What's in a list

What’s In a List?

Demystifying the list purchasing process for direct mail campaigns. 

Imagine yourself a plumber. You’ve worked hard to build a loyal customer base, and now seek to crack into a new market. You’ve spent countless hours designing the perfect mail piece. Yet, when your mailing lands in-home, all you hear is the distant drip of a leaky faucet.

What’s the mystery behind your direct mail misfire? Maybe you’ve sent your mailing to neighborhoods in which the vast majority of residents are renters. Or perhaps to younger housing developments where the homes have brand-spanking-new plumbing. 

Who you send your mailing to determines if it will be successful, or if your hard-earned dollars get flushed down the loo. 

Purchasing a mail list is a proven way to get your message in the right hands and attain detailed contact information for new leads. But the elephant in the room, the BFQ is, who should you send to? What kind of lists provide the biggest return? To start, frame your audience to understand your options. 


Consider the geographic location you’d like to send to. Will you focus on clusters of zip codes, carrier routes, a radius around your company, a state, the entire country? If you own a small Italian restaurant, it might not be beneficial for someone three hours away to receive your mail piece. That’s a long drive for a plate of pasta. On the other hand, if you’re selling custom boats, it might be smarter to send targeted pieces across the entire state, you never know where their trailer is hitched.

Next, move on to your audience. What do your current customers look like? Do they share common demographics like age, income, interests or marital status? If you own an Ice Cream shop for instance, you might find that the majority of your customers are families with younger kids. Thysse can help you examine your current list and enhance it by identifying patterns. Once you’ve defined your targets, the next step is to decide which type of list will accomplish your goals. 


Saturation mail is a budget-friendly way to send ‘blanket mailings’ to a large number of residences within a specific area. The problem with this “Spray and Pray” method (other than its rather suggestive name) is that it lacks a ‘real’ strategy. You’re wholly reliant on geographical location.

Saturation mail can be effective for local businesses whose products and services apply to a wide, general audience like pizza restaurants, childcare centers, or lawn care providers. If your aim is to get the word out about your business to as many people in your local area as possible, purchasing a saturation list might be a good option to get kids eating pizzas on a plethora of lawns.

While the USPS’s free tool, Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), is intended to be an affordable option for businesses who don’t want to purchase a mail list, some businesses opt for purchasing a saturation list because they come with some snappy benefits:

  • They can be addressed to specific person vs “Dear Customer” which boosts response rates
  • There are no size limitations on mail pieces (just keep in mind that postage costs are still affected by size and weight)
  • You acquire new contacts for your internal database because you are purchasing a list 


If your services apply to a narrower audience (or if you want to have significantly more confidence in your messaging) purchasing a Marketing Mailing List is an option to consider. Marketing Mailing Lists can target recipients based on a huge range of demographics, from peanut allergies and vintage car interests to homeowner status. 

Perhaps you own an insurance company targeting retired cat owners with a pilot’s license and a penchant for base jumping. Who knows! With Marketing Mailing Lists, the options are nearly limitless. To give you an idea of the scope of possibilities, we’ve listed common categories, along with a few example demographic filters for each:

  • Consumer Lists: Purchasing behaviors, occupation, gender, ethnicity, age, children, education, household income 
  • Business Lists: Fortune rank, executives, employees by title, new businesses, credit rating, size, public/private, sales volume 
  • Healthcare Lists: Health care workers by job function, administrators, specialties, public/private practice, dentists, pharmacists 
  • Education Lists: School type, grade level, district name, public/private, educator’s by title, enrollment size, national rank 
  • Government Lists: Police officers, attorneys, parks and recreation, city managers and clerks, human resources directors 

Note that lists available for purchase can only include public-facing data like the examples listed above. Private data, such as medical records or unemployment status, are a no go.


When you purchase a list, you are actually purchasing the rights to access certain data. The more detailed your data, the higher the response rates will be. This is unfortunately reflected in higher costs up front. List cost is highly subjective, however typically dependent on a few factors: 

  • Size: The number of recipients on your list
  • Type: Business lists generally cost more than consumer lists
  • Specificity: The more demographic filters, the higher the cost 
  • Longevity: Multiple-use lists (good for one year) cost more than single-use lists because they require ongoing maintenance

Thysse’s direct mail team can work with you to get the most bang for your buck. If you have a mile-long contact list but your budget only stretches a couple blocks, we can help you reduce the number of sends by drilling down to more specific to your ideal market. 

The bottom line is that the more targeted your direct mail campaign is, the better the response will be. Purchasing a mail list can feel like a financial leap, but with a bit of planning, lists can ensure your direct mail campaign delivers the best possible results. 

Thysse has a dedicated team to help you identify your audience and purchase the right list for your business. Drop us a line on our contact form to learn more!