Prospecting Tactic: Think Big (Big Lists, That Is)

The latest Mokrynski Catalog Industry Update indicates that well over 80% of mailers had met or exceeded their holiday 2004 numbers, says Steve Tamke, senior vice president for Hackensack, NJ-based list services firm MokrynskiDirect. Indeed, with the exception of a brief soft period during September, 2004 produced encouraging results.

That said, during the past several years most mailers had reduced their prospecting efforts, instead increasing contacts to house file names. As a result, fewer “new to file” names are available, Tamke says, resulting in “a negative effect on outside list performance.”

Combined with an industry-wide increase in mailings to multibuyers, fueled in part by an increased reliance on cooperative databases by many mailers, marketers are seeing lower nets from merge/purges resulting in fewer available names from their best lists.

What’s a marketer to do? “In addition to the list-by-list analysis we routinely undertake,” Tamke says, “we need to set a series of overall objectives for each season and for each year, and define a series of action steps.”

Tamke suggests making greater use of lists with large universes. First, identify 10-15 lists with at least 500,000 12-month names. Next, establish a testing budget that will enable you to test these lists in an organized way, and set an objective for making a certain number of them work for you.

Work with your broker to put together a testing plan for each list, including when to mail it, how many times you’ll test it, and what your performance targets are. Also establish a segmentation plan with your broker. This can include:

* better RFM, product, and gender selections

* demographic enhancements

* custom selects from the list owner and manager

* zip modeling

* cooperative database modeling

* custom modeling.

Work with your broker to negotiate pricing that will help ensure the list’s success.

The payoff can be large, Tamke says. If you can get just 50,000 names to work on each of five lists, you’ve unearthed a total of 250,000 new names. If you can mail these segments four times a year, you’ve got a total of 1 million new prospect names to mail each year.

The right combination of strategic thinking and good fundamental list work can result in productive circulation growth. And be patient. Recognize that it may take two or three tries before you get to the selection method that works best for your business.

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