Great Sales Effort, Great List Profit

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A list owner should expect a great sales effort from its list management company. Maximizing list revenue will depend on your list manager working aggressively and effectively. The manager has to pursue not only the easy order, but find the harder ones, including the test order from new categories of mailers.


Your list manager must incorporate an intimate knowledge of the client's file, mailing environment, pricing strategy, usage history and test results from current and past mailers, and he must cultivate the all-important relationships developed with mailers and brokers.


Know thy client. The list owner/list management relationship must be based upon good communication. Right from the start, your list manager should initiate a regular dialogue that will form the working relationship. It is paramount to hold regular strategy meetings between the list management team and owner to take advantage of the list owner's current and future marketing plans.


These brainstorming meetings generate for the list manager a comprehensive understanding of the product and offer, media mix and future plans for the list, while raising the bar on the confidence level of sales efforts being made on behalf of the client. As a list manager, do not forget your client may be a mailer, too. A good list manager helps maximize revenue by negotiating a great deal with reciprocity. What your list owner gives up on the list side, it should get back when it puts its mailer hat on.


Marketplace position. Lists have a perceived position and brand in the list marketplace. List managers have become more sophisticated at positioning lists through segmentation and enhancements to accommodate all types of mailers. Of course, this provides mailers with a greater "mail-able" universe of prospects.


As an example, most of us break down lists by source, such as catalog, subscriber file, credit card, retail, etc. If a category in general is determined not to work, brokers often dismiss that list out of hand. The manager who can understand this dynamic will capture additional orders that would otherwise be lost and will maximize revenue.


We are all familiar with large subscriber files that have been enhanced and marketed by segment, such as families with children, donors to political causes, ethnicity/religion, professional women or men, business addresses and e-mail address appending, etc. If a list is enhanced, then new segments should be considered as the demand for a new select arises. Because the marketplace is fluid, new segments need to be created to refresh the file, and by comparing matches with list owner data, new segments begin to leap out at you.


This procedure needs to be part of the regular inventory and review process for a list manager, with recommendations made as part of an ongoing strategy between list manager and list owner. Experienced list managers can identify those mailers that regularly use enhanced selects and then get the word out to the brokerage community.


Also, we live in a world of sound bites. Time is money, and it is important to get a clear message to the mailer-broker community quickly. One obvious but sometimes overlooked method is the list name itself. Ask yourself, "Does it describe the customer in four words or less?"


Advertising and promoting lists. What can your list manager do to further the brand as it pertains to the list industry? The branding of a list in our industry, whether it is a well-known magazine, catalog or service, may already be established in the minds of a mailer. So, branding is not occurring as much as the brand is leveraged to generate interest with the mailers. That understanding only works to capture the easy orders. The management company has to work harder for the less-obvious orders.


Just as with business-to-consumer marketing, a well-planned advertising and promotion schedule is needed to reach the end-user. Advertising and promotion of lists have become quite sophisticated. As direct marketers, list marketing firms understand how to target prospects, deliver an offer and read results on a direct response campaign.


The use of a combination of media, i.e., print, direct mail, fax, e-mail and telemarketing elements, creates a successful program to cross-sell and upsell a list. List managers also try to anticipate a broker's reliance upon SRDS or mIn by structuring data cards to come up during key word or title searches.


The thrust of a campaign should be to generate word-of-mouth within brokerage houses. Since list brokers place at least 95 percent of all orders, our goal has been to get as many brokers as possible at each firm interested. Once that excitement builds, the responses and inquiries must be followed up.


Face-to-face sales calls. A sales call is still the most effective way to reach a list buyer. Professional sales managers know the value of making the in-person broker sales call. The same is true with trade shows. Making appointments to sit down with brokers and mailers at trade shows is priceless. The list manager can introduce a list or provide greater understanding of the makeup, source and selections to a mailer.


The mailing environment. A healthy list rental program will capture usage for a variety of offers, and the ability to weather a difficult environment will depend on the diversity of mailers. Like the risk in a financial portfolio, your manager needs to reduce risk through diversity of list users. The more mailers using a list, the less it hurts when a major player drops out. As the mailing environment affects all mailers, your list manager needs to find ways to insulate list rental revenue as much as possible.


Usage and test results. One way to insulate list rental revenue from a decline is to provide mailer intelligence. That means watching the key users of a list and watching their mailing trends. Clients look to you to identify what is going on with test orders. How did it do? What is going on with that mailer that rented 4 million names last year?


This information can help predict revenue trends months in advance. If a major mailer's test has been successful, then you can begin to predict the effect over the next six months. The same is true with continuations. Mail plans are being drafted and, short of a list failing, usage can be forecasted.


Monthly reports should be used to provide this type of mailer intelligence. It looks at the next three months or more to find any trouble spots and gives the manager time to replace lost business. In a good or bad economy this will help insulate revenue and improve forecasting. It will also identify success with out-of-category tests. It just takes one to work, and the door can be opened to many additional mailers to share in that success.


In short, establish criteria for your list manager in which he can negotiate pricing and new relationships for your list. Give the list manager the tools to attract diverse mailers, either with enhancements or testing incentives. Ensure that you are getting good information from which to measure against forecasted profits. And work closely to guarantee the complete understanding of the list he is marketing. Without it, your list manager will not maximize list profitability.


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