List Wednesday - Don’t Let Your Budget Compromise List Quality

By Dan Anglin, Manager, List & Data Solutions, Modern Postcard

In today’s economy, budgets are leaner. Marketers must make smart decisions when choosing a service provider and list source to support their direct mail campaigns. And while budgets are certainly crucial, so is an element of your campaign that accounts for 40% of your success, the list. Let’s break it down:

You’re investing 75 cents in each printed mail piece of your campaign.
40% of this campaign’s success depends on your list.
So, do you think a 2 cent per name list is going to deliver the best returns?

It’s highly improbable.

In fact, if you’re not using the right list and not hitting the right mailboxes, the time, effort and dollars you put into your program are far from being maximized. Sure, with 74,000 lists available on the market today, finding the right list may seem a tad daunting. But simply grabbing the cheapest list off the shelf is the quickest way to sabotage your success.

Yes, the better list – a high quality, highly targeted and proven list – requires more than just a sliver of a project’s budget. Now, before pulling the trigger on a list order, ask yourself the following key questions. Not only will they help you find the right list, but one that delivers the best return on your investment.

#1 What is my target demographic?

Start by taking a close look at current customers, close enough that you can find more who look just like them. Through personal interaction with customers, you might already have a pretty good idea of your target demo. They come into your store. You know what they look like, what they wear and you have a general sense of who buys your product. What you don’t know is how they behave outside of the store, what other products they buy, whether or not they have kids, whether or not they have a tuition to pay, whether or not they’re upside down on their mortgage. The list goes on.

My recommendation is to build a demographic profile on your customers. Ask them to fill out a short survey (i.e. for loyalty program) when they come in the store, or have them provide additional details when they setup an account online.

An even better way to paint the demographic picture is to have your customer list analyzed by a data company or service provider to identify customers’ attributes. This type of profiling product has become very commonplace in the industry and typically available at a very minimal cost. As a matter of fact, MP has worked it out so that we can provide this service to you FREE of charge. So before launching your next program, just ask us for a free analysis and we’ll get you started on the right foot.

#2 Am I working with a reputable source?

With so many data providers out there, how do you know if you’re working with the right source? First and foremost, make sure they’re a member of the DMA (Direct Marketing Association).

Next, find out where the names come from and how they’re compiled. There are a TON of re-packaged data products out there, typically using data from one of the major compilers: Acxiom, Epsilon, InfoUSA or D&B. These products come with a premium price for a basic data selection simply marketed to sound like an exclusive list.

Example: “Senior Citizen’s Masterfile” offered by List Company ABC at $85/thousand may simply be a list pulled from a major compiler using an age select of 65+. This is something YOU can access directly or through a reputable reseller for $50/thousand. Don’t let a spiffy name trick you.

Finally, find out how often the file is updated. Some lists are only updated once or twice a year. Don’t settle for that. Except nothing less than monthly or quarterly updated files, unless your source somehow guarantees performance…which is about as common as pigs flying!

#3 Am I testing a statistically viable quantity?

It’s no surprise that the minimum order quantity for specialty lists on the market today is commonly between 5,000 to 10,000 names. In my opinion, this is done for a couple of important reasons:

  • Business sense. The List Manager needs to work with a minimum order quantity of X in order to justify the expenses of representing the property.
  • Fair handshake. The 5-10K quantity range is commonly looked at as more statistically viable in order to determine whether or not the list is successful.

Testing quantities of 500 or 1,000 for example opens the door to “what could have been” more than anything else, especially when pulling out of a large universe. Let’s say you’ve identified an available prospect pool of 50,000+ names, nationwide or in your local metro area. Pulling 500 out of that and using them as your test segment is rolling the dice. How can you test and make decisions based on just 1% of your total available universe? A statistically viable test quantity is typically 10% or greater.

Prior to your next campaign, take price out of the equation and analyze the remaining characteristics of your list choices. Which ones address (no pun intended) the three above questions favorably? Which list option seems to be the best fit for the program? While price is a factor, the right list is everything – and without it, your campaign will end up costing you even more in lost opportunity, time and resources.

Contact Dan Anglin, Modern's in-house list & data expert to get a free quote or find the targeted audience you need to reach today: dana@modernpostcard.com

Dan Anglin
Dan Anglin

With over 10 years of list industry experience, Dan Anglin currently oversees the List & Data Solutions division of Modern Postcard, headquartered in Carlsbad, CA.

Dan works with big and small mailers alike, from your local furniture store to the Fortune 500. An expert in the field, he's led certification classes on list services for the San Diego PCC, lead info sessions for the San Diego DMA & is a key speaker for Modern Postcard’s National Direct Mail Crash Course seminar series, sponsored by the United States Postal Service.

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