Choose Buyer List Rentals Carefully, Catalog Conference Speaker Says

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CHICAGO -- A cataloger's buyer list is its most valuable asset, Gina Valentino, vice president/general manager of J. Schmid & Assoc., told an overflow meeting room at yesterday's Annual Catalog Conference.


"That's why we all can rent each other's lists," she said. "That's why exchanges are so important. And your buyer list is perishable."


Valentino followed with a warning.


"If you're not constantly tapping that customer on the shoulder and wooing them to purchase from you again ... they go stale," she said. "And when that 12-month file starts to deteriorate and you're not getting that activity, your file starts to implode. When it implodes, you don't have cash flow coming in."


Valentino underscored this point by saying a buyer list will exceed outside lists in pull by four to 10 times. Then she posed a question: How often can a customer file be promoted?


"Are you saying, 'Can we rent it out all the time?' " she said. "The answer is probably yes, but you should monitor that. You don't want to see deterioration."


Some companies don't rent their club names or loyalty names, she added.


"The problem with that is ... if those are your best-performing names ... and you're not sending those out for rental, your competitors, or those who are non-competes, are now seeing a depression in their responses. They're going to say, 'I wonder why that is? It's been eroding over a period of time.' And they won't want to rent your list anymore, which means, in turn, you probably can't rent their list. You have to keep a balance of what you want out there in the marketplace vs. what you want to keep to yourself."


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