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Purchasing and Using Consumer Lists: The Ultimate Guide

by Nov 18, 2023Audience Targeting0 comments

Direct mail is still one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience. Although many may consider direct mail to be “old school,” it’s highly effective for getting your message in front of an interested audience. In fact, at an estimated 22.7 percent of the total local media revenue in 2021, direct mail remains the single largest category of US local advertising.

In this guide, we’ll review the benefits of using consumer mailing lists to supplement your marketing efforts. We’ll cover:

If used properly, consumer lists can be one of your most effective tools in your physical and digital marketing strategy. Let’s dive in!

Contact us to transform your consumer targeting efforts.

What Are Consumer Mailing Lists?

A consumer mailing list is a type of marketing list that includes the names and contact information of prospective customers. You can select consumer lists based on different criteria, such as demographics, new mover status, net worth, lifestyle, and interests. Today, with geo-mapping and other technologies, these lists can be made hyper-specific to your target market.

Benefits of Consumer Lists

Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that these lists can offer significant benefits to your marketing strategy. With the aid of consumer lists, you can:

  • Grow your audience to include new prospects. Leverage your consumer lists to broaden your audience to a new demographic or expand your reach into a new geographic area.
  • Reach an audience that’s more receptive to your message. Through your research and analytics, you will be able to determine who would benefit from your business’s offerings the most and reach out to them with messages that resonate.
  • Build your mailing list quickly. Using a consumer mailing list works faster than organically building an audience from scratch. A consumer list lets you hit the ground running immediately while still building up an organic audience at the same time.

As you see quantifiable improvements in the depth and breadth of your messaging and audience engagement, you can run tests on different audience segments (such as A/B splits) to find the most impactful wording, format, and time of year to send your outreach messages.

Consumer Mailing Lists vs. Resident/Occupant Lists

A resident/occupant list is a list of all addresses within a defined geographic location. Whether you know it or not, you’re likely familiar with this type of list. Mail addressed to “current resident” (rather than a specific name) is generally sent from a resident/occupant list. With these lists, you can choose target areas based on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Mail carrier route
  • ZIP code, city, county, or state boundary
  • Congressional district
  • Driving time
  • General radius

In contrast, rather than approaching all the residents in an area via resident/occupant lists, consumer lists allow you to narrow down your outreach to your ideal consumers within a specific geography. In this sense, a consumer list can offer your marketing team a more targeted, personalized approach to direct mailing.

Is Buying a Consumer List Legal?

Let’s set the record straight: Yes, it’s legal to purchase consumer marketing lists. However, it’s also important to be aware of the relevant regulations for both email and direct mail lists, including:

  • DMPEA. In the United States, the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act regulates direct mail marketing. It prohibits the implication of a federal government connection that doesn’t exist and sets stringent requirements for sweepstakes and contests.
  • CAN-SPAM. The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003 regulates email marketing. For instance, it bans the use of false or misleading subject lines, allows recipients to opt out of communications, and requires all marketing messages to be clearly marked as ads.
  • CCPA, VCDPA, and ColoPA. In addition to national regulations, in the United States, new and evolving state legislation, such as the California Consumer Protection Act, the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act, and the Colorado Privacy Act, also regulates how consumer data is bought and sold.
  • Canada Anti-Spam Law, ePrivacy Directive, and General Data Protection Regulation. If you’re marketing in Canada or the European Union, these regulations provide strict directions and limitations on how consumer lists can be procured and used.

In addition to following these regulations in the content of your marketing, you should ensure that any mailing list provider you work with maintains regulatory compliance with state and national laws. Compact, for example, maintains 100% compliance with DMPEA and CAN-SPAM as well as the Association of National Advertising Managers (ANA), the U.S. advertising industry’s oldest association.

How Can I Buy Consumer Mailing Lists?

With an experienced provider, buying consumer lists can be quite easy, worry-free, and tailored to your business.

Once you’re ready to begin the process, find a partner (like Compact!) that offers a wide range of services—from robust mailing lists to geographic information systems mapping and other direct marketing assistance.

As mentioned above, to avoid legal action, your list provider should offer the necessary regulatory compliance. Additionally, the best providers will offer:

  • Rigorous data vetting, hygiene, and approval processes.
  • Easy access and 24/7 online list ordering.
  • High deliverability rates with up-to-date data.
  • Customization and the ability to filter and cross-tabulate data to target precise consumer attributes.

Even if you already have a burgeoning customer base, you can use these lists to supplement your organic audience-building activities.

What’s Included in Consumer Lists?

Not all consumer lists are made equally. Different marketing list providers offer different types and levels of information within their marketing lists. While some providers will offer only a limited set of lists, others offer a range of customization features. For instance, Compact’s consumer lists can be tailored based on the following criteria:

  • Demographics
  • New mover status
  • Net worth
  • Occupation
  • Homeowner status
  • Financial information
  • Auto information
  • Credit card and buying habits
  • Lifestyles and interests
  • Familial status

But this is just the start! You can filter for multiple characteristics, from the presence of children or pets to religion—and everything in between. For example: Opening a Honda-specific autobody shop in Austin? You might choose to develop a list of all CR-V owners in a 15-mile radius who purchased their vehicle between the years 2010 and 2015.

This image shows the process of making consumer lists, as outlined in the text below.

With Deep Sync, your business also has access to exclusive turn-key GEO-Direct mapping tools to visualize your lists and the spatial relevance of your data. In consultation with our team of marketing and analytics experts, you’ll determine the relevant filters and develop your lists. Once you receive a list, it will contain the following consumer information:

  • Address. Necessary for direct mail campaigns, this information will include street names and numbers, cities, counties, states, and ZIP codes.
  • Phone number. If you’re planning to call or text potential consumers, you can have their phone numbers appended to your lists. SMS marketing research reports that 75% of all text recipients open all the messages they receive.
  • Email address. Similarly, for an email campaign, you can have consumer email addresses included in your consumer lists. With targeted consumer lists, email marketing can be wildly successful, generating $42 for every $1 spent.
  • Full name. For any campaign, personalization can make a huge difference. Whether text, mail, or email, use this data to always refer to your consumers by name.

You can then leverage this clean, demographically-targeted data to reach the right consumers for your product or service and influence their purchasing. Instead of sending the same messaging to every list—which defeats the purpose of generating tailored lists—you can customize your marketing materials to each audience segment’s interests and demographics.

4 Tips for Using Consumer Lists Effectively

Effectively using a consumer list is both an art and a science. So what can you do to make the most out of your lists?

This image shows four tips for using consumer lists effectively, as outlined in the text below.

1. Define your goals before choosing your list type.

In addition to consumer lists, Compact offers a number of other marketing products and services, including:

  • Resident/Occupant Lists
  • Enhanced Occupant Lists
  • New Mover Lists
  • New Homeowner Lists
  • New Construction Lists
  • Business Lists
  • Apartment Lists

By defining your goals (such as boosting conversions, clickthrough rates, or discount code use) first, and only then choosing the appropriate list type, you ensure that you’re reaching out to the most relevant audience possible. As you define your marketing goals, you should also identify your ideal customer personas and lookalike audiences based on your best existing customers. Best practices suggest that this will help generate the most targeted and impactful consumer lists.

2. Maintain proper data hygiene practices.

According to research from IBM, poor data quality costs the US economy approximately $3.1 trillion each year. Continually review your consumer list to ensure it’s up to date and accurate. Scrub any non-responsive recipients, duplicate data, and anyone who has moved away. If you’ve never examined your existing data, you may need to go through the cleaning process before adding additional information:

  1. Audit your systems.
  2. Remove dirty data and unnecessary information.
  3. Standardize your data formats.
  4. Create a procedure for dirty data prevention.
  5. Update data frequently.

Once your data is clean, you’ll want to receive the cleanest possible data from your consumer lists provider. Ask about their processes and schedules for updating and scrubbing their data pool as well as the reliability of their data sources. Compact’s databases, for example, are constantly maintained, updated, and kept clean to provide businesses with the cleanest consumer lists possible. Moreover, with access to the USPS Computerized Delivery System (CDS), Compact makes more than 46 million data updates every week.

3. Personalize your marketing content.

Instead of using the generic “Dear Customer” or the outdated “To Whom This May Concern,” with consumer lists, you can easily address your messages with your recipients’ preferred names. Research from McKinsey & Company found that personalization delivers an ROI five to eight times the marketing spend and can lift sales by more than 10%.

But personalization can operate beyond a simple salutation. It exists on three distinct levels:

  • Low Personalization includes a personalized salutation.
  • Medium Personalization includes text and offers customized to the recipient’s demographics.
  • High Personalization uses dynamic communication to display variable images and text.

Moreover, personalization can also come in the form of selecting the right opportunities to put in front of a given consumer. Don’t flood every mailbox with every opportunity. That’s likely a waste of resources! Instead, focus on feeding consumers the opportunities they’ll actually be interested in.

4. Use A/B testing to make direct marketing decisions.

As you’re developing your marketing and personalization strategy, you can send slightly different versions of your mailers to different segments of your consumer lists to see which receive the most engagement.

If you’re trying to narrow down your ideal buyer persona, you might also use consumer lists to test the same campaign with two slightly different populations—such as income level, age group, or gender. Throughout these tests, watch your key performance indicators (KPIs) carefully to see how campaign metrics (such as response rates or conversion rates) are impacted by each change.

Most importantly, if you decide to use A/B testing, it’s important to make incremental changes, altering only one element at a time. Huge changes to a campaign will make it impossible to understand what exactly made the difference!

Final Thoughts

With so many brands competing for attention in the consumer marketplace, consumer lists are crucial for getting your business in front of the right eyes.

That being said, be careful about assuming too much about the best method for reaching your target market. For instance, direct mail isn’t only for the Gen X and Boomer generations, and email isn’t only for Millennials. According to USPS, in a survey of Millennials, “62% of respondents said they had visited a store in the past month based on information received in the mail.” In contrast, 74% of Baby Boomers believe that email is the most personal channel to receive communications from brands.

For best results, the most impactful campaigns work across channels, using a planned combination of direct mail and email marketing alongside social media and word-of-mouth engagement.

Ultimately, using consumer lists from Compact allows you to market your business to a highly targeted audience, ensuring you aren’t wasting your time and money sending messages to those who aren’t interested.

For more information about the best strategies for purchasing and using consumer lists, review the following additional resources:

Contact us to upgrade your marketing strategy with consumer lists.


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Consumer Lists: The Ultimate Guide