The Best Ways to Choose Mailing Lists
Selecting the right mailing lists for your offering is as much art as it is science. Last week, I discussed hedging your bets by choosing the right list broker (the science). Today I’ll delve into what to do with the list broker recommendation you receive — how to separate the wheat from the chaff (the art).
First of all, I like to put list brokers to the test and have them put themselves in my shoes. This way they recommend the lists they’d use if it were their decision. A good broker from a top firm will have much information on your market category and what your competition is doing, and that’s not the information you’d have. So if you chose the right broker for your needs, a good deal of the work has been done for you in the list recommendation.
So let’s assume that your broker has recommended 30 lists; some an exact fit and some that “could” work. In other words, some of these lists contain great prospects because they match your customer profile closely, while a few lists you “suspect” will be interested on your offering.
Now your circulation plan only calls for you to test, say 10 new lists, and you need to make a decision beyond what your broker recommended are your best bets. Here’s what I recommend:
1. I usually review the catalog or direct mail piece that was sent along with the datacard for a particular list. You can tell a lot from what other mailers are mailing. For instance, what special offers do they use to “reduce the risk” and make it easier for the prospect to order? Are they very promotion oriented while you are not? This could be a factor that could hold your response rates back if their customers expect discounts, freebies and other promos.
How does their image and branding compare to yours? Look at item pricing, shipping costs, guarantees (another reduce-the-risk area that helps get the sale), and compare them to yours. Check out their catalog size, number of products, even calculate their average item price and compare it to yours.
2. Check out their Web site, and see what they offer online that they don’t in their catalog. With so many orders being taken on the Web these days, check out their ease of ordering, and give it a thorough look.
If the catalog and the Web site for a list don’t fit with your brand, then set it aside. Mark on the data card a big red “3.”
Just to step back a second, I use a three-tiered scoring model with a “one” being a slam dunk must-test list. Ones are an exact (or very close to exact) match to your customers; lists that offer similar products in a similar price range. Twos are maybes, if there aren’t enough tier one lists available. Lists that you score a three are the ones you throw back. If you’re feeling daring and you have a hole in your circ plan that you need to fill, try mailing one of these.
I’m a big proponent of testing lists, both in my client’s catalog’s product category and, if possible, in other categories. You just never know when a fluke list will hit and provide you a new customer acquisition stream. But always remember that the lists with the closest affinity to yours are always going to provide you your best response and ROI.
Now that I’ve set the stage, next week we’ll look at data cards and all of the many selection options you have to drill down to your best possible test prospects. Be on your guard: I may even present you with a challenge; a list selection dilemma I once had and ask what you would do.
Speak to you next week.