Live from List Vision: Tips Amid a Shrinking List Universe

New York—During a panel discussion at the Direct Marketing Association’s List Vision conference here on Aug. 12, representatives from several list firms agreed that few if any major new lists will be making their way to the market. But they did offer some some suggestions on ways to find new customers amid a shrinking universe of names.

Mailers willing to delve into larger lists—such as women’s apparel catalogs—can still yield responsive new names, said Steve Tamke, senior vice president of brokerage for Mokrynski & Associates. “Catalogers need to be patient and approach them in a strategic way,” he said. “Establish a budget either in dollars or number of [mailings], or a time frame, and come up with 10 lists, from which five will eventually work. Even if you can get 50,000 names to work, you’ll still have some names you didn’t have before.”

“The good thing about the past two and a half horrible years,” Tamke noted, “is that mailers have gotten their P&Ls in shape. As a result, catalogers can work with response rates that are a little lower than in the past. They just need to determine up front what their objective is: To break even? Make money?”

Modeling off co-op databases and house files is more crucial than ever, pointed out Britt Vatne, vice president of the list management group at American List Counsel. Fortunately, it’s also easier than ever. “It used to take two months to build a model; now it takes two to three weeks,” she said. “There’s so much a model can do to get performance out of a list.”

Models from business-to-business co-op databases are “extremely effective in this environment,” added MeritDirect vice president Paulette Schlottman. “When you build a database, if you code, say, a G. Neil list as direct response, when you load it with SIC codes and all other compiled elements, you create a list on the fly,” she explained, “but you know who your customer is.”

In general, Schlottman advised list managers “to take a more holistic approach in order to find some hidden treasures.”

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