Lists: Behavior Matters Most
Early in my freelance copywriting career, I was hired by The Bradford Exchange to launch Plate World, a magazine for collectors of limited-edition plates.
Started by J. Roderick MacArthur, son of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur (as in the foundation that bears their name and the people who made zillions selling mail order life insurance), the concept of The Bradford Exchange was to create a kind of stock exchange for collectors’ plates. It persuaded collectors that if they bought plates at the issue price, they stood a chance of making money in the so-called Secondary Market, which is pretty lucrative with some plates’ values growing from $45 to $995 in 20 years.
The plate-collecting business is instructive and directly related to the challenges of catalog acquisition. Plate collectors are from every income level and geographic location. Their only commonality is collecting, which makes prospects hard to come by.
As I delved deep into the business of plate collecting, I discovered a large segment of these folks are in the lower socioeconomic strata living in trailer parks. Their mobile homes are lined from floor to ceiling with hundreds of dollars worth of colorful clown plates designed by Red Skelton, the sad-eyed children of the Keanes, itsy-poo figures from the House of Hummel and endless iterations of Disney, Norman Rockwell and The Wizard of Oz.
Run Bradford’s customer analysis through the Claritas PRIZM Clusters, which relies heavily on geographic information, and you’re looking at “Rural Industria,” “Mines & Mills,” “Norma Rae-ville,” “Rustic Elders” and “Grain Belt.”
Mail a collector’s plate offer to lists that match these geo-demographics, and you’d lose your shirt, no matter how powerful the offer. However, a good collector’s plate offer sent to any of the 1.3 million collectors on The Bradford Exchange list or Lenox Collections’ 526,000 would be surely worth a test—regardless of the gender, age, income, locale or presence of children.