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Word processors make an easy task of producing, maintaining and distributing sets of letters that differ only in details such as the name, address and possibly some variable format. This type of letter drops through the letter box regularly these days, offering free entry to competitions, book club subscriptions and many other things packaged in such a way as to make the letter appear personal and targeted at you and you alone. The techniques used to create these letters are very simple. The hard part, and that is not so very hard anyway, is getting the lists of people to whom these offers are aimed. In the commercial world mailing lists are not difficult to come by at the right price — it is not difficult in fact to purchase a list of all those people in a certain social group who have bought, for example, a lawnmower in the past six months. Armed with such a list you stand a very good chance of selling lawn care products to these people. This is a far more efficient way of advertising your wares than by picking names at random out of the telephone directory. In the USA, for example, there are catalogues of mailing lists that offer lists of people in every conceivable walk of life, age group, social group, income group and location. You can then purchase the list you want already on a disk or tape ready for merging with your letter.
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