Mailing list companies focus on obtaining and validating addresses. These addresses are then sold to other businesses for use in direct marketing. In other words, these companies act as brokers.
Companies may focus only on electronic addresses or only on postal, or may handle both. Phone numbers for telemarketing are also important. Commonly, a company will go to lengths to ensure that the addresses are legitimate and valid, including sending out test mailings. Lists are kept in a database which includes profile information such as zip codes.
These companies hire secretarial and data entry professionals. They often have a strong online presence and make considerable use of the internet. They contract out to programmers who design and secure databases. In some cases, they may also handle the actual distribution of bulk and mass mailings. Electronic distribution is obviously cheaper.
Direct mail, in this day and age, needs to be carefully targeted. Mail addressed to homeowner or resident is more likely to be ignored than more personalized missives. These techniques are used for lead generation, however, and often many more flyers are sent out than expected sales. Magazines that send messages to their subscribers are likely to use their own databases and distribution channels, but some may seek a company to add potential consumers.
Advertisers commonly use direct mailings to send out promotions and coupons. In some cases, these may simply be flyers, or menus. However, personal messages often have higher rates of success.
Direct mailings will remain as long as they attract some customers, and are likely to be with us for a while to come.