A consumer list is great for sales letters, or creative mailers targeting specific types of people. I recommend using a consumer list for most mailings because you can be sure that the right people will always be receiving your piece. This can be especially effective when it is a targeted list. For example, sending a weight loss supplement check mailer to people who have bought similar supplements in the past six months. You can be confident that you’re targeting the right audience.
Regardless of which type of list you choose, spend time weighing the pros and cons. Keep your target recipient in mind and you can make the right choice to make your mailer as successful as possible.