Test Your List Management IQ

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For 18 years, I was the in-house list manager for Lillian Vernon, one of the nation's largest consumer direct marketers. Now, I work for a list-management firm representing Avon, Lighthouse, Egghead and other lists.

Because I've been on both sides of the desk, direct marketers often ask me, "Does it make sense for us to manage our list in-house or go to an outside list-management firm?"

Here's a quick and simple self-assessment to help you decide:

* Do you have access to a creative director, graphic artist and copy-writing team to create ads, data cards, fax promotions, mailing pieces and other list promotions?

* Do you have a sales force to sell your list? Does this sales force know all the brokers -- and more importantly -- which brokers represent which mailers and offers? Remember that 80 percent of list orders are generated through brokers.

* How strong is your sales team's knowledge of your list and how it relates to the mailer's offer? Can they make detailed recommendations to the list broker and mailer with rationales for using your list?

* Does your list sales force have credibility? Will list brokers and mailers take your recommendations seriously?

* Does your organization take the presentation on the road to brokers and mailers to sell them on the benefits of using your file?

* How's your company's visibility? Does your company participate in industry trade shows and functions? Does it have the same visibility and coverage as you could be getting from an outside list manager?

* Does your company have multiple products? If not, you may be losing the opportunity to cross-sell. By comparison, an outside list manager often can sell a broker or mailer on your list after they've received a count request or an order on another similar list.

* Does your in-house list department have the relationships with, and the in-depth knowledge of, the data-processing facilities needed to create subfiles, enhancements and regression models to make your list more attractive to different types of mailers?

* Can you provide 24-hour turnaround to list users in a crunch?

* Does your organization look for new opportunities such as package inserts, statement stuffers and ride-alongs?

* Do you have an Internet presence and can it project your image and list internationally?

* Does your company have the administrative and Information Technology (IT) infrastructures to support list-management tasks, including tracking of tests and continuations, orders, accounts receivables and report generation?

Scoring: For every question you answered yes, give yourself 10 points. Then evaluate your result using the following scoring system.

Under 60 points: Your list management may be working for you, but it could be even better. You should definitely investigate outsourcing your list-management functions to a professional list-management firm.

60-90 points: Outsourcing list management has the potential to increase your list-rental revenue significantly and you should give this option a closer look.

100-120 points: You should recognize the value of your inside list manager and the contribution in revenue he or she is making to your bottom line before some savvy recruiter makes your list manager an offer he or she can't refuse!

Joy Contreras is vice president of consumer list management for Edith Roman Associates, Pearl River, NY, a firm providing list brokerage, list management and database and Internet marketing services.

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