DM News Essential Guide to Lists and Databases: How Ad Agencies and List Firms Can Work Together

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Most small ad agencies lack the resources to hire a list broker and support staff. Instead, they turn to professional list managers and brokers, allowing the agencies to support their clients without the added cost. There are several ways to partner, and more models are developing with the advent of new technology and marketing channels. The ideal partnership is one that makes sense for the type of companies involved and their individual and common goals.


How do you know what partnerships are worth pursuing and in what ways? Due diligence, an understanding of the list business and gathering a few facts about each other's businesses are critical to a successful partnership.


Referrals from ad agency to list broker. This is the most common relationship, since many ad agencies are not in the list business and don't wish to take part in it. They want to focus on their own core business. In this partnership, the mailer is treated as a new client for the list broker, so the marketer is now a customer of both companies and may be treated accordingly. The agency usually takes no benefit from the deal other than the goodwill associated with having pointed the mailer to a trustworthy source.


Account executives as go-betweens. The second most common type involves the sales representatives at the agency communicating all details back and forth between the mailer and the list broker. The mailer knows his customers the best, and the list broker knows what lists are available. The broker advises on which lists have worked well for similar marketers and which lists to avoid.


Also, list brokers are experienced at negotiating pricing and net name arrangements, which let the agency obtain the lists at lower cost. The agency may decide to keep this extra revenue or pass along the savings to the end user. Brokers make a commission on the list rental transaction, but the agency needs their help in keeping the list cost low enough to leave room for their margin or fee.


Though the ultimate task is to deliver list options to the mailer, it's especially important for the agency or marketing consultant to deliver all pertinent client information to the list professional, including details about the ideal customer to target. This can change over time and between campaigns, so agencies should update the broker on the targets before each release.


Agencies should expect brokers to suggest new lists, new targets and new selects. The parties should brainstorm and search for new opportunities, such as helping the client start a newsletter, creating a private database or opening a new marketing channel. Partners can suggest potential new markets, new lists and new ways to change the current process or bundle services into a packaged offering for existing clients.


A key role of the list professional is to educate sales reps at the agency so they can explain to the end user the need to distinguish the unique benefits of each list. Agencies should incorporate the list benefits into their sales presentations and may decide to present them as their own recommendations, rather than a list broker's.


Collaborative. We work with some agencies that bring the client into the discussions as an active partner. The benefit here is that you're all working together. Normally we sell the lists directly to the client, and the agency bills for its time separately.


Plan ahead, but remember to build in extra time and remain flexible. Agencies must include the list broker in the early planning stages so expectations may be set and the proper background list research may be done. The list broker will research available lists, analyze sources and current usage of the data and verify that a sufficient number of records are available on each list that will be recommended.


Both parties need to work together to coach the mailer and help it understand the process and shape its direct marketing goals. They should always look for new ways to enhance the client's business and educate the mailer on DM principles and compliance with government regulations. List brokers can suggest new ways to market, including insert media, search engine optimization and multichannel options.


It's crucial to determine upfront who owns the customer, who will perform various services involved in the mail process and whose vendors to use when outsourcing is necessary.


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