List Test Offers You Can’t Refuse

You’ve seen the offers in your e-mail inbox: Rent 10,000 names from a given list and receive free gift, or test the file at a deeply discounted rate. More mailers are dangling premiums and discounts to get more attention — and ideally, more orders — from catalogers and list brokers.

Some list managers are even offering contests in which the brokers who place the most orders for a particular file receive prizes or trips. For instance, Peterborough, NH-based list firm Millard Group offered a free day at a salon to the list broker who booked the most test orders of the women’s apparel cataloger/retailer J. Jill’s list. “It definitely cuts through the clutter out there,” says Jeff Kelley, Millard Group’s senior vice president of list management. “The gift represents something to keep the file top of mind.”

Working with list firm Mokrynski & Associates, medical footwear cataloger Support Plus gave a skincare kit in a carrying case to the brokers who placed the most orders of its list and also as an incentive to brokers who hadn’t yet tested the file.

“We have received several new tests as a result and also very good feedback from the continuing renters,” says Jake Hall, director of Internet and database for Medfield, MA-based Support Plus. Linda Santaite, senior sales executive for Hackensack, NJ-based Mokrynski, adds that as of July, Support Plus had already received twice as many test requests as it had for all of last year.

But list companies hasten to add that a trip to a spa or a free skincare kit will not be the determining factor in a broker’s choice of list. A broker is not going to risk his relationship with a client by ordering a test of an inappropriate file merely to score a free goodie.

“We’re trying to put the fun back into testing,” Santaite says. “The offer says, ‘Hey, check out my list.’ It’s a competitive list world out there, and everyone is jockeying for position.”

When deciding what sort of product to give away, it’s a good idea to choose one that’s closely related to your catalog’s merchandise line or image. Santaite recommends that catalogers consider any inventory that’s overstocked or being discontinued. “Instead of having the inventory just sit on your shelves,” she reasons, “you’re putting it to good use an an opportunity to drive list rental income.”

But critics contend that offering freebies and similar sales incentives is a distraction. “It doesn’t change the performance of the list,” says Deana Burret, director of list management for New Rochelle, NY-based list firm Estee Marketing Group. “A jewel is a jewel, and garbage is garbage. Offering incentives to brokers also smacks of unethical conduct. Mailers do not know that the broker is pushing the list like crazy to get a free trip to Vegas.”

Although MeritDirect has offered promotions to brokers at the request of a client, Rob Sanchez, senior vice president of list management at the White Plains, NY-based list company, says that they rarely work. “The brokers are too savvy. Besides, I think it cheapens the product some.”

Savings instead of goodies

List promotions are part of the overall marketing strategy, which can include print ads and e-mail campaigns, that the cataloger works on with the list manager. But some say that promotions have become more common during the past year. “Tests are hard to come by these days,” Santaite notes. As a result,“catalogers want a sure bet.”

Rather than offering gifts, some list managers give discounts instead. MeritDirect’s Sanchez, for one, prefers to “tweak pricing” somewhat or waive a select charge or two rather than give brokers a gift for ordering. MeritDirect client 4imprint, a promotional products cataloger, gave new mailers placing a 10,000-name test order between July 15 and Aug. 31 10,000 names for the cost of 5,000.

When setting up such an offer, Santaite suggests make 10,000 names the threshold for receiving the discount. Any fewer names, she says, and the test is less likely to be effective.

Volume discounts are especially useful for mailers with more than one catalog title or a large list with many selects, says Millard Group’s Kelley. Suppose you’ve got a file of 10 million names, and without the dollar-off promotion, brokers typically order two selects. But because you’ve made it economically viable to do so, the broker might decide to take three or four selects. And the more selects taken, the better the list performs; the better the list performs, the more times the renter will be back to use your list.

A Sampling of List Test Promotions

There’s certainly no shortage of list managers offering incentives and gifts to entice brokers to test certain lists. Here are a few of the offers Catalog Age came across in July.
Infocore Improving Your Health For list tests, 10,000 names for the price of 5,000
Lake Group Bloomingdale’s by Mail $15 off the base price for certain selects on tests
MeritDirect 4imprint For list tests, 10,000 names for the price of 5,000
Millard Group J. Jill Group Contest in which the broker who places the most test orders gets a free “day of beauty” at a salon
Millard Group Martha Stewart $1,000 gift certificate for the two brokers who generate the highest rental volume for all the Martha Stewart lists
Mokrynski & Associates Potpourri Group Half-price selects on new tests through Nov. 1
Mokrynski & Associates Sundance Contest in which the broker who places the most test orders wins a $50 gift certificate each month through May 2005. One of the monthly winners can win a raffle for a trip to Sundance, UT

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