Tips on selecting the best broker for you
Selecting a list broker or insert media broker can very challenging, especially for a first-time mailer. Frequently, lists and marketing are considered last, quickly and without the time and attention we believe the process deserves. Below are some key considerations that can help guide you.
A first, very basic way is to go to your local library and at the reference desk, ask to see a copy of a hefty tome called “Standard Rates and Data Service” Volumes 1, 2 and 3. Volume 1 contains numerous articles about the Direct Marketing Association, its ethical guidelines, a glossary of list terms, and an alphabetical listing of lists that are available for rent. Make a note of your primary industry competitors, then look them up in Volume 2 (Business Lists), or Volume 3 (Consumer Lists).
Second, go to the front section of SRDS Volume 2, “Brokers, Managers and Compilers”. There you will see all the properties managed by the list management company that is working for your competition. Do you want to have your business handled by the same company that is working for your competitor? Probably not. Then, find one with a location that works best for you and a client roster and is compatible with your company's mission, focus and positioning. Some are clearly specialists in certain areas — business-to-business, for example, or the apparel market.
Third, contact a few companies and ask them if they would be interested in working for you. Some companies might not want to work for your particular business. For example, some brokers and managers might want to work only for an established mailer with a large, already proven mailing list that can be monetized. Assuming the calls result in positive expressions of interest, your next task is to write a simple but meaningful nondisclosure agreement that you can ask each broker to sign.
After the NDA is signed, you can release your business marketing plan in a RFP, which should detail your company's merchandising positioning, pricing, target audience, rationales for the business, etc. Be prepared to detail when you plan on mailing (although your broker can offer sound advice about timing), as well as prospective volumes. You might not be comfortable disclosing this information, but it is essential if you are to receive a fully responsive proposal.
Don't overlook asking for references, and specific services and capabilities that the brokerage can offer to you. Examples of additional “value added” services include circulation planning, operations audits and financial planning.
Your next step is to evaluate the completeness and professionalism of the proposals. Then, call the references, and make sure to ask direct questions about the broker's responsiveness and professionalism.
Lastly, request a personal visit at your offices. Meeting your broker personally is a very important final step. At the end of this process you will be able to evaluate your broker's strengths and weaknesses, performance in the marketplace, personal attributes and reputation.
Geoffrey D. Batrouney is the executive vice president of Estee Marketing Group. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.