Identify Wired Prospects, Customers

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If you are looking to lure Internet-savvy consumers and businesses to your Web site, you might be making a fatal mistake in your strategic targeting if you are marketing to households that are not even connected to the Web.


Wired or not? By now, you know that anyone with a telephone or cable line can have access to the Internet. But that does not mean that they do have access, and it pays to know the difference.


Today's technology allows companies to enhance their customer and prospect files by identifying which households are Internet-connected - those that subscribe to an Internet service and purchase via the Web. The databases are compiled using various means, including Internet product registrations, online purchases, information requests, online surveys and known PC users.


When you have a new product or service that applies only to people online, you can extract the Internet users from the non-Internet users or the unknown, then append the file further by using traditional demographic selects, such as age, gender and income level or more detailed selects, including credit card ownership, gambling interests and mail-order buyers. It is also possible to append addresses and telephone numbers if they are not already on your list.


By pulling from a number of sources, your data can be mixed and matched with approximately 30 million households that are known to be on the Internet. Your match rates will vary, depending on where your customers and prospects are concentrated. For example, in the more metropolitan Northeastern states you may get as much as a 33 percent match, while in the more rural areas, you will see match rates in the teens or low 20s.


Identifying Internet users. The process used to determine whether a household or business is connected to the Internet is complex, and it can take from seven to 10 business days to append your records for Internet friendliness, depending on the size of the file.


To save time and money, start by cleaning your records to ensure they are standardized. If they are not clean, you risk getting a lower match rate - or you could be charged a cleanup fee by the list marketer.


Also, decide upfront how you want the files back. Do you want all the records coded, i.e., Internet-connected with one code and non-Internet with another? Or do you just want the files that are Internet-connected separated from the house file? What format do you want them in?


How the appending process works. To have Web-connected households on your customer or prospect list identified, you will need to send the entire file to the list marketer. Your addresses will be matched against the compiler's records of households that are known to be connected. When a match is made, those records will be flagged.


Any other file enhancements that you have requested - such as telephone numbers - will be added at this point. And the list can be segmented to better qualify your customer.


For example, if you are selling a hi-tech product, you may want to identify technology-savvy households or cellular telephone owners.


Or, if your product is educational software, you might want to identify households with children.


After appending the files, your list marketer will return your list in its entirety, either coded or separated by Internet households and other selects, depending on what you requested.


Unique applications. Once you have Internet-enhanced files, you will find a wealth of uses. For example, one broadband cable company used the process for forecasting. It was opening new markets for cable Internet access and decided to append its serviceable area files - including current cable customers as well as nonsubscribers - to identify regions with the most households already hooked up to the Internet. This would give the company's expansion plans a greater likelihood of success, as it would reach a higher number of better-qualified prospects. The company also recognized that those who have experienced slow dial-ups to the Internet would probably be more receptive to a high-speed connection.


Companies with traditional consumer products are also finding Internet-friendly household information to be useful. Cosmetic and beauty companies are able to target households with consumers who match their target demographic - say, women 20 to 50 years old with a set income. They still may use traditional methods of marketing, such as direct mail, for contacting these women, but the offer will refer them to an e-commerce-enabled Web site for purchases. This opens a whole new distribution channel for a company's products.


What about e-mail? Once a file is appended to single out Internet households, you may want to use direct mail to capture e-mail addresses. This is the preferred way to get a customer's or prospect's e-mail address: Have him give it to you, rather than getting it from somewhere else, even if you are trying to drive him to a Web site. Studies show that direct mail marketing is more effective than e-mail marketing for driving people to the Web.


Many companies use return mail surveys or point people to their Web sites and offer incentives for them to register.


The methods used for an effective e-mail marketing campaign are different from a direct mail campaign, so it pays to review case studies - who is doing what, with what results - before venturing into this world.


Better targeting, better results. With the Internet playing such a prominent role in people's lives, you cannot afford not to have Internet-related information about your customers. Virtually every company has a Web site, and at some point you will want to drive traffic to it for ordering options, crisis management (for product recalls) and, most importantly, to build your own database to initiate direct relationships with qualified customers.


Consider appending your files for Internet friendliness and e-mail accessibility. The more information you have about those households, the smarter you will be with your marketing efforts.


• Brigid Berry is a national account executive and director of the Broadband Data Strategies Group at AccuData America, Cape Coral, FL. Her e-mail address is b.berry@accudata.com.
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