Two Key Ways to Know It’s Time to Purge Your Service Bureau

Looking to shave costs and boost ROI in this extra-lean economic climate? One relationship to scrutinize is the one with your service bureau—those technical professionals who manage your house file and outside mailing lists. Service bureaus are evolving. See if you’re in the loop by asking yourself two important questions:

1. Are you taking advantage of new technology?
Most of the large, established service bureaus use an obsolete pricing paradigm—charging by the number of records passed. If you have a sizable house file, or conduct large prospecting efforts, your costs will be artificially high. Should something change about the campaign (offer, copy, logo…shocking, right?) and you need to run it again, you’ve just doubled your costs.

Your service bureau should be able to price your work based on complexity. With today’s technology, service bureaus’ costs don’t increase in direct proportion to the number of records processed, so why should their charges? Many of your last-minute changes should be accommodated with minimal cost increases, potentially saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

2. Are you getting a competitive edge?
Service bureaus provide many services that are considered to be commodities—merge/purge, list hygiene, NCOA (U.S. Post Office’s National Change of Address), address standardization and correction—and the largest and most well-known bureaus can seem like the safest choice. But while these big-name bureaus may be easy to sell to management, a new breed of service bureau is emerging—one that can offer greater flexibility, lower cost, and better service.

The leaner, more entrepreneurial service bureaus can act as your company’s partner—an extension of your marketing team. Look for compelling answers to questions like: Are they experienced in providing solutions to your particular marketing challenges? How do their services go above and beyond the traditional offerings? Do they have proprietary technology that might give you a leg up against competitors? What are their other customers saying about the service and results they’re getting?

Today’s increasingly complex marketing environment (not to mention the economic downturn) make it well worth your while to search out the latest in service bureau capabilities, maximizing both savings and results.

Mark Swedlund ( is senior vice president at Haggin Marketing.

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