List Watch: Memorable Lists

‘What’s the Most Unusual List You’ve Rented?’

Would you rent a list of tool buyers for a women’s apparel catalog? Or a list of lingerie buyers for a consumer electronics title? Probably not. Then again, sometimes mailers take a gamble on a seemingly inappropriate list in hopes of a big payoff.

Roberta Nasta is vice president for the consumer products division and catalog of Lighthouse International, a New York-based nonprofit marketer of merchandise for Americans aged 45 and older with vision problems.

Years ago, while I was with the Brownstone Studio catalog [which sells apparel for mature women], I was persuaded to rent a compiled list of mature brassiere buyers.

I told my list broker that I didn’t think it would work, and I was right — it didn’t. If there were such a response rate of minus-zero, this would qualify. In fact, to the best of my recollection, we didn’t get one order!

Fortunately, the list brokerage gave me some free marketing services as compensation for the list’s failure. In fact, I bet my broker on it: If the list performed 20% below the average of other outside lists or lower, I wouldn’t have to pay commissions on several test lists on future mailings to make up for the cost. Plus, the broker developed a customer survey piece free of charge for us.

Len Rose is circulation manager for Chardon, OH-based cataloger Eagle America and for the Pricecutter.com discount Website, both of which sell woodworking supplies.

When I was with a previous catalog, we rented a [compiled] list from The Lifestyle Selector [a list firm that was later sold to R.L. Polk, then to Equifax]. We had such a phenomenal response rate from this one list that our rep at Lifestyle Selector bragged all about it to his vice president.

But then I looked more closely at our response data and noticed that one sales agent had an extremely high rate of customers with Lifestyle Selector codes. He had been under the impression that the “Lifestyle Selector” code was the miscellaneous code. So he attributed any responder from a list that he was unsure of to Lifestyle Selector [inflating the list’s response rate].

To make sure, we did a couple of continuation rentals of the list in modest quantities, and they definitely weren’t as successful as we would have liked them to be. To call the actual response to that list “lukewarm” would be generous.

Bill Demas is executive vice president/general manager of Skokie, IL-based Anatomical Chart Co., a business-to-business cataloger of human anatomy charts and models.

About four years ago, when our sales team was looking for new market segments in which to sell our products, we decided that because we had had some success in occasionally selling to physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors, we’d try to do some list rentals in those fields.

We took baby steps, as we always do when testing new markets, mailing to about 10,000 names from these lists and hoping for, at best, a 2%-3% response. What we got, however was phenomenal — 4%-5%. Since then, we’ve mailed to literally hundreds of thousands of these kinds of professionals.

What I learned from this is that sometimes, you have to go with your gut. We had the feeling based on the people calling us in these new markets that this was worth testing. Not only have we been selling them muscle and skeletal charts, but we’ve also been selling this market some of our novelty items, such as our T-shirts, mugs, Post-It pads, and clipboards.

Howard Kupfer is senior vice president of brokerage for Hackensack, NJ-based list firm Mokrynski & Associates

In one recent situation, we used a compiled file based on new movers for a very high-ticket general merchandise cataloger — a list that you normally wouldn’t think would work that well. But the list came out at the top of the cataloger’s response data, in the top 10% of this mailer’s lists. While I can’t tell exactly why the list worked, it probably hit the right demographics for this particular cataloger.

We’ve rented such compiled lists as beauty parlor professionals, teachers’ lounges, and even people who buy contact lenses for some clients who go by the motto “Let’s try something off the wall and see how it works.” And in some cases, these lists performed much better than we’d anticipated.

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