List Broker Services Review
Direct Marketing Begins with a Good List
The top performers in our review are InfoUSA, the Gold Award winner; Mailing Lists Direct, the Silver Award winner; and List Giant, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a broker to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 services.
We spent 30 days researching list brokers, starting with an initial list of over 20 services before narrowing it down to the top 10 services. Our review focuses on list providers that primarily sell and rent direct mailing lists, with email and telemarketing list being secondary products. Read our reviews on Email Marketing Services and Telemarketing Services to learn more.
How Do List Brokers Work?
A list broker connects you to extensive databases with the contact information for consumers and businesses. These databases are assembled from various sources, including phone books, public records and surveys. Records can include names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of people or businesses you're trying to market your products or services to.
List brokers help you narrow your list of consumers or businesses to those that are likely to be the most responsive to your mailers, emails or telemarketing calls.
Why Use a List Broker Service?
Direct marketing is a method businesses have used for decades to reach new audiences. It involves reaching out to a specific target audience via mail, email or phone in hopes of converting them into customers or clients.
A successful direct marketing campaign can result in a boost of customers, whether that is consumers or businesses. How successful your marketing efforts depend on several factors, including your message and call to action.
However, in order to get your message to these people, you need to obtain lists of contacts, and the success of your campaign rests largely on the quality of those lists. Not only do list brokers provide you these lists, they can help you determine the right contacts for your campaigns with the right demographics to reach the audience that will be most receptive to your message.
What We Evaluated, What We Found
If you intend to launch a direct marketing campaign for consumers, having your mailers, emails or telemarketing calls reach the right households is imperative. As is the case with most marketing campaigns, you need to balance cost and the scope of your campaign to get the best return on your investment.
The best list brokers help you target your desired demographic or geographic location. They identify a segment of the audience with interests that align with your products or services. List brokers with superior consumer list generation let you precisely select leads, sometimes right down to certain streets, for example. Some brokers, like InfoUSA, offer mapping tools that allow you to draw the exact geographic area you desire.
If you are marketing a B2B product or service through direct marketing, then you need a specialized list that will make into the hands of the business owners you want to target. Business lists need to be more precise, especially if your product or service is designed for a specific type of business or industry.
The best brokers have lists broken down by types or industries, such as restaurants, retail stores, health care, etc. This is normally done by searching for the standard industrial classification (SIC) code, which is a government-defined classification of the industry you want to target.
Often, you can dig deeper with business lists, targeting businesses of a certain size by adding a sales volume range or other demographics, such as woman-owned businesses or ethnically diverse businesses.
How Does The Broker's Customer Service Rate?
While many companies on our list allow you to request lists through their website, we recommend that you talk to their representatives and marketing experts so you can explain your campaign and what you hope to accomplish. Often, they can help you develop a finely honed list so your campaign resonates with your target audience.
So just how helpful are the services on our list? For our evaluation of list brokers, we spoke with representatives by phone, email and live chat (if that feature was available on the broker's website). After narrowing our initial list of more than 20 brokers down to 10, we rated our interactions with each company. We based our score on how helpful the broker's staff was in answering our questions and how quickly they responded to our inquiries. Companies with lower scores were slower to respond, and it was more difficult to obtain information about their services and features.
Choosing the Right List
If you're considering purchasing a list from a broker service, you want to consider several factors, including, most importantly, how the list data was sourced. Lists can be categorized as either compiled or responsive. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. List brokers can also combine the two types depending on your needs.
Compiled data is primarily obtained through open records, including phone books, government records and credit files. The household or business contacts on these lists can be further sorted by geographic locations, gender, ethnicity, income and age.
With compiled lists, you can easily focus your lists on these specific demographics. However, if the customer parameters of your campaign are undefined, your return on investment can widely vary, and your campaign is then more dependent on the quality of your marketing message.
Unlike the contacts in compiled databases, those on responsive lists in one way or another volunteered their contact information. These lists can be sorted by interests, household income, marital status and other factors. They are usually gathered through sources like magazine subscriptions, catalogs and previous direct marketing responses.
List broker sites often state these are "opt-in" lists, meaning the contacts may be more receptive to your message. However, the disadvantage of pulling from these lists is that they're not as plentiful as compiled lists and they're more expensive, because the criteria, such as hobbies or interests, is often very specific and entails a lot of work for the broker to acquire.
Picking a Quality List
When working with a list broker, consider the factors below before going forward.
How Current are the Lists?
Like shopping for produce, the fresher the list, the better. Before buying a list, check with your list broker on when they last updated their database. Good list brokers regularly run their contact databases against the National Change of Address File from the U.S. Postal Service. This diligence matters because otherwise, if you're conducting a direct mail campaign, for example, if your postcard is undeliverable, not only did you miss out on a potential sale or lead, but there are the costs you incurred to design, print and mail your item.
Most services run a standard check every 30 days; sometimes, you can request the broker run a check prior to you purchasing the list. Email lists and telemarketing lists must adhere to the CAN-SPAM Act and National Do Not Call registry, respectively.
Does the Broker Guarantee Its List?
When spending a large amount of your marketing budget on lists, you want assurances from the broker that your campaign will, in fact, reach your intended audience. Addresses and contact info on large lists are always in flux, so, inevitably, there are delivery errors, and some mailers will bounce.
Typically, list brokers offer a deliverability guarantee and will give refunds for items that are returned by the Postal Service. A broker, however, is not responsible if your campaign fails to attract new customers.
Buying vs. Renting
Brokers usually offer two avenues for acquiring lists: buying or renting. When you buy a list, it’s yours to keep and add to your own database.
Broker companies will sometimes offer to rent you a list for temporary use. You can rent a list for one-time use, and the company will either send out your direct marketing campaign for you or they will give you a copy of the list. You enter into an agreement with the list broker that you will only use the list for the agreed amount of uses. Often, the rented list contains seed addresses that alert the broker if you use the list in violation of the rental agreement, which can result in fees and penalties.
Does The Broker Assist with Direct Marketing?
After selecting your list, some list services design your mailers or emails and send them for you. Of course, you can always use your lists and make your direct mailing campaign with another service. If you are renting an email list for one-time use, this is typically the method they use, which ensures their list stays private.
List broker services can help you find customers to boost your business's sales or visibility. With the help of a list broker, you can easily connect to a larger audience. To learn more about other ways you can supplement your marketing efforts, check our articles here.