Sizing up lists for the market

How to determine if a list is large enough to rent Size does matter – at least when it comes to putting your list on the rental market. Unless you’re a highly specialized niche marketer, before you can market your list it must offer at least 5,000 names – or 10,000, or 20,000, depending on whom you ask.

Nick Schellong, vice president of list management for Cos Cob, CT-based list firm AZ Marketing Services, believes a list must have at least 20,000 12-month buyers before going on the market for rent. And if a list is fairly general – a broad-based gardening file, for instance – he would want it to have 25,000-50,000 12-month buyers before putting it on the market. Of lists with fewer names, he says, “Some small lists out there – with 8,000-15,000 [names] – are best for exchange only, because you won’t get list rental revenue.”

Schellong also contends that a list test must contain at least 7,500 12-month buyers. Cheryl Zatz, marketing director for food gifts cataloger The Popcorn Factory, agrees. The Lake Forest, IL-based mailer generally tests 7,500-10,000 12-month buyers per list and wants more names available for a full rollout.

Joy Contreras, vice president of consumer list management for Pearl River, NY-based list firm Edith Roman Associates, has more modest requirements. She believes that nonniche files can go on the market with as few as 10,000-15,000 names.

Deduping – running rented lists against a house file to avoid duplication of names – is the reason for minimum-name requirements. If a cataloger has a house file of 100,000 names, renting a list smaller than 5,000 names could well show duplication of 1,500 names, leaving the company no more than 3,500 unique names to test. “And mailing results become skewed with a small quantity of mailings,” Contreras notes.

Carving out a niche

Niche marketers are the exception to the 5,000-name-minimum rule, says Contreras. A list of, say, aviators might have only 4,800 names, “but mailers will test it because the category is small.”

AZ Marketing’s Schellong is also willing to make exceptions. If a list is in a fast-growing market sector or is in a period of rapid growth, for instance, he would be willing to put it on the market with only 10,000-15,000 12-month buyers.

Although it has a house file of 200,000 buyers, The Popcorn Factory would be willing to rent smaller specialty lists – instead of one list of 100,000 unique names, for instance, it would consider 10 lists of 10,000 unique names each in a niche market. “From a user standpoint,” notes Zatz, “10 targeted lists are more valuable than [more general] large lists that don’t perform as well. And specialty lists are in high demand in a growing market.”

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