Outlook 2006: List Firms Need Net Strategies

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The key driver in the list business is the mailer, and mailers seem to have regained confidence in the medium. In virtually every market, particularly the multicultural, we are seeing new lists and greater quantities of available names on existing lists. It all works hand in hand. The combination of new lists and new buyers on older files creates marketing opportunities for smart mailers. In turn, the renewed activity expands the mailer's files and thus the cycle feeds itself.

Overcoming mailbox clutter and getting response levels up is the most pressing issue this year. Mailers will continue to integrate the Web with traditional direct mail and retail as well. Of course, this integration is simple to talk about but difficult to do. Many consider it an imperative for survival and growth.

Overall, last year was the strongest since 2001. The first half was fairly flat, but the second half shifted upward nicely. Many of our managed list clients enjoyed growth of 15 percent to 20 percent, and several of our more mature files had more than 40 percent growth. For the most part, our mailers had renewed energy. Budget increases of 5 percent to 20 percent were accompanied by aggressive growth plans. It was comforting to see these signs of "rehabilitation" after several tougher years.

New opportunities are in front of us. I'm not about to discuss them all, but I will focus on the one we hear of most often: the Internet. List companies need to establish Internet strategies. We can't be everything to everyone. Being a broker of "online services" is no longer a strategy in itself. List companies need to bring value to their clientele.

Many emerging niches are ripe for exploitation by entrepreneurial list marketing organizations. Large volumes of data are being generated on the Internet, and these need to be monetized effectively. Who better than traditional list professionals to do the job?

Also, keep your eyes on the emerging "leads" business, which is a rapid growth sector.

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