RENTAL POLICIES: When list owners say no

Although list owners typically agree on the basic reasons to refuse another marketer’s request to rent their lists, each has a different definition of competing offers, a different threshold for overlapping products, and some unique considerations when evaluating a request.

Some catalogs, like Youngstown, OH-based cycling book Bike Nashbar, are extremely cautious, turning away potential revenue when the offer isn’t exactly suited to their company missions. “We’ve chosen to rent our names only when it benefits the bicycle industry as a whole,” says vice president of marketing Kevin Nashbar. For instance, the firm has rented its list to promoters of cycling fairs and expos. “Our 12-month buyers are a treasured asset, and we don’t want to do anything to put those names in jeopardy.”

Picture frame manufacturer/cataloger Graphik Dimensions, on the other hand, is happy to rent even to other frame marketers – to a point. “We wouldn’t want another frame-only cataloger to use the list, but we have rented to other companies whose offers include picture frames,” says Elaine Wright, circulation director for the High Point, NC-based mailer. Graphik Dimensions won’t rent to a competitor that won’t reciprocate on a rental basis, “but other than that, we just won’t allow anything with lewd or sexual content to be marketed to our customers.”

In many cases, the prospect of their customers receiving smut seems to vex catalogers more than competing offers. “I deny rental requests when I see something I think will make our customers uncomfortable,” says one marketing manager who asked to remain anonymous. “Once we exchanged with a men’s magazine whose demographics lined up well with ours. The backlash was immediate. Angry feedback from customers mostly began, `How dare you!'”

Other catalogers are more concerned with the service policies and presentation of competing offers. Melissa Brooks, circulation manager of Atlanta-based home furnishings catalog Ballard Designs, says she rarely has to reject list rental inquiries, except those with “sales pages or offers like free shipping, which we don’t offer to our customers.” Brooks says that Ballard also rejects directly competing offers and inquiries from companies that won’t reciprocate.

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