5 Steps to Ensure List Income Success for 2007

List income projections are in place and your list sales vendor has their marching orders, but how prepared are they to achieve your goals? In this competitive marketplace, strategic planning is essential to meet and exceed your revenue goals. List owners and managers are partnering for success by developing strategies and processes that minimize risk, maximize opportunities, and limit the surprises at the end of the year.

Setting aggressive – yet realistic – goals is the first step; planning and preparing your list to meet the demands of marketers is imperative. Here is a good starting point to ensure success for 2007.

Do the homework early
Review the usage of your largest continuation mailers and your “up and coming” list users early. Start by projecting out the universe size for segments currently being used, identify expansion segments, and get confirmation and commitments from brokers and mailers early. If the universe sizes have gone up, work with the mailer and broker to secure increased usage in advance. Communicating this opportunity early will help the mailer and broker work these larger universes, or expansion selects, into their planning process while developing the circulation plan. What you do not want to do is start discussing this opportunity when the mailer is looking for counts or when the order is placed – this leaves everything to chance, room for surprises and a risky outcome.

If your file size is trending smaller, it’s best to start working on expansion strategies early. Recommend testing additional segments early on in the year for possible rollout expansion in the same year. This approach will offset the threat to list income; It’s also a good exercise that alerts the list owner and manager well in advance of future problems, so they can address strategies to make up any potential shortfalls in advance.

Earlier is better
Don’t wait to firm up relationships, continuations, tests, or expansion opportunities at trade shows. This is not a sound strategy to begin solidifying and building your list rental business — there is a good chance you are already behind the eight-ball. Circulation plans in many cases are in the works or being finalized, and your competing with scores of other list owners and managers who are doing the same. But setting up conference calls before shows, or face-to-face meetings year round gives you the best opportunity of achieving your overall goal and maximizing results. Implementing this strategy will help secure and build revenue and ensure both list-owner and manager’s time at the show is better spent setting the stage for the next selling season, as well as addressing other issues on behalf of his or her clients and businesses.

Review, plan, and act
It’s never too early to review key benchmarks that define a successful rental business. A quarterly or biannual (at a minimum) SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) is crucial to your success formula! Most list owners and managers ensure their lists are priced right, however, only a few re-evaluate all aspects of their rental business on an ongoing basis, for example, ensuring sales copy is strong and selects offered are relevant to the continuation and prospect pool.

Review usage and identify strength and weaknesses based on comparative usage with competing lists as well as common sense. Benchmark testing levels, continuation-to-test ratio, sales per names sold and top user reliance. Once goals and objectives have been identified after this exercise, a sound strategic plan to accomplish the goals of each selling season must be developed and implemented.

Segmentation, segmentation, segmentation!
One key element to developing usage that is conducive to year round income stability and growth, is to make sure your list has the greatest amount of segmentation (with good sized universes) to attract usage across major rental markets. Segmentation such as product, dollar select, buyer channels, demographics, lifestyle, and purchasing characteristics is essential to competing in today’s market. I am amazed at how many lists are still not fully segmented to compete with the lists of similar size and the co-ops.

Keep an open mind
More and more we are seeing special requests such as third-party response models, co-Op modeling, Proprietary database, third-party append (such as date of birth), and a host of other unique and ever-changing requests. Carefully review the pros and cons of each request and do the math. If there are still unanswered questions or concerns, schedule a conference call with your representative, along with the broker and mailer. In most cases what you will find is that the request is needed to use the list with a reasonable investment and outcome for the marketer. Clearly there is perceived value to both the owner and mailer regarding the list – you must determine whether or not the deal meets your perceived value. Keep an open mind when it comes to non-competitive marketers looking to use your file, or traditional marketers who need the extra discount or third party intervention to bring response up to snuff, especially when the results is increased usage and revenue.

Keep these five simple recommendations in mind early in the season. They are basic steps list owners and their representatives can take to ensure there are no surprises at the end of the year. The busy fall and holiday order season is just around the corner –are you ready to benefit from it?

Chris Montana is senior vice president of Hackensack, NJ-based list firm Mokrynskidirect.

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