Four Quick Tips for Making List Exchanges Work

Direct Media announced last week that the Alzheimer’s Association was no longer making its file available for rental. The nonprofit group is still making its file available on an exchange basis, however. Indeed, this sort of practice has become somewhat more common during the past few years.

Successful exchange programs depend on many variables, including the size of the companies and how long they’ve been mailing. To get the most out of your list exchange programs, here are four tips to keep in mind.

1) Don’t rule out exchanging with competitors.
You may be reluctant to trade names with your rivals, but as San Rafael, CA-based catalog consultant John Lenser points out, the best exchanges come from your competitors, since they are qualified mail order names in your niche. True, you’ll also have to give up your names, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, he says.

2) Keep close track of exchange balances.
Ideally, exchanges work like a bank account. Say you exchange 20,000 names with another cataloger. You can use some of those names now to round out your next mailing and “bank” the remainder for future use, or you can use the entire balance for a single catalog drop. Your list services providers usually maintain an exchange balance summary, an account of the amount of names your company owes to other mailers, and the amount of names your company is owed. The exchange balance summary is referred to during circulation planning meetings.

3) Don’t let costs dictate your prospecting mix.
While exchanging names may save you some money, if you don’t garner customers from those “free” names, the list is hardly a bargain—after all, you do still have to pay catalog production and postage costs, but there’s the revenue you may have lost by not renting your names to the company with which you exchanged. Don’t let the promise of reduced costs blind you to the realities regarding the suitability of the names.

4) Watch for heavy promotions.
When contemplating a list exchange program, make sure your offers are fairly similar to those of the other mailer and that the other party isn’t running too many promotions, such as free shipping or discounts for first-time buyers.

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