Pulling the trigger

Mar 01, 2006 10:30 PM  By

Before the Welcome Wagon arrives at a new homeowner’s door, the refinancing offers are already in their mailboxes. For that matter, so are the credit-card applications, the music-club invites, and the magazine subscription offers.

The companies behind these offers understand the power of trigger-event marketing, the targeting of consumers based on a life-changing event — such as the purchase of a new house or the birth of a child — that would “trigger” a related purchase. But with a few exceptions, multichannel marketers have not jumped on the trigger-data bandwagon.

Mailers may hesitate to use trigger data from new-home or newly issued credit-card lists, says Mark Traverso, a vice president at Pompono Beach, FL-based list broker Lighthouse List Co., because in the past such files haven’t worked as well for them as lists of mail order buyers. But due to shrinking universes of catalog files and increased use of cooperative databases, he continues, merchants would be smart to enhance their files with triggers such as newly-issued credit-card data.

Some trigger data are more obvious than others: It’s a safe bet that most new subscribers to a magazine about parenting are new and about-to-be parents. But newly issued credit cards? What sort of trigger event does that signify? “Newly issued credit cards usually indicate a name or an address change,” Traverso says, “as well as a need for a consumer to increase their buying ability.”

In fact, says David Bancroft Avrick, president of Santa Barbara, CA-based list provider Avrick Direct, credit-card issuers know that new homeowners need to make new home purchases, and they must be in good standing with creditors or they wouldn’t have received a mortgage in the first place.

Getting the data

You can rent a list of consumers who have received a new credit card in the past 30 days for about $150/M, says Michelle Volpe, vice president of marketing for Plantation Island, FL-based list firm Media Source Solutions. But such lists do not include purchase history, so you wouldn’t be able to determine if the consumers who recently received a credit card also recently purchased from Cataloger XYZ. But you can use the list to cross-check against other triggers, such as new baby and new home, to help determine if the consumer could be a potential customer within the next 90 days, Volpe says. Mailers can also use the list as an overlay to reactivate dormant customers.

Many list brokers gather data such as birth records and property transfers from public records, says Jim Coogan, president of Santa Fe, NM-based consultancy Catalog Marketing Economics. “There are some fabulous databases out there for new babies and new homeowners that lots of brokers are having people gather for them, and they are good at it,” he says.

Coogan also recommends renting subscriber lists from specialty magazines, such as Pregnancy and Fit Pregnancy; these typically cost around $150/M.

Often pregnancy and parenting magazines will ask new subscribers if they are first-time parents, “and those selects are certainly available,” Coogan says. “With a first child, a parent needs to purchase the playpen, the crib, the stroller, and the car seat in the third trimester. But if it’s the second baby, the trigger you’re trying to get may need only a new pad for the car seat or to replace a few baby items.” You could then develop your contact strategy and offer appropriately — mailing first-time parents a complete catalog of baby products, for instance, but more-experienced parents a narrower selection of items.

Merchants selling home decor and household products can take a similar approach. New, first-time homeowners tend to buy certain types of products — kitchenware, for instance — before more-decorative items such as wall hangings. “Once you buy the window treatments, you may need more housewares down the road,” Coogan says. “The broader the product offering, the bigger the window of opportunity. That is why catalogers like Crate & Barrel are so successful with triggers. They get these lists, model them around their demographics, and keep their customers coming back.”

You can’t assume that all new movers and home buyers are starting from scratch, however, and therefore need to completely outfit their residence. A change in job status, for instance, is often behind a consumer’s move to a new home. And that, says Avrick, opens the door for furniture merchants to target those status-seekers who may be looking to upgrade their decor.

The key in using trigger data effectively is not to take the information at face value. You may need to overlay your lists with several types of trigger data and selects to refine your segments. “Having my fifth child is not the same as having my first,” Avrick says. “Getting my fifth credit card is not the same as getting my first. Moving into a new apartment or home is different when triggered by leaving home, graduating college, relocating to a new town, getting divorced, losing a spouse, and retiring.”

Not for b-to-c only

For business-to-business catalogers, the use of trigger data and the types of triggers that work best are more cut-and-dried. “When a business-to-business cataloger uses trigger data, there’s always an opportunity for that cataloger to attain new customers, even if they are loyal to another merchant,” says Blair D. Barondes, senior vice president at White Plains, NY-based b-to-b list firm MeritDirect. “Trigger data is all about timing. It’s all about getting the right names at the right time.”

Barondes says b-to-b merchants can use trigger data to target companies that have recently changed name or ownership, moved to or opened a new building, or opened new lines of credit. In fact, MeritDirect in January began offering such data as part of its Purchase-Trigger tool within its MeritBase cooperative database. The data, licensed from Dun & Bradstreet and Experian, can be rented either as a prospecting list or as custom overlay to existing lists.

Catalogers can model lists by a specific trigger or can use a trigger event as a select for suppression. “At a time when prospect universes are flat to down, Purchase-Trigger has helped our clients find a new incremental pool of responsive prospects engaged in additional spending,” Barondes says. “Using the trigger data and other parts of our database, response rates for a mailer’s prospect lists can be expected to improve, and many poor and mediocre files can be made to work at continuation levels.”

Sourcebook

A sampling of rental files featuring trigger-event data:

Brand New Businesses: selects include SIC code and Yellow Page heading. Contact: infoUSA, 800-321-0869 or www.infousa.com

Bundle of Joy: new parents who ordered from an envelope package of orders Contact: Mokrynskidirect, 201-487-8181 or www.mokrynski.com

New Homeowner Hotline: includes weekly ($80/M) and monthly ($75/M) updates. Contact: HomeData, 800-628-9456 or www.homedata.com

Parenting magazine: selects include active prenatal and active postnatal subscribers. Contact: Millard Group, 603-924-9262 or www.millard.com