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How to Work With a Mailing List Broker Specific things to look for when trying to identify a list broker to work with.

By Craig Simpson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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A good mailing list broker will help find you the best lists out of the tens of thousands that are available, get you the best prices, help you get money back on bad names, duplicates, etc., and take care of all the negotiating with list sellers. These are all jobs you don't want to try to do yourself. Here's some valuable information for those looking to work with a broker for the first time:

How Mailing List Brokers Work

A mailing list broker's business setup is very similar to the way a real estate agent works. The agent will go out and search the market listings to find homes that meet all your specifications. Once you select the home you like, your real estate agent has the ability to negotiate with the seller and coordinate all the steps of purchasing the property.

A mailing list broker works in a very similar way. Your broker should explain all the characteristics and qualities that you're looking for in a mailing list. The broker does the research and shops the market to find all the available lists that fulfill your requirements, and then sends you a list of recommendations.

To help you select from among the different possibilities, the broker should send you a very informative data card for each of their recommended lists. The data card provides all the information about the list that you need to make a proper decision. A data card should include the following: date when the list was last updated, whether it's a compiled list or a response list, demographics of the names on the list, who else has rented the list and how many times they rented it, etc.

What You Have to Do

After you go through this information and discuss it with the broker, the broker will go out and help you acquire the lists you'd like to rent. In most cases, you don't actually own the names. You're only renting them. Most lists only allow you to rent and mail the names one time. Occasionally you will be able to rent them twice. Don't try to mail them more times than your contract allows. List sellers have ways of checking up on you with seed names planted in their lists. If you mail illegally, they'll charge you and probably won't rent to you again.

Returning to the broker, you can see that the role he plays is essentially that of a middleman. He's going to do all the work of finding you the best list out there and then negotiate with the seller and make all the arrangements for you. And again, the broker will get paid a commission by the list owner (not you, the renter).

Who to Work With

I rent lists every week for the clients I work with. I've ordered thousands and thousands of mailing lists over the years, so I've worked with a lot of list brokers. I've worked with the good, the bad, and ugly, and I've narrowed my brokers down to one excellent agency that I use exclusively.

You will want to find somebody who's going to be responsive to the way that you like to work. If you primarily like to communicate through email, you want a broker who is willing to email you back and forth. If you're the type of person who prefers to work on the phone, make sure the broker is willing to call you with information. Make sure the broker is willing to accommodate those preferences.

In the end, selecting a mailing list broker is just like picking your real estate broker. You want to find someone who you are happy and comfortable to work with and who is willing to work within your parameters.

Craig Simpson

Author and Owner of Simpson Direct, Inc.

Craig Simpson has managed thousands of direct mail campaigns and grossed hundreds of millions in revenue for his clients over the past 15 years. Simpson is the owner of Simpson Direct Inc., a Grants Pass, Oregon-based direct marketing firm, and a respected speaker/presenter on the topic of direct mail. He is the co-author with Dan S. Kennedy of The Direct Mail Solution, available from EntrepreneurBookstore.com. He blogs at simpson-direct.com/posts.

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