Co-ops Help Members Cope With Attack Repercussions

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Cooperative database firms I-Behavior and Abacus have taken action to help clients deal with the business impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


Each firm e-mailed letters to members that first offered concern for their well-being and then support for their businesses in this crucial mailing season.


"We are all shattered by the September 11th attacks on our country, and hope that your family and friends are safe and well," began the e-mail from Lynn Wunderman, president/CEO of I-Behavior Inc., Harrison, NY. "Though it will take time for each of us to recover emotionally, I-Behavior wants to help our member companies whose recent mailings have been disrupted connect with their customers and prospects."


The e-mail, sent to I-Behavior's 225 member firms Sept. 20, offered members a low-cost way to recontact recipients of recent postal mailings via e-mail as a way to recoup some of their losses.


For $25 per thousand, I-Behavior and MatchLogic, one of its e-mail partners, offered to match the postal names from the completed mailing with e-mail addresses from MatchLogic's opt-in e-mail database and send the follow-up e-mail. The $25/M would cover MatchLogic's e-mailing costs only, Wunderman said. I-Behavior normally charges $150/M for its matching service.


However, the program unexpectedly ground to a halt before it really got going because of MatchLogic's sudden demise.


"The decision was made to pull the plug on the company," Wunderman said. "We were totally unaware until this happened. We were alerted of this on Sept. 24."


MatchLogic officials could not be reached for comment.


I-Behavior will honor the four orders placed for the service before this development in conjunction with a different e-mail partner. However, the program cannot continue beyond the initial four orders because another e-mail partner has not agreed to the $25/M deal that had been struck with MatchLogic, Wunderman said.


"We're still in the e-mail business, and just because one partner who agreed to this deal went away doesn't mean we aren't in the e-mail business anymore," she said. "If our clients can come back to these people who they've already pre-screened as highly qualified prospects or maybe even their own customers who they don't have permission to talk to via e-mail but can through other resources, it's a very efficient way to try to come back and leverage any brand building or Web traffic."


Wunderman said she hopes that someone buys the MatchLogic list so I-Behavior can continue to work with the file in the future.


In its own client relief effort, Abacus took a different approach to helping its clients make good mailing decisions following the tragedy. Abacus is a division of DoubleClick, New York.


An e-mail from Abacus president Brian Rainey was sent Sept. 18 to the 1,800 member firms of the Abacus Alliance.


It said in part, "Over the past few days, we have been contacted by a number of our partners requesting advice on how to handle pending mailings during these trying times. Not surprisingly, many mailers have experienced dramatic declines in their order volume. As a result, colleagues would like to know if they should cancel or postpone mail drops scheduled within the next week."


It also invited participants in the Abacus Alliance cooperative database to e-mail Abacus at advice@abacus-direct.com with their thoughts about how to weather the financial loss resulting from the Sept. 11 attacks. The client messages are posted on a page of the Abacus Web site called Abacus Alliance Best Practices Feedback Center.


"I launched the e-mail as a way for members to share best practices and what people are doing to react," Rainey said. "Most of the larger mailers were affected because they have something in the mail all the time."


As of this week, eight responses were posted at www.abacus-direct.com. Since Abacus is a blind database, comments are posted anonymously.


Most of the comments encouraged mailers to follow their initial mail plans and watch response rates closely. One of the more detailed replies to Rainey's e-mail advised, "My suggestion is to stick to the plan. Trying to second-guess the impact of all of this on the holiday buying season is risky. If holiday plans were 'right' before this crisis, then stay with them."


Even so, this mailer went on to say, "No one knows for certain but I would say that holiday sales projections could be off by as much as 15 percent to 25 percent."


To date, Experian's Z-24 co-op had not undertaken any similar programs.


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