Six Short-Term Tactics to Hone Circulation

As a circulation professional I’m repeatedly frustrated with the typical marketing database project. The technologists build it and then say, “Hey, we’re done. It’s your job to figure out how to use this thing.”

I’ve had several examples recently where companies installed big (expensive) relational databases and then simply didn’t know what to do with them. That’s a pity, as there are a lot of wonderful things that can be done with a modern marketing database–both short-term tactics and long-term strategies. I’ve been told by database professionals that I’m like many circulation planners who see no further than the short-term benefits of using the database for “sophisticated targeting” and finding tactics that circulation managers can use to find the low-hanging fruit. But is that a bad thing? Certainly not. While crafting long-term strategies you might as well use your database to provide more-immediate results.

Here are six database tactics to improve your circulation and results in the short term—and that will provide information that may help you refine your eventual long-term database strategies:

  1. Create more segments in your house buyer file, and track the segments to find suppression, reactivation, and increased mailing frequency opportunities. These segments can include buyers by channel, by number of purchases, and often by lower and higher dollar values than you would typically segment, as well as once-a-year buyers of seasonal items.
  2. Segment peak-season gift buyers, specific types of merchandise buyers, and other groups to develop promotion strategies, frequency strategies. And separate spin-off catalogs.
  3. Increase the frequency of mailing to the best buyers, and track incremental sales and profit.
  4. Segment by purchase channel, because traditional call center buyers, pure Web buyers, and catalog-driven Web buyers should be circulated to with different frequencies. (For more on this topic, see “‘C’ Is for Channel” in the February issue of MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT.)
  5. Move heaven and earth to convert one-time buyers, or “tryers” into two-time buyers. You can use segmentation to test and track offers and contact strategies.
  6. Find separate disjoint groups – like contractors and woodworkers, who may purchase the same items – within the buyer file that the co-op databases can model to find unique universes of prospecting names.

At the end of the day, these are simply sophisticated targeting strategies. What we need to hear is a database expert’s perspective on modeling strategies, data mining, and all the different ways to use the power of a relational database to really drive a direct marketing business.

Jim Coogan is president of Santa Fe, NM-based Catalog Marketing Economics.