During the past few years, the use of rented lists has tumbled as much as 40%, estimates Stephen R. Lett, president of Bethany Beach, DE-based consultancy Lett Direct. But there is still plenty you can do to maximize the amount of list rental income you can generate; here, Lett offers eight suggestions:
1. Grow your house file. The number of names available on your file and its growth rate are the factors that most affects your list rental income. Since testing lists is an expensive proposition, many mailers are hesitant to test small files: Even if the test works well, there will be few names to continue on. So that means you should not cut back on prospecting.
2. Update your file frequently. That means at least quarterly, though let the size of your file and your own mailing schedule determine if you should update monthly.
3. Be smart with exchanges. Do not exchange with other catalogers unless their lists work for you. If you already have a large exchange balance with another mailer or if a list is not working for you, do not exchange.
4. Be flexible on pricing. Work with the mailer to be certain your list is affordable and reasonable. Be willing to negotiate “select” charges and net names. Do not hold hard and fast to your rate card. Waiving select charges or capping selects can often be the difference between a mailer canceling an order or placing a successful test that results in future continuation orders. Five continuation orders at a discounted rate of $135/M are better than no orders at a higher standard data card rate of $165/M.
5. Offer product selects. Without specific product selects some mailers may find your product mix too broad in comparison to the products they offer.
6. Enhance your file with other data. Offer file overlays through one of the cooperative databases (assuming you are a participant in a co-op and that your file is large enough—roughly 100,000 names at least). You can also have your service bureau overlay your file with third-party data from one of the large consumer databases.
7. Offer modeling. Like file enhancements, modeling makes sense only with files exceeeding 250,000 name. Keep in mind that just as some files seem too small to test, others seem too large. Some mailers view renting certain lists to renting the phone book. You can get around this type of thinking by offering free geographic or other basic modeling services with a modest commitment of rental names. If your file is strong, continuation orders will more than cover the cost of the modeling.
8. Provide fast turnaround time. Use a service bureau that can process orders and provide counts quickly and without delay. Be sure you know how your service bureau is performing.