No more lavish list promotions

Companies use discounts, not gifts, to attract testers Big-buck promos, trips, parties, and other glitzy incentives designed to lure brokers and mailers to test lists are passe. Instead, list companies are using more relevant special offers.

“We feel the best way to engage mailers in a test is to present a strong rationale and good data,” says Fran Green, executive vice president for Princeton, NJ-based American List Counsel. “We don’t do a lot of gratuitous discounting, but we do offer incentives to get the programs noticed and to say thank-you and acknowledge our customer’s business.”

For example, Green says, if a mailer uses a home-office computing list, it can test a small-business computing list for $10 off the base rate. “We use cross-list testing initiatives, particularly when we have a cornerstone list and some of the other lists are relatively lesser known.”

Of course, a little razzle-dazzle may be necessary to promote the offer. Greenwich, CT-based publisher Boardroom Reports this summer ran a July 4, 1776, promo for a list: The cost per thousand was a discounted $17.76. Boardroom also ran a Year 2000 promotion offering a discounted rate of up to 10,000 names for 2000 pennies per thousand. Typically, the company’s average base price is $105/M names.

The promos “are a great tool to bring in new sales at trade shows or to offer mailers who call to inquire about lists,” says Boardroom list manager Kristina Cassell. “We find that the prospect of gaining a large client – who goes on to order lists from us in the future – makes it worth the investment in the end to give someone a discount or a free test, which typically costs $500.” Boardroom averages 25-30 tests per mailing and runs six to eight promos a year, Cassell says.

Do incentives work? Sources say the right promotion or incentive can make prospective mailers take notice of a list. For instance, several mailers contacted by Catalog Age had tried Boardroom’s $17.76/M promotion this summer primarily because the price was right.

Mike Bittel, national sales director, Norwich, VT-based baking products cataloger King Arthur Flour, often considers incentives when deciding whether to test lists – particularly those from outside the company’s market segment. For instance, he says, “We’re looking at lists of people who do things with their hands, such as gardeners, rather than just lists from other baking catalogs,” Bittel says. An incentive such as free selects may inspire King Arthur Flour to test one such list over another.

But irrelevant incentives, such as free gifts or contests targeting the brokers rather than the clients, aren’t nearly as persuasive, say many list professionals. “I can’t call a client and say, `Please place this order by Dec. 1 so that I can get a gift,'” says Susan Rappaport, chief operating officer for American List Counsel. Green agrees: “No one is going to place an order because he or she wants a free T-shirt.”

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