Alliant Introduces New Solution for Bill-Me Mailers

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A direct marketing company will offer mailers the good with the bad when it starts a cooperative database for mailers that use "bill-me" offers in June, according to the company's CEO.


"We have drawn a hard line in the sand in terms of not budging on the types of data we will accept," said JoAnne Monfradi Dunn, CEO of Alliant Cooperative Data Solutions LLC, Brewster, NY. "The business model requires contributors to give us their entire file, not just the bad debt or the positive performance."


Alliant has enlisted nine big-name participants to act as the anchors in its cooperative database, TransactionBase. The Reader's Digest Association and National Geographic Society are two of the nine, but Dunn declined to name the rest.


Though some said she would be crazy to do it, industry veteran Dunn started Alliant in August 2001 with her partner and husband, J. Gregory Dunn. The idea behind the company and the database was a response to an industry need.


"We wanted to provide risk management solutions for bill-me direct marketers," she said. "These offers are risk-free for the consumer but not for the marketer."


Bill-me DMers include magazine publishers; continuity and club marketers; single-shot book, CD or video marketers; catalog marketers and merchandise marketers; or any marketer that lets its customers buy now and pay later. However, many of the risk management tools available to these types of mailers only offer data on consumers with bad debt.


What TransactionBase requires is a mailer's entire customer database so marketers can identify not only the bad payers but the good ones. This way, a mailer can send a better offer to a consumer identified as a good payer and a less risk-intensive offer to a marginal consumer.


In addition to the participants' customer files, the database will include third-party data from Donnelley Marketing, an infoUSA company.


The database contains 200 million individuals, 80 million households and 7 billion transactions. The first meeting with the nine participating companies took place in May 2002.


The database will be maintained in-house at Alliant.


The first two functions of TransactionBase to debut will be custom models for list screening and order screening. For list screening, participating mailers will send rented prospecting list files to be matched against the database to identify good and bad payers. The order screening will let mailers bump incoming orders against the database to make a final determination about extension of credit.


The next feature added will be real-time screening for Internet orders.


Dunn stressed that the database and its uses will comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


Among the companies TransactionBase will compete against in this arena are Experian and The Credit Index.


Though the database has yet to be tested, two participants shared their comments and hopes about TransactionBase.


"We have used other organizations that have provided information on negative credit performance and that has worked quite well in the past, but what Alliant is offering is something that is an improvement upon that," said Mary Donohoe, vice president at National Geographic Society.


National Geographic uses bill-me offers in its products division for items such as books and videos.


"Our intent is to target and mail people appropriately, and in some ways I think knowing a consumer's attributes whether they are positive or negative will help improve that, and that's what Alliant offers," Donohoe said. "Conceptually and theoretically, it makes a lot of sense."


Reader's Digest also has joined and is eager to test the database, according to an executive there.


"We're very hopeful that by using TransactionBase we'll be able to acquire customers more profitably and do business with existing customers more profitably," said Kari Regan, vice president of database marketing services at Reader's Digest. "Reader's Digest has not successfully participated in anything like this in the past, but we have confidence that Alliant is doing everything possible to make this work for Reader's Digest and for other direct marketers."


After the June launch, more marketers will have the chance to test TransactionBase. The cost of using it will be based on annual volume.


Recently, Landmark Communications Inc. acquired an equity stake in Alliant and will pay for the development and rollout of TransactionBase. Landmark is a private Norfolk, VA, firm that owns The Weather Channel, weather.com and is a majority shareholder in CoolSavings.com.


Further information about Alliant and TransactionBase can be found at www.alliantdata.com or by calling 845/276-2600.


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