Polishing lackluster lists

Has your mailing list failed to generate much rental income lately? If so, several list industry experts have suggestions for adding value and generating more interest in your file.

1) Update your data Your list should be meticulously maintained and regularly updated (at least twice a year, though preferably more often) with new names or demographics, or it may lose its appeal. “A list should never be allowed to die off,” says Tom McCulloh, vice president of list management for Listworks, a Pleasantville, NY-based list management service. “Most lists, if updated on a regular basis, won’t see sales dwindle.”

“A good manager should make sure that a list never loses its steam,” agrees David Todd Waldman, director of list management for New York-based list company 21st Century Marketing. “Once a file has been tested a few times, its data should be evaluated and updated.” Regularly using basic list hygiene tools such as the National Change of Address (NCOA) service and the Locatable Address Conversion System (LACS) is key.

2) Expand your market According to Roy Schwedelson, CEO of Boca Raton, FL-based list firm Worldata, a mailing list that flops in one market can sometimes be a big money-maker in another. “We might have 20 tests for a list, and only three may work,” he says. “So we look at what mailers it did work with, and then we tailor the next promotion for that list toward similar mailers.”

3) Test peripheral mailers Along these same lines, look for any kind of affinity with peripheral mailers, says Listworks’ McCulloh. If, for instance, your catalog sells golf equipment, you could pitch your mailing list to a cataloger of NFL merchandise. “The sports may be different, but the list will consist mainly of men who are outdoors people and like sports,” he says.

4) Narrow your target Mike Doepke, executive director of sales and marketing for Des Plaines, IL-based list management firm Cahners Business Lists, advises that once a list has been tested, you try targeting your marketing efforts more narrowly. “Highly targeted direct mail efforts to prospective mailers can prove successful,” he says. “One strategy might be to send a package overnight to a targeted group of 50 or 100 potential catalog mailers, instead of sending one mass-mailing to 10,000 prospects.”

5) Be willing to negotiate And finally, if your list lacks specialized selects or a sizable quantity of hotline names, you may have to negotiate on price to generate interest. “For instance, if the NFL cataloger isn’t convinced that his market is at all related to that of the golf catalog,” McCulloh says, “I might offer him $10 off the base price as incentive.”