Get the Most From Your Service Bureau

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Have you ever wondered whether your merge-purge logic is best suited for your objectives? Or whether you pay too much for data processing? Are you sometimes hard pressed to devote the time and attention needed to plan and implement merge-purge or database projects? Are you truly using your service bureau's technology to get the most possible benefit?


If any of this resonates, working with an outside consultant may be what's needed to save you time, money and headaches and improve the performance of your direct marketing solicitations.


Some companies are fortunate enough to have staff with expertise in circulation planning, data integration and project management. But even the largest companies may have expertise in circulation planning, yet lack the same expertise in using their service bureau to provide for optimum contribution to marketing events.


Data integration is often one of the least-considered aspects of a mailer's data acquisition, contact management and list rental strategy. Mailers frequently don't understand the process well and rely on data processing personnel at the service bureau to suggest how their processing should be performed. The processing instructions can affect not only the performance of your promotion, but the reliability of any test results.


Service bureaus are responsible in large part for letting us market smarter with state-of-the-art database technology, and appreciate collaborating with consultants who know their technology inside and out. An outside consultant can make your results even better. With an inside understanding of your marketing strategy, a consultant can help your service bureau efficiently achieve your stated objectives.


Now, with so much data at hand and ever-evolving technology to manipulate, model, match, analyze and enhance it, you need an unbiased yet knowledgeable partner in your court. Ideally, your consultant will be a triple threat with experience from the mailer side, service bureau operations and marketing.


The information age has given us many answers, but it also has made direct marketing exceedingly complex. As a direct marketer you will want to use data gathered across multiple channels from direct mail to telemarketing to online activity. You often will benefit from building an enhanced transactional prospect database. You typically will want to explore data modeling to identify the predictive factors of your success. Sometimes you simply want a merge-purge to suppress the names you don't want to contact and to output the best names you do want to address.


In each process, time and money can be saved by working with unbiased, third-party professionals who can ensure that you achieve your objectives based on best-practice data integration techniques. Here's how your service bureau consultant can help you use your data efficiently:


o Merge-purge management. Write instructions, communicate daily with service bureau, project management, provide and interpret reports and recommend best use of the technology to achieve marketing goals.


o Service bureau search. Write RFP, recommend appropriate resources, perform comparative analysis of responses and prepare recommendation including rationale.


o Analytical projects. Write design specifications, execute analysis projects, provide detailed analytical report of results, interpret results and recommend best use of results.


o Service bureau audit. Assess service bureau capabilities, write documentation for existing or future processing, review current processing and recommend improvements.


o Prospect database build. Design architecture, write RFP and project specifications and implement.


Your consultant not only offloads you from the time-consuming tasks involved with service bureau direction, but also streamlines the process and provides insights that result in a better contact management plan, lower costs and improved response in your solicitations.


More specifically, your consultant can affect critical areas of data integration through:


o More rapid revenue flow through quicker ramp-up of new projects and streamlined processing for current programs.


o Optimal use of service bureau technology for better targeting, analysis and understanding of data.


o Expertise to complement internal staff skills with insight unavailable internally.


o Proactive recommendations on gaining maximum benefits from merge-purge, prospect databases and data analysis.


o Lower costs through previously negotiated volume discounts and new, more efficient processing protocols.


o Management of projects where there may not be internal staff time or expertise.


o Quality control of inconsistent, suspect or questionable results.


o Mitigate disruptions caused by personnel changes on mailer or service bureau sides.


The bottom line is that you can focus on creative marketing strategies while your consultant works on the tactical side of data processing to help put your plans into action.


How do you find a good service bureau consultant? Ask your broker or list manager whether they have professionals on board or outside consultants that help their clients find or work with service bureaus. Let them conduct a preliminary discovery of facts. This can lead to a service bureau audit that can uncover more efficient ways of processing for data applications and possibly a new service bureau search. You may even find that you process data that are not even used.


It should be your consultant's goal to marry your marketing strategy with service bureau technology to optimize results. Your consultant will provide the reports you need along the way so you can make smart decisions.


With the help of your consultant, you will know what to look for, how to compare various uses of different data sources, how to manipulate your data to get useful results and, ultimately, make huge gains in understanding overall list performance.


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