Getting Personal in List Decisions

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Never before has there been such a dizzying array of promotional tools to market lists. Advertising. Publicity. Faxes. E-mail blasts. Web-based marketing. It seems that every year there are new promotional vehicles from which to choose.


But though the promotional tools are changing, many of the core challenges in list promotion are not. List owners continue to become more demanding - requiring greater performance within tighter budgetary parameters. Promotional expenditures are increasing - thus eating into list management profits. Competition is escalating daily.


Certainly, the fundamental critical success factor for list managers has not changed: maximizing the promotional exposure for lists by using the most cost-effective mix of marketing elements possible. Yet the growing number of promotional vehicles is complicating the process of determining which outlets will yield the greatest return on investment.


In short, it is becoming easy to get mixed up in selecting the right marketing mix.


Unfortunately, the proliferation of new promotional tools is clouding list managers' judgment on which ones to use. Indeed, many list professionals forget that the most effective means of promoting lists is also the least expensive.


Nonpersonal vs. interpersonal. Marketing communications include tactics that range from the nonpersonal to the interpersonal.


Nonpersonal marketing communications tools include advertising, public relations, premium offers and, more recently, communications transmitted via fax and e-mail. Their benefit is in raising awareness of a given list and its data-card particulars. Sometimes the recipient of these communications acts. That is, the prospect receives the promotional message and immediately picks up the phone to order the list.


That happens less and less frequently these days.


Because there are so many marketing communications tools to use, list buyers contend with an avalanche of promotional solicitations. The word is "clutter." It is a problem that everybody faces in receiving thousands of messages daily from a multitude of print and electronic sources.


With clutter comes a lack of attention to each individual solicitation. This underscores the challenge of carefully selecting complementary communications to carry a message toward its intended recipients.


An actual sale rarely occurs without personal intervention. Nothing replaces the impact of sitting across from a list broker or marketer and recommending lists based on his specific strategies, marketing objectives and budgetary criteria. It is for this reason that all marketing communications tools deployed in a campaign should be designed ultimately to land the face-to-face meeting.


Too many list managers believe that taking a multimedia approach will lead directly to sales. That is erroneous thinking. This is not to denigrate nonpersonal forms of marketing communications. On the contrary, they are critically important. But list managers should not be lulled into thinking they alone will do the sales job.


The personal touch. Effective list promotion must include a strategic mix of nonpersonal and interpersonal marketing communications. All promotional initiatives should begin with nonpersonal awareness-building techniques. But then tactics to establish a personal dialogue with the prospect must commence. For instance, following up marketing communications programs with coordinated telemarketing is effective. It is also essential.


Telemarketing begins the dialogue with the prospect. It is a forum in which two people engage in conversation to address their mutual interests: The list manager has something to sell that meets the marketer's need. When done correctly, telemarketing opens the door for face-to-face communication between the list manager and his client.


It is in this context that the sale is consummated and where long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships are forged.


Many people do not realize that personal selling is one of the four main elements of the marketing mix. In fact, it is the most important one. For that reason, the entire marketing communications plan must be strategically structured to generate personal selling opportunities.


The word "mix" connotes a combination of properties that work together. List managers must realize that effective list promotion requires a strategic blend of tactics that seamlessly support each other. The most successful list managers are those who realize that the right marketing mix is one that moves from the nonpersonal to the interpersonal.


It is easy to get caught up using the latest and greatest promotional tools. But it is essential not to forget that one-on-one meetings are not only the lowest-cost marketing communications technique - they are also the most effective.

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