State of the List Industry: Staying Relevant as Times Change

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The list industry's mission is to help direct marketers identify new customers, which will generate revenue for their businesses. List brokers and managers have played an important role in the industry's evolution, and we will continue to do so if we look at the larger picture and think strategically.

A strong need still exists for the part that list professionals play, and this role should not be undervalued. But we need to look beyond our role as list providers and focus on providing clients with new market opportunities and offering them a broader range of services.

Several companies have done this, and I am certain that we will continue to see list companies develop services and products outside the core list work in order to meet the needs of clients. Here are examples of how we can work to remain relevant to our clients:

Consulting services. List professionals know their clients and their markets better than anyone. Consider providing consulting services that range from catalog launches to circulation analysis and planning to in-depth merchandise analysis. And when your clients need consulting in an area where you are not experts, refer them to the right organization.

Consumer marketing research. Help clients better understand who their customers are and what they want and expect from your clients, either by providing research or suggesting a firm that does. If you lack this expertise in-house, find a research firm that not only specializes in a range of research applications, but also understands direct marketing.

Insert media. The area of insert media brokerage and management is closely related to lists. Insert media has proven profitable for clients in both generating revenue and acquiring customers. With traditional and nontraditional marketers becoming more aggressive in this space, it offers growth opportunities.

Partnership marketing. In the past several years, we've seen growth in partnership marketing and the desire for DM companies to develop partnerships. This is another area where list professionals already know what's going on and can make relevant recommendations to clients regarding which companies they should approach and facilitate the meetings for them.

Internet services. Other new programs include those involving the Internet such as Internet consulting, third-party partnerships and helping clients expand their list-building practices to the online channel. Specific options can include lead generation, affinity partnerships, leveraging existing online assets, e-mail list management and supporting clients' strategic development in the online market.

Database and modeling. Provide the right data enhancement sources for clients for list rental activities and internal use. Think about constructing new databases using client data and external data as well as modeling support.

As list professionals, our focus has been on lists. But as the world changes, we have to change as well. We will stay relevant to clients when we determine what they need and ensure that we remain forward thinking to fulfill those needs.

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