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Mailing Lists for Insurance Agents and Financial Advisors

Finding the right mailing list can determine the success or failure of your mailing.  Here’s how to find and specify the right mailing lists.

Mailing Lists for Insurance Agents & Financial Advisors:
How to Find, Specify and Buy a Great Mailing List!

Insurance Sales Letters

Awesome Insurance Sales Letters

The mailing list you select is responsible for about 40% of the success of your mailing. The other 60% is decided by the creative and the offer.

The creative is the design, style, copywriting, photos and illustrations; and format: letter, envelope mailer, self-mailer, booklet, post card – and so on.

You can create a successful mailer with practice, testing and patience. It helps to study what has been working.

As a student of direct marketing, I’ve been studying direct mail creative for the past 25… OMG am I that old already!? But you can see what’s working just by looking at the mailing pieces you receive more than once. Seeing the same piece more than once means it’s working.

It’s hard to come up with a great unique offer. Something new and exciting that forces a great response. Great offers vary widely and change for each market. I’ve written a lot about this in some of the articles at JeffreyDobkin.com so I won’t repeat them here. This articles is about mailing lists.

If you have a great mailing package or letter, a great deal of your success boils down to sending it to the right mailing list.

Housekeeping Note:
You technically don’t “buy” a mailing list, you “rent” the names on the list for a one time use. (You can negotiate for additional use and additional mailings.) For the sake of clarity, I’ll refer to renting as “Buying” the usage of the mailing list. So…

Buying the right mailing list is the toughest part of any mailing. Yet the right mailing list contributes so much to your success.

More than that, mailing to the wrong list is a direct line to failure. Even the best direct marketing packages don’t bring any response when mailed to the wrong list.

Here’s the formula:

Poor List = poor response
Good List = good response
Great List = great response
G-R-E-A-T List = G-R-E-A-T response

Specifying Mailing List Criteria
The mailing list data (the mailing list records) – names and addresses – can be ordered and specified in several different ways. You can buy a mailing list based on:

Consumer / Geographic –
Locality, neighborhood, by zip code, city, township, county, state.

Demographic –
Household income, neighborhood, age, business, number and type of vehicles, value of home…

Business –
Type of business, Industry (SIC), number of employees, position, income, valuation, annual income,

Response –
Names of people who have responded to a direct marketing offer.

Where do mailing lists originate?

There are two main types of origins of mailing lists: compiled mailing lists and and response lists.

Mailing list data can be compiled from state, county or township information such as driver’s license records, vehicle registrations, names in selected phone area codes or zip codes, voting records, home ownership, mortgages, number of children, date of birth, property ownership etc.

Mailing lists are often compiled from phone books, for example: the names and addresses of all photographers in selected cities or states, or all the plumbing supply houses across the Southern US.

Mailing lists can be further sorted.
Additionally by using data “overlays” on the mailing lists you can further define the records you receive.

For a mailing list of mortgage holders this may include not only who the mortgage holder is, but also date of application, final transaction date, amount of purchase, amount of initial mortgage or current balance, or monthly payments. Any and all of this data is available and may be relevant to your offer and as importantly to your response.

Suppose you wanted a mailing list of all the names and addresses of people who have two children in Zip code 19066, who have purchased their house in a 2018, for $400,000 to $500,000, and the amount of mortgage they have left to pay is more than $250,000. Yea, you could specify that list by merging the “mortgage holders” mailing list with the “Parents” mailing list and a zip code overlay of the mailing lists.

Additional “overlays” can be added to specify additional criteria and refine the records search further. For example you want to buy a mailing list of homeowners and specify you want the names of people who own “properties worth more than $2 Million with at least $750,000 left on their mortgage, and have 3 cars and an income property down the shore.” OK, you can get it.

Your mailing list can specify head of households appended with multiple overlay criteria: “with annual income over $250,000 who own a Buick and have 2 children in college and who live in the following zip codes….”

As you can see, you can get very specific with tightly targeting the names on your mailing list. It’s the beauty of direct mail: precise targeting. No wasted advertising expense.

If your market focuses on High Value Clients as most financial advisors seek as their target market, you can rent a mailing list of HNW individuals and specify a value overlay: people with assets over $3 million; or UHNW people with over $40 million in assets. Additional overlays can be “who own a house worth over $8 million, and own a Mercedes and have been divorced within the past two years.”

Yes, if you can specify it there are mailing lists with that specified criteria available. Trouble is in this particular instance, lots of people mail to UHNW individuals – so your great mailing piece can get lost in the clutter of direct mail they receive each morning. This is where the creative part of your package has greater relevance.

A final word about additional “selects.” You can select people with a second house in Florida, a second income property, or who own a boat over 42 feet long. Or who own property on a coastal waterway. Each overlay of criteria makes the list smaller as you weed people out of the list. So this list may be available but it may only contain 200 names matching all criteria.  Not really enough for most mailings, but you never know… if you’re selling jet planes you can mail to this tiny mailing list customized, personalized packages every month for the next 10 years and all you need is one person on the list to purchase to cover your costs and beyond.  Way beyond.

Demographic Lists

Mailing Lists can also be specified of people with selected Demographic profiles. The names on the mailing list can be specified by SIC code, income level, head of household, religion, job position, owner of business, number of employees, industry, title, wealth, home value, number or type of vehicles and so forth.

Mailing lists may be specified by current data: new movers, new homeowners, new parents. All these can be specified and are selectable when you buy your mailing list.

“New Movers” is a classification offered by most mailing list houses, and is a mailing list I personally consider when selling insurance or financial services.

Reason? Moving from one home to another marks significant change in most people’s lives.

It’s a great time of uprooting and change. A chance to shake out the old and bring in the new. This includes getting new insurance policies – and new agencies – and speaking with new financial advisors. It’s a time of upheaval and change.

When looking at “new movers” make sure you know the zip code to see if they are the right geographic and demographic for your range of services, products and/or advice.

Of interest to most Insurance agencies is the Ex-Date.

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin

Ex-Date

In the insurance industry, names can also be rented based on the ex-date of an insurance policy.

The ex-date is one of the most common ways insurance agents receive mailing lists. The ex-date list may even be available from one of your providers. Oftentimes an insurance provider will offer their own list of ex-dates.

Ex-dates are when a policy expires. You can mail to the ex-date names a letter or mailer offering new insurance with better rates or tighter coverage.

Common ex-date mailing lists are for homeowners.

When someone purchases a home they can’t get a mortgage without insurance. So the date they purchased the home is the date their current insurance policy was purchased, and it expires a year later. By finding the month and day a house transaction took place, you can surmise the policy coverage will expire a year later.

If you mail to that homeowner about 30 days before the ex-date of their policy they may be willing to jump ship from their old agency. You just have to make sure your offer sounds great.

In our insurance agency letter series there is a letter specifically for mailing to homeowners on the ex-date of their current policy. Just saying, saying. You don’t have to purchase our insurance sales letters, but my kids will have to go barefoot, and won’t have anything to eat for the next few weeks… We’ll be ok, though – don’t you worry about it. Poor starving kids…

I can’t really speak for what you’re getting in the mailing list you’re renting from your providers, but you can and should ask your mailing list source valid questions about the list.

What is the source their records came from? How “Fresh” or recent is the data – the names on the mailing list. Also ask how many other agencies have purchased the list. You don’t want to be the 30th agency who mailed to a homeowner this month.

Ask how many people came back and rented more names on the list – showing the mailing was successful. These are valid questions and when you buy the names on these mailing lists they will have a very direct influence on your response.

Remember from the beginning of this article: Poor list = poor response…

Almost anything you can think of, if you can specify it: it can be incorporated into your selected names on a mailing list.

It doesn’t end there.

Mailing list names can also broken out by occupation, donors, medical conditions, parent and new parent – to name just a few more criteria you can specify when buying your mail list.

As you can see, you can get pretty specific in buying a mailing list.

There are also many options to add additional “appends” onto the direct mail names – like adding email addresses or phone numbers. There are hundreds more ways to tighten the list of precisely who you want to mail to.

Whatever mailing list you buy, your goal is always the same: to specify a list that will be composed of people MOST LIKELY to use your services or buy your products, so that the MAXIMUM number of people will call.

Direct mail is a game of numbers. Higher response rates are usually the better numbers.

Sources of mailing lists

While some mailing list sources are great, a few resources aren’t the most reliable.

Data cards are the staple of the mailing list industry. These are 5 x 7” sales cards that contain all the propaganda data of why you should use that particular mailing list. Oftentimes they are filled with techno speak and gobblitygook, while other data cards are just purely bullshit.

Like professional wrestling, don’t take data cards too seriously or at face value. In researching and buying lists, let the buyer beware – which is YOU.

The proof of a great list: 1.) it’s fresh names (recent), 2.) you don’t get a lot of returns on your mailpieces because it’s accurate, and most importantly 3.) you do get a great response of high quality prospects.

Response lists
Response lists are usually used when mailing product offers, not as much in the insurance industry – but still can offer great value in wealthy neighborhoods.

Response mailing lists are comprised of people who have made a purchase or an inquiry through a direct marketing channel. The direct marketing channel can be direct mail, catalogs, newspapers or magazine ads, or TV offers.

There is a big difference between actual “Purchasers” and “Inquirers”. Purchasers are proven responsive to direct mail offers, and known to be a good source of money sent through the mail. Inquirers less so.

Almost every catalog marketer sells their list of purchasers – it’s great additional revenue. That’s why when you purchase something through a catalog, you get lots of catalogs within a few weeks of your purchase. You were placed on a “Hot Names” of purchasers list.

Magazine Publishers Mailing Lists

Most magazine publishers rent their mailing lists of subscribers and these tend to be a very good resource for targeted mailing lists. The magazine can be very targeted to your specific market.

If you are looking for high income names and addresses, yacht owners might be a good subset of HNW individuals, and “Today’s Yachting News” and “Modern Yacht Owners Magazine” might be good resources for names of wealthy people. As far as I can figure out, there aren’t too many “poor” yacht owners.

One reason I like Magazine publishers mailing lists: the mailing lists are usually very clean – with very few bad addresses. So you won’t get a lot of your mail back. Returned mail is expensive: you pay a premium for each piece to the post office, and the mail is usually beaten up pretty badly: folded, marked, and not clean as in you might be able to used them again.

When a publisher gets a name back as “not deliverable,” the publisher has a fast process to take the name off the list right away because it costs them money each time they get a magazine returned.

When you rent a magazine mailing list and mail to their readers you won’t get a lot of wrecked envelopes back by return mail marked non-deliverable.

In lousy lists, or old lists, it’s not unheard of to get 20% returns. If you get 20% returned to you, I’m guessing another 20% weren’t delivered and who knows where they went.

Mailing List Brokers are a good source for mailing lists.

Change that. Mailing list brokers CAN BE a good source for mailing lists. Some are terrible.

Brokers should be able to offer a good depth of knowledge if you ask the right questions about the lists they rent.

The better mailing brokers are very familiar with the data behind the lists they sell. They know which lists work for what offers, and which mailing lists have been successful for what products or services.

Good brokers know which lists are the hottest, the coldest. What’s old, what’s clean, more importantly by whom each of their lists have been rented, the industries, the mailers, the offers, and who came back to rent more names when their mailing tests were successful.

Every mailing list you buy, every direct mail piece you send is at first a test. No way around this. Also, keep this in mind: while you may have to purchase 2,000 or 5,000 names, you don’t necessarily need to mail to them all. Initial testing should be smaller, but realistic.

A few of the list houses I trust:

Melissa Data (melissa.com/direct/mailing-lists-sales-leads) Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Email: Sales@MelissaDirect.com. Phone: 800-635-4772.

Melissa Data is a prime list resource. Although their website isn’t for the faint of heart – and when you call the user experience can be only so-so. But if you get the right person on the phone you can get in-depth information on mailing lists, and potential sales leads sorted by a blinding array of data. Some of their sales reps are a great source of knowledge.

You can also get a quote, specify, build, and download a list 24/7 on their website if you feel comfortable that you know what you are doing. Personally, I like to talk to people and get more information before spending money on something that I’m not really sure of what I’m getting. I guess I’m just old fashioned.

AccuData (accudata.com) Fort Myers, Florida. 239-425-4400.
A bit friendlier website, and also a trusted vendor of mailing lists.
Take your best shot at building your own mailing list on their site.

When in doubt about what to buy, what to look for in a mailing list, just do what I do: I write down everything I want in a mailing list, what I am marketing, and who the perfect prospects are. Then I call the mailing list house. They’re much faster than I am with their own selection tools, and can be a lot more accurate at specifying exactly what I need.

Here’s some real help in mailing your letters:

All Star Mailing. allstarmailing.com 480-966-4354, Tempe AZ 800-691-9575

Way more than just a mailing house. They are specialists in data mining, mailing lists, printing and mailing variable data letters and mailers at the top of the field. Here’s what they do:

They will research and get you the names of mortgage holders in the area you select, find the mortgage annual renewal date and the amount of the mortgage.

Based on this ex-date information, they’ll send a personalized letter to the homeowner with an actual personalized quote for insurance from your firm.

Yes, welcome to the 21st century.

Their price: including research, letter printing and personalization, mailing AND POSTAGE all starting at 53¢ each, with a minimum of 750 pieces. Pretty incredible.

They handle everything – mailing lists, printing, personalization, imprinting and variable data on the letter, and mailing. Their cost reflects their specialty: they print and mail specifically for insurance agencies.

I’ve included the custom letter I wrote for them in this package you are holding so you can see their exact offer. It shows what they do and their pricing for the whole she-bang.

Before I sound like an ad for this firm, a note of Transparency: I don’t make a commission and I’m not an affiliate. I just think they do a great job at a very reasonable price, and I trust them. So they get my highest recommendation.

Another shop I trust is Ace Mailing. Years ago they handled the mailings for several of my clients to everyone’s complete satisfaction. While these folks don’t do what All Star Mailing does, they are a decent sized player in the mailing field.

Ace mailing acemailingsf.com 415-863-4223 San Francisco, CA
They offer Mailing Lists, Data management, Printing, and Mailshop services.
They’re pretty close to handling all your mailing lists, printing and mail shop service needs.

How do most of my actual clients mail?

Most of the insurance agents and financial advisors I speak with do their own mailings from their office.

Smaller shops and individuals owning small firms personally mail a few hundred pieces a week. Sounds easy but it’s a real pain in the neck.

Using a firm like All Star Mailing frees you from the drudgery of having to do the physicality of the mailing. It becomes a line item in the cost of doing business, and frees you to do other tasks.

If you do the mailing yourself it’s possible you won’t look at the results you receive – several new clients – you’ll just say, “Oy, that was a lot of work.”  And won’t do it again.

If you pay for the mailing the equation and the formula for success becomes much more clear:  “We spent $500 and got 3 new clients… made $4,000.  Let’s do that again, times 5.”

A few of the micro agencies I spoke with told me they mail 25 letters a week.  I don’t recommend this.

Direct mail is a game of numbers. If you get a 1% response, which is actually a pretty realistic number, 25 letters isn’t enough to tell if you’re receiving this response. It will take you a month to mail 100 names and addresses. The 1% response may be in the second hundred – where you get two responses, while the first hundred didn’t draw anything… yet.

Also remember it sometimes takes a while for people to respond to your mailing. Two or three weeks isn’t out of the question. If you create real value in your letter or booklet, and mark “Please Save!” many people will and you might get a call at a later date. Around here a letter can sit on my desk for weeks while I think about the offer. Be patient.

If you mail 100 pieces a week, you should see a response by the end of the month (400 pieces mailed) – provided your list is decent.

I could go on and on about mailing lists, but I’ve already done that in my book, “How To Market a Product for Under $500!” You can get this book Free – with my compliments. Just keep reading…

The bottom line? You’ve got to dig, really dig for a great mailing list.

It’s the hardest part of the mailing – dealing with sales people who may tell you most anything to get the sale, to confusing answers and data that isn’t portrayed correctly.

Researching mailing lists isn’t glamorous or sexy like creating a great mailing piece. It’s just tedious work sorting through a confusing maze of dubious data and hoping in the end you come out with the right list to give you a great response to your mailing. In short… it sucks.

On the good side: The great lists are out there. You need to dig deep to find them. Best of luck, and gimme a call if I can be of any help. 610-642-1000 rings right here on my desk.

How To Market A Product for Under $500! Cult Classic Book by Jeffrey Dobkin

Best Offline Marketing Book Ever…

Further reading: In my book, “How To Market A Product for Under $500” I have written extensively about mailing lists. This article is just a brief overview of what’s in the book – almost 50 pages specifically on the research and selection of mailing lists.

If you’ve read this far – and I guess you have – I have three things left to say…

1. Thank you for reading this far.
2. Thank you very much for purchasing my letters. I hope you are successful in your mailings.
3. If you’re willing to read it, I’d be happy to send you my book, “How To Market a Product for Under $500!” with my compliments. Just let me know you’d like to read it. The book was written to help entrepreneurs and colleagues succeed in direct marketing.

Thanks again.

Jeff Dobkin Selfie

Jeff Dobkin Selfie

 

 

Jeffrey Dobkin, President
The Danielle Adams Publishing Company
P.O. Box 100
Merion Station, PA 19066
Telephone: 610-642-1000
Email: jeff@dobkin.com

 

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