If you are about to rent or purchase a list for use in a direct mail, email, or telemarketing campaign, here are some things to consider:


1) Use a reputable list company such as Acxiom, D&B, Equifax, Experian, or InfoUSA.  Stay away from reseller web sites – most of their data is out-of-date.


2) You should be able to rent the list for about $40 / 1,000 names.  If you’re paying more than that, you’re paying too much.  If you’re paying less, the chances are good that the list you are getting isn’t worth very much.


3) Be certain of the deliverability of the list you select.  The USPS reports that 25% of all direct mail is “undeliverable as addressed”.


4) Understand the “selects” you choose and where the data comes from.  Most of the selection variables such as income, homeownership, net worth, age of children, etc. are data variables derived from “models” that can vary tremendously from source to source and often be inaccurate.  (I’ve seen plenty of list records where the “homeowners” lived in homes valued at $500,000 with a household income of “less than $20,000”.)


5) If you’re using the list for telemarketing, make sure the federal (and some state) Do-Not-Call lists have been suppressed from your output and you are not charged for the names suppressed.


Start with your in-house Marketing Database – Whether you know it or not, you have one.  Every customer and former customer and every estimate you’ve ever done is the beginning of your Marketing Database.  If you haven’t compiled all of these names and addresses into one file, you should do that before renting any kind of outside list.  Your return on investment for this list will be twice if not three times that of the list you are thinking about renting.


Of course people do move over time and the name you have for that address may need to be updated depending on how old the information is, but the house should still be there and quite probably the lawn size hasn’t changed much.  Also you can be pretty sure that whoever lives in that home is a prospect.  They have a lawn and somebody at that address either purchased or thought about purchasing your service in the past.


Add additional addresses to the data base by capturing the addresses of neighbors and other homes and streets in the neighborhood.  Finish one zip and then start on another.  Drive up and down streets looking at lawns and homes and writing down street names and street numbers when you have a weather day that prohibits you from doing anything else.  Use a Criss Cross directory to start with and add or delete addresses as you go.  Again, the addresses will probably outlast you, so once you’ve keyed them all into a data base the only updates you’ll have to make are new homes and names and demographics.  In time you can build this list to cover your entire Marketing Universe and update it to include the following information:


  • Customer # (if they were ever a customer)
  • Program ID (if they were ever a customer)
  • Title
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Street Number
  • Pre-Directional
  • Street Name
  • Suffix
  • Post-Directional
  • City
  • State
  • Zip
  • Zip+4
  • Carrier Route
  • Neighbor Code
  • Cancel Code (if they were ever a customer)
  • Reject Code (if they ever requested an estimate)
  • Lawn Size (if they were ever a customer or lead)
  • Home Value
  • Age
  • Income
  • Credit Card Usage
  • What and when you mailed the address every time in the past
  • If, when and how they responded to any of those mailings
  • Annual revenue (if they were ever a customer)


With all of the above information, (some of it obtained from one of the reputable list companies I referred to, but most of it your information), you will be able to target a very effective direct mail campaign.


It can take years to develop an in-house marketing data base that covers your entire market.  It’s worth it – but it does take time.  Until you can build this database, use the in-house names you do have, suppress them from the list you rent and rent the balance of names you need.


Neighbors of Current Customers – Where you’ve been successful in the past is a primary indicator of where you will be successful in the future, so prospects living in the same neighborhoods as some of your current customers are a good bet based on geography alone.  Marketing to these neighborhoods also builds route density which improves profitability.  But this list is even better than that.  These prospects are likely to share many of the demographic characteristics of your current customers.  Also, many of these people would have seen your trucks and the quality of work that you do.  You have some brand recognition in these neighborhoods and that will improve response.


New Resident Lists – In the early days of lawn care, marketing to new homeowners’ lists was very successful.  Lots of first time homeowners looking for the American Dream in the suburbs and buying a lawn care service for the first time from the first company that contacted them.  That isn’t the case anymore.  First of all, very few of your new customers will be buying a lawn or landscape service for the first time.  They most likely had a service before at the home they just moved from.  And you are not likely to be the only service they hear from and they may still have some brand loyalty with the service they were on before if that company services the area they moved to.  However, new residents can still be a profitable list for you if enough new movers are available within a 6 month time frame.  It’s at least worth a test.


SFDU (Single Family Dwelling Units) Lists – Most lawn and landscape companies rent SFDU lists targeted by Household Income or Home Value.  This is fine as far as it goes and for smaller mailings may be the most cost-effective selection method.  However, not all homeowners with similar home values and incomes are equal lawn care or landscape service prospects.  Read more about: TARGET MARKETING. Also, as mentioned earlier, income and some demographic data in general data can be suspect.  I recommend using a combination of age, home value based on county deed records, zip code (again, where you’ve been successful in the past…), and negative credit information where available as a suppression to target your mailings.