Making your list or insert broker a hero to their client

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Bruce Hammer
Bruce Hammer

For years I tried to figure out how to explain to my parents what I do for a living. My first attempts at explaining that I was a list manager did not go well. I finally conceded and just told them that I was a lawyer. They accepted this for a while until they realized that I never attended law school.

This forced me to really think about what a list manager does. Sure, we help list owners monetize their lists. We really serve the list brokerage community and keep them educated about the lists we have available and how to best segment them for their client. We arm the brokers with the information that will make them heroes to their client.

Here are the key things you must do as a list manager in order to make the broker a hero to their client:

Know the list. The broker relies on the list manager's intimacy with the list. I had an upscale publishing client who did some prospecting with a free offer. Some of those were “Bill Me's” who never paid. Brokers renting the list needed to know that so they could omit them from hotline orders because these people did not fit the profile of the typical subscriber. They just wanted the free is­sues. This also includes knowing how recent the actual transaction happened – a hotline buyer may have actually purchased three months ago but is just hitting the hotline now because of the update schedule.

Counts must be right. Mailings are planned, roll-out potential evaluated, pieces are printing. A lot rides on the count. Make sure it is correct.

Respond quickly. Decisions are being made based on your information. The broker is the list manager's customer, so re­spond quickly, make sure they have what they need and follow up to make sure they are happy.

Make sure the order is delivered quickly and on time. The order is useless if it doesn't arrive in time for the merge/purge and it makes both the manager and the broker look bad. (Further, if they have enough names before they get your order, they might cancel yours.)

Educate yourself about the mailer and its offer to ensure relevance. Ask questions about what the broker is looking for – prospecting strategies change. Asking the broker for an updated view of who they are targeting will help ensure that your recommendation is on the money. This is also crucial for continuation users of the list — a change in the mailer's offer may call for a change in the appropriate segment they are using.

When recommending a test, timing is everything. Make sure you know when the broker is preparing the next recommendation. Provide relevant usage.

Notify continuation users of changes to the list. Here's part of a real conversation I overheard:

Broker: Has anything changed with your list? Response has suddenly declined severely.

List manager: Ummm… Not really — the publication has gone from paid to controlled, though.

The broker should have been notified when this was happen­ing so it could have re-tested the list. Wasted money.

So here's how I explained it to my parents:

Me: I make the broker a hero to their client!
Dad: “You make hero sandwiches for bankers?”

Oh well — at least I understand what I do.

Bruce Hammer is the vice president of list services at Teramedia. Reach him at

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