BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS: The business of selects

The list selections many b-to-b renters are looking for

Unlike consumer catalogers, business-to-business mailers are often looking beyond recency, frequency, and monetary (RFM) data when prospecting. Size of company, job titles, and other specifics can help businesses identify potential buyers.

For instance, when evaluating doctors’ lists, medical displays cataloger Anatomical Chart Co. concentrates on selects such as size of medical practice and specialty because “we’ve had success with three-doctor offices and with cardiologists,” says Julia Stock, the Skokie, IL-based company’s vice president of sales and marketing. Likewise, marketers that rent Anatomical Chart’s list also want to select by medical specialty, though they tend to ask for frequency first, Stock says. “They don’t want just names – they want buyers.”

At Calgary-based graphic images cataloger Eyewire, circulation analyst Rupa Sandhu says he looks for frequency, title or job function, and company size, as well as more specific selects when renting lists. “We look for Macintosh computer users, because most designers tend to gravitate toward Macs.” Sandhu also looks for Internet buyers, who he feels are more technically adept and more likely to be involved with graphic design.

For office supplies cataloger/retailer Staples, nearly all businesses are potential buyers. “But the number of employees plays a significant role, and the number of office workers among those employees is relevant to us,” says vice president of sales and marketing Mike Montalbano. Staples uses titles to identify office workers, and geographic information to select customers within driving distance of Staples’ retail stores.

SIC still rules

For many business catalogers, the ultimate list select is still Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes – government-issued numeric descriptions of U.S. businesses. Many companies rely on database firms such Dun & Bradstreet to overlay SIC codes onto their house files, says Brad Raczka, manager of business development for Cahners Business Lists in Des Plaines, IL.

But mailers can widen the scope of SIC detail by using the first two or three digits of the four-digit codes, Raczka says. For example, a marketer of microchips could select SIC code 35 (Industrial and Commercial Machinery and Computer Equipment), the narrower SIC code 357 (Computer and Office Equipment) or the even more specific four-digit 3571 (Electronic Computer Manufacturers). But using very specific descriptions can limit the available universe, he says.

In April ’97, the U.S. Census Bureau announced it would replace its Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes system with the more specific North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to include NAFTA trading partners.

Three years later, the Census Bureau is the only significant organization using NAICS codes. List firms, data compilers, and marketers still use SIC codes to describe businesses, and most expect to continue with that system.

So did the government-sponsored initiative to convert to NAICS codes go the way of the metric system here in the States? So it would seem. Although Cahners’ Business Lists may institute NAICS codes in the future, manager of business development Brad Raczka says that for now, no one wants them. “If enough of our customers demanded it, we would implement them. But SIC codes continue to be the benchmark.”