Drive Your Orders with the Loaded Front-End Merge Technique

Mailing a catalog is a very expensive proposition these days, so it is very important that we understand a key factor—like what is truly driving orders.

Thanks to the Internet, one of the biggest mistakes many mailers make today is the misallocation of sales. For most mailers, their Web site is a great means for a customer or prospect to view more information about their company and the merchandise offered, and an easy and cost effective way to place an order. But in most cases it is still the catalog that has driven the customer or prospect to the site.

Probably the most important improvement that catalog mailers can make to dramatically improve their business is to put aside their fascination with the Internet and take a more realistic view of what channel is really driving the sale.

Once we feel comfortable that the sales data is accurate by house segment and acquisition list segments, we can prepare our circulation plans, which will feed the merge purge. One approach that has been successful with many mailers is to front load the first merge of the season with as many productive names as possible that fit into the circulation parameters for the full season’s plan. Bringing in these names upfront identifies many more multibuyers. Plus, these names tend to be more productive names that can be mailed during the season as many times as is productively warranted (up to the number of times they match in the merge).

The fully loaded first merge of the season-approach gives the mailer the ability to identify many more multis. It also lets mailers plan their acquisition contact strategy for the rest of the season so that they can do a better job of not over-contacting or under-contacting the names that they have available to them.

There are also new techniques available to let mailers code multis by the type of lists that they are being derived from.

Examples of these are:

• Pure acquisition– multis that are generated from a match of a non-cooperative database (normal list rental or exchange list) list to one or more non-cooperative list/lists.
• Cooperative Database– multis that are generated from a match of a cooperative database list segment to another co-op database list segment or segments.
• Hybrid– multis that are generated from a match of a non-co-op database list to a co-op database list segment.

The ability to code these different multis can be extremely productive as there are segments that can be fully leveraged for the season at very productive levels and there are other segments that will only justify being mailed once or twice.

Once the power levels are determined by type, the multis can be planned out in the seasonally contact strategy.

When preparing for the fully loaded first merge, mailers also need to take into account how many merges will be feasible to run for the subsequent mailing of the season and when updates will be available on the lists that they are using. They also need to have a pretty accurate idea how many hotline names they can expect to have available to them from the productive lists and cooperative database segments that they plan on using.

This approach of a fully loaded front end merge may not be appropriate for all mailers, but for the mailers that can use this approach, the improvements in mailing performance and saving on list expense are very impressive.

Michael Hayden is president of the American List Exchange Association.