Lists and Prospecting: An Unlimited Bargain?

Would you pay twice as much as usual for a rental name if you could remail that name as often as you wished? Some companies are offering unlimited usage of their files.

For example, New York-based Hugo Dunhill Mailing Lists manages a file of physicians in group practices for which it charges $55/M one-time usage and $110/M for unlimited one-year usage. Its parent company, Dunhill International List Co., offers numerous other unlimited-use files, as do such competitors as Act One Mailing List Services. Not surprisingly, the pricing strategy is designed to bring in incremental rental income, says Paul Reulbach of Ridgefield, CT-based D-J Associates, which has used the tactic as well.

Unlimited-usage pricing is especially common among business-to-business compiled databases, adds San Francisco-based consultant John Lenser. But it’s sometimes available on consumer response files as well — usually on lists of recently defunct catalogs.

IS THE PRICE RIGHT? If you typically remail to prospects two, three, or four times in a year, then unlimited-usage lists look like a bargain. Indeed, if you’re a b-to-b marketer appealing to a highly targeted audience — say, veterinarians or building contractors — the universe of potential names is typically small, so renting the file would make sense, particularly if you mail frequent catalogs, product announcements, and promotional pieces.

Another instance unlimited usage could pay off, says Steven Cushinsky, president/CEO of Boston-based Act One Mailing List Services, is if you’re a cataloger/retailer and you want unlimited access to prospects near your retail locations. This would enable you to mail them traffic drivers throughout the year.

Before you jump at the offer, though, consider how many other marketers are also renting the list on an unlimited basis. If a number of your competitors are, these names are likely to be overmailed, which could drive down response. Also, within six months of acquiring the list for unlimited one-year usage, about 50% of all the names are going to be at least one year old and therefore appeciably less effective, especially for consumer mailers: As Lenser says, “On the consumer side, recency is everything.”

Gina Valentino, the customer development director at Downers Grove, IL-based general merchandise cataloger Spiegel, doesn’t dismiss the idea of renting unlimited-usage lists. “If I were able to negotiate the cost of selects into the base price, then I would consider it.”

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