08 How To Select A Mailing List

List selection is critical to a successful mailing. It just doesn't make sense to send a sales letter to someone who couldn't possibly be interested. Where do you get the right names?

First of all, you compile them yourself. Begin with your own contact network. That's the most important list you could ever get your hands on, because those people know and trust you. You're a known quantity to them. (Remember, the business world is suspicious of "strangers.") Your friendship list will be your biggest ally in your search for new employment.

Get other lists from:
  • Professional organizations (names of their members)
  • Telephone directories
  • Your city directory
  • The newspaper (business section, special inserts)
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Directories In Print (a directory of directories)
  • Internet websites like Hoovers
Lists you can buy
I've found the best lists are those you create and verify yourself, but if you're in a hurry, or want to do a mass mailing—say 1,000 pieces—you can buy or rent names. Companies like InfoUSA allow you to select lists online. A quick search on "mailing lists" on Google produced dozens of good vendors.

Be a list-monger
Be on the lookout for lists and directories. Get your hands on them and don't let go. If they're affordable, buy your own directories so you can mark them and reuse them.

Some directories are free. Get them. Some cost as little as $5 or $10. Grab them. Some cost $25-$35. Buy them if you will need them often. Borrow expensive directories from the library. Copying names and titles from the library is the worst-case scenario because it's slow and boring. I prefer to find smaller directories I can buy and own—usually those under $25. I have a filing cabinet full of them.

Don't forget that some associations sell their membership lists on pre-printed labels, so you can buy the labels and skip the data entry—a big time-saver, although labels tend to look like "mass mailings."

Some lists come on computer disk, a great idea if you need a lot of names—and if the list is current. Some list services offer their names online so you can access them over the Internet.

Where to get the names of executive recruiters 
They're right here on our website. E-mail your letter and resume to as many as 1,000 headhunters listed in The Directory of Executive and Professional Recruiters published annually by Kennedy Publications, Templeton Road, Fitzwilliam, NH.

Verify all names, titles, and addresses
My definition of a directory is "something that's obsolete the day it comes off the press." Why? Because people move so often.

Every time you use a list, verify names and titles. Call the company and ask, "Is Marcia Cooke still in charge of accounting?" Five times out of ten they'll say, "No, Marcia has left the company. Ron Black is now in charge of accounting."

Verifying names is a lot of work, but it's worth it. Letters that don't go to an identifiable person are useless. People don't like to receive mail addressed to someone else, especially their predecessor. Readers like their mail personalized. I think you're better off sending 50 letters to the right people than mailing 500 pieces to an outdated list.
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