Can We Be Direct?

How to improve your direct-marketing IQ

When it comes to targeting a fickle consumer base constantly bombarded withjunk snail mail and e-mail, even the most savvy, research-oriented professionalcan fall short. But by following these mailing list targeting tactics, yournext mailer is destined to be a direct hit.

1. Who are your customers? When you're working with a mailing list,you're one step ahead of many entrepreneurs because you actually know whereyour customers live. You can also have a reputable company "geocode" yourmailing list. Geocoding adds geographic codes to each list and allows you toadd other demographic, income or lifestyle data so you can better understandyour customers.

2. Why do they buy from you? Geocoding helps you answer the question of"why" by first revealing what and how customers buy. With specialized CACIsoftware, you can determine such things as whether your customers read TheWall Street Journal, watch soap operas or listen to talk radio. Forexample, you might find a majority of your customers are classified as IB,which stands for "Wealthy Seaboard Suburbs"--consumers known to travelextensively. If the majority of your customers are 3B, "Enterprising YoungSingles," you know they dine out frequently and like to spend money onfurniture. Of course, it's up to you to determine whether diners or travelersare better suited for your products or services.

3. How can you find more customers like them? Where do you find newcustomers without overprinting and wasting a lot of postage? This is a burning,direct-mail question but one that's easy enough to find an answer to if yougeocode lifestyle data to target similar lifestyles across the country. If youknow that certain segments--like diners or travelers--constitute the majorityof your current customer base, be sure to append lifestyle codes to your nextmailing list selection. Similarly, demographic data allows you to exclude menover age 65 on fixed incomes if you really just want to target females betweenages 25 and 35 with incomes exceeding $35,000.