We work with creative people including a lot of fine artists. We get a lot of questions about mailing lists. "Should I rent a list or just use what I have?" Here's what we recommend:
When you have an event to announce, or want to expand your reach with a postcard or brochure mailing, it might be a good idea to rent a mailing list in addition to contacting your own list.
Why? Let's use one of our clients as an example. She was an emerging artist with her first show at a local gallery. Her own mailing list was very small, so in addition to relying on the gallery's advertising and mailing list (which was minimal) I suggested that we rent a mailing list - a snail mail list NOT an email list - to extend her reach and attract more people to the opening reception for the show. Here's what we did:
- We rented a list through a reputable printing company who could print and mail the cards for us.
Mailing lists can be "opt-in," meaning the people on the list agreed to be on the list, and "scraped," gleaned from public information like phone books. Both are OK, but check how often they "clean" the list (eliminating bad addresses) and check their BBB/Yelp ratings to make sure people are happy with the work. Since the printing company we used addressed the cards and used their first class bulk permit to mail them, we saved on labor and postage. There are many reputable companies to choose from, just do your homework or ask us to help.
- We worked with the printing company to carefully search for people to include on the list.
We asked for people who lived within 30 miles of the gallery, with a household income over $75,000, and who had expressed an interest in fine art. Result: thousands of names and addresses. We refined the list down to a couple of thousand names/addresses as the budget was limited.
We did not ask for email addresses. In my opinion never rent or buy email addresses. The may say that the people "opted in" but, really, who in their right mind would opt in to be emailed a bunch of stuff they didn't ask for?
- We designed a postcard using the same image the gallery used on their advertising.
Using colors and images consistently for each mailing/event helps people to start to recognize and remember you. Inviting them to an event (and especially a reception) imparts a sense of urgency, much more so than "Go look at my website."
Make sure whatever you mail gives your contact info PLUS a name, address, website url, and dates for the event.
- The postcards were mailed first class, about two weeks before the show.
This gave people enough time to schedule it in, but not so much time that they put it aside and forgot about it.
- We used the list as per our rental agreement.
It's cheaper to rent a list for a one-time use than to use it multiple times. List rental companies do check on this by seeding the list with names/addresses. Stick to the agreement.
- At the opening reception a friend carried a clip board with paper and asked people one-to-one if they would like to be added to the artist's mailing list.
Many people gave their email address as well and this increased the artist's mailing list with people she CAN mail or email as often as she wants.
The artist also made a point of circulating around the gallery, introducing herself to as many people as possible and talking about her art with them. We also paid for a bit of catering (appetizers, wine, soft drinks) to make sure people stuck around long enough to get a really good look at the art.
- Result: The gallery was packed and the event was lively and energetic, the artist sold several pieces and added dozens of names to her mailing list.
Extra benefit: those names are people who have seen her work IN PERSON, who KNOW HER now, and who will certainly remember the great time they had at the reception the next time they get an invite, notice, or email from the artist.