The major list providers long have offered their largest customers sophisticated selection tools, including geographic tools. Even some of the biggest list resellers rely heavily on being able to target lists by radius.
Some of these tools group addresses into carrier route centroids (the center point of a carrier route area) when making a selection, while some have introduced systems in the past few years that select by individual address locations for increased accuracy.
Though such capabilities have been important breakthroughs for the list industry’s reputation for more precise targeting, radius selects fail to account for a variety of local marketing programs. For example, what if a three-mile radius brings in addresses from across a river where the nearest bridge is five miles away?
Several list providers rely on outsourcing such unique targeting cases to mapping service bureaus. This is an excellent approach for small to midsized marketing service firms who call the mapping partner on an as-needed basis.
Larger firms are starting to incorporate online mapping systems that tie into their list ordering presence. This gives them a competitive advantage and reduces operating expenses. Instead of having to compete on price, the list providers now compete on capabilities. By letting customers select their own carrier routes for ordering list data, brokers are free to focus on what they do best.
Users — your customers — experience the system as such: They visit your Web site, hoping to order some address lists. Your existing system may let them choose list type as well as rough geography such as county, ZIP code or maybe even radius. But now they can choose by map selection.
A map window pops up showing their county and the ZIP codes and highways. They can zoom in to see local roads and carrier routes around their site. From right within the map, they click on the carrier routes (which they think of as neighborhoods), choosing the areas they think will respond best to their offer. That list of carrier route codes passes back to your list selection database, and the appropriate data is ordered.
The benefits to such a system are:
· Reduced broker time, which is especially important for low-volume customers.
· Better response. The better the list they get from you, the more likely they will view you as a valuable part of their marketing.
· Reduced overall costs. This saves your customer on total marketing costs, even after paying your fees. You don’t have to drop your prices and instead can compete on total value.
· More options for customers beyond radius or entire ZIP codes.
· Market share domination. As with all new technology, early adopters get the largest market share as the customers who value mapping tend to stick with their original provider.
· Flexibility. Such systems can take a low-tech or high-tech approach to mapping (non-integrated or integrated). List providers can turn features on or off depending on the customer’s access rights. If you are looking to provide interactive mapping for list targeting, there are affordable options. You’ll need to develop separate budgets for each of the following:
· Map engine licensing. The map engine is the core technology that draws the map and upon which the interface is built.
· Map data. Deciding what you want to show in the map is important because you’ll need commercial databases for carrier routes and ZIP codes along with streets, highways and counties.
· Hosting. Whether you host the map application on your server or ask your mapping service bureau to seamlessly host those subroutines for you, price and performance are important to the viability of your project.
· Programming/application development. Few programmers have the specific experience to integrate mapping, so you’ll have to outsource this or plan on retraining existing staff.
If you are looking to enlist a mapping service bureau, you may want first to use them on an as-needed basis so you learn more about their capabilities and they learn more about your needs. Criteria when selecting a mapping vendor include:
· Are they dedicated to mapping services or is mapping a small part of their total offering?
· Experience with postal geography down to the carrier route level, including a deep understanding of how these postal concepts are defined.
· Availability of a wide range of tools and options.
· Emphasis on direct marketing.
· An eagerness to work with you if a “standard” service needs to be modified.
· Range of related services that could complement your online mapping presence.