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How Much Does a Direct Mailing List Cost?

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When it comes to pricing mailing lists, you can't look at any two lists and say that one is a better value than the other unless each of the lists have the exact same set of parameters and data used to build them.

For this reason, choosing a good, quality, reliable, honest, and proven online source for direct mailing lists is essential.

Depending on your mailing list provider and how many intersecting characteristics or parameters you want your list to be built from, lists can cost anywhere from $0.03 cents per contact record to $0.25 cents per record.

How is there so much variation in the cost of a single record, and what kinds of information do these records contain? How reliable is the company that’s sourcing the list and are they transparent about their data sources so you can verify them to know they’re reliable, too?

These are all questions you should be asking yourself as you’re preparing to commit to purchase a direct mailing list from any online mail list vendor. Being sure to understand the reasoning behind why a list costs what it does, is the key to figuring out whether any single list from one vendor is a better value than from another. This also empowers you to make intelligent purchasing decisions when it comes to direct mailing lists.

Understanding Marketing Mailing Lists

It’s important for anyone buying an address list for direct mail or mailing list online to get an idea of the methodology or origin story of their mail list. Which requires them to understand a few key words and their meanings surrounding mailing list compiling and purchasing.

Before we get into the specific factors that determine the price of direct mailing lists, let's look at the ways in how to get direct mailing lists, which plays a key role in the cost as well.

Sourcing Your Mailing List: List Brokers, Managers, Broker-Managers or Compilers?

Just like groceries can be sourced from organic or non-organic farmers or manufacturers, mail lists can come from a variety of different sources, as well.

We’ve gone into detail about the various sources one can use to find their ideal mailing lists, whether they choose to purchase or rent their list of records from a list broker, list compiler, list manager or list broker-manager.

Mail List Broker 

While choosing one source over another may have its fair share of pros and cons, the difference it has on price is relatively minimal compared to a few other specific list details that are the most important to pay attention to as you shop around for mailing lists online, which we will go into detail further below.

List brokers tend to be the most reliable option for most people ordering direct mailing lists for both business and consumer audiences.

A list broker tends to have a diverse network of reliable sources for your mailing list, and they are able to help you find the most cost-effective list that meets their list quality standards. A list broker will also typically charge a fee on top of whatever you end up paying for the mailing list, however, due to the value added by their resources and connections.

List compilers tend to be unpredictable in terms of pricing since they’re the ones directly responsible for sourcing the contact record data and arranging it in such a way that it makes sense as a single list. Depending on how much value they’ve created and how much of their time and energy went into organizing the list, list compilers could potentially over- or under-value their list significantly.

List managers spend most of their time maintaining their mail lists making sure they stay up to date and useful for their potential renters or buyers. Since managers work directly with their own lists, they will also run a chance of over- or under-estimating the value of their list and its significance or utility for direct mail marketers. Prices can vary wildly among list compilers and managers, so sticking with brokers will result in consistent, reasonably priced mailing lists that match your criteria perfectly.

Since the list brokers tend to have such a large network of list suppliers, they are able to get you the very best value available. If you’re trying to find the best deals, it’s much faster to go with a list broker since you’ll save not only money but also time that you could have spent searching for your list supplier among the managers and compilers.

When you choose to go with an online mailing list vendor, you’re working with a direct mailing list broker. Whether they’re selling you consumer mailing lists (B2C) or business mailing lists (B2B), they’re likely not sourcing it from their own database of contact records, so it’s realistically through someone else, like a wholesale list compiler or manager.

List Hygiene and the Value of a Well-Maintained List

The mailing list industry refers to list “hygiene” as a way of discussing how up-to-date and clean a list of contact records are.

A hygienic list takes constant amounts of work to maintain, and that equates to higher prices along with higher quality.

The value of list hygiene is one that should not be underestimated, and it doesn’t come without its impact on the final cost, you’ll pay for a list. If a list is only updated biannually, then the list will cost less than a list that is updated regularly. Depending on the type of list and how many records there are on it, this service of maintaining the list is an entirely necessary process for specific types of marketing messages that are geared towards people who are at various time-sensitive stages of their lives or career.

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For example, a new mover list should be updated monthly since the members are only “new to the neighborhood” for a set amount of time before the messages sent come across as late or insensitive.

With lists like income-targeted consumer lists, you may only need to update the list every year or so since salary data doesn’t change all that rapidly and marketing messages won’t come across as offensive if someone has recently had a salary shift.

The hygiene of a list can also refer to how often a list is “cleaned” of its unmailable addresses or contact records without full names, and other common list abnormalities. Running the list against the National Change of Address database is another additional service that takes computing time and energy as well as proprietary software to accomplish. So, for services like verifying addresses and checking them in national movers’ databases, there is a slight positive impact on cost as well.

Factors that Determine the Mailing List Cost: Audience, Quantity, and Usage

So how much do direct mail lists cost? The following questions will help you determine the overall cost of your direct mail address list.

What type of mailing list are you looking for?

Creating a direct mailing list and figuring out the cost, begins with choosing who you want to target. Who is your target audience? Are you looking for a consumer mailing list, to reach you target consumer audience? Or are you looking for a business mailing list?

Generally speaking, a business mailing list will cost more than a consumer mailing list. This is because of the upkeep and preparation that is needed for business data is more in-depth compared to consumer data.

 

Consumer Mailing Lists

Business Mailing Lists

Avg. Cost per 1,000

Avg. Cost per Name

Avg. Cost per 1,000

Avg. Cost per Name

Low

$50

$0.05

$150

$0.15

High

$200

$0.20

$350

$0.35

How many addresses do you want to reach?

Depending on which mail list provider you choose, there may be a flat rate per address so that no matter how many home or business addresses you purchase, the price per address remains the same. While other mailing list providers decrease the price per address as the quantity, you purchase increases.

How many times are you looking to use your mailing list?

Be sure to ask your mailing list provider the usage terms for your direct mail list. Some providers allow you to purchase a one-time use mailing list or a mailing list that you can use multiple times.

Keep in mind, data is constantly changing, for example a homeowner could have moved, or a business could have closed. This means it is a good idea to steer away from mailing lists with unlimited uses unless it makes sense for you company, to ensure the highest deliverability rate.

The Most Important Factor for Determining List Cost: Quality.

Aside from sourcing, upkeep, audience, preparation for sale, and all other factors, there is one thing that impacts the cost of a list more than any of the other factor: its quality.

The quality of a list is a big part of what distinguishes one list from another, aside from other foundational factors like data sources and the types of data the lists contain and target for the contact records in them. Some brokers, managers or compilers charge more for a unique and specialized mailing list.

This is largely due the costs of obtaining specific unique pieces of data about all the individuals on a list. Typically, a trusted, and quality data compiler gathers all information about all the members of a list every 30 days to obtain the best and most updated data. Some of this information can be difficult to obtain meaning the cost may be higher.

For example, a list of households that make under $40,000 a year in the ZIP code 23222 wouldn’t cost much per record due to the fact that the kind of demographic information needed to compile such a list is publicly available free of charge.

For a list of the people allergic to peanuts within your ZIP code, however, the cost per record could be higher, since this information isn’t taken in a formalized publicly available manner.

Depending on the number of qualifiers or parameters you use within your list, finding a list that contains all of them about a single dataset of contact records takes a quality data compiler and familiarity with the mailing list industry and therefore the right connections.

That’s how list brokers can still make up for their additional costs with the added benefit of accessing lists previously thought inaccessible.

Fortunately, a great deal of mailing lists for typical and high-quality B2B and B2C marketing are within much lower cost ranges. List brokers also often provide direct mail products and a mailing house so you can factor in how much direct mail costs with your mailing list along with gaining access to complete print and mailing fulfillment.

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A Note About Cheap Lists

Beware of cheap lists you find either for free or for unbelievably low costs online, as these lists could potentially be illegally obtained or unethically compiled. Trying to use one of these lists could permanently tarnish your business’ brand in whichever market you’re targeting, and it could even land you in legal trouble.

Free direct mailing lists also will often be extremely outdated, sometimes with records of people who existed 20 or so years ago, and some people who never existed at all.

To know that you’ve truly found a list of quality, make sure it aligns somewhat with the cost ranges outlined above so you can be certain you’re reaching the right kinds of prospects with the right intent.

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