Don't Expect to Send Prospect E-Mail Anytime Soon, List Leader Attendees Say

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NEW YORK -- Consumer e-mail lists will probably not be used for prospecting in the same way that postal mailing lists are anytime soon, according to attendees of a Direct Marketing Association List Leaders conference here Friday.

"The idea of prospecting in the business-to-consumer context is not going to be successful, at least in the next few years," said David O. Schwartz, president of 21st Century Marketing, Farmingdale, NY, and chairman of List Leaders.

The depth and range of data associated with names on postal lists simply are not available in the e-mail environment, according to those at the all-day conference.

"We don't have the selects on e-mail lists," said Regina Brady of e-mail service bureau FloNetwork Inc., Toronto. "We don't have the recency data, the frequency data and the monetary data on e-mail lists that we do in postal lists, because the owners are keeping that for themselves."

Participants in the forum, which included a who's who of 35 players from the old- and new-line list worlds, also cited the need for service bureaus that can provide merge/purge services to files of e-mail lists in the same way that mail service bureaus provide that function to eliminate duplicate names and changed addresses.

Brady suggested that mailers can do a lot of hygiene on their lists simply by mailing them and tracking the bounce-backs.

Jay Schwedelson of Worldata/WebConnect, Boca Raton, FL, in a rapid-fire how-to session for e-mail marketing novices that was loaded with tips and tidbits of practical information, said that mailers should not send entire lists at one time if they cannot perform a de-dupe on the names. That way, if some of the names are duplicates - a person whose name appears on multiple e-mail lists -- they are less likely to receive the message from both lists. He also suggested that the messages be varied slightly, for the same reasons.

Other lessons from Schwedelson's presentation included advice for working with the large, so-called "blind" databases like PostMasterDirect, 24/7 Mail, YesMail and DeliverE. He said it is important to learn the sources for the names from each mailing so that if the mailer decides to do a continuation, the composition will be parallel to the first.

"Otherwise, your continuation will be a test," he said.

Several participants from postal direct mail brokerage and management firms also expressed concerns about the migration of personnel from their businesses to the digital world. Various solutions were suggested, ranging from establishing separate companies for e-business where companies could obtain an ownership stake to emphasizing the quality-of-life issues that might be absent from a dot-com firm, where the hours tend to be longer.

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