In the age of the internet, direct mailing lists are still an effective marketing strategy for companies looking to generate sales. Though you’ll probably have to pay some cash if you’re getting a ton of mailing list sign-ups, the best mailing list companies offer free options to help you get started, and help you create both targeted direct mailing lists and email campaigns. It’s as easy as signing up and prompting your customers to join.

Should I Buy A Ready-Made Direct Mailing List?

You may be tempted to forgo starting your own free mailing list by buying a ready-made list with thousands of contacts in your desired demographic. This has some major downsides. Mainly, it's an ineffective way to garner sales and can actually wind up hurting your entire marketing plan.

The contacts on a purchased list aren't invested in your company. Most of them will throw your mail directly in the trash, and even if they do open it, it's likely they'll get annoyed that your company sent them mail they didn't want. The best way to have a successful mailing list is to cultivate contacts who are highly interested and already invested in your business.

Draw From Your Existing Customers

Theoretically, you already have access to customer addresses if you ship orders. It just isn’t exactly the most effective method to pull customer information from your company's sales records and create a master mailing list. Plus, your customers didn't actually sign up to receive on-going mail, so it may sour them a bit on your business.

If you do end up pulling customer addresses from your email newsletter or sales list, make sure you differentiate them from people you're marketing to who haven't yet made a purchase. Customers want to feel like a part of your community once they've spent their hard-earned cash on your business, so don't treat them like a prospective customer.

Use An Email Marketing Service To Get Mailing List Sign Ups

There are a lot of services that help you cultivate free mailing lists. Mailchimp and MailerLite are among the most popular email marketing services and offer free mailing lists of 1,000 to 2,000 people, but the kicker is that they also allow you to collect physical addresses. In a few steps, it's pretty easy to ask your customers to sign up for either snail mail or email newsletters.

All of the best mailing list companies have their own methods for signing up, but typically, you just enter your email address and company name, then place a form on your website. The best way to attract subscribers is by including a core offer with a sign-up. This could be offering exclusive sales or a small discount on a first-time order after signing up for your direct mailing list.

Purchase A List From A Trade Show

Unlike purchasing a random list of addresses, trade shows have master lists of people actually interested in your industry. These are often people who are high up in their company and can make a lot of decisions, so they're excellent people to reach. Consider purchasing a trade show attendee list to create a targeted, powerful direct mailing list.

Use Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) Marketing

The United States Postal Service has a marketing program that can help you reach your local community through direct mailing lists. They allow you to filter by zip code, neighborhoods, age, income, and household size. Plus, they guide you through the whole process.

This is a great way to entice new, local customers with coupons and special promotions. Unfortunately, USPS doesn't offer free mailing lists. It'll cost between $0.162 and $0.187 per piece of mail.

Of course, EDDM isn't the only direct mailing list service. Plenty of companies, like Cactus Mailing and Printing For Less help you design and send out mailers.

Should I Do An Email List Instead?

Even with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, email lists are still the most direct line of communication you have with customers who are actually interested in what you’re selling. Direct mail is one thing, but it does waste a lot of paper and take a lot of time. Someone has to send out all those letters. If you want to save cash and time (time is money), consider using an email list instead. The marketing analytics provided help make email lists even more effective, and the paperless nature makes the low-cost or even free.

Companies like Mailchimp and MailerLite let you use metrics free of charge, which means you can track who is clicking links, who is unsubscribing and why and which email subjects are the most effective. After 2,000 subscribers for Mailchimp and 1,000 subscribers for MailerLite, you’ll have to pick a plan starting from around $10 to $20 per month. This is a small price to pay considering the average return on investment is $44 for every $1 spent.