Direct mail is the strongest weapon in many remodelers' marketing arsenals. But no postcard or newsletter is worth the paper it's printed on unless it reaches the right people. “The most important thing in any direct mail campaign is the list,” says David Alpert of Continuum Marketing Group.

Alpert suggests the following steps to make your mailing list work for you.

  • Use a reputable list broker. If you plan to purchase a mailing list instead of compiling a list from your records, you'll find any number of brokers on the Internet. Alpert (who uses says to be sure the list is updated every six months at a minimum. “Between 20% and 30% of the names on a mailing list you buy today will be unmailable within a year,” he says. Accurate ZIP codes are also critical. Most full-service marketing companies can order lists for you, and they know who the reputable brokers are.
  • Define your target market. Do you want to work in a small geographic area, or will you travel to get more big jobs? Do you favor certain neighborhoods or architectural styles? Do you prefer only dual-earner, high-income households? Use this ideal to:
  • Select the right criteria. Among others, you can select by gender, income, home value, ZIP code, and mail carrier route. Similarly, you can exclude unqualified names by selecting, for instance, anyone with an income of at least $150,000 and a home value of $300,000-plus. Always select homeowners, not renters.
  • Test, tweak, and repeat. If you get more leads than your small company can pursue, use a smaller list next time. If a mailing gets a poor response, try changing the image or message. The goal is to establish name recognition and visibility, Alpert says. “You need to mail to someone two or three times before everyone has seen it at least once.”
  • For additional information, contact David Alpert at; 703.759.0106.