To Survive, Mailing Lists must become “Smarter”

Mailing lists, a traditional tool of the long standing direct mail industry, are slowly reflecting some of the progress of big data and associated analytics. While the survival of the mail industry generally is questionable, some advanced niches of mailing list development and usage continue to impress.
As the cost of postage and mail production has increased, forward thinking mailing list developers correctly understand that their survival is dependent upon providing ever more successful mailing lists. In a declining direct mail industry where ROI is critically important, some mailing list developer / providers take most seriously the long standing objective: to communicate only with businesses or consumers most likely to buy a specific product or service.
Mailing lists can, ideally, provide the basis for selecting those businesses or consumers most likely to respond. But mailing list providers vary greatly in their inclination to offer smart or not so smart mailing lists – that is, the ability to provide to the mailer those recipients most likely to respond. In this case, the “smartest” mailing list is one that offers a great number of selection options combined with the analytic capability to predict buying response.
On a smartness scale, some mailing list providers limit their mailing selection options to basic name and address and a few geographic characteristics. The next tier of mailing list providers also offers some demographic and firmographic selection characteristics. In addition, more advanced providers also offer psychographic, financial, and buying related selection characteristics. Finally, the smartest mailing list provider offers abundant selection options combined with a low or no cost response analysis service.
It is almost predictable to conclude that there will be a shakeout of mailing list providers. A dwindling number of mailing list providers will survive by offering list selection options that work, that is produce proven desirable response rates.