LIST FIRMS HAVE EMERGED from the tough economic climate of the past few years as multifaceted service providers. Aside from traditional list rental and management, list firms now offer such varied services as circulation planning, market analysis, mail-date and trend analysis, proprietary databases, rental and house file modeling, merge/purge, house file valuation, fulfillment services, campaign traffic management, postal sortation, and multichannel contact strategy management. List firms may even keep an eye on the weather — when floods hit the Mississippi Valley in 1993, for instance, New Rochelle, NY-based Estee Marketing suspended mailings to vast areas in the Midwest.
“List brokers can’t exist as order-takers — they need a better reason to exist,” says Geoff Batrouney, Estee Marketing’s executive vice president. “To do your job properly as a list broker, you have to be involved in the strategic planning process.”
“I look at their role as a strategic partner,” says Tari Huddleston, vice president, e-commerce at Las Vegas-based Ethel M. Chocolates. “They provide a value-added service that makes my job easier and allows me to work smarter.” Indeed, faced with reduced marketing staffs, shrinking list universes, cutbacks in circulation, the expansion of multimedia marketing, and increased competition from all channels, catalogers have demanded that list firms diversify their services.
“Catalogers are stretched extremely thin,” says Ryan Lake, president of Rye, NY-based Lake Group Media, which provides comprehensive mail planning, including list selection, response analysis, and proprietary technology to analyze prior results and develop the mail plan. Since catalogers have lost jobs through layoffs or attrition, Lake says, they are “relying on their brokers more than ever.”
List companies are especially suited to provide such a diverse range of marketing services, say some mailers. “Consider list brokers as a source of information that’s outside of your normal sphere. They have a broader view of what’s going on in the market. I use them for advice and competitive intelligence,” says Rich Atlas, director of direct mail and e-commerce marketing for Jacksonville, FL-based Venus Swimwear. “My list brokers are not shy at all about sending me clippings or e-mail attachments about industry issues that I may not have time to research.”
List pros also tend to be well connected. “Whenever we are trying to do something new, our list broker will put me in touch with the right people,” says Wendy Miller, deputy director, product marketing for New York-based nonprofit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. The U.S. editions of UNICEF’s card and gift catalogs had been printed in Europe, but when Miller wanted to add a catalog drop to the schedule, she needed help creating the first catalog to be printed independently in the U.S. “We started from scratch, and Kathy [Duggan-Josephs, president of Ridgefield, CT-based list firm D-J Associates] helped me with it by serving as an intermediary,” says Miller.
For her part, Duggan-Josephs notes that “now, more than ever, most mailers really think of a list firm as their marketing department. I think most list companies are frustrated mailers.”
“Much like I don’t have a telephone company but a communications company, I no longer have a list rental company,” Huddleston says. “It’s changed based on our business needs. I want that one-stop shop.”
For 20.4% of consumer catalogers and 17.0% of b-to-b catalogers, “making outside acquisition efforts more profitable” is one of their top three marketing concerns.
Source: Catalog Age 2003 Benchmark Report on Critical Issues and Trends
57% of consumer catalogers and 53% of b-to-b catalogers have used a co-operative database for prospecting.
Source: Catalog Age 2003 Benchmark Report on Marketing