Seeking out the A-list
Q: How can the list industry effectively deal with consumer privacy concerns?
A: It is important to be proactive. A mailer should add privacy statements to all of its mailings. Make sure you are being proactive with opt-ins and opt-outs. For list brokers, currency and having up to date files are key. Make sure they are updated using the US Postal Service's NCOA link.
Q: With an increasing emphasis on green and paperless initiatives, do you see direct mail being phased out in favor of electronic methods, such as e-mail or mobile messaging?
A: Not in my opinion. Print will always have a role — it may end up being a supporting role to drive people online, but it will have a role. Sure, there are some issues — we are facing increased paper and fuel costs, and the whole production chain is being affected. I think people are looking for more personalized and targeted content and print will have to deliver that. There is still a segment of the population that wants to have a catalog or print copy of a magazine in their hands.
Q: How has the credit crunch affected the list industry?
A: Generally, in tough economic times, the marketing and advertising budgets are the first to be cut. Direct marketers are fortunate to be spread out over many different categories: consumer, business-to-business and business-to-government, for example. The consumer category is where you are really seeing the impact of this credit crunch. Consumer spending is down, as one would expect in a slow economy. In b-to-b and in fundraising, though, we're not seeing much of an impact yet. In some industries, such as financial services and construction, there is, but b-to-b is mostly steady. It all just goes to discretionary income and what people are willing and able to spend.
Q: What impact would a do-not-mail bill have on the industry?
A: Based on what marketers have seen from the Do Not Call list, you would have to expect it to reduce volume. But the silver lining is you would expect to see an increase in response rate, because people who still want to receive direct mail would not be on the list and those who likely wouldn't respond would not receive anything.
Q: What is the most significant change you anticipate in the list industry over the next five years?
A: More personalized content. The more you can do to build a direct relationship with a customer, the better. There's going to be more involvement in electronic media. There is a significant growth in online content on the part of magazine publishers, and the focus will be on driving more content to a Web site in the future. I think you will also see more co-registration, co-branding and partnerships. But it all goes to personalized content, whether you're on the mailer's side or the list manager's. Also, the development and use of overlay data and more futuristic modeling techniques will continue over the next three to five years.