1. Involving cooperation
2. Willing to act with others
The definition alone brings to mind families coming together to harvest their neighbor’s crop, a small town coordinating and executing the annual 4th of July celebration or business owners sharing ideas not only to increase their own profitability but to benefit their entire industry.
Standing alone provides little shelter from the rain. Standing together provides the unity to build and strengthen a solid foundation to withstand any storm.
—Direct Marketing Technology’s
Brochure for Zero24
The concept of a cooperative database is at once seductive and scary as hell.
Seductive, because you, the cataloger, can raid the customers of other catalogs who—through sophisticated modeling—are deemed to be your very best prospects. Scary, because all these other catalogers will be raiding your house file under the same parameters.
The granddaddy of cooperative databases is Abacus, dreamed up by Tony White, a native of Ireland and veteran of NDL, who opened his doors in 1989.
I knew there was a lot of waste out there—catalogers spending a lot of money on mailings to people who had no intention of buying. I believed that if I could bring a majority of the large players together and share transactional information, a perfect picture could be created.
The Abacus system works like this:
• If you are a cataloger and wish to join the syndicate, you agree to send your database and transactional information to Abacus.
• Each month you send updates and new transactions.
• Abacus performs electronic alchemy on your database, comparing your customers with all the others in the giant cooperative database. Your customers are profiled, modeled and scored in terms of demographics, behavior patterns, purchasing history and seasonality of action (if relevant).
While you, the Abacus consortium member, continually mail your own best customers from your own database, the Abacus scheme radically alters the process of acquiring new customers. You tell Abacus how many pieces you want to mail, and Abacus searches the co-op database and finds the ideal prospects for you. Your cost: $60/M. Because Abacus has your entire database, the new names you receive are net of your house file, thereby eliminating the need for a net-name arrangement.