White Plains, NY—With co-operative databases accounting for every-increasing portions of catalogers’ circulation, it made sense that a session entitled “Cooperative Databases: Managing Your Participation” was part of the program for list and marketing services firm Direct Media’s 32nd Annual Client Conference and Co-op.
Susan Pizzano, executive vice president for consultancy Marketsmith and one of the panelists for the Wednesday afternoon discussion, listed what she called “rules of engagement” for working with the co-ops. Among her suggestions:
* Before determining which co-op to join, ask for information regarding the other participants and the product categories. Abacus, i-Behavior, and NextAction are “blind” co-ops, so they won’t release the names of their participants, but they should be able to break out the product categories represented. Prefer and Z-24 will provide the names of participants. This information will help you gauge how much affinity your catalog will have with the other participants and also enable you to determine whether you should block any companies or merchants within specific categories from having access to your names.
Neil O’Keefe, vice president of marketing for women’s apparel cataloger Newport News, added that you can give even the blind co-ops a list of catalogs you want blocked—if the catalogs are participants the co-ops will deny them access to your names; if they’re not members, then the point is moot. But keep in mind, he said, that blocking is reciprocal. If you deny a competitor access to your names, you won’t be able to access the competitors’ names either.
* Meet with your account representative at the co-op regularly to review performance and share business information, such as any changes you’re making to your merchandise mix.
* Standardize the modeling process as much as you can. For instance, determine which cells or rankings within your models you want to be protected from additional testing. Kevin Moore, manager, database marketing and analysis for educational toys and gifts merchant Discovery Channel Store, agreed: “It’s important to protect what’s working while you’re testing something new.”
* Create specific model instructions—for instance “I want to use only 12-month buyers because our audience has changed so much during the past two years.”
As O’Keefe said, “You need to get involved with the model. Don’t just sit back and let the ‘experts’ determine the model.” After all, they may be experts regarding statistics, but you’re the expert when it comes to your business. If you know that your spring buyers deviate hugely from your fall buyers, for instance, don’t allow the co-op to build a fall circulation model based primarily on your spring buyers, even if they are the more recent.