Lists and Prospecting: Maximizing Compiled Files

Among the business-to-business catalogers who participated in Catalog Age’s 2002 Benchmark Report on Lists (see March 1 issue,), 60% used compiled lists. That’s an increase of nine percentage points since the 2000 Benchmark Report, when 51% of b-to-b respondents said they used compiled files. It’s also an indication that, thanks in part to advances in data technology, the quality of compiled lists has improved.

Consolidation among list companies and data providers has also contributed to the improved quality of compiled files. List firms such as Walter Karl, which was bought by data compiler InfoUSA, and Market Data Retrieval, which is owned by business information provider Dun & Bradstreet, can leverage their parent firms’ databases to provide greater selectivity in their lists. These files now offer selects such as line of business, employee counts, sales volume, and even information on individual executives.

For instance, e-mail selects are more widely available on compiled lists than they were two years ago, says Ed Mallin, president of Pearl River, NY-based list firm Walter Karl-InfoUSA. He estimates that about 20% of compiled business lists today contain e-mail addresses.

What’s more, many compiled files on the market offer a new-business select. “That’s a select that you can’t get from response lists,” Mallin says.

Getting specific

To make the most of compiled lists, b-to-b mailers try to home in on more specific selects in the compiled lists they rent. For instance, Shelton, CT-based Market Data Retrieval, which specializes in educational marketing, helps its catalog clients prospect to teachers within school districts with which the mailers have already done business.

“This way,” says Barry Powlishen, Market Data Retrieval’s eastern region district sales manager, “you can have a bubble-up effect in which teachers might look through catalogs to find what they want to use in their classrooms, then put their requests to department heads or district-level administrators who handle procurement.” These managers are subsequently more likely to place the orders with familiar vendors.

Carolina Biological Supply, a Burlington, NC-based multititle cataloger of educational science and math materials for gradeschool teachers, has the same philosophy. When renting compiled lists, in addition to selecting prospects from specific school districts, the cataloger has its service bureau run a merge/purge to make sure it’s mailing to new names from familiar districts, says director of advertising Harry Shoffner.

Carolina Biological also selects teachers by subject matter, filtering out those that don’t teach math or science. “And since there are many more biology teachers than earth-science teachers — since earth science is a narrower profession — we may limit our use of biology teachers because we can’t afford to prospect to them all,” Shoffner says.

“Compiled lists are all we’ve ever used to reach our audience of independent electronics retailers,” says David Lorsch, president of Scottsdale, AZ-based cataloger DBL Distributing, which sells wholesale consumer electronics. DBL relies on selecting five standard industrial classification (SIC) code categories — audio, video, photo, security products, and hardware retailers — and does not worry about whether its catalogs are reaching active mail order buyers. “As long as stores sell products in the categories that we sell,” Lorsch says, “we feel that we have something to sell them.”

DBL, which will channel half of its 2002 catalog circulation of 500,000-plus to prospects, is more concerned with suppressing the large electronics retail chains. “We remove the chain stores, such as Circuit City, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, and Sears, from the compiled files we rent,” Lorsch says.

John Papalia, president/CEO of Danbury, CT-based list firm Statlistics, adds a few commonsensical — yet often overlooked — suggestions for getting the most of compiled lists. “Make sure you get a contact’s exact name when it’s provided with a compiled list,” he suggests. “Also get titles, and choose segments by multiple selects rather than just a single select.”

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