Some Managed Lists Remain Strong Despite Softness in Rental Market

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While many mailers have cut back circulation because of softness in the economy, some list files on the market are doing better than others at combating declining usage, according to several list management professionals.

"There's no question that it's a soft market, but there are files that are doing well," said Fran Green, president of data management at American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ.

However, each list manager seems to have a different opinion on which files are doing the best.

"There really is no trend by market or demographic," said Chris Montana, senior vice president of list management at Mokrynski & Associates Inc., Hackensack, NJ.

Still, at least two list managers see mailers gravitating toward files with greater selectivity.

Data-rich files allow mailers to segment and hone in on the right audience, Green said.

"If you put everybody on an equal playing field, the lists that seem to be doing the best are the lists with the most selectivity across the board -- lists that have Internet buyers on the file, lists that are demographically enhanced, lists that have product selectivity, lists that offer a broader dollar select range and type, lists that offer tighter recencies and lists that update more frequently -- it's really looking at the basics," Montana said.

In addition to selectivity, Green said that simply making statistical information about the customers on a file available to mailers helped to boost usage. The more information a list owner can share, the better, she added.

Another list professional said that although usage is down across categories, alternative media and testing are strong.

"We are finding that our alternative media business is strong, which leads me to believe that marketers are looking at package inserts and blow-ins and less-expensive-per-thousand media," said Jeff Kelley, senior vice president of list management at Millard Group Inc., Peterborough, NH.

As for the upward trend in testing, Kelley said list fatigue was at least partially responsible.

"We've talked with a number of mailers, and what we're finding is the lists that have been used over and over again are starting to fall off and soften due to overmailing," he said.

Green agreed that testing is up, but she attributed the rise in testing to the falling file sizes of lists that mailers use regularly. When file sizes on continuation lists drop, mailers have to make up for that lost quantity somehow, she said. Often that is done by testing a new segment of the file or a new list entirely.

Deana Steinberg, director of list management at Estee Marketing Group Inc., New Rochelle, NY, said testing was also up at her firm, but she added that she has yet to see usage drop on any of her managed files.

"I'm strong, steady and above last year," she said. Even so, Steinberg said it has been a struggle to keep usage up across the board and noted that her ethnic market and fundraising files are the strongest.

Of course, the list industry has been through times like these before, and most list managers agree it is only a matter of time until things improve.

In the meantime, at least one list professional chose to look on the bright side.

"Our business is so cyclical. It will rebound; we just don't know when," Green said. "Soft times tend to reap a lot of innovation and creativity, and having to address challenges makes us more creative, smart and well-positioned when they end."


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