Marketing: Direct Mail
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2001 07:24:01 -0600 (MDT)
> I am actually very interested in direct mail because we might have a site
> soon.  I will not hold my breath but we need to be ready to market fast and
> should probably gather info now.
> How do I do that?  Where do I get a list for direct mail?

It has been several years since I researched direct mail or used it but for
what it is worth ...

Be very very careful with direct mail. it is not all it is cracked up to be.
It works only when you have a targeted list or are selling a product that is
of general consumer interest ("everyone" already uses it). You use direct
mail for current customers or users of a product. People whom you know are
interested. Cohousing may be good for everyone but not enough people even
know what it is yet, much less be using it and looking for a new brand at a
discount price with no effort -- sound like cohousing?

List brokers do not clean their lists. Lists charge by the name. $.10 a name
used to be the going rate. If you can sell a list at that price, why cull
it? Throw in another 1,000 names free. Most direct mailings go out third
class mail so people get no returns. They have no idea how many are not good
addresses -- never even connect.

I once sent a test first class to a list that was supposed to be a "current
subscribers only" for a similar publication to mine.  I had an almost 50%
return -- no such person or address.

List brokers are the same people who handle all the mailings for catalogs
and magazines. My name typically stays on a magazine list (receiving free
issues) for close to 6 months after I stop renewing. I get catalogs for
stuff I would never be interested in --  like survival gear for militias.
Why drop a name when it is worth hundreds of dollars and no one asks

Look at all the spam you get. That is direct mail. When did you last buy a
device to make your penis larger? Or win a free trip to an island? Or order
a cure for snoring?

A good response is 1% on a general list. Figure your costs and expected rate
of return very carefully. Unless you have a million dollars and stand to
gain two million dollars, don't do it. The big publications who do direct
mail do not make  money on their offers until far down the line. Most are
giving their products away for several years. Can you afford to do that and
in the end, recoop enough money to make it pay?

A targeting list would be a list from the Cohousing Network of people who
have _recently_ indicated an interest in cohousing in your area or region
(southwest, northwest, northeast, etc.). A response rate from such a list
would be closer to 10%. Unless you have that kind of list and a 10% response
will pay for the  mailing and the house you sell), direct mail is a very
iffy proposition.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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