Shrinking List Universes Seen As Major Challenge

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WHITE PLAINS, NY -- Declining list universes are a major challenge facing mailers, panelists said at a session about prospecting yesterday during Direct Media's 2003 Mailer Conference and Co-Op here.

"The lack of new names is probably the greatest concern we have," said catalog list broker and panel moderator Linda Huntoon, executive vice president at Direct Media Inc.

One panelist said his firm looked to databases to bolster its mailings.

"Companies have gone under and cut back over the past few years," said Michael O'Connor, president of business-to-business mailer Abbott Card Co.

To combat the lack of new names to mail, he said, his firm uses Direct Media's Data Warehouse, which lets him select names on a list-by-list basis while paying for the net, avoiding merge-purge costs and enjoying a fast turnaround time.

Nicola Zelle, circulation manager for direct to publisher sources at consumer magazine Newsweek Budget Travel, suggested mailing deeper into your best lists instead of using marginal ones. Often, the larger the quantity mailed from a list, the better the deal you can negotiate, she added.

Only one panel member used e-mail for prospecting. Lisa Wilson, North Shore Animal League America's director of development, said the nonprofit was renting some e-mail names in addition to appending e-mail addresses into its donor file. Though it was too early to report any results, she said, she is hopeful.

Other tips offered by the panel included building regression models for better targeting, trying to reactivate lapsed customers, focusing on exchanges and using direct mail to drive prospects to your Web site.

"Make your vendors your partners," Huntoon said. There might be little out there that most mailers haven't tried before, she said, but talking with the people involved in the process can yield surprising results.

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