Questions To Ask a List Broker Before you Buy Access to a List

Most smaller community groups and organisations will not need to purchase access to a list from a list broker.

However, for groups who are steadily expanding, those that are seeking a jump in membership or donations, or those that are quite new and want to quickly establish themselves, buying access to a list can provide a quick boost towards achieving those aims.

Buying access to a list is also an option for groups that don't have the chance to harvest their own names of potential supporters – and need the "quick fix" that a list provides.

If your community group does decides to pursue this for your direct mail campaign, there are a few questions that you should ask.

Purchasing access to a list from a list broker is not an inconsequential step for your group, nor an inexpensive task – often costing several hundred dollars or more for 5000 names/records for a one-time mailing. Highly targeted or filtered lists can cost even more again.
As the old saying goes: "Buyer Beware". Your group needs to know exactly what it is getting before it hands over its hard-earned (and often hard-to-come-by) money. Firstly, you need to ensure that the broker is reputable.

Following are some basic questions you should ask the list broker before buying access to the list. Make sure you are satisfied before going ahead with the purchase.

Questions to Have Answered

  • Does the list match my target group?
    • Be clear about what you want in terms of the list size and any specific targets or filtering requests you have – and make sure you communicate those needs to your list broker. The clearer you are, the better chance of getting a tightly-targeted list. Write down all your requirements before approaching the broker.
  • Is the list a compiled one or a response one?
    • Compiled lists are lists put together to meet a specific request – for example, to target a certain segment of the population. They are "cold" lists though – because these people have no direct relationship with your group and have not responded to direct mail in the past, it is likely your response rate will be lower.
    • Response lists contain details of people who have responded to direct marketing offers in the past. They might cost a little more than compiled lists, but are more likely to result in a higher response rate to your mail-out.
  • How frequently does the list broker update their lists?
    • According to Australia Post, about 17 per cent of our population – or more than three million Australians – change address each year. This means that mailing lists that are old or not updated will result in direct mail-outs not reaching their intended destination.
    • Conversely, the more often the lists are updated, the more accurate they are – meaning a better chance of a higher "strike rate" for your group's direct mail-outs.
  • How are the lists updated?
    • Research indicates that lists that have their details checked over the telephone are more reliable.
  • What is the "deliverability" of the list?
    • This means what percentage of the direct mail-out will be successfully delivered. Most lists claim a deliverability rate of 95%, which means only 5% of the mail sent out will be returned to sender.
    • Remember, it can be a good idea to keep a record of the deliverability rate you achieve. That way, if it does not meet any deliverability guarantee your list broker may have, your group can be reimbursed. This is another reason to put a return address on your mail-out.
  • What sort of restrictions there are on using the list?
    • Can the list only be used once? Does it have to be destroyed after use? Make sure you know the answers to these questions clearly before agreeing to buy the list.
  • Finally, ask when the list was last used.
    • Your group does not want to be purchasing a tired old list used many times over, and which contains contacts that no longer are interested in responding to your fundraising push, membership drive or appeal. Even worse, you don't want to buy a list that has just been used by a similar group seeking similar support.
    • In short, try and get the freshest, most up-to-date list possible.

Also see the types of lists available in the help sheet Buying Access to a List.

For more information and guidance on list brokers, including a who's who listing of list brokers in your state and by industry category, you can refer to the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA's), via email at:, or by ringing (02) 9368 0366.

ADMA is Australia's principal body for information based marketing. Formed in 1966, ADMA has grown and now represents more than 500 member organisations. Members adhere to a code of practice drafted and regulated by ADMA.