Strategy: Find the Right Lists
Assuming you have the right merchandise, 70 percent or more of a successful mailing campaign is dependent on the lists you use. Proper list selection means the difference between profits or losses on the income statement. This includes the proper use of your housefile and the outside rented lists you use.
The specific lists you mail and the quantities of every list included in your plan are important considerations. I will talk about the different types of lists available and what you can do to improve your results.
All mailing lists can be classified into three different types:
1. Direct response lists. This type of list of proven mail order buyers includes people who have made an actual purchase by mail, phone or online. For example, your catalog housefile (buyers only; not the inquirers or non-buyers) is a perfect example of a direct response list. Cooperative databases such as Abacus, NextAction, Z-24, I-Behavior, Prefer Network and Wiland Direct all are direct response catalog buyer lists.
Catalogers prefer to use direct response lists, which are the most expensive type of lists and yield the highest response rate.
A word of caution: People who buy on the Web will likely make future purchases on the Web. This means, a cataloger that doesn’t have a strong Web site may want to avoid renting names of individuals who’ve purchased online.
Also, when renting lists, avoid customers who responded to search and affiliate programs rather than buying from a catalog mailing.
Start-up catalogers have difficulty obtaining direct response lists because they don’t have a housefile to exchange with other list owners. Business mailers also have difficulty renting and/or exchanging direct response lists with other business list owners. Most are reluctant to share their names with others.
2. Subscriber lists. Don’t overlook the fact that subscribers of consumer or B-to-B magazines can work for your offer and provide a source to help expand your prospecting universe. If you happen to advertise in a magazine, negotiate a deal with the magazine’s advertising department to get the names for free, or only pay for names selected for optimization. A lot of times the advertising department is willing to cut a better deal than the list manager at the magazine.