Prospecting: Teach an Old Trade New (and Not so New) Tricks
Imagine copying the names of doctors and lawyers from the phone book and mailing them a crude, black-and-white catalog. John Figi, founder of gift food cataloger Figi’s, did just this —and was rewarded with a response in excess of 10 percent! That was in the 1940s, when Americans were starved for retail options.
Fast-forward to 2007. Companies have more than 20 square feet of retail space per capita. Customers and prospects have thousands of Web sites from which to order, as well as about 10 to 20 catalogs delivered weekly. Naturally, it’s small wonder that prospecting response rates are declining.
So, just what techniques work today, and which ones don’t?
List Rental, Merge/Purge
Working: Using outside names to help “prospect” in your housefile. A nice byproduct of renting names is the ability to “mark” your database with outside list information. It makes excellent fodder for housefile modeling.
Working: Negotiating with co-op databases. If you mail to a lot of names, you may be in a position to negotiate “off rate card.” The greater the portion of your business with any one player, the better the deal the co-op is likely to offer.
Brookstone has made Abacus its single source for prospecting. “We’ve cut our merge/purge cycle time by two-and-a-half to three weeks,” says Brookstone’s Operational Vice President of Customer Marketing Steve August, “and have been able to expand our holiday mailing by 40 percent with minimal degradation in response.” Another impetus for this trend is the desire to avoid wasteful duplication among outside lists.
NOT Working: Treating all prospect “singles” the same. Ever-escalating postage costs mean you probably can’t afford to mail the weakest names that survive the dupe-elimination portion of your merge/purge, regardless of how much you paid for them.
Generally, multis are strong enough to be mailed on their own, but smart mailers are finding ways to eliminate the least profitable names from the unique output. You should avoid mailing uncodable/non-ZIP + 4 names or those that can’t be delivery-point-verified. Postage for these names is significantly higher. You can cull the best singles via modeling. And further downstream, use singles from your weaker lists when they contribute to carrier route qualification.