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Building a Database for Direct Mail

Written By Omar Shiblaq

August 4, 2022

With new data privacy laws taking effect every day, companies are looking past email for new ways to reach prospects. And sometimes, what’s old is new again. Direct mail is quickly becoming a popular option for companies looking to stand out and cut through the online clutter. With the highest ROI of any marketing channel—not to mention the highest response and conversion rates—direct mail might not be the new kid in town, but it is still the head of the class

The issue that some companies are now running into, however, is that they don’t have mailing addresses for their leads. Or they have an office address but, because of the rise in remote work, there’s no guarantee direct mail will reach the intended recipient. Still other companies are just starting out and building their databases from scratch. So how do we make sure our data has accurate, updated address information we can use for direct mail?

There are three primary ways to build a database of leads with mailing address information:

  1. Purchase the data through a reputable broker.
  2. Collect information through lead forms in SEM and content marketing.
  3. Try reverse IP or DNS lookup.

Purchase the Data

If you are just starting out, one of the easiest ways to build your database is by working with a reputable list broker to purchase a list of names and addresses based on your demographics. Providers like Speedeon, USA Data, and Experion can provide a list of names with addresses of prospective customers based on various attributes, including age, location, job title, company size, gender, household income, industry, and much more.

If you have an existing customer list, you can take a “look-a-like” approach to find new prospects. The data provider can take your existing list and scan it to compare it with their database. This will identify the key demographics of your customers so you can acquire a new prospect list that aligns with your existing customer profile. 

If you decide to purchase a list, it’s important to remember that not all data is created equal and not all list brokers are the same. Going with the cheapest option can often be more expensive in the long run if you end up wasting money on undeliverable addresses or not targeting the right audience.

Matt Whipple, VP of Marketing Services & Campaign Strategy at Speedeon, recommends asking four questions to determine the quality of the data.

  1. Does Truthset audit the company? Truthset audits data companies to see how accurate and current their data is and ranks the companies accordingly.
  2. How is the data sourced?
  3. How do they validate their data?
  4. What is their internal QC and validation of their data?

“Anyone of any value should be able to answer all these questions,” according to Whipple.

In addition to providing complete data sets, many of these data services can also append mailing addresses to an existing list. On average, there’s around a 40-60% match rate for this service, depending on whether there’s an email address in the data to match against versus just first and last name.

Collect Information from the Source

People generally don’t like to share information, but they’re more willing to do so in exchange for something valuable. This is where you can use content marketing to your advantage. Publish a report or whitepaper with helpful research, develop a guide to help solve a common challenge, or even create a loyalty program with exclusive discounts and access. These offers can live behind forms that allow you to collect crucial information for marketing, like email and mailing address. You can also conduct surveys in exchange for a gift card or raffle entry, which allows you to ask for contact information for notification or fulfillment purposes.

While there’s no additional cost to this approach, as opposed to the other two options on this list, it’s not quick. This is an organic way to build a lead list, and it takes time. Even if you employ one of the other strategies listed here, we highly recommend creating valuable content with lead forms to generate high quality, interested leads. The key here is not to create a barrier to entry; only ask for what you need. If you aren’t getting a lot of traction, consider making email required but mailing address optional. For those who don’t provide an address, you can use an append service (like the ones mentioned above and below) to add a postal address after the fact. 

Reverse IP or DNS Lookup

One way to build your prospect list is by identifying anonymous visitors to your website through reverse IP lookup. There are two ways to go about it, with big cost differences between the two.

Services like Leadfeeder use domain names to determine what companies visit your website. If a company is already in your CRM, Leadfeeder will tell you if one of the company contacts came to your site. For all new, unknown contacts, Leadfeeder provides a list of email addresses, with names and titles, for the visiting domains. From there, you can build a list of contacts you want to target. Again, using an append service to attach a physical mailing address will allow you to target this group with direct mail. Zach Bowlby, CEO of ROI Amplified, has had great success with Leadfeeder. “I have complete visibility of who visits my website. Once I can identify them, I can reach out to them. Their interest in visiting my website based on search terms often turns into a proposal and new client,” he says.

The other, albeit more expensive, approach to reverse IP lookup involves pixel tracking to collect IPs from anonymous visitors. While there are many companies that offer reverse IP lookup, most only provide email addresses. The main downside there is that email requires an opt-in from the customer before you can include them in a marketing campaign. With direct mail, there’s no opt-in requirement, so you can start sending straight away. Luckily, there are companies like El Toro that offer a solution to append physical addresses. 

Using pixel tracking, El Toro places a web pixel on your website that captures the IP addresses of visitors. The IP addresses are run through software to append a physical address. Since you know what products or services the visitors are interested in based on their site activity, you can send highly targeted, relevant direct mail. This sort of reverse IP lookup is a cookie-free approach to retargeting that allows you to reach customers offline. As Crystal Normal, Digital Sales Director at El Toro, says, “We only focus on visitors’ offline profile as opposed to cookies, which focus on their online profile.” 

The Bottom Line

Whatever approach you choose, remember that cheaper is not always better. Be sure to ask questions when working with a data provider or outside service. Or invest in developing quality content you can use to build an organic list. Either way, good data makes for good marketing. If you have questions about which approach is right for you or would like us to handle this process for your next project, just give us a shout.