The Times, and List Firms, Are A-Changing

In March 2004, Radcliff, KY-based U.S. Cavalry was planning on getting its catalogs back into the mail after a nearly 18-month hiatus. The cataloger of equipment for homeland security and national defense was in bankruptcy. Management was struggling to resurrect the company. For assistance, it turned to…a list firm.

New Rochelle NY-based Estee Marketing Group not only clean up U.S. Cavalry’s house file, but it also created a new circulation plan for the cataloger and even found it a new service bureau.

U.S. Cavalry’s experience is not all that unusual. Firms that once trafficked in data cards and magnetic tapes of names have grown into sleek multichannel service providers offering everything from search engine optimization to Web analytics. In short, list firms do much more than sell names — they help grow catalog businesses.

“These days successful brokers are offering circulation planning services, analytical capabilities, marketing advice, and counsel,” says Geoff Batrouney, executive vice president of Estee Marketing Group. “If you want to be part of a coordinated successful marketing effort, it’s essential to offer your clients these services. If not, you’re reduced to that of an order-taker or worse, the ‘list guy,’ and you’ll be treated accordingly.”

Recognizing that clients need more than a vendor to rent or manage their lists, Hackensack, NJ-based Mokrynski & Associates changed its name to MokrynskiDirect in October. President Dennis Bissig says the name change positions the 26-year-old firm to be “a full-range provider of growth solutions.”

At the same time it unveiled its new name, the company also introduced new services, such as e-mail tracking and analysis, Website hosting and management, and search engine marketing programs.

Customer demand is one reason list firms are evolving into marketing services providers. For instance, New York-based MKTG Services introduced an alternative media division earlier this year in response to client requests, says vice president Ken Altman.

But consolidation within the industry has also widely contributed to the expansion of the list firms’ arsenal of services. When InfoUSA bought Pearl River, NY-based list firm Edith Roman this year, the purchase gave Omaha, NE-based InfoUSA’s Walter Karl division the ability to set up proprietary databases through its data-processing services capabilities and to offer a variety of Internet marketing services.

“Clients are asking to go beyond the normal mainstream of looking for lists to use the Internet,” MKTG’s Altman says. “They need to expand what they are doing. We’ve had to dig deeper in our research to find the various sources of what our clients are looking for.”

After it was acquired by Columbus, OH-based credit bureau CBC Cos. in December 2002, MKTG Services was able to offer clients MailSafe/FailSafe, a cooperative database of transactional data from continuity clubs and “bill me later” marketers. Using the data, MKTG builds a model for its clients — based on historical transactional data — that identifies the potentially profitable consumers in a mailing.

Making it work

To make the most of list firms’ value-added services, catalogers have to be forthcoming with proprietary information. Without it, the list company would only be able to offer boilerplate services, such as ordering lists. “Without the proprietary information, you can’t design a circulation plan that utilizes all the analytical tools, says Estee Marketing’s Batrouney.

Woolrich, PA-based outdoor apparel cataloger Woolrich shares its key financial data with Peterborough, NH-based Millard Group, which has served as the company’s list broker/manager since it began mailing in 2000, says Mark DiMarzio, Woolrich’s catalog and Internet manager.

“Millard is more privy to our financials than they otherwise would have been,” DiMarzio says.“They play a significant role in the circulation planning of our business.”

Woolrich also uses the list firm’s research arm, which can survey consumers via e-mail. Millard Group gathers the data and reports back to Woolrich, which then uses the information as an industry benchmark.

So, What’s New?

During the past six months alone, a number of list companies have expanded their service offerings. Here’s a sampling:

Direct Media The Greenwich, CT-based company launched Direct Media Web Diagnosis in September in partnership with Web development and marketing firm The Worx Group. The service provides evaluations and recommendations on seven key Website functionalities, including design, usability, and search engine optimization.
MeritDirect Partnering with e-mail solutions provider M4Internet, White Plains, NY-based MeritDirect last month made the M4Analyze service available to clients. M4Analyze helps marketers better target their e-mail campaigns, based on previous campaign history or survey responses.
Millard Group In September the Peterborough, NH-based firm changed the name of its marketing services division to Decision Direct Research, to emphasize the research, analysis, and strategic planning services it provides.
MKTG Services With its August acquisition of database marketing services provider MarketTouch, New York-based MKTG Services added several capabilities, including the Remote Prospect Marketing solution for rapid implementation of multichannel marketing programs and MarketTouch’s proprietary QuickTurn Analytics statistical modeling software.
MokrynskiDirect At the same time it announced its name change from Mokrynski & Associates in October, the Hackensack, NJ-based company unveiled several suites of services, including EMart (e-mail marketing campaign management, tracking, and analysis), Customer Acquisition Solution Tactics (paid and organic search engine marketing programs, custom modeling, “co-op database maximizer,” and Online Competitive Research).

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