List priorities in the merge/purge are a standard topic of debate among database pros, says Scarsdale, NY-based database consultant Michael Grant. Do I put all lists into the merge/purge at an equal priority, or do I give a higher priority to one group of lists, since those lists are my core lists?
Before cooperative databases became so prevalent, many mailers prioritized lists so that the less-expensive files or those that had traditionally performed well received the top priority. If a name appeared on, say, a tried-and-true list that had been granted top priority and on a new list that was given lower priority, the credit for the name would go to the former. As a result, the favored lists would always net out a higher rate than the others.
“This tactic is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” argues Grant. “In fact, this method ultimately is detrimental to a company’s growth and future profitability.”
Grant advises putting all the lists into the merge/purge at equal priority with a random allocation. Without equal priority, a mailer will always improperly inflate its top lists in terms of net-out rates as well as mailing productivity. And a mailer will almost never be able to get a test list to work with a lower priority, since those lists lose all the multibuyer names that match other, higher-prioritized lists. The positive or negative impact in terms of demand per catalog can vary from a 5% variance to a variance of more than 20%, says Grant, based on volume of names for the various lists in different priority groups.
“The only time you should have separate priorities for a prospect list is when the prospect list is from its stores or from an external partner with whom you have a relationship,” Grant says. “These names then take on characteristics of a house customer name and should be prioritized below buyer names but above external lists.”