Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Buying Access To a List

Buying Access To a List

Buying access to a list is a step that your organisation may need to take in the lead-up to a direct mail campaign.

If the database your group is using for direct mail-outs is lacking in depth, numbers or contacts – or you are looking for new people to contact for your organisation's fundraising, sponsorship, awareness-raising or membership drives - then your group could consider this move to bolster those numbers.

Another reason to purchase access to a list could be that you have no direct mailing list at all, and need a basis upon which to start building a body of supporters, members, donors and the like.

Whatever the reason, there are a number of options available when buying access to a list, with list brokers the people your group will most likely end up talking to.

List Brokers – What are They?

List brokers are companies that specialise in the sourcing of lists, or the creation of new lists. They can have ready-made lists, or you can brief them to produce a new list for you – meaning a few weeks "lead time" before you can start your direct mail-out campaign.

Most of the time you can also specify the format of your list:
  • on a CD ROM disc,
  • via e-mail,
  • in writing or
  • on labels.
You can also have a source code placed on the labels and will need to pay a set-up charge for the list, which covers the cost of selecting the data and formatting it for use.

More often than not, list brokers act as a "go-between" - matching list owners to those who wish to buy or rent the list, with the cost for doing so acting as a commission to the broker and paid by the group wanting to use the list.

Many will be able to give you information, price quotes and other advice on purchasing access to a list. They may also need details about your organisation to keep an eye on what you are intending to use the list for.

Information on profiling, segmenting and targeting lists can be found in the Relating to Contacts category in the Mailing and Database Management section category of the Media & Marketing Centre, available by Clicking Here.

If your group needs to work with a list broker, one of the best ways to begin is by going to the Australian Direct Mail Association (ADMA) website at

The ADMA site "lists the list brokers" with contact and company details for each so your community group or not-for-profit can get in touch with them. It also sorts list brokers by location and interest area. Another positive is that ADMA has its own code of ethics that members adhere to, with a complaints mechanism when needed.

Sourcing Lists

Compiled lists vs Response lists

There are two types of mail lists – compiled lists and response lists.

Compiled Lists are put together to meet a requirement.

For example: If you want your direct mail-out to reach financial executives, you can brief a list broker to source or research the names of financial executives.

Compiled lists are what are known as a "cold list" – that is, a list of people you have never had any contact with, and who may or may not have not responded to previous direct mail requests. This means you are likely to get a lower response rate compared to a response list, or list of your own customers.
Response Lists are lists of people who have responded to direct mail or marketing campaigns in the past. Because of this, response lists are known as "hot lists", as your organisation can expect a greater level of response from a direct mail-out to them.

As with compiled lists, your group can buy access to a targeted response list of people who may be magazine subscribers, or who have donated to/are members of groups like yours.

Remember, a small, highly targeted list – either compiled or response – will cost more than a large generalised list.

List Renting vs List Buying

Another option your group or organisation will need to consider is whether to rent a list or buy a list from a list broker.

Buying a list is exactly that, where your organisation buys a list of names from a list broker which it can use as often as it wants.

Renting a list means your group rents the usage of a list from a list broker for your direct mail-out. Usually that rental means your organisation can use the list once.

This is important to remember, as many list brokers add seed names to their rented lists to pick up if it has been used twice. A fine will apply if you are caught.

Many people will recommend your group rent a list rather than purchase one outright.

This is for the simple fact that while a rented list can only be used once, your group then keeps the names of those who respond to your mail-out and become donors, members or supporters. Obviously, these are the only names you are interested in keeping.

Buying a list means you have outright access to the names on it, but have then paid for the names of a large number of people who will not respond to your direct mail-out – meaning you have wasted money.

There are also legal issues around how names are used. Ensure you comply with legal requirements.
  • For more information on the types of questions your group should ask a list broker when buying a list, refer to this help sheet

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.